How the Artstor Digital Library weathered the storm
By Mary Finer, Project Coordinator
Artstor is in the goal-setting time of the year, and expanding our disaster recovery efforts is high on the Technology department’s list—especially after last year. We’re in pretty good shape though. While sites such as Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post were down during “Superstorm” Sandy, the Artstor Digital Library remained accessible.
Artstor has servers in Manhattan and Denver, and each location has backups of each other in case disaster strikes. In New York our servers are at 60 Hudson Street, a.k.a. “the Hub,” a 1.8 million square foot facility where the Internet’s transatlantic cable lands. It used to be the center of Western Union’s telegraph network when it was built in the late 1920s, and is now the Grand Central Station of the Internet.
Last year during Sandy, the generators at 33 Whitehall Street, where the servers for many popular websites are housed, flooded. But the generators at 60 Hudson Street remained dry. William W. Ying, Artstor’s CIO and VP of Technology, explains that “It turns out that in New York City, the law is to have backup generators in the basement. When it floods, that is a real problem. Interestingly enough, the Hub somehow has the backup generator on the roof, and that is why everything was fine with us.”
When Con Edison shut off power in lower Manhattan to protect equipment from storm flooding, it triggered generator backups at 60 Hudson Street. The servers there have UPS, Uninterruptible Power Supply, so after the ConEd transformer blew, the Artstor Digital Library continued to run. That kept us going until the generator was turned back on. The fuel shortage that followed caused more problems and 60 Hudson Street turned to the Department of Homeland Security for help making sure they never ran out.
But of course nothing is perfect, as we had trouble after the storm with internal communication and Shared Shelf experienced some downtime. This of course underlined how important it is to be geographically diverse, which is reflected on the Tech department’s goals this year.