Lightning strikes – Is your data safe?

The ServerDome Data Center –

In 1749, Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod. It reduced the threat of fire to buildings during electrical storms. This Victorian-era technology is still used today not only to protect buildings, but also to protect electrical equipment inside. Unfortunately, lightning rods are not always effective because electrical current can follow multiple paths to the ground.

According to a study published by Science Magazine and conducted jointly by the University of California, Berkeley and State University of New York at Albany, as the average global temperature increases, the frequency of lightning strikes will increase as well. Recently there have been approximately 25 million lightning strikes per year globally. According to the study, the frequency of lightning strikes will increase by approximately 12% per degree Celsius of average global temperature increase. Therefore, there will be a significant increase in the number of lightning strikes in the immediate future.

Data centers are big targets filled with sensitive electrical equipment. As the number of data centers continues to grow and be pushed to multiple locations around the world, the potential for electrical storms to be a disruptive force in the marketplace increases. As we are constantly reminded in the industry, down time equates to losses in revenue. Therefore, we must respond to this threat with ingenuity and not rely on a 1749 invention to defend 2020 technology.

The ServerDome is unique in its ability when it comes to defending against lightning strikes and is about as lightning-proof as a building can get. On a recent tour of a ServerDome, a puzzled client looked up and asked, “Where are the lightning rods?” Perry Gliessman, the inventor of the ServerDome, smiled and replied, “I’m glad you asked. The dome is the lightning rod.”

The dome of a ServerDome data center is a conductor that covers the entire building. If lightning strikes the dome, then the skin effect will occur. Lightning is a high-intensity, high-frequency alternating current pulse. Alternating current generate magnetic fields and the magnetic fields have an effect on the currents themselves. There is a delay in the response of the magnetic field that pushes the currents to the outer surface of a conductor, hence the name “skin effect.” Therefore, the current from a lightning strike will flow along the surface of the dome to a massive grounding grid around the circumference of the data center. In addition, the dome is not attached to the internal structure, which also has its own intensive grounding system. As an added precaution, the dome is made of non-combustible materials so the heat from a lightning strike will not be able to start a fire.

In simple terms, lightning will flow along the surface of the dome, not penetrate inside, and not create any risk of combustion.

Nothing can ever be perfectly protected from natural disasters. But it is best to take the path of least resistance and go the safer route.