Millennials Change the Meaning of Mission Critical

Nov 2, 2017 | Insights

If you are a Millennial (born between approximately 1980 and 2000), or if you have children who are Millennials and younger, you know that a vote between the Internet, running water and electricity would be no contest. According to the Huffington Post, young people would choose an Internet connection over daylight and hot water. The authors of Gen Z @ Work found that 40% of young people in this age group would choose Wi-Fi over working bathrooms. In addition to being the utility of choice, the Internet is quickly becoming the primary communication medium during and after natural disasters. Of course, we understand we couldn’t access the Internet without power, but this shift is something to think about when data center operators consider the meaning of “mission critical” for future generations.

Use of Internet-Enabled Devices Increases across Age Groups

The graph above depicts the results of a study by Nielsen that compares changes in American’s use of devices from 2014 to 2015. The increasing adoption of smart phones and other Internet-enabled devices and drop in traditional devices, such as TV and radio reflect our preference for using network-enabled devices for communication and entertainment.

According to a more recent study by Pew Research, 92% of Americans ages 18-29, and 88% of Americans aged 30-49 own a smartphone. Statistica predicts that by 2019, average mobile wireless data usage in the U.S. will rise to 11.2 gigabytes per user per month.

Social Media Plays an Increasingly Larger Role in Disaster Recovery Efforts

Given the rise in adoption and usage of network-enabled devices, it’s no surprise in the event of a disaster, the first thing Millennials and younger generations are likely to turn to is their smart phones and social media. Social media allows people to spread the word to the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time. It has “changed the information dissemination pathways in emergencies.”

During recent natural disasters in Puerto Rico, Mexico and the U.S., people turned to social media to understand what was happening, communicate their location to others, and to provide aid to those who needed it.

Following the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico City this September, many young people used Facebook Live to stream videos about their aid efforts for earthquake victims. This allowed people to communicate to a wide audience exactly what type of aid was needed and where, in real time. WhatsApp was also widely used to provide aid in Mexico City. According to a story by Wired, rescue workers were able to acquire diamond-blade saws to extract victims from fallen buildings by blasting messages through WhatsApp. Wired also reported Puerto Ricans posted emergency messages to neighbors in pop-up Facebook groups to help locate relatives in areas with fallen phone towers.

Following Hurricane Harvey, Time Magazine published an article on how Harvey victims turned to Twitter and Facebook for help and quoted a George Washington University media professor calling it “the first major natural disaster of the social media age [in the U.S.].” The mainstream news media also utilized images and videos that were uploaded to social media by victims and rescuers to create their news reports on the status of events.

Telecom providers made data and minutes unlimited or free in Mexico City, as they did in the U.S. in areas in and around Houston during and after Hurricane Harvey. There’s no doubt the role of social media and other online communication services will continue to grow during disasters.

What Does This Mean for Data Centers?

Based on current trends, it appears as though social media and other means of online communication will become the primary resource for communication during and after disasters. As data center service providers, we must shift our focus on uptime and availability to include network access and stability, not just the constant availability of power. Of course, telecommunications providers and companies providing online services must do their part to maintain network uptime, but data center providers can positively impact availability by having diverse, resilient network feeds and hiring skilled network engineers who monitor and the Internet and engineer traffic to take the most efficient routes. The impact of traffic monitoring and engineering is especially noted and appreciated during times of crisis.

Read our blog post on How We Maintain a Resilient Network to learn more.