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Gallery: Saving your data from nuke attack

Barbed wire, fences, guards, and guard dogs are just the first level of security for an English datacenter that claims to be safe from nuclear, chemical and biological attack.
By Andy Smith, Contributor on
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Barbed wire, fences, guards, and guard dogs are just the first level of security for an English datacenter that supposedly is safe from nuclear, chemical and biological attack.

"The Bunker" is touted as one of the most secure datacenters in the UK, in terms of both physical and information security.

Built in a nuclear bunker decommissioned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in the 1990s, the site in Kent can purportedly survive even the most lethal weapons of mass destruction. As well as being underground, the bunker is encased in walls three meters thick, enough to absorb any explosion. The 18-acre site is surrounded by fencing three meters high, topped by a sprawl of barbed wire. Drivers must park outside the property and pass through this barrier. The security point at the barrier, fronted by bullet-proof glass, is manned on every day of the year by ex-police and ex-MoD guards.

Photos are courtesy of Richard Thurston ZDNet.co.uk.

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If an intruder managed to bypass the guards, they would also have to deal with MoD-trained dogs.

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Notices en route to the site remind visitors that security is paramount. Corporate organizations, such as Scottish Widows, Towers Perrin and Capita, house their equipment here partly as a result of that focus.

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The Bunker is hidden deep under this hill, descending 100 feet underground. Dual CCTV cameras flank the entrance, next to blast-proof steel doors, weighing approximately seven tons.

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Building downwards into the Kent countryside causes the same problems as building upwards in London: heavy equipment must still be transported between floors. This hoist is responsible for lowering servers down into the datacenter, which measures 25,000 square feet.

The Bunker has multiple advantages over London datacenters. For instance, the risk of flooding or terrorist activity is minimal and there are no impending power constraints. It's also far easier to keep the datacenter cool, as the natural temperature underground is 13°C.

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The gear is stored in the most secure part of this purpose-built fortress. Servers are housed in large Faraday cages, in rooms entered through airlocks. Customers are escorted at all times.

The Bunker offers both co-lo and managed services, and claims never to allow the sharing of equipment. It provides a variety of hosting platforms, although it is particularly keen on open source: director of security Ben Laurie is the creator of Apache-SSL. Recognising The Bunker's security expertise, Microsoft awarded the company with gold-partner status last month. The company is also backed by an unspecified amount of venture capital.

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The Bunker draws two 11,000-volt supplies directly from the National Grid, requiring the use of this underground substation. There's also a shared, secondary supply from the National Grid in case the first connection goes down.

,p> On request, systems can be replicated in seconds to a slave datacenter built under the former US Air Force base at Greenham Common near Newbury, Berkshire. With replication, The Bunker offers an uptime guarantee of 99.5 percent.
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Should both the National Grid connections fail, these two generators sited on top of the datacenter will kick in. The generators are capable of supplying 1MW of power. Five diesel tanks, large enough to hold 300,000 liters of fuel, are stored in a purpose-built extension to The Bunker, to keep the datacenter up and running.

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While we were in the datacenter, security guards were tracking our every move, through The Bunker's network of CCTV cameras. Each camera records the last movement as a thumbnail, providing a real-time record of everywhere we went.

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