Power Outage: The importance of a 'black-building-test'

Power Outage: The importance of a 'black-building-test'

07-04-2015 09:55:46

By: Larissa Wiedeman

Last week, a large part of North Holland was without power for quite a lengthy period of time. Of course this is annoying when you were in the middle of vacuuming or your favourite TV show, but if that means your servers will not function any more, there are far-reaching consequences for your business. It quickly became clear which business were prepared during this power outage. But how is BIT's power supply regulated?

For companies, organisations and governments a proper power supply is one of the most important reasons to place their IT equipment in a datacenter. To ensure the reliability of that power supply, we test our emergency power supply on a monthly basis. During such a test, we switch to our emergency power by simulating a power outage. We flip a switch that starts our redundant set of emergency generators, synchronises with the mains, adapts the generators and only then disconnects the mains. During regular emergency tests the generators are already standby and the equipment that is not behind UPSs stays on. This means that the cooling system and the lighting will also remain functioning during such a test.

During regular testing a power outage is merely simulated and part of the procedure is not tested. That is why we opted for a biannual 'black-building-test'. We instruct our operator to turn off the power in our server rooms completely. The generators are not on then and the 'no-break' equipment like the cooling system will turn off then too. Within a minute, the emergency generators start up automatically and all installations will have power again.

Impression of a 'black-building test'

You can expect a datacenter to have procedures to test their installations with. You cannot blindly rely on a test button installed on an emergency power installation. You will have to design tests in such a way that the conditions are similar to those of an emergency situation or, at the very least, as close as possible.