Preventive Maintenance Standards for Data Centers

When it comes to data protection, many people think of encryption and ransomware detection but fail to consider data center preventive maintenance. Unfortunately, even the most sophisticated data center will fail if the physical space isn’t properly maintained. 

Data loss and downtime can cost companies thousands if not millions of dollars. To avoid them, it’s important to understand the necessary steps to keep a data center running smoothly. 

Why Preventive Maintenance Matters

Preventive maintenance is essential for the long-term success of a data center facility. Critical hardware requires a constant supply of power, appropriate temperatures, a lack of dust, and protection from natural disasters like fires.

When a data center fails, it can have devastating consequences. In 2020, the Uptime Institute surveyed IT managers and found that the majority of data center outages had cost more than $100,000, and nearly a third of respondents reported costs at or above $1 million. Fortunately, outages can often be prevented with planning and regular maintenance. 

Systems that Require Preventive Maintenance

Data centers rely on the same systems as other facilities, but special attention must be paid to their condition. If even one of these systems is improperly maintained, it can lead to hardware failure. 


Data centers run on servers, which generate significant heat. For this reason, HVAC maintenance is of the utmost importance. 

A few key steps can optimize HVAC system performance, preventing outages and reducing energy costs. 

  • Perform recommended preventive maintenance for HVAC air handlers, including cleaning coils to achieve energy efficiency.
  • Consistently change filters to prevent dust accumulation.
  • Schedule preventive maintenance for chillers, including checking for leaks, oil and pressure levels, and electrical components.
  • Regularly inspect equipment for the buildup of limescale or other deposits. 
  • Inspect the subfloor plenum to look for problems that could interfere with the HVAC system’s ability to function.
  • Look for and clean any dust or debris accumulations under or around the air conditioning unit.

While it’s impossible to prevent every HVAC failure, a maintenance schedule helps detect and fix minor issues that could become big problems. 


Raised floors make room for expansive systems of cables and wiring and allow for sufficient airflow and cooling. Data center raised flooring preventive maintenance includes annual inspections to ensure that they are structurally sound, replacement of warped or delaminated panels, and rotating panels in high-traffic areas. 

In addition, raised floor cleaning is essential. This includes daily vacuuming to remove dust and debris. You should also schedule professional quarterly cleaning of the raised floor and subfloor plenum cleaning at least twice a year. 

Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

Failed power systems are one of the most frequently cited causes of data center downtime and data loss.  Unfortunately, many businesses experience UPS failure because they have not maintained and serviced the system properly. 

To avoid a potential power outage, it’s vital that you perform preventive maintenance for UPS systems, including: 

  • Monitoring battery life 
  • Conducting physical inspections 
  • Testing capacitors 
  • Calibrating equipment

Even if your UPS system has never been used, the battery life will still diminish over time. Continue to perform preventive maintenance for battery backup systems regardless of how frequently they have been used.


Generators are also key to protecting a data center in the event of power loss. There is a long list of tasks for preventive maintenance for generators and diesel fuel, but some of the most important ones are: 

  • Monitoring oil and coolant levels and inspecting for leaks
  • Inspecting exhaust pipes and air filters
  • Checking the fuel supply level and refueling when necessary

Well-maintained generators can mean the difference between a lengthy period of downtime and an operational data center. 

Fire Protection

Although data center fires are rare, it is worth the effort and expense to ensure that your business is properly protected from them. No matter what sort of system you choose to install, preventive maintenance for fire detection and suppression measures is critical. 

Among the tasks you will need to complete are maintaining your sprinklers, verifying the functionality of fire alarms, testing smoke detectors, and ensuring that all fire extinguishers are in working order. 


While many elements of a preventive maintenance plan may occur annually or every six months, you should have a daily routine for data center cleaning preventive maintenance. 

More specifically, your routine should focus on eliminating contaminants like dust and ferrous metal. If left unchecked, they can cause disk errors, overheating, and server failures. 

Basic daily cleaning significantly improves the stability of your data center hardware. This, in turn, helps avoid service interruptions, which can be extremely detrimental to any business’s long-term success. 

Seeking Maintenance and Cleaning Services

Properly maintaining your data center might seem like an overwhelming prospect, but there are resources available to help. You can partner with third-party providers for each of your data center’s systems and rely on the expertise of professional data center cleaners

While maintenance and cleaning may seem like an unnecessary investment, in reality, they save significant amounts of money by preventing data loss and downtimes. 


“Uptime Institute Releases 3rd Annual Outage Analysis” Uptime Institute

“Controlling Data Centers’ Air Pollution, Environmental Control to Ensure Equipment, Systems Reliability” ASHRAE

About the author: Kama Offenberger’s first writing position was at a chain of community radio stations where she wrote promotions, public service announcements, technical manuals, scripts, and news stories. She was then an English instructor for fifteen years and has written articles in the field of higher education. Kama has also worked as a ghostwriter in many different areas, including personal biographies, technology, real estate, entertainment, and home improvement. 

Managing Data Center Cooling

Managing data center cooling is essential to maximize cooling capacity and efficiency. When cooling is handled correctly, it provides an optimal environment for servers. Frequently, heat-related issues arise from issues that can easily be fixed. Facility managers should always follow industry best practices to ensure that the cooling system operates at its best. Facility managers can take a few simple steps to make improvements.

Step 1: Seal openings in floors and cabinets

The first step in improving is sealing openings in the raised floor and server racks. The benefit of closing gaps is reducing bypass airflow or cooling that bypasses servers. Plus, sealing openings helps prevent cool air from mixing with warm exhaust airflow, causing it to be less effective. Both of these conditions will decrease the efficiency of your cooling system and often results in heat-related issues in cabinets. Therefore, sealing openings in floors and cabinets enables greater cooling efficiency.

Step 2: Direct airflow toward servers

Next, use directional airflow panels to point cooling airflow toward servers in cabinets. Directing airflow is achieved by replacing standard perforated panels with directional airflow panels. Directing airflow also helps reduce bypass airflow because servers capture more cooling. This concept is like directing air conditioning in your car toward you on a hot day. The result is you receive more cool air. So, directing airflow to the right place is vital for an energy-efficient data center.

Step 3: Balance cooling with heat loads

Next, use automatic or manual dampers in airflow panels that adjust to match variable heat loads in server cabinets. Dampers help control the flow of cooling a floor panel dispenses toward a cabinet. Automatic dampers use sensors on cabinets and adjust as heat loads change. Dampers significantly improve cooling efficiency. Controls can also be used on computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units to control cooling as loads change.

Step 4: Separate and contain airflow

Finally, consider separating cold or hot aisles through containment structures. Both cold and hot aisle containment has benefits. There are also ways to control airflow through virtual containment. Virtual containment uses partial containment by partially installing aisle doors and directional airflow panels to block the cool and warm airflow mixing. Virtual containment has advantages to complete containment structures because it does not require reconfiguration of fire suppression, lighting, or cause service disruptions associated with traditional containment.

Following these four steps will help improve your existing cooling system’s data center cooling performance. Before adding new capacity, always make sure you’re following these best practices to get the most out of your existing cooling.

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The Benefits of Virtual Containment

The benefits of virtual containment eliminate the cost and time associated with installing full containment.  At its core, virtual containment uses a system of products to ensure the delivery of the right amount of air to servers.

Virtual containment reduces bypass airflow

Virtual containment reduces bypass airflow and prevents the mixing of cool supply air with warm exhaust air from surrounding equipment. These benefits are achieved through a combination of directional airflow panels, airflow control devices, and doors at the end of the aisles. This configuration of products is less expensive and faster than installing physical containment structures.

Virtual containment utilizes directional airflow

Unlike physical containment systems, virtual containment utilizes directional airflow panels to direct airflow toward the face of the rack. These panels can achieve a 93% capture index – the amount of air delivered through the panel that directly enters the face of the server rack. This technology significantly reduces the amount of bypass air.

Virtual containment for legacy sites

Additionally, advances in directional airflow panel design have introduced multi-directional panels where airflow is split evenly and angled in two directions. This allows for the delivery of directional airflow to racks on either side of a cold aisle in a legacy data center that has only one accessible airflow panel. And, for applications where less airflow is required but directionality is needed to more precisely match cooling with heat loads, perforated directional panels are also available.

Virtual containment saves energy

Using a directional panel can save more than 40 percent in fan energy by enabling a rack with equal load to be effectively cooled, using approximately half the CFM of a conventional panel. With less air required and higher Delta Ts, fewer computer room air-handling (CRAH) units may be needed in a new data center. Fewer CRAHs reduce capital expenditures by up to 40 percent. In retrofit applications, CRAH units with fixed-speed fans can be set to standby mode, or variable-fan drives can be adjusted to operate at lower static pressures, saving more energy.

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