“Our greatest hopes and our worst fears realized”, was a line from one of the reporters who covered the Munich Olympic fiasco back in the seventies. But it seems that this line has become especially relevant about the current pandemic and how the realization from this crisis made us realize the importance of making pandemic-proof data centers.
Developments in modern data center infrastructure have always gravitated toward a positive perspective. On the future needs of the industry. But operators are also realistic when addressing the persistent headache of downtime.
Regardless of the cause. Whether it be malfunctioning equipment, criminal activity, or grid-level power failures. Research in solid and dependable systems, along with strict operational procedures, should guarantee smooth workflow with little or no downtime at all.
But everyone was caught unprepared by the Covid-19 pandemic. Including the owners of data centers. As of late, there have been very few incidences of pandemic-related downtimes in data centers. But the pandemic itself has caused problems in industries directly related to data centers. These appear in construction manpower to supply chains and staffing. Most of these problems have to do with the human aspect of the industry. Machines do not get infected. But we still need to look into how pandemic-proof data centers offer hope for the future.
Preparing Your Data Center Infrastructure for Future Pandemics
Based on emergence of several variants and mutations of the COVID-19 virus, this will not be the last pandemic we will see. This fact has not escaped the attention of data center operators. Strategies and preventive measures are now being cooked up to assure the continued operation of these data centers.
So What are some of these defensive strategies?
This refers to the first few weeks and months as well as the immediate measures adopted by data centers. Some of these might take the form of lessening the number of staff on-site. Implementing rigid disinfection initiatives to maintain the Covid-free status of the data center is also obvious. But a lot of these strategies are first-response reactions and are geared more toward the prevention of the spread of the virus.
The mitigation measures refer to what is going on right now in data centers. It is the day-to-day implementation of health protocols. Making them as routine and part of daily operations as are system checks. But there are several measures involved in the mitigation phase. Let us take a look at them one by one.
Create tiered Covid-19 Response Plans
It is impossible for staff members and physical plant workers in a data center to go from zero to complete isolation in one day. It is best to ease all the workers into their new routine. The protocol should utilize a three to five-level contingency strategy. This ranges from reasonable precautions to worst-case scenarios. With one level having a simple washing of hands to a total site shut down at the end of the safety spectrum.
For instance, with regards to the number of staff on site. Companies should adopt a staffing threat matrix for various absenteeism situations. Such as allowing for 25% of the working staff to be absent on a given day. To prevent over-crowding and to effectively manage social distancing protocols. An operator should clearly define the actions taken at any given level. As well as the reason for needing them to be implemented. The desired impact of these actions must also be well articulated for everyone. Be it for medical purposes or the cost-efficiency of the data center site.
Clean Data Centers More Often, More Deeply
Frequent disinfection with industrial-grade disinfectants in every nook and cranny of your data center site is now a part of your daily routine. It must be done before everyone comes in for work, during work hours, and after everyone has left to go home. Not only the actual work-area should be scrubbed down thoroughly. But the food stations, pantries, bathrooms, utility rooms, conference rooms, and rest lounges as well. Doorknobs, levers, lids, faucets, utensils, and switches should be wiped down with very powerful disinfectants every half hour. Computer screens should be sprayed and wiped clean. Along with their keyboards, CPUs, and other related components. The floor should be mopped incessantly all day. This is only one of the ways that can make pandemic-proof data centers offer hope for the future.
Establish Workplace Health Protocols
Among members of the staff and the physical plant, strict medical safety protocols must also exist. Not only to protect them personally but also to reduce the risk of contamination and spreading it to the entire workforce. Social distancing in the work area must be observed at all times. Constant handwashing before and after entering the workspace must all be a strict rule. The wearing of face masks and face shields should be a requirement before anybody can enter the premises. Tissues should be given to everyone before they are allowed into the data center. Using non-contact thermometers to take their temperatures must be implemented at every access point of the data center site. Allowing a shift-change procedure that regulates staff turnover from a safe distance. And drawing up a cleaning checklist for the next incoming shift.
The main purpose of these procedures is not only to protect the staff but also to put them in a mindset of readiness and prudence. Making safety and vigilance second nature to all of them. So that they will perform all these safety protocols almost instinctively. Pandemic-proof data centers offer hope for the future if the staff’s collective consciousness is in the right place.
Safeguard Supply Chains; Stress VPNs
A VPN or Virtual Private Network gives privacy, anonymity, and security to users. By creating a private network connection across a public network connection. VPNs go hand in hand with proxy servers and overlay networks.
Stress-testing a VPN means evaluating its speed, security, and expense. Stress-testing is not limited to remote work or for allowing your administrative staff to work remotely. If the worst-case event arises that you or your physical staff are unable to access your building management or other systems. A good VPN will allow you to do this from a remote location safely and securely.
Restrict Travel; Create Reserve Data Center Teams
It’s essential to ensure that your on-site staff does not cross over to your other data center sites. This is to prevent contamination, in case of infection from your own staff, or vice-versa. During high-tier situations, establish two shift teams. One to self-isolate for two weeks, while the other team works.
Assign principal reservists to only show up at your data center site when positively necessary. Pinpoint who is mission-critical within the members of your staff, and assign alternates for them. In the worst-case scenario that even they become unavailable. And make sure that your key personnel doesn’t come anywhere within physical contact of their alternates.
Make the Case that Your Data Center is Critical
Another good thing about having a pro-active Covid-19 response strategy. Is that it makes very clear the fact that data center operations are indispensable. Government and health organizations might implement travel restrictions. And the classification of your data center as an essential service could help the argument to exempt you.
The importance of making your data centers into a pandemic-proof data centers is to focus on the survival and continued operation of the area and the people you are serving. Make a point as well of documenting and displaying the methods you have applied to keep your site a Covid-free zone. Show them that your pandemic-proof data center offers hope for the future.
Enlist Management to Make Sure Plans are Carried Out
Your data center should have a strategy for internal and external communication. It should start with the modes of communication, and how often you will converse with those you wish to communicate to.
It is essential for management to be directly involved in the implementation of all strategies. And have the capability to adapt with responses as the situation arises. Only the upper-echelon can guarantee that all the well-thought-out strategies that were laid out will actually come to fruition. They are the guardians that will make sure these plans become a practiced reality.
Adaptation refers to the gamut of technologies and operational parameters that were already in place before the pandemic. Incorporating these methods to the ones mentioned above will speed up your staff’s ability to deal with future pandemics.
It is clear to see how pandemic-proof data centers offer hope for the future if their safety protocols are strictly followed. And constant vigilance is present at all times. These precautions, as well as the corresponding mindset that accompanies them. Will assure you that your data center operations will not only run smoothly. But your entire staff will be physically protected as well. This will ensure an uninterrupted revenue stream for you and your workers. We hope this article was both informative and useful.