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Fearing damage, Microsoft moved data after Japan earthquake

The company, fearing disruption from aftershocks, moved 10 million e-mail accounts to North America

Microsoft undertook a sizable data migration project following Japan's earthquake in March, fearing that one of its data centers could become dysfunctional because of aftershocks.

The data center was about 140 miles south of the earthquake's epicenter, said Adrienne Hall, general manager of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative, speaking on the sidelines of the RSA security conference in London on Tuesday.

Following the quake and subsequent devastating tsunami, all applications and services in the data center continued to run, she said. But Microsoft worried that aftershocks could affect the facility and decided to move data and services to a data center in North America.

"We decided based on the seismic reports that were coming in that suggested there may be follow-on earthquakes that we should proactively move the services out," Hall said.

The data included 10 million Hotmail and paid-for MSN e-mail accounts as well as data for "thousands" of customers using Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Services, the company's suite of online hosted services that is now known as Office 365.

The project took about a week, Hall said. Microsoft had previously practiced moving large amounts of data and applications, but those had not involved customer data.

"This was a big move for us," Hall said. "We had no service disruptions during that period at all. It was a completely seamless move."

Microsoft also replicated data in its main Japan data center, which was not impacted by the twin disasters. The company then offered the computing space that was freed up to the Japanese government, which used the data center for hosting websites that published public service information such as road closures, she said.

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