It started as a rain soaked mass of tree trash that got washed down Manoa stream by the rainstorm soaking the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. Like many municipalities, the City and County of Honolulu was behind on getting heavy equipment in to remove the slowly forming plug of debris under a bridge next to the Manoa Innovation Center just above the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus.
The story that unfolded as the sun rose was that of devastation to a Research 1 class University campus that in some cases destroyed irreplaceable life science, geological, information systems, and federal documents. As the plug became a dam, the Manoa stream rose to flood stage as a monsoon like rainstorm pounded the islands. Oahu residents are used to heavy rains and the storm drains of the island are designed for it, however, nothing prepared them for 9.96” of rain between 11pm HST and 11am HST that fateful day.
Equipment can be replaced, but the research needs better protection…offices have gone to storing electronic copies of student records on ioSafe Solo external hard drives
Returning to its natural streambed, the Manoa stream roared through the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus: Biomedical Research Facility, Graduate Library and federal document repository, Hawaii Institute of Geophysics, Chemistry, Physics, and many other research facilities. Documents from the federal document repository were found nearly a mile away piled up against the Stan Sherif sports center. Classes were being held that early morning in the graduate library with students describing it as a wall of water roaring towards them and blocking their path to the exits. Ironically it was the smallest girl in the class that thought to throw a chair through the window for the class to escape.
The next day as the waters receded, nearly 8 inches of mud and debris filled the basement of Hamilton Library. The staff had to resort to using broom sticks to poke through the mud in hopes of finding the Sun Sparc Servers that had been washed out of the server room and strewn about the basement, with one being washed up over an 8 foot tall berm to end up in the walkways outside. Backup tapes had been ground to small pieces as file cabinets were crushed under debris and torn apart by the wall of water.
The biomedical research facility lost incalculable collections of samples and in the case of Terrence Lyttle’s ground floor research lab, he lost his entire collection of Drosophila (similar to fruit flies) that he had been studying since he was a graduate student. The long-term study was unparalleled and was completely lost to the flood.
The lesson learned was that even in tightly sealed cabinets, safes and server rooms; nature’s fury is unimaginably powerful. The lesson learned is that equipment can be replaced, but the research needs better protection. Since then many research units and college offices have gone to storing electronic copies of student records on IoSafe Solo external hard drives, and many of the research groups are now utilizing the IoSafe NAS units so that they could continue their normal research patterns but have the ability to run away and not worry about their data being lost. Some of the research groups have gone further and have leveraged the cloud backup to Amazon Glacier so that irreplaceable data could be backed up both in the IoSafe NAS but also in the cloud.
Considering that some research could easily represent millions in grand funding, having a fire and water safe storage system seems like a very small price to pay.
Brian Chee is the founder and director of the Advanced Network Computing Laboratory at the University of Hawaii School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and is a Senior Contributing Editor for InfoWorld Magazine
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