How Much is Your Data Worth? Protecting Your Servers from Fire

Posted March 14, 2018 by Koorsen Fire & Security

How Much is Your Data Worth? Protecting Your Servers from Fire

When was the last time you checked or updated the fire suppression system in your server room?

All too often, business owners or building managers can have a “set it and forget it” approach to their IT rooms, particularly when it comes to the fire suppression element. Often, so much money is invested in the contents of the room itself that many may be hesitant to spend even more money on ensuring an adequate fire suppression system, maintaining it, and upgrading it when the opportunities arrive.

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However, investing in an IT room without providing the proper protection for the data and equipment inside of it is quite literally like throwing your investment dollars into the flames.


The Risks

Fires absolutely pose a serious risk to server rooms and data centers. These rooms are filled to the brim with wiring and equipment that can short, have a faulty component, overheat, etc. The statistics of electrical fires help demonstrate the dangers.

In the years 2007-2011, there were approximately 630 non-home structure fires related to office equipment each year. Over 50% of these fires were ignited by cable or wire insulation or appliance casing or housing. Over 65% were computer related.

In the years 2010-2014, there were a total of 16,000 plus non-home electrical fires, costing over $610 million in property damage. In 38% of these fires, the electrical failure causing the fire started with electrical cable or wire insulation. Unclassified electrical wiring comprised 20% of all of these fires, and computers, electronics and other electronic equipment made up another 7%, as did other electrical components, all of which are present in a data server room.

HVAC systems were also a leading source of electrical fires in non-home structures, responsible for 16% of them in the 2010-2014 years. As server rooms rely on hefty HVAC systems to control the temperature, they are at risk from HVAC related fires as well.

The bottom line – your server rooms are a hot-bed of fire risks. Even if a fire does not destroy the building, the smoke, heat, and of course flames from fire can do extensive damage to both the equipment, and more importantly the data, of a server room.

The cost of such damage and loss can be devastating.


Cost of Server/Data Center Downtime

According to recent studies, downtime in data centers and server rooms prove to be incredibly costly. On average, the cost per minute of down time is an astounding $8,851.00. Per minute! The average total cost of an unplanned outage can reach a crushing $740,357.00.

While these numbers may seem unbelievably high, when you take into consideration all the ways downtime impacts both expenses and earnings, it makes sense. The most recent studies reveal that expenses increase by approximately 35% during unplanned server room outages.

Then there are the losses and damages that come in the forms of:

  • Damage to or total loss of “mission-critical” data
  • Damaged assets and equipment
  • Lost revenue
  • Recovery costs
  • Third-party costs to resolve the damages and outage
  • Productivity loss
  • Business disruption
  • Damage to reputation
  • Loss of client confidence and trust

What business can actually afford server downtime and data loss?

Yet, while risks specifically from electrical fires have already been established, many business owners think they are safe from that particular risk. After all, they most likely have fire suppression in place.

But is it the right type and is it enough?


Why Standard Sprinkler Systems Are Not Enough

Many business and/or building owners will argue that they have a fire suppression system in place to protect their server rooms. What many mean by this is that they have the adequate detection and fire sprinkler systems in place.

However, their confidence is misplaced.

First, it must be remembered that fire sprinkler systems are present to save the building, not the contents inside of it. Sprinkler systems will not be triggered to discharge until a fire has reached high temperatures and a certain size – a size and temperature that will have already destroyed, or at least seriously damaged server room equipment.

Second, it should be remembered that water damages electrical equipment. Even if the sprinkler system puts out a fire before the flames and smoke damage the equipment, the water can still wreak havoc on it.

Finally, water is not the most effective distinguishing method for electrical fires and can sometimes make these types of fires worse.

If you truly want to protect your data and the equipment in your data center, then just having a sprinkler system won’t cut it.


Best Fire Suppression Systems for Data Centers

For a data center where electrical fires are the main concern and where protecting data and equipment are key, clean agent fire suppression systems are really the best option.

These systems are effective for extinguishing electrical fires specifically, and they are more sensitive and will deploy more quickly than sprinkler systems. They are designed to stop fires at their incipient stage, before the flames and smoke grow out of hand, and therefore exist to protect the contents inside a building from fire. This not only prevents the fire from becoming truly destructive, but also protects the equipment, and therefore the data in the room as well.

Furthermore, the agent is clean, meaning there will not be water or oily residues left behind. It is safe on electrical equipment and will cause no damages to IT items nor the data they contain.

While these systems can seem expensive, requiring 6-month maintenance and costlier recharging than other suppression systems, they protect the contents of your data room and your data effectively.

Compared to the costs discussed above of server room down-time and data loss, purchasing and maintaining a clean agent fire suppression system is minimal. It should be considered as the cost of doing business and protecting one’s high value asset.


What Now?

So, if it has been a while since you have updated or at least checked your server room’s fire suppression equipment, or if you know that you only have a sprinkler system protecting it, you may want to call in the experts.

The folks at Koorsen will be happy to come out and inspect your building’s server room to see what improvements can be made to ensure protection from the smoke, heat, and flames of a fire. If an engineer is needed to improve the room itself, they can provide recommendation, and they can inspect, recommend, install and maintain the best suppression systems for your data center.

Don’t allow your business’ greatest asset to stay at high risk – contact Koorsen today.


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Topics: Fire Suppression

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Disclaimer: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is believed to be reliable, but Koorsen Fire & Security assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this article. It does not constitute professional advice. The user of this article or the product(s) is responsible for verifying the information's accuracy from all available sources, including the product manufacturer. The authority having jurisdiction should be contacted for code interpretations.