What to do if they Pull the Plug

What to do if they Pull the Plug

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last number of weeks you’ll be aware that the ESB group of unions have served strike notice effective from 16th December. I’m not going to write an opinion piece or any such nonsense but instead concentrate on what is within our control – ensuring that IT systems suffer the least impact should the placards be brought to bear in a couple of weeks.

Little is known about what will happen and how the strike will affect services however based on the most likely impacts there are 3 scenarios that you can prepare for, and with varying degrees of impact depending on your choices.

All of the recommendations revolve around Uninterrupted Power Supplies (UPS) which are basically just giant batteries which discharge to replace power to connected devices should the system lose connection to the electricity supply. How long they’ll last etc is a relatively exact science with the calculator over in APC’s website being a good starting point for calculations. More advanced units can even shut down equipment as the batteries drain to ensure that there is a structured power down and information is not lost when the batteries run out.

1. Short power surges / outages (lasting less than 10 seconds).

Best course of action here is to have a UPS in place on your broadband connection, the firewall, network switches, and the servers. You’ll need to reboot PC’s but laptops, and the underlying network will be unaffected. If you are doing data entry that can’t be interrupted consider using laptops for the duration of the industrial action as the batteries on-board will see you over the outages.

2. Medium Outages – 1 minute to 30 minutes

Again have a UPS but this time make sure it’ll be able to carry the load for the duration of the outage. Use the APC calculator or similar to work out if it’ll hold. If not then start shut-downs of servers as soon as you know it’s not a short interruption.

3. Long Term – Over 30 minutes

This is where you have to bite the bullet (unless you’ve a generator – with fuel!) and realise that you may be better placed to shut the servers down, either via the managed software with the UPS or by manually going in and selecting to power off the systems. Start with the less critical ones (assuming you have enough charge, if not then obviously shut down the most important servers first), this will buy time for the other servers by reducing the load on the UPS and provide the maximum battery for your critical servers while you wait for the power to return.

Things to bear in mind that sometimes get forgotten:

  • Be able to see what you’re doing – no good planning to shut down the servers if you trip and fall going into the server room, have emergency lighting or a torch accessible (consider a head mounted option from the camping store, otherwise get one that won’t taste funny while you hold it between your teeth!).
  • Be able to see what you’re doing (no not a repeat!) – Make sure there is a computer screen with power connected to the servers, it never ceases to amaze me how often this one is forgotten about. Remember PC’s and possibly the network connection will be gone so no remote desktop to fall back on.

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