Google loses data as lightning strikes

Lightning struck Google's data centre four times in a row

Google says data has been wiped from discs at one of its data centres in Belgium – after it was struck by lightning four times.

Some people have permanently lost access to their files as a result.

A number of disks damaged following the lightning strikes did, however, later became accessible.

Generally, data centres require more lightning protection than most other buildings.

While four successive strikes might sound highly unlikely, lightning does not need to repeatedly strike a building in exactly the same spot to cause additional damage.

Justin Gale, project manager for the lightning protection service Orion, said lightning could strike power or telecommunications cables connected to a building at a distance and still cause disruptions.

“The cabling alone can be struck anything up to a kilometre away, bring [the shock] back to the data centre and fuse everything that’s in it,” he said.

Unlucky strike

The Google Computer Engine (GCE) service allows Google’s clients to store data and run virtual computers in the cloud. It’s not known which clients were affected, or what type of data was lost.

The company added it would continue to upgrade hardware and improve its response procedures to make future losses less likely.

A spokesman for data centre consultants Future-Tech, commented that while data centres were designed to withstand lightning strikes via a network of conductive lightning rods, it was not impossible for strikes to get through.

“Everything in the data centre is connected one way or another,” said James Wilman, engineering sales director. “If you get four large strikes it wouldn’t surprise me that it has affected the facility.”

Although the chances of data being wiped by lightning strikes are incredibly low, users do have the option of being able to back things up locally as a safety measure.


Should we treat everyone who might get worms?

Close-up of hookworm

Parasites, such as roundworm, hookworm (above) and whipworm could be living inside more than 1.5 billion people according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

People are usually infected through contaminated food but hookworm larvae can also burrow into feet, get into blood vessels and make their way to the heart and lungs. From there they can climb up to the oesophagus and be swallowed, ending up in the gut where they grow.

Worms are not usually fatal but in serious cases they can cause abdominal pain, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue and anaemia. In children, they can also contribute to malnutrition, stunted growth, and absences from school.

  • Larvae (immature worms) are found in soil contaminated with human faeces – people can be infected if their bare skin comes into contact with the earth
  • Eating unwashed vegetables which have come into contact with larvae, and drinking contaminated water can also lead to infection
  • Larvae move through bloodstream into small intestine where they mature
  • 45 trials from around the world dating back to the late 1970s has shown that individuals who appear to have worms should be treated, but they found no evidence of mass treatment having an impact on weight, height, haemoglobin, exam performance or mortality.

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