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Earthquakes and Hard Drives

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  • Hard Drives
  • Storage
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September 10, 2010 12:00:44 AM

Hi all,
We recently had a largish earthquake (7.1) down here in this part of the world, did a fair bit of damage to older buildings, some water supplies and houses built on sand, but fortunately not much else.

I have been talking to piers in IT where that happened finding out how the IT systems stood up, and the good news was apart from initial power cuts, pretty well.

This got me thinking, how much of a shake could a running hard drive take before it failed? Our disk arrays here are bolted to the concrete floor so would take the full force of any earthquakes shake. Do the drives have some sort of protection in them? Is there a point at which we would start to see failures, then a point at which its pretty much guaranteed that they would all fail.

We live here in the shadow of an active volcano (has actually done anything for some time), whilst we are not in the path of any potential lava, lahar or pyroclastic flows, both of our data centers would potentially get a real good shake.

Anyway any ideas?

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a b G Storage
September 10, 2010 2:19:51 AM
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a b G Storage
September 10, 2010 2:49:52 AM

Some of the notebook computers have an accelerometer built into them to detect sudden, sharp movements and will make the hard disk heads automatically unload themselves to reduce the risk of any potential data loss or scratch defects.
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September 10, 2010 3:29:48 AM

i had a screen fall on top of a harddrive so maybe if a hardrive was still running and it fell to the floor then yeah it'll kill the header and totally kill the hdd.

i heard on the news about that earthquake i fergot where. where are you located?
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a b G Storage
September 10, 2010 3:31:17 AM

you're probably not going to see many earthquakes larger then the 7.1. if your hdd is fine now, i'm sure you should have nothing to worry about

i have lived in southern california (lots of earthquakes) for 17 years and i've never had a hard drive fail due to an earthquake (largest being a 7.2)
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a b G Storage
September 10, 2010 3:33:34 AM

New Zealand was the last earthquake I've heard about.
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September 10, 2010 4:00:51 AM

ko888 said:
New Zealand was the last earthquake I've heard about.


yeah thats the one. i mean if you work IT so the storage is always in racks right? movement shouldn't cause anything to happen except dis-align the header.
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a b G Storage
September 10, 2010 6:54:26 AM

Any well run data center would have taken the probability of earthquakes at their site into consideration in their catastrophe and disaster recovery planning.
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September 10, 2010 9:04:06 AM

Consider more about BR(Backup Recovery) issue, particularly for that sensitive data.
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September 12, 2010 7:29:47 PM

Thanks for the help, yes the Earthquake was the 7.1 in Christchurch New Zealand (my home town).

The kit here is in racks, seismically braced. I am often told that the purpose of the bracing is not protecting the gear but stopping it from falling on people!

We do have a DR plan but it does not deal with the loss of both sites. We are trying to build a business case to fix that and get data out of region, but you know how this stuff goes... The off site storage facility we use for our tapes is right next to a river that is most probably the main path for a lahar! Oh great.

Some digging through one of the links and the tip off about the laptop drives that have shock detection got me looking at hard drive specs, most drives are designed to withstand a 30g operational shock, I don't know many people who can hold up to 30g, so not sure what sort of hellish earthquake it would take to generate that!
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September 19, 2010 11:05:17 PM

Best answer selected by flyingpete.
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