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Keep It Current: The Dos and Don'ts of Data Center Maintenance

Published on 10 December 13
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Most things in life require a certain degree of maintenance, and data centers are no different. These centers require maintenance if IT facilities are going to be able to perform adequately and reliably. The additional effort required to ensure that your systems are running smoothly and can help support a high level of importance is not only necessary, it can save you a lot of money in the long run.


The Importance of Maintenance


Sometimes, finding the time or money to maintain a system is difficult. It's easy to fall into the trap of putting off maintenance due to those two elements. Daily demands are immediate, and this can sometimes cause maintenance to take a back seat. But without regular upkeep, data centers are likely to incur costly downtime, and be largely inefficient in ways that will directly affect performance. Failures of cooling systems, servers, and other crucial components can happen without warning if maintenance is not done. But capacity and performance management also need to be focused on, because ignoring them can cause widespread degradation throughout the system. Sometimes, even a ten percent degradation in performance won't result in any visible change, but over time, lack of maintenance can result in a system crash that seems to happen out of nowhere. So in a data center environment, it's easy to have large problems sneak up on you when they could have been avoided entirely with a little bit of maintenance. Some estimates state that up to 40 percent of outages in data center systems occur due to circumstances that would have been completely avoided had proper maintenance been part of the center's program.



The Cost of Poor Maintenance


Sometimes data center maintenance can be costly, but it's even more costly to ignore maintenance. A way to see just how much maintenance can save your company is by calculating the annual cost of downtime your data center usually incurs, and then multiplying that figure by anywhere between 30 and 40 percent. This will tell you exactly what a lack of maintenance will cost your data center per year in revenue. Reinvesting that money into maintenance efforts would still result in a return on investment. Even investing in the maintenance of your skills and those of your employees through training programs can help to make you a more efficient data center. Other studies have shown that, across all data centers, the average cost of downtime is around $5,600 per minute. Most data centers report 90 minutes of downtime per year, so that results in over $500,000 a year in downtime alone. Making the time to engage in maintenance can save your data center quite a bit of money, help you avoid costly emergency maintenance, save you time on service calls, and help you avoid shutting down your data center operations entirely to fix problems that could have otherwise been avoided.


What to Maintain


Simply speaking, you need to maintain everything. Everything you use on a daily basis that contributes to the functioning of your data center requires maintenance. Some systems require less upkeep. For instance, transformers, air and water distribution systems, and the like usually require less maintenance, as opposed to traditional CRAC units, chillers, generators, and so on. Even next-generation UPS systems need maintenance; every aspect of your center requires upkeep in some manner. Commonly ignored areas are switchgear, circuit breakers, ATS and PDUs, UPSs, HVAC systems, and the like.


Tools to Help With Upkeep


Infrared (IR) scans and other tools can help determine the source of many problems. For instance, it can find areas of high temperatures, which can indicate deteriorating components, bad electrical connections, improper torque, and other problems that are more or less invisible until they cause a large problem. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can help you model air flow and distribution of heat, which can help you make adjustments to aspects of the IT infrastructure as needed, and help to minimize hot spots. There are also simpler issues, like ensuring you have available disk space, in which proper maintenance can make a big difference. Always check available disk space regularly, as this can help you avoid large problems. Maintenance doesn't necessarily have to be complicated, it just needs to be done.


What Takes Priority


In a list of prioritized maintenance tasks, batteries should always come first. After that, you'll want to ensure your UPS systems are up to par and functioning, power generators are maintained, HVAC infrastructure and function are where they need to be, and the like. Check switchgear, circuit breakers, ATS, and PDUs, and conduct periodic IR scans. Focusing on these issues can help you avoid a wealth of problems and keep your data center running smoothly.


Have a plan for every aspect of maintenance so you know what to do to keep things running smoothly. Make sure you keep your systems up to date to avoid emergency maintenance, and spend the time require up front to conduct maintenance, as it can save you a great deal of time and money in the future.


Travis Adams is passionate about data. He often blogs about the tricks and innovations to efficient management.













Most things in life require a certain degree of maintenance, and data centers are no different. These centers require maintenance if IT facilities are going to be able to perform adequately and reliably. The additional effort required to ensure that your systems are running smoothly and can help support a high level of importance is not only necessary, it can save you a lot of money in the long run.

The Importance of Maintenance








Sometimes, finding the time or money to maintain a system is difficult. It's easy to fall into the trap of putting off maintenance due to those two elements. Daily demands are immediate, and this can sometimes cause maintenance to take a back seat. But without regular upkeep, data centers are likely to incur costly downtime, and be largely inefficient in ways that will directly affect performance. Failures of cooling systems, servers, and other crucial components can happen without warning if maintenance is not done. But capacity and performance management also need to be focused on, because ignoring them can cause widespread degradation throughout the system. Sometimes, even a ten percent degradation in performance won't result in any visible change, but over time, lack of maintenance can result in a system crash that seems to happen out of nowhere. So in a data center environment, it's easy to have large problems sneak up on you when they could have been avoided entirely with a little bit of maintenance. Some estimates state that up to 40 percent of outages in data center systems occur due to circumstances that would have been completely avoided had proper maintenance been part of the center's program.

The Cost of Poor Maintenance








Sometimes data center maintenance can be costly, but it's even more costly to ignore maintenance. A way to see just how much maintenance can save your company is by calculating the annual cost of downtime your data center usually incurs, and then multiplying that figure by anywhere between 30 and 40 percent. This will tell you exactly what a lack of maintenance will cost your data center per year in revenue. Reinvesting that money into maintenance efforts would still result in a return on investment. Even investing in the maintenance of your skills and those of your employees through training programs can help to make you a more efficient data center. Other studies have shown that, across all data centers, the average cost of downtime is around $5,600 per minute. Most data centers report 90 minutes of downtime per year, so that results in over $500,000 a year in downtime alone. Making the time to engage in maintenance can save your data center quite a bit of money, help you avoid costly emergency maintenance, save you time on service calls, and help you avoid shutting down your data center operations entirely to fix problems that could have otherwise been avoided.

What to Maintain








Simply speaking, you need to maintain everything. Everything you use on a daily basis that contributes to the functioning of your data center requires maintenance. Some systems require less upkeep. For instance, transformers, air and water distribution systems, and the like usually require less maintenance, as opposed to traditional CRAC units, chillers, generators, and so on. Even next-generation UPS systems need maintenance; every aspect of your center requires upkeep in some manner. Commonly ignored areas are switchgear, circuit breakers, ATS and PDUs, UPSs, HVAC systems, and the like.

Tools to Help With Upkeep








Infrared (IR) scans and other tools can help determine the source of many problems. For instance, it can find areas of high temperatures, which can indicate deteriorating components, bad electrical connections, improper torque, and other problems that are more or less invisible until they cause a large problem. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can help you model air flow and distribution of heat, which can help you make adjustments to aspects of the IT infrastructure as needed, and help to minimize hot spots. There are also simpler issues, like ensuring you have available disk space, in which proper maintenance can make a big difference. Always check available disk space regularly, as this can help you avoid large problems. Maintenance doesn't necessarily have to be complicated, it just needs to be done.

What Takes Priority








In a list of prioritized maintenance tasks, batteries should always come first. After that, you'll want to ensure your UPS systems are up to par and functioning, power generators are maintained, HVAC infrastructure and function are where they need to be, and the like. Check switchgear, circuit breakers, ATS, and PDUs, and conduct periodic IR scans. Focusing on these issues can help you avoid a wealth of problems and keep your data center running smoothly.

Have a plan for every aspect of maintenance so you know what to do to keep things running smoothly. Make sure you keep your systems up to date to avoid emergency maintenance, and spend the time require up front to conduct maintenance, as it can save you a great deal of time and money in the future.

Travis Adams is passionate about data. He often blogs about the tricks and innovations to efficient management.

This blog is listed under Data Centre Management and Data & Information Management Community

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