Most IT professionals remain unconvinced that their networks are adequately protected from future outages, according to a recent survey carried out on behalf of American Power Conversion (APC), which sells power supplies. That's despite the extensive power outages which wreaked chaos in North America and affected most of Europe last summer.

The research was carried out in May 2004 and drew over 300 responses from IT decision-makers at all levels including CIOs, IT directors, IT managers and facilities managers. Its findings include that just over half of the respondents (50.3 per cent) were concerned about the state of the National Grid, whilst 64.3 per cent of respondents revealed that their business had experienced a power outage in the last 12 months.

The survey follows warnings that the UK is seriously in danger of overusing electricity supplies. In the recent BBC2 documentary, "If the Lights Go Out", Professor Ian Fells, a key energy advisor to the government, warned that power failures will become more common as the National Grid fails to cope with the increasing demand for power. It is widely anticipated that such power shortages will occur during winter months, but climate change and the increasing use of air conditioning means that the UK could experience US-style outages during the hotter months too.

Michael Adams, APC managing director for UK & Ireland, said that the results are a cause for concern in the light of an increased awareness of, and spending on business continuity and disaster recovery planning. "I think these results are a wake-up call for many businesses. Gone are the days when companies could just take power for granted and those that do will reap the rewards of such complacency."

Adams continued: "Trends such as consolidation and compaction, bringing with them the large-scale deployment of multiple racks of ultra-compact blade servers may reduce the demand for data centre real estate, but they dramatically increase heat density and with that, the requirement for forced air cooling.

"Companies will need to look at the bigger picture, otherwise physical problems will start to show in equipment failures and reduced availability. A simple question that needs to be asked is whether the air conditioning system condensers are connected to the power back-up along with the servers and switches. It was exactly this situation which saw last years’ power cut bring IT users in cities like New York to their knees."

However, as APC infers [pdf] in its white paper that discusses the issue, it's larger data centres - most probably belonging to larger enterprises - that are the most likely to be affected since their power consumption could be "10kW per rack or more" while "the industry average rack power consumption is under 2kW".