Data Disasters | Episode 4 - UK hospital server flat-lines when temperatures hit fever level

Data disaster! Environmental factors like excess heat, flooding and power outages can wreak havoc on any business.The latest in our ongoing series of server room shutdowns takes us to Leeds, England, where poor server room planning racked up up nearly £1 million of damage.

September 2007 – 'Do you have a temperature (sensor)?': English hospitals's brand new server system fried after temperatures allowed to reach feverish heights

In what turned out to be one of many failures as part of the UK's beleaguered National Program for Information Technology (NPfIT), the St James' hospital in Leeds was forced to scrap nearly £1 million worth of computer equipment after a devastating overheating in one of their server rooms.

The affected infrastructure was intended to be used to implement a new archiving system for patient x-rays, but ended up becoming an unrevivable casualty itself.

The entrance to St James' hospital in Leeds, where overheating in a server room caused extensive damage in 2007.London-based IT publication The Register reported a possible cause for the incident being hospital management ignoring advice from the technology provider to install air conditioning in the server room.

With the average temperature in Leeds in September hovering around 12°C, it's almost understandable that a layperson might deem air conditioning unnecessary. But as those in the know are aware, nothing generates heat like wall to wall racks of servers...

The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust — the organisation that administers St James' — suffered further IT woes in 2016, when another hardware issue caused disruptions to their online pathology system.

The Lessons

We'll give our valued readers the benefit of assuming they understand the unarguable need to air condition server rooms. By extension, knowing that the air conditioning system is keeping the site cool throughout is equally important, and that's where a monitoring system comes into play.

It's not just temperature either; humidity, water damage, lack of proper air flow, dust and more can all cause disastrous damage to valuable assets. If there's one thing that the St James' example shows, investing a few thousand in a thorough monitoring system is a non-negotiable when 7-figure server set ups are at stake.

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