Even Google Is Vulnerable to Data Loss
As much as we power human intellect and ingenuity, it appears that Mother Nature can outsmart even the best of us. An example of this occurred during a storm in Belgium when there were four lightning strikes on the power grid that supports one of the data centers for Google, causing data loss for some customers. The good news is that through a variety of backup technologies, customers were able to recover a percentage of the lost data. This circumstance should stand as a ‘red alert signal’ that even the mightiest of companies may need the help of professional data recovery specialists.
The mere thought of lightning striking an area four times seems incredible. However, according to Justin Gale, Orion lightning protection services project manager, the strike on telecommunications or power cables that are connected to a building even at a distance can still create damaging situations or disruption. He continued to say, “The cabling alone can be struck anything up to a kilometer away, bring [the shock] back to the data center and fuse everything that’s in it.”
The GCE service (Google Compute Engine) is a date center service allowing the clients of Google to run virtual computers and store data in the cloud. Although the service center does have more lightning protection than the average building, it apparently was not enough to handle the multiple strikes. Google indicated that the permanently affected data was only 0.000001% of disk space. In their online statement they continued to say, “Although automatic auxiliary systems restored power quickly, and the storage systems are designed with battery backup, some recently written data was located on storage systems which were more susceptible to power failure from extended or repeated battery drain.”
Although Google included a reassuring statement that they would continue to improve their response procedures and upgrade hardware to make future losses less likely, it should be noted that the added protection does not change the fact that everything is connected in one method or another in a data center.
The Belgium facility that was affected by the August 13, 2015, lightning strikes supplied services for Google’s business customers. These are the companies that rely on the large services for the performance of computing tasks on the high-powered level. This particular facility did not support any of the consumer services such as Google Drive, YouTube or Gmail. While the facility segments functionality, it also brings to light that not all can be considered 100% safe. Total safety has been a concept that many have been placated with as they have made use of cloud storage and computing for their critical and proprietary data.
The single main method of recuperating the lost data was the fact that much of it was backed up over multiple server platforms. Some of the customers did report that they experienced as much as a 12-hour delay for accessing the data. The fact that it was stored in multiple locations made the process of data recovery a much easier situation.
This act of nature has brought into focus the lingering question of data security across many storage methods. For those that rely on their own backups, situations such as hard drive recovery and RAID recovery without multiple backup scenarios, could lead to extended downtime and the potential loss of the data that allows their company to function.
Google has indicated that “the durability of storage is our highest priority.”…”We have conducted a thorough analysis of the issue … and we are working to improve these to maximize the reliability of GCE.” According to Joe Beda, who helped to start the GCE program and worked at Google, lightning strikes are actually considered to be a ‘tame’ risk when compared to a few of the more interesting problems that are faced by data centers. Some of these included rats building nests in generators and people taking pot shots by shooting at the fiber optic cable.
In the world of data storage, this incident has brought about a higher level of awareness for most companies and businesses. It has reinforced the fact that there aren’t any guarantees, and each organization needs to be responsible for taking measures to ensure the safety of their data. The best route would be to align yourself with a professional data recovery company because you never know what mood Mother Nature will be in.