Data centers prepare for Sandy with cots, fuel and comfort food

Hurricane means sleeping on-site or in a nearby hotel for data center workers

As it stood late this afternoon, Hosting.com's data center in Newark, Del., was within walking distance of the projected path Hurricane Sandy's center once it makes landfall.

This storm has put the staff at Hosting.com on alert. They went shopping at Wal-Mart this weekend to stock up on supplies, and are outfitted with cots and food.

"We're prepared for any contingency," said Jonathan Arena, director of service operations at the Hosting.com Newark facility, which provides co-location, managed and cloud services. "We're confident that we should be alright at this point, but we will see how we weather the storm."

There are about 40 people staying over tonight in the Newark data center, located in an office park. It has 23,000 square-feet raised for floor space in a building that is 60,000 square-feet overall.

They have cots, food, ping pong table, pool table and Xbox games. People were physically on-site starting last night, and if the power goes out they have enough fuel to keep the generators going for 50 hours before refuel, said Arena.

In New Jersey, SunGard Availability Services also has employees staying overnight at some of its facilities, including its 324,000 square-foot complex in Carlstadt, N.J., near New York City.

Its data center is operating at "level 3," the highest state of readiness, which includes making sure all the required maintenance has been conducted as well as topping off generator fuel supplies, said Walter Dearing, vice president of recovery services, customer resource and support.

Third party suppliers have been put on "high alert" and will be expected to meet service level agreements during the storm, Dearing said. "This is our business so we try to prepare for all circumstances."

The SunGard facilities have quiet rooms, food; also plans for catered food and even nearby hotel room have been booked. The storm has closed major highways, bridges and tunnels because of travel hazards. "We don't want our employees being at risk," Dearing said.

Some customers of Hosting.com, which runs six data centers nationally, and who subscribes to fail over service have failed over to another data center as a precaution, said Arena. They were updating operational status via Twitter @HDCOps. Dinner tonight at Hosting.com is hot dogs, burgers, baked beans, cold cuts, and junk food. "Comfort food for everybody that's here," Arena said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at  @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

See more by Patrick Thibodeau on Computerworld.com.

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