7 July 2009

Computers cry out for air conditioning

High temperatures frazzle files and strike servers, warns Kroll Ontrack; ten tips to avoid data loss

With reports of the highest temperatures for three years in June, it’s not just office workers that are getting hot under the collar, but computers too.

The last time the UK experienced similar temperatures was in 2006, when Kroll Ontrack, through its Ontrack Data Recovery services witnessed a significant rise in data recovery requests due to heat-frazzled hardware. The biggest risk to PCs and laptops during such extreme weather comes from power surges caused by lightening strikes.

Kroll Ontrack is warning that this summer, the predicted high temperatures and inevitable accompanying thunderstorms, will affect all sizes of companies. From computers in small or home offices (SOHO), to super servers and virtualised environments in large organisations, measures must be taken to ensure all electronic equipment is protected and kept cool.

To help computer users protect themselves against weather-related disasters, Kroll Ontrack has several cost-effective tips that can help protect equipment and data:

  1. Keep computers in a cool, dry area to prevent overheating
  2. Avoid having too many computers running off one power supply, via an extension cable. If the power socket is affected by a power surge or lightning strike, all computers could experience damage
  3. Install a surge protector between the power socket and the computer’s power cable (spend the small amount more to get an actual surge protector, not just a power strip). Some brands offer guaranteed lightning protection, even on lower-priced models
  4. Small businesses with networks should get surge protectors that negate power spikes normally transmitted through network cables
  5. Check protection devices regularly. At least once a year, users should inspect power protection devices to make sure they are functioning properly. Most leading models will have a signalling light to confirm that they are operating
  6. Use dedicated circuits, if possible. Ensure IT equipment has its own power circuit, so it isn’t sharing the power with air conditioners, fans, and/or other ancillary devices. This greatly improves the power quality and insulates the computer equipment from power sags when other non-IT devices are turned on
  7. Turn off and disconnect the power cord during an electrical storm. This is a simple precaution that protects the system from possible problems during a thunderstorm
  8. Turn off power during a blackout. When power is restored after a blackout, the signal can initially be inconsistent, which can cause damage
  9. High voltages can enter the computer through a phone line connected to the modem. To protect your computer during electrical storms, unplug the telephone line from the modem jack or use a telephone line surge suppressor
  10. Businesses with network servers should invest in some form of uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which cleans the power supply and features backup batteries to keep servers running during power outages

“Severe weather can cause significant computer damage,” said Robert Winter, chief engineer of data recovery at Kroll Ontrack. “Within the 50,000 recoveries we deal with a year worldwide, we have successfully managed many cases where equipment has been struck by lightening or suffered as the result of adverse weather. We can’t stop the power of nature, but we can certainly take steps to safeguard our IT systems against imminent summer storms and high temperatures. Companies should be aware of weather-related issues like overheating, if they are to avoid a meltdown catastrophe.”

For more information about Kroll Ontrack, please visit www.ontrackdatarecovery.co.uk