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Sarah UKFast | Account Manager

PEER 1 servers face downtime

An underground fire caused a major outage in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia on Monday, causing power supply to be knocked out for approximately 22,000 customers, including web hosting provider PEER 1 Network Enterprise.

According to several reports, an explosion caused by a circuit failure just before 9:00 a.m. PST knocked out an entire BC hydro substation, cutting power to the eastern half of the city and forcing the evacuation of several buildings. PEER 1's Harbour Centre data center was located in one of these buildings.

In an effort to remain transparent and keep customers updated during the outage, Charnell Pugsley, community evangelist for PEER 1, started a thread at 9:58 a.m. on the PEER 1 forums, describing the outage and notifying customers that the company had been advised by the Harbour Centre building that the power would be back up by 3:00 p.m.

At 11:17 a.m. Robert Miggins, senior VP of PEER 1, wrote on the message boards that there was some intermittent restoration of power to the Vancouver data centers and he had maximum staff on hand to turn the servers back on as quickly as possible for when the power fully returned.

By 3:30 p.m. Miggins posted that the generator power had been fully restored in both data centers and customers could send their technicians to evaluate their servers.

In a statement to the WHIR on Tuesday, PEER 1 says "its customers remain [its] most important asset" and will be honoring its service level agreements. Miggins wrote in one post that the company will be crediting customers based on its 100 percent uptime guarantee.

Although PEER 1 was putting forth the effort to constantly communicate updates through its forum and support team, inevitably there will always be skeptical customers questioning how hard the company has really been working to alleviate the situation or to ensure their facilities have the best redundancy and reliability.

One question that was constantly brought up in the message boards during the outage was why was the UPS and generator not working?

In the official post-mortem posted in the PEER 1 forums at 8:55 p.m., Fabio Banducci, the president and CEO of PEER 1, addressed this issue.

"Harbour Centre's main building generator, Gen No.7, started and maintained power as designed, but failed 20 minutes after the loss of commercial power due to a failure in the generator's cooling system.

Gen No.7's cooling system is dependant upon water provided by the city of Vancouver and requires a certain level of water pressure to function normally.

As fire fighters worked to put out the fire that had broken out on Richards Street, water pressure in the downtown core, (including Harbour Centre), declined to a point where it caused the generator to overheat and malfunction.

Once the generator failed, PEER 1's UPS systems eventually failed as well once the UPS batteries had drained. After three more failed attempts to bring Gen No.7 online, the generator successfully came online at 3:40 PM and restored power back to our Data Centers, our UPS systems, and our client servers. At 5:55 PM, utility power was fully restored to the Data Centers, and Gen No.7 was shut down."

In its statement to the WHIR, PEER 1 says it has been taking yesterday's outage very seriously and has been conducting a full review of its key efficiencies and fail safe measures to ensure that this type of "unlikely series of events" leading to the data center outage doesn't happen again.

PEER 1 faced a similar service disruption in June 2006 when a generator failed during a weekly scheduled test, resulting in a 20 minute outage.

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