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Security 29. September 2022

"We can bridge power outages lasting several days."

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Due to the current situation, there is a threat of a power shortage in the coming winter. We asked Christoph Stucky, Chief Information Security Officer at Open Circle, how he assesses the situation, how Open Circle is prepared for the situation and what companies can do now to prevent it.

How do you assess the likelihood of a power shortage?

Christoph: Switzerland relies on electricity imports in winter, especially from Germany and France. Due to the current situation, gas shortages and shutdowns of nuclear power plants, the supply situation is uncertain. A cold winter with increased electricity consumption could thus lead to a supply bottleneck, i.e. an electricity shortage. Basically, such a situation will occur when consumption exceeds available production capacity, resulting in a shortage of electrical energy.

What is the official plan of action in the event of a power shortage situation?

Christoph: OSTRAL is responsible for Switzerland-wide measures in the event of a prolonged power shortage. OSTRAL is the organization for power supply in extraordinary situations and is subordinate to the economic national supply of the Confederation. In the event of a shortage, OSTRAL has developed a multi-stage portfolio of measures. Primarily, the population is asked to save electricity voluntarily. If this is not enough, non-essential, energy-intensive appliances will be banned. The third step will be a quota system that obliges large consumers to reduce their electricity consumption. As a fourth and final measure, electricity will be cut off alternately in different regions.

Which measures would affect Open Circle and its customers?

Christoph: We and our customers would only be marginally affected by the first two phases. For example, we could do without illuminated advertising at the reception desk or switch to plug-in strips with toggle switches and convert completely to LED. If that is not enough, we will be asked to reduce the power consumption of our data centers. Phase 4 will also hit the regions where our office/datacenter and our customers’ offices are located. Exactly how the federal government will implement Phase 3 and 4 has not yet been finalized. For this reason, we are making assumptions to prepare for these two phases.

In what ways is Open Circle preparing for Phase 3?

Christoph: Open Circle is developing a data center contingency plan. We are analyzing our systems and processes, prioritizing them by importance, and identifying potential savings. It could be that pre-production, development and test environments that are not needed can be shut down. In addition, we could cluster virtual servers on fewer hosts and shut down servers that have been freed up.

To what extent is Open Circle prepared for Phase 4, the cyclical shutdowns?

Christoph: Phase 4 with whole shutdowns is the least problematic for the data center solution like Swiss Business Cloud. Open Circle has been operating its server systems in highly professional data centers for many years. These are equipped with multiple redundant power supplies. These include battery-backed UPS systems, where UPS stands for uninterruptible power supply, as well as diesel generators. The latter can be refueled during operation. This enables us to bridge power outages lasting several days.

Example image of a diesel-powered emergency generator


Does this mean that access to all IT systems is guaranteed at all times?

Christoph: It’s not that simple. We assume that we can provide the data center services at all times. But how our customers can connect to the systems when there is no electricity and their offices are offline is another question. We have formed a working group that is investigating precisely these questions. As soon as we have results from the working group, we will be available to advise our customers.

What can our customers do now?

Christoph: To prepare for a possible power shortage, we recommend visiting the OSTRAL website. It provides a good overview and enables an easy introduction to the topic:

In addition, our customers can contact us so that we can create a business continuity plan together. In doing so, we identify services that are critical to operations and work together to develop a solution for the scenarios.

Contact us, we will be happy to advise you on how you can prepare your company for the extraordinary situation.

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Christoph Stucky
Chief Information Security Officer



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