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Bring On the Storms!

You’ve probably heard by now that there’s a big ol’ Nor’easter currently slapping around the northeast US. We saw temperatures as high as 84 last week, and now we’re seeing lows in the 30s, significant rainfall, and even a slight chance of wet, slushy snow. With this kind of bad weather comes the risk of power outages and infrastructure damage, which is why I want to talk about our northeast datacenter.

All of our VPS and dedicated server customers use servers located in the BurstNET facility in Scranton, Pennsylvania. From the outside, the building looks just like the countless other industrial buildings peppered throughout northeast PA. Driving by, you’d probably mistake it for Yet Another Warehouse — if you even noticed it in the first place. The building was clearly meant to put function over form.

The first sign that it’s more than just another drive-by building is the hefty electrical connections. The facility has 1200A 480V and 800A 208V three-phase electric from PPL. Name-brand power distribution units from PDI, APC, and Emerson / Liebert provide a stable, clean path to the server racks. Multiple Eaton 275KVA and 160KVA facility-wide UPSes filter out noise and spikes, while providing backup power in the event of a loss of utility power.

In the event of an extended power outage, three on-site diesel generators (one Cummins 250KW, one Detroit Diesel 580KW, and one Detroit Diesel 675KW) provide ample power to operate the facility, including the multiple 20- and 30-ton chillers. Emerson and RussElectric transfer panels seamlessly transfer load from utility to generator power as necessary. On-site fuel storage provides 48 hours of continuous runtime, with multiple additional fuel sources nearby.

Network resiliency is equally impressive. Primary bandwidth comes from 10-gigabit Wavelength connections to XO Communications and Zayo. Additional peering is available through Cogent Communications, PCCW, Telia, Hurricane Electric, and Deutsche Telekom. The loss of a single carrier won’t bring down the entire facility.

In other words, we’re prepared for the worst of what PA has to offer.

When we started shopping around for a datacenter in which to house our customers, we found quite a few other, less expensive datacenters in the area. Some used rack-mount UPSes instead of facility-wide power protection. Some lacked generators. One even bragged about their redundant data connections — a business-class DSL and a T1.

But having spent our entire lives in PA, and know how much fun our storms can be, we decided very early on that we needed a tough, heavy-duty datacenter with redundant everything, no matter what the cost. And that’s exactly what we got.

Nobody — including us — can guarantee 100% uptime or a completely unsinkable datacenter. And we’re not saying that it’s impossible for us to go dark. But sometimes it pays to take a few extra steps and build in a few extra layers of protection, even if it costs a little more.

Enjoy the storms, and remember that the best way to deal with inclement weather is always a fresh bag of beans from Little Amps or St. Thomas Roasters!

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