Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spring Thaw: Good Time for CIOs to Check Their Offsite Data Centers

It has been a long winter for many of us in the US. Many horror stories were common, spanning from the humorous to the downright tragic. I am not sure if homeowners or business were harder hit this year, I just know that everywhere I went it seemed that I saw damaged property, especially roofs and people with assorted winter related injuries --- many from too much snow removal.

Focusing on the business side, my impression was that most commercial buildings suffered leaks at one point or another. Flat roofs tend to precipitate that outcome, particularly in a year with more than 2x the average snowfall as we have had here in the greater Boston area. More troubling, as Murphy would have it, the leaks make their way into conduits and/or data centers in some cases.

I had a recent conversation with an associate who thought they had made it through the winter unscathed until some of the ice recently started thawing. At that point, water started flowing into a wiring room.

For those with data centers off site in commercial facilities now would be an appropriate time for Chief Information Officers (CIO) and their leadership teams to conduct a site inspection. Hopefully such inspections are part of an ongoing process. Nevertheless, taking a tour at this point would provide a perspective about the status of the data center: is that tier 2 / 3 site is performing like a tier zero site?

SIDE NOTES: Tier levels provides a link to a bit more on how data centers are classified.  An excellent resource relating to data centers can be found at: Uptime Institute

I would be surprised if there were waterproof tarps in place, but I have seen that before. Look inside for stained roofing tiles, recently moved equipment, unused space (particularly around roofing tiles that look new) and so on. Bad signs are roofing crews or commercial dumpsters filled with roofing material. In most cases, provider relationships are transparent enough that such information would have been already communicated, but I am a firm believer in the “trust but verify” model. 

Now is the time to figure out what, if any, corrective actions are required.  Hopefully, the work can be completed before next winter.



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