IT sector prepared for power squeeze

The prospect of power cuts later this year if southern hydro lakes don't fill up isn't fazing IT managers.

The prospect of power cuts later this year if southern hydro lakes don’t fill up isn’t fazing IT managers.

Auckland Regional Council IT director Tony Darby says lessons learned during Auckland’s 1998 power crisis have stayed with the council.

“One thing it taught us is that you need to be flexible. If you make the best laid plans too far out, you can come unstuck.”

The ARC can keep its IT systems running during power cuts, he says.

“Our main systems are hooked up to an emergency generator, as are a number of workstations.”

UPSs (uninterruptible power supplies) are used “on a number of systems” and battery back-up “on a few”.

Darby thinks the loss of air conditioning in a power cut is more of a worry than systems failure.

“The issue is one of building habitability. It’s a case of can people work in that situation?”

During the Auckland power crisis, the ARC relocated staff from its central city headquarters to sites outside the CBD.

How it would cope with nationwide power shortages, should they occur, would depend on their timing and duration, he says.

“There are quite a few unknowns.”

Making sure your PABX is connected to a back-up power source is also important, he says.

The disaster recovery manager at services company EDS, Phil Faithfull, says EDS is “taking a two-fold approach” to the issue.

“All our main data centres have full UPS and diesel generator back-up and that’s tested regularly.

“We may cut across to the diesel generators if the power supply became a bit unstable, but we wouldn’t do that without our customers’ agreement.”

Faithfull says it’s “difficult to prepare in too much detail”, because of the uncertainty over whether there will be power cuts, and their timing.

Massey University infrastructure director Gerrit Bahlman says the university isn’t taking any steps beyond the normal to deal with potential power cuts.

“We’ve not made any additional preparations relating to the shortages.

“We’ll be relying on our conventional mechanisms to close systems down safely and will be testing them to make sure they’re ready for potential black- and brown-outs.”

The university uses UPSs and each year tests the ability of systems to handle a power outage, he says.

Massey has no plans to use generators if cuts do happen, he adds.

“We can’t put in a generator that’s big enough to drive a university this size.”

Keeping computer systems going isn’t an option if power cuts are going to affect other university functions, he says.

“Unless you generate enough electricity to keep everything going, if the power’s off, you’re dead.”

Last week, Energy Minister Pete Hodgson said power cuts were becoming increasingly likely as rain failed to fall in the South Island.

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