ASHRAE (www.ashrae.org) recommends that critical facility managers should have their data center professionally cleaned on a regular basis. Routine data center cleaning will prevent contamination build-up inside the facility and data center equipment. Facility managers that understand the effects of contamination build-up make data center cleaning part of their preventive maintenance schedule. By performing routine scheduled maintenance, facility managers can prevent downtime due to contamination.

Why Data Center Cleaning is Necessary

Data center airflow design makes cleaning the facility necessary because contaminated airflow passes through servers, which act as the first filter in the room. Removing accumulated contamination helps prevent downtime & improve reliability by preventing contamination from entering the air flow that passes through servers. As conditioned air is forced under the raised floor, accumulated settled contamination is swept up into the airflow from the subfloor. Next, as contaminated airflow is drawn into servers, which act as an initial air filter, dust accumulates on internal components which can cause downtime. Finally, as exhaust airflow exits servers and returns to CRAC units to be reconditioned, contamination settles on surfaces throughout your data center.

ASHRAE Recommends Regularly Data Center Cleaning

According to ASHRAE in their 2011 publication, Gaseous and Particulate Contamination Guidelines For Data Centers, a preventative maintenance program that cleans the subfloor plenum not only helps prevent contamination risks that can cause downtime, but helps improve efficiency and reliability of hardware. Since contamination accumulates inside server cabinets and hardware over time, data center operators should take every precaution to prevent downtime by removing contamination.

Recommended Data Center Cleaning Frequency and Services

ASHRAE recommends that datacom equipment cleanliness can be maintained by establishing a consistent schedule. The recommended service frequency is an annual subfloor cleaning, and a quarterly floor and equipment surface cleaning. Subfloor cleaning includes vacuuming the concrete subfloor plenum using specialized critical filter vacuums in compliance with recognized standards for cleaning data centers. Subfloor cleaning removes contamination from the subfloor plenum to eliminate the build-up of particulate that can be carried into your room’s air flow and cause downtime inside your IT equipment. Raised floor cleaning includes cleaning the surface of the raised floor panels. This service includes vacuuming and damp mopping the floor surface with cleaning chemicals approved for use in data center environments.  Equipment cleaning includes cleaning the exterior surface of cabinets, equipment, and workstations by vacuuming where applicable with critical filtered vacuums, and then wiped clean an approved anti-static cleaner approved for use in data center environments. No input devices should be cleaned unless the device is completely powered down. If needed, many vendors offer interior server cabinet cleaning. This includes cleaning the surface of the server cabinet doors, server exhaust fans, and surfaces of the servers inside the cabinet. Surfaces are vacuumed with critical filtered vacuums and then wiped clean using an approved anti-static cleaner approved for use in data center environments.Some facilities may require a greater frequency of service. Check with a data center cleaning professional to recommend the appropriate services and frequency needed to maintain an optimal environment.

ASHRAE Recommends Utilizing a Qualified Data Center Cleaning Vendor

ASHRAE notes that due to the sensitive nature of the environment, great care is required for all cleaning activities, so be sure to hire a professional and reliable company that specializes in data center cleaning services. Professional data center cleaning companies will have a focus on data center cleaning and be able to provide several references. Many data center cleaning vendors will have industry certifications. Also, check to make sure that your vendor utilizes equipment like clean room vacuums with either true HEPA or ULPA filtration. Finally, only utilize vendors that have company trained employees that have been background screened and trained.