What is a ‘dirty shutdown’

The ongoing energy crisis is high on the agenda for most households, but what about businesses?

Dirty shutdowns

The ongoing energy crisis is high on the agenda for most households, but what about businesses? With news that the government is testing emergency plans for rolling blackouts, there is no time like the present to prepare for the implications on your company’s IT, explains technology expert Richard Nelson. 

The ongoing energy crisis means that, at an individual level, everyone is looking for ways to conserve fuel in the home and is thinking twice about their usage. But what about businesses? With news that the government is testing emergency plans for energy blackouts, it is a very real possibility that organisations could lose connectivity for sustained periods of time. The impact this could have on your IT estate – particularly if the blackout is unplanned – could prove costly. A so-called ‘dirty shutdown’, which occurs when equipment switches off without being correctly closed down, presents a major risk to businesses of all sizes. Here, IT expert Richard Nelson, from technology services provider Probrand, explains how to mitigate this risk.

If your business has an on-premise data centre, you should already have a device fitted known as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which is there to provide a backup power source in the event of the mains power cutting out. These devices are only typically set to run for around 30 minutes, while the mains power is restored. However, planned energy blackouts could last for hours at a time, meaning the UPS could fail and the IT equipment it was protecting would suffer a dirty shutdown. This means the power is suddenly removed without the correct shutdown procedures being followed, potentially resulting in lost data and other issues. 

To guard against this, you should first check the battery life and configuration of your existing UPS. If you have had it for a long time, you should check that the batteries are still in good working order and test them, particularly if the UPS is more than five years old. You might find it is more effective to upgrade the device, particularly if your needs have changed since you first purchased it and you now require something with more power.

Shop around if you are going to make a purchase and do so before demand spikes, as this can push up prices. Your IT team will need time to install and configure the device correctly, especially if your new UPS is physically larger than your old one.

Next, create a contingency plan to pre-empt any unexpected losses of power. This is vital not just in the event of a planned blackout, but for any outages that could occur without warning. Ensuring you have full data backups and that you know the configurations of all equipment, including servers, switches and routers, could save vital time in the event of a loss of power. 

Finally, consider whether you could move part or all of your data storage to the cloud, which is one of the safest methods of data storage and can protect sensitive information if the unexpected occurred at your business premises. If you are not quite ready to fully embrace the cloud, a hybrid approach could be a sensible first step. 

Dirty shutdowns can result in hours – even days – of lost time, and in some cases they can cause the irretrievable loss of data. While there are still a lot of unknowns regarding energy blackouts, one certainty is that planning for unexpected outages will always stand your business in good stead.

Richard Nelson
Richard Nelson

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