Preparing for the Post-Pandemic Data Center Environment

Even after we get a handle on the COVID-19 pandemic, it will continue to directly affect how Data Centers operate. The shift to working from home, as well as the increase in digital content for entertainment and social connections, highlighted an already existing trend toward digitization and put the spotlight on the critical role of Data Centers in the economy and in our day-to-day lives. This dependence on digital will not be going away.

The switch was sudden and dramatic – in May of 2020, some Internet providers saw as much as a 60% increase in demand as compared to before the pandemic. Whether organizations were already on board with the trend of digitizing their operations and workforce, or they were forced to pivot when stay-at-home orders and lockdowns suspended large swaths of the economy, the result was the same: a quantum leap in digital adoption. In the US, the share of digital customer interactions increased by 158% in the six months from December 2019 to July 2020.

Data Centers met the need—adapting their workforce and operations to run the Data Center with fewer on-site personnel and bringing additional capacity online when needed. This work will continue to be vital to meeting customer needs. McKinsey predicts the recovery from the pandemic will largely be digital, with organizations that were able to adapt their digital footprint during the crisis coming out stronger.

     “Recent data show that we have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter  of around eight weeks.” McKinsey, The COVID-19 recovery will be digital: A plan for the first 90 days 

With the end of the pandemic on the horizon, Data Center owners and operators need to ensure that their facilities are prepared for life in the new digital normal. For some, that may mean systematizing successful strategies and tasks undertaken to survive the pandemic. For others, it may mean identifying gaps and creating a plan to ensure the Data Center is up to the task. There are several areas to consider:

Cleaning protocols: For the near term, regular cleaning continues to include protecting employees and visitors from potential exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Cleaning needs for individual facilities vary based on facility size, physical traffic in the Data Center, and computing equipment and server racks in the space. Steps include:

  • Use CDC recommended guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting your facility.
  • For all but the smallest spaces, the first and best step to protecting your equipment is a daily regimen of vacuuming with a HEPA filter. 
  • Quarterly cleaning of the entire Data Center, including washing the floors, walls, and ceiling, and cleaning all equipment and rack surfaces, per manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Yearly deep cleaning that includes close inspection of all areas, like racks, floor surfaces, and underfloor spaces.

Mask wearing: In addition to regular cleaning and disinfecting, one key way to protect against the virus is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, even after the vaccine is widely distributed and it is safe to gather in larger groups: wearing masks around others, especially indoors. The federal government has ordered mask wearing for all individuals working in federal buildings and for anyone traveling on trains, planes or buses.

Employee policies: Ensure employee policies are flexible and can adapt to the changing health landscape without putting employees at risk. That includes enabling remote work when possible, creating staggered shifts to limit the number of employees in a space at the same time, and policies that allow workers to stay home if they are sick without penalty.

Preventative maintenance: Implement a well-planned maintenance program Data Center Maintenance: Preventing Problems Before They Start to ensure uptime and optimal performance for all Data Center equipment. This includes identifying critical systems, scheduling regular maintenance per the manufacturer’s recommendations, and documenting all maintenance and repair procedures, planned or unplanned. 

Crisis planning: The pandemic was a real-time test of crisis preparation. Facilities had to adapt quickly—those that had updated crisis plans were better positioned to deal with the fallout of the shutdown and the ongoing crisis. Others had to quickly make decisions in the heat of the moment. Now is the ideal time to review what worked and what didn’t work, and build a plan to protect your facility, your employees, and your customers when the next crisis hits.

This unprecedented global crisis has enabled Data Center Managers to see what works and where there are gaps. To ensure you are positioned to deal with the upcoming changes in the economy, expected or otherwise, give us a call. DSI can help. We offer solutions that are energy-efficient, deliver the reliability you demand and are scalable and modular—including all aspects of site selection, design, construction, commissioning, and maintenance of your mission-critical Data Centers.