As technology becomes a bigger part of people's everyday lives, the systems and facilities that house the data we need are more important than ever. So when these things experience problems that cause downtime, the effects can be catastrophic.

Such was the case last week when the generator room of a Maryland State Police building had a small fire and caused an outage of the force's data center. According to the Baltimore Sun, the downtime denied state troopers access to central crime databases and caused the state police website to be offline for an afternoon. In an interview with the Sun, a police spokeswoman said that the outage made it impossible for police officers around the state to access shared documents, making it difficult for work to continue as normal.

The fire occurred while the data center was operating on generator power during a planned IT maintenance period. A small fire started in the generator room which caused the sprinklers to activate and the water shut the generator down.

While fires are a rather rare occurrence, they do still occur in data centers around the world. In 2013, Michigan's Macomb County lost IT services after its data center facility had a fire. More recently, a Samsung data center in South Korea experienced a fire in April that affected access to the network used by Samsung device users across the globe.

Severe weather biggest data center threat
Instead of a fire, most companies are more likely to experience data center connectivity problems due to severe weather conditions or unreliable power supplies. It doesn't matter what causes the downtime if a response plan isn't in place ahead of time. According to a recent federal IT survey by SolarWinds, more than 20 percent of participants admitted they didn't have a disaster preparedness strategy in their organization.

In order to avoid the downtime and mitigation costs that come along with a data center disruption, it is important for organizations to back up their information at a remote site or in the cloud to maintain access during an outage. Utilizing the cloud as a disaster recovery solution enables companies to access remote network management. This allows IT managers to remotely manage and fix the problems affecting a network so they don't have to brave the same storm that knocked out the data center in the first place.