Written by Steve Ross
A lightning strike in late summer wiped disks in Google’s Belgian data centre. What was the extent of the damage – and what does this say about the way we protect our own information?
Has Google angered the technology gods? You’d be forgiven for thinking so if you’re an employee of the company’s St. Ghislain data centre, where lightning struck, not once, but four times in August. Despite the multiple protections in place, some user data was permanently wiped.
Google pointed out that many of the initially-affected disks in the centre were recovered and repaired after the lightning strike and that the data lost amounted to 0.000001% of that stored in its system. On top of that, it looks like customers affected were able to recover their data using personal back-up technology.
Being struck four times by lightning is unlucky, but could Google have done more to protect its users’ data?
As you might expect, the problem isn’t as simple as a surge of electricity frying chipboards and, fortunately, Google has been refreshingly open about what happened. The company revealed that the lightning didn’t actually strike the Google data centre, but a local power grid south of Brussels. With power from the grid knocked out, storage hardware was supposed to switch to auxiliary power. However, in this case, recently written data was stored on “systems which were more susceptible to power failure from extended or repeated battery drain”.
Google also pointed out that when the event occurred, it was in the process of upgrading the hardware affected by the lightning strikes – upgrades which would have insured against this very problem. Those upgrades are obviously now being pursued as priority.
All this goes to show that even tech giants like Google are susceptible to threats – which may come from any angle and even manifest as a combination of unfortunate circumstances. There’s an important lesson here: threats to your data are, by definition, unexpected. Sooner or later your system will face a threat and when it does, its impact will depend on how prepared you are. So, what can we learn from this incident?
Could Google have done more to protect its client data? Are you prepared for unexpected threats? Share your thoughts with us here…