Electromagnetic pulse and its threat to data centers

Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a rapid discharge of electromagnetic energy from a natural or artificial source. EMP can disrupt or permanently damage electronic equipment, posing a potential risk to data centers. To date, many data center operators have overlooked EMP in their risk assessments and have not taken protective measures against EMP.

This report summarizes the types and effects of EMP, and offers recommendations to assist operators in assessing their EMP risk so that they can implement appropriate protection.

  • Data centers can experience disruption or damage from either artificial or natural EMP sources.
  • Some forms of EMP cause disruption or damage to electronic equipment. Others act most strongly on the power grid, with secondary effects on data centers.
  • Most data center operators do not include EMP in their risk assessments, or include any protection against it.
  • Government and military infrastructure use a variety of protective measures against EMP, some of which may be useful for nongovernmental data centers.
  • Risk assessments, including those for EMP, are best performed periodically as the risk profile of a data center can change.

Report Authors:
  • Jacqueline Davis, Research Analyst Uptime Institute

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