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Australia data centers face massive threat - dust

Sydney companies are taking precautions to ensure their data centers are safe in the face of a massive dust storm that hit the city on Wednesday in the early hours.

(Wherein I wake up on Mars image by David McLeish, CC 2.0)

Sydney, Australia - Sydney companies are taking precautions to ensure their data centers are safe in the face of a massive dust storm that hit the city on Wednesday in the early hours.

"This storm is carrying red dust, which is not good dust," said Craig Allen, executive director of Sydney hosting company Virtual.Offis. "It contains iron oxide, which is basically rust. By its very nature a computer is sucking air through the system and that means potential problems," he warned, as the tiny, undetectable, ferrous dust can cause short circuits and other failures inside computers.

"It normally means a new motherboard or components," Allen said.

To cope with the storm, Virtual.Offis is ensuring that the air filters which protect its data center from dust and other contaminants are being checked more regularly than usual. "Our maintenance guys are watching the filters closely today," Allen explained, adding that the company is also staying in close contact with the facilities manager of the Pyrmont building in which its data center resides, to ensure it is informed of any dust-related issues.

Overall, however, Allen is relaxed about the dust threat. "We are not overly concerned about it except it makes our building look dirty," he said.

Another data center operator feeling alert but not alarmed about the dust situation is Aidan Tudehope, Macquarie Telecom's managing director of Hosting.

"We have not experienced any adverse affects from the dust storm and don't anticipate any," he told ZDNet.com.au. "That said, reliability is obviously critical to our customers so we have ... shut-off external mechanical ventilation systems to prevent dust entering the environment [and] staff are on heightened alert for any issues in the facility."

While companies running data centers seem unworried by the dust storm, other organizations have experienced dust-related problems. Many sources have reported a dust-induced power failure at a mine in Broken Hill resulted in a pair of miners being trapped underground for several hours Tuesday.

This article was originally posted on ZDNet Australia.