Don’t want a million unnecessary volts in your server banks? Read our guide to protecting your facility from power spikes.

Key Takeaways:

  • Power surges can occur through natural causes or excess utility power.
  • All data centers face this risk, with some more vulnerable than others.
  • Surge protection, alternate power supplies, and backup generators can make power surges easier to manage.

Data centers require ample power. What they don’t need are power surges – harmful and potentially devastating electrical overloads which can destroy data and hardware. Data center managers don’t have to panic, however. The odds of the worst occurring can be significantly reduced when leaders understand where power surges come from, their particular risk profile, and how to put protection in place.

Common causes of power surges

Any data center could suffer one. Mother Nature is to blame for two power surge catalysts: hurricanes and lightning strikes. Florida businesses know hurricanes can wreak havoc, which is why they need to stay electrically safe. Hurricanes absolutely disable power lines.

Where’s the surge if there’s no power? It happens when the utility company restores service. A considerable amount of power is often sent out due to the increased demand. This is when excessive electricity can surge through data centers, causing damage.

With lightning, data centers are common targets of strikes that can send millions of volts straight through the facility. Florida experiences 70 to 100 days a year of thunder and lightning, with hurricane season stretching from June 1 to November 30. We really need surge protection!

Power surge effects

Downtime is where power surge damage starts. The cost businesses sustain from a powerless hour increases annually. Depending on the nature and volume of data, the expense can be astronomical. Then there’s the potential damage to hardware, data, and your reputation. Burned-out electrical components can make data irretrievable. The cost of data loss is a separate problem from system downtime, and it’s every bit as expensive.

Small data-loss cases cost between $18,120 and $35,730 on average. Businesses hate losing their data. And even more, they hate having to tell their customers they’ve lost it because it can trigger lawsuits. Even if a data center can afford to replace equipment damaged by a power surge, it can’t always repair relationships between clients and the public. 

Was your data center cooked by a code breaker?

Not having power surge protection in place from day one means your data center was failed by whoever designed and installed it. We get it – you’re a data center, not an electrical company. How were you supposed to know what was up to code and what wasn’t? The designer and electrical contractor you hired should have. Keeping up with maintenance when you do have surge protection is up to you.

Your critical operation data systems must be electrically protected. National Electrical Code requirement 645.18, “Surge protection shall be provided for Critical Operations Data Systems,” applies to data centers and says:

“Critical Operation Data Systems is defined by the NECT as ‘Information technology equipment systems that require continuous operation for reasons of public safety, emergency management, national security or business continuity.’”

“Business continuity” is the real kicker for data centers. A power surge can take your business operations offline – and do the same to customers who rely on your data center to keep their organization running.

How data centers can diminish power surges

The International Lightning Protection Association (ILPA) suggests making Early Emission Streamer devices part of your data center architecture. These are designed to attract lightning strikes and disperse the energy straight to the ground. The ILPA also stresses the importance of good electrical grounding, a strong power backup, and a reliable surge protection system.

“Reliable” means it’s been checked before going into action, so the importance of electrical testing in data centers can’t be overstated. These are code-compliant checkups of every electrical component, so this is a vital step when one weak link could lead to problems in other areas. The next few steps to reliable power surge protection include installing the following:

  • Surge Protection Devices (SPDs): These are classified as Types 1 to 3, depending on where they’re placed in the data center’s infrastructure. Some are placed on distribution boards while others sit much closer to whatever needs protection. SPDs are like Early Emission Streamer devices because they dissipate a power surge’s energy and heat to stop unwanted voltage.
  • Uninterruptible Power Supply/Supplies (UPS): These come in various designs to fulfill different data center demands. A UPS can detect when too much power is coming in and gives centers time to shut systems down, so make sure it’s installed correctly. Businesses should also take steps to prolong UPS life such as maintaining optimal operating temperatures throughout the data center and using battery monitoring devices.
  • A backup generator: The right commercial generator provides all the power a data center needs, plus extra, keeping operations online at a safe voltage level until the grid can again be used safely. Generators must be carefully selected and installed by electrical professionals because if they’re not, they could fail when you need power most – or even cause an internal power surge.

Even with precautions in place, data centers need a disaster recovery plan. Here are 11 strong points for creating one. Only work with electrical companies that have extensive data-center experience whenever you schedule a site checkup, equipment installation, or relocation. The pros will recommend the safety steps for your power needs while ensuring your premises are up to code.

Prevent power surge panic with UES

Universal Electrical Services is Florida’s local expert when it comes to renovating, relocating, or building data centers. Our experienced team knows them, top to bottom, and can conduct checks or get you back online with a minimum of fuss and downtime. Just contact us for a free quote!