Oklahoma's new secondary data center can withstand a major tornado

(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

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To ensure its data will be backed up in the event of a cyberattack or a natural disaster like a tornado, Oklahoma has built a secondary data center in Garland, Texas, using $110 million in CARES Act funding, the state’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services announced Wednesday.

The secondary data center, located in the Dallas suburb of Garland — about 200 miles south of Oklahoma City — offers “better security, reliability and quicker recovery response times when faced with a disaster,” according to the OMES announcement. Oklahoma named the center “TX1,” differentiating it from the state’s “Lincoln” data center in the Oklahoma capitol.

“2020 proved that the state’s technology infrastructure must be ready to support any disaster at a moment’s notice,” state Chief Information Officer Jerry Moore said in a press release. “By investing in TX1, we are able to provide our customers with the guarantee they can continue delivering core services to Oklahomans, no matter the circumstance.”

The state completed the “historic” migration of its data to the new center on Dec. 31, moving 2,661 terabytes of storage, the equivalent of 228.5 billion Microsoft Word documents.

Among TX1’s features is that it can withstand an EF-3 tornado, which is classified as capable of causing “severe damage” and reaching wind speeds as high as 165 mph. (The state’s primary data center can withstand an EF-4, which includes winds up to 200 mph.)

Oklahoma set a record in 2019, logging 146 twisters, but only 13 tornadoes exceeding EF-3 have hit the Oklahoma City region within the past 130 years, according to the National Weather Service. These include an EF-4 that hit the region amid a regional tornado outbreak in May 2019. An EF-3 tornado that ripped through the Dallas-Fort Worth region in 2019 that left extensive damage in its path topped out at 140 mph.

In addition to the migration, officials said they also upgraded the physical and cybersecurity processes of the main data center, enabling OMES to open its services for greater customer use, including new video-conferencing capabilities.

Using the state’s previous back-up process, recovery after an incident like a cyberattack would have taken months, a spokesperson told StateScoop. The new system, though, can be accessed “within seconds” and is “resilient to any possible disruptions,” according to the press release.

Secondary data centers are typically built in a different region than the primary data center so that a single event is less likely to disrupt the buildings themselves or the utilities they rely on. In Oklahoma’s case, the Dallas data center is still “within driving distance,” officials wrote, should on-site access become necessary.

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cybersecurity, data, data center, Oklahoma, tornado
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