With many storage and hardware failures caused by environmental factors, data centres are now routinely monitored for temperature and humidity. However, other environmental factors can also cause problems, such as carbon and concrete dust from the constant flow of people, equipment and packaging at most data centres, as well as rodents and leaks from air conditioning equipment. In light of these extra considerations, Jason Preston, Director at 2bm shares his thoughts on a clean data centre.

“Today it is estimated that just 50% of data centres are ever cleaned – and that is often a one-off event following a major refurbishment such as a client or senior management visit. So what are the risks associated with this practice and how can an organisation create a better environment without embarking upon a major investment? ??

Five reasons your data centre should be cleaner

    •    Improve Performance and Availability
Data centres are mission critical operations and data centre managers are required to explore any opportunity to reduce failure and minimise downtime. By reducing the hazards associated with dust and debris, regular clinical cleaning in association with humidity and temperature monitoring is proven to reduce the failure rate and increase reliability. ?
    •    Business Confidence
In far too many organisations a brand new data centre can move from pristine state to de facto storage room in a matter of months.  Overrun with packaging left behind from new equipment installs – with or without equipment – is not only a fire hazard; it also undermines management confidence in the quality of all data centre processes.
    •    Valid Warranty
Dust and dirt may not be overly visible but should equipment failure occur the warranty may well be invalid if the equipment is discovered to be full of dust.
    •    Competitive Position
For co-location sites, continuous monitoring technologies are a key selling point. Extending that model to include clinical cleaning not only minimises the risks associated with equipment failure – and hence invoked Service Level Agreement penalties – but also provides confidence to clients and prospects in the rigour of the operation.
    •    Safeguard Investment
During 2011-2012, the UK invested an estimated $3.35 billion in data centres, the second highest spending of any country, according to the Datacentre Dynamics Global Industry Census 2011. Ensuring the monitoring techniques and working practices are in place to safeguard these environments is key to maximise the value of this investment.

So what is the way forward for organisations looking to minimise the risk associated with data centre performance???

Five steps to a cleaner data centre???

    •    Needs Analysis
The first step is an initial audit to establish the extent of the problem and the required solution. Typically an organisation will have a deep clinical clean to remove the dust particles, static and any other identified contaminants from the room, with all areas treated with anti-static solutions. This can then be followed up be regular cleans on a quarterly or biannual basis.?
    •    Professional Expertise
Clinical cleaning is a skilled operation requiring understanding of data centre equipment and structure, including sub-floor and ceiling ducts, as well as the specialist cleaning equipment. It is essential the cleaning is undertaken in a way to ensure continuity and minimise any impact on day to day activity – typically at night or over a weekend.?
    •    Working Practices
Obviously there is no need for data centre staff to adopt biohazard suits. But basic good practice – such as removing all packaging and tools after use – and ensuring the wheels of any trolleys use to carry in equipment are clean, are important. By ensuring the data centre space is reserved only for core, business critical systems, an organisation can foster an attitude that reflects its importance.?
    •    Pragmatic Approach
Once a deep clean has been undertaken – often after a major recabling or refit exercise – simple maintenance will suffice. A basic quarterly or biannual clean will minimise risk and ensure warranties are valid without requiring a massive investment.?
    •    Leverage Expertise
Data centres typically include many areas that are not visited on a day-to-day basis, allowing problems to arise unseen.  Using the same expert team to deliver the regular clean provides organisations with an additional set of eyes and ears to highlight evolving data centre risks – from signs of rodents to equipment leaks and holes in the walls that may be undermining the investment in innovative cooling designs and technology.