Data Center Raised Floor Maintenance and Care

Data center raised floor maintenance is important because businesses rely on them for critical information. Failure to maintain these important facilities can cause computer servers to experience unplanned disruption or downtime. These interruptions can cost companies valuable time, money, and resources. Therefore, preventative maintenance is an important function. One of the areas that require attention is the data center’s raised floor system. 

Data centers require a raised access floor system to keep computer servers cool while hiding data and power cabling. Protecting the raised floor system helps ensure a safe work environment, reduces the risk of downtime, and extends the data center’s lifecycle. Cleaning above and below the raised floor is essential in keeping servers running without disruption from dust and debris. This guide will provide the information you need for proper raised floor maintenance.

Structural Maintenance

Schedule Annual Service

Have your data center’s raised flooring serviced by a professional maintenance company once a year. They can help to evaluate and correct any structural problems.

Rotate Panels

Rotate panels at least twice a year between high and low traffic areas to reduce wear and tear and lengthen the time before replacements. 

Replace Damaged Panels

Replace damaged panels that are warped, delaminated, or showing clear signs of wear and tear immediately. 

Replace Components

Any components such as pedestals, stringers, gaskets, or panel edge trim should be replaced to protect the structure and integrity of the data center’s raised floors and equipment. 

Environmental Maintenance

Environmental maintenance is ensuring the data center has the optimal operating environment. Data servers deliver a lot of heat output, and you want to keep the room at an ideal temperature to prevent overheating. Keep temperatures and humidity at recommended levels by the manufacturers of the equipment.

Raised Floor Cleaning

Raised data center floors are built with enough space to allow a healthy air flow and circulation. If left without regular cleaning, contaminants can be drawn to many highly sensitive equipment installed. The raised floor should be cleaned at least once a week. Follow these recommendations to ensure you are properly following maintenance and care for your raised floor data centers:

Starting At The Top

Start cleaning server racks before cleaning the flooring and work your way down. If you start at the bottom, debris from the top may fall to the clean floors. Again, it’s essential only to use equipment and cleaning solutions approved in the data center.

Vacuuming Floor Surfaces

You want to be sure to vacuum the floors daily to remove loose particles before you mop. Use a clean room-rated vacuum cleaner with a ULPA filtration system. ULPA filtration vacuums capture dust and debris as small as  0.12 microns with an efficiency of 99.99%. You should never use vacuums not rated for clean room areas like data centers, as they can suspend more particles, allowing them to settle on other parts of the floor. These particles can also migrate into servers over time. 

Mopping Floor Surfaces

Use a damp mop with warm water and an approved data center cleaning solution that does not contain ammonia. Be sure to remove any excess water to avoid weakening the adhesives or causing de-lamination of access floor panels. Never use a dry mop, as this can kick around debris without actually picking it up. Data centers should also avoid using mechanical scrubbing of the access floor panels to prevent degrading the anti-static properties of the tiles. 

Subfloor Void Cleaning

You should clean the subfloor every six months or more to remove the collection of debris over time. This requires the removal of the raised floor tiles and vacuuming with a critical area vacuum equipped with a ULPA filter. Carefully remove any additional contaminants and carefully clean around the cables. Cleaning the subfloor should be handled in sections rather than all at once. Take this opportunity to inspect for any damage or wear. 

Recommended Best Practices

Prevent Contamination

You will want to do your best to limit the number of contaminants entering the data center. Place sticky mats at all entrances and include an area for unpacking any servers or equipment before bringing them into the computing areas. 

Use Qualified Contractors

Always have your data center cleaned by contractors with experience cleaning data centers that use the proper equipment and trained employees. Personnel should be screened and properly trained to perform the critical cleaning. Ensuring they are properly trained helps reduce the risk of improper cleaning, accidental downtimes, and potential damage.

Finally, always ask for references from other data center operators that have used their service to ensure you’re dealing with a qualified and reputable contractor. Some of the top data center cleaning companies include Data Clean, ProSource, Sealco, and Spec-Clean.

Recommended Cleaning Frequencies

The industry recommends that raised floor surfaces be cleaned at least every three to six months to reduce contamination and prolong the life of the floor tiles. Subfloor cleaning is also recommended at least once per year to ensure dust and debris are removed, so it doesn’t migrate into servers. 

Keeping your data center’s raised floors clean and maintained can help improve energy efficiency and keep the servers running smoothly for longer. Downtime can be debilitating for a data center, and tackling the cleaning of your raised floors can be a tedious job, but it is essential for safe operations. 

Hiring a professional to clean and maintain your data center’s raised floor can help eliminate potential problems and prolong the life of your raised floor and computer servers. Look for an experienced data center cleaning company with trained personnel that specializes in data centers. 

About the Author
Amber Erwin, a former business process analyst, writes and develops content for various businesses and industries.  

A Guide To Data Center Cleaning

A guide to data center cleaning is essential because it is considered vital maintenance as recommended by computer hardware manufacturers and industry associations like ASHRAE. In addition, data center cleaning is crucial because it improves the reliability of computer servers. Removing built-up dust contamination through routine cleaning prevents potential downtime. Experts recommend data center cleaning to enhance equipment reliability and avoid unwanted disruptions.

Contamination sources and effects

Hidden contamination is often overlooked and builds up over time in data centers. If left unchecked, contamination can cause servers to fail. This type of disruption can result in lost revenues and unnecessary expenses.

Contamination sources include fine dust, fibers, and ferrous metal that naturally accumulate inside data centers. However, these contaminants are often overlooked because they are hidden under raised floors. As a result, contamination builds over time and may migrate inside servers through the cooling system. Effects of contamination on servers include thermal failure, short circuits, and inter-connect failures.

Prevention and control of contamination

Planned maintenance cleanings can prevent and control contamination buildup to avoid risks to equipment. In addition, routine cleaning can remove harmful particulates and avoid migration into equipment. As a result, a regular cleaning program is considered essential maintenance.

Industry standards and recommendations

Data center cleaning standards recommend cleaning the subfloor, raised floor, equipment, and monitoring contamination. First, subfloors should be cleaned at least once per year to minimize risks. Next, Raised floors should be thoroughly cleaned at least four times per year to restore and prolong life. Finally, equipment should also be cleaned at least four times per year to remove contaminants. Airborne particle counts should also be taken at least once per year during the subfloor cleaning.

What to look for in a vendor

Use qualified vendors with trained employees. Get customer references from other data centers to confirm their experience and quality of work. Look for industry certifications like ADCCP or an equivalent organization that meets ASHRAE guidelines. Ensure they use the proper equipment like cleanroom ULPA-filtered vacuums to ensure quality. Also, look for vendors with scheduling flexibility and coverage that meet your needs.

Case study

A large data center experienced downtime due to a contamination-related event. Contamination was generated from a misaligned belt assembly in an air handler that supplied cooling to the server room. The issue went unnoticed because small particles accumulated over time in hidden areas under the floor and inside servers. This resulted in several days of downtime and business interruption with thousands of dollars in lost revenue and avoidable expenses. Instead of preventing this incident with routine cleaning, the company spent several weeks removing contamination from the subfloor and internal server components.

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Data Center Disinfection

The importance of disinfecting your data center

Data center disinfection protects against the spread of the coronavirus. Understanding coronaviruses and how they spread is critical in developing a plan to protect employees and customers at your facility.

What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses discovered in the 1960s but commonly found in animals and not typically transmitted to humans until recently. Six strains of coronavirus were previously known to be capable of transmission to humans before COVID-19, the most well-known being SARS-CoV. These were responsible for outbreaks in 2003, and MERS-CoV was responsible for an outbreak in 2012. However, COVID-19 is a more contagious coronavirus and quickly spread among humans.

What are the symptoms of human coronavirus?

Human coronavirus usually causes mild to moderate upper respiratory illness, similar to a common cold. The symptoms often include a runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, and fever. Most people contract the illness at some point in their lives. However, it usually only lasts for a short time. However, sometimes coronavirus can cause lower respiratory infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. This is more common in infants, the elderly, or individuals with weakened immune systems. In some severe cases, such as COVID-19, the virus can cause severe acute respiratory syndrome, pneumonia, kidney failure, and death.

How are coronaviruses spread?

Coronaviruses are typically spread through the air via coughing or sneezing or contact with an infected person or contaminated surface. SARS-CoV-2 is thought to have initially spread from animals to humans, but there is growing evidence of person-to-person transmission. This pattern of transmission was also reported with SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.

Recommended infection control measures

The CDC provides helpful guidance and resources relating to the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, including infection control measures:

  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid contact with infected individuals as much as possible.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects with an EPA-registered disinfectant.
  • The CDC recommends that individuals confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 should wear a mask, and healthcare workers should use eye protection. Both contact and airborne precautions should be implemented in addition to standard precautions.

For more information, refer to the CDC website at

Recommended services for data centers

There are two recommended services for data center facilities to help reduce the incidence and spread of COVID-19. First, disinfectants should be manually applied using a treated cloth by hand-wiping affected surfaces. Hand-wiping frequently touches surfaces like workstations, telephones, keyboards, light switches, and door handles. Hand-wiping surfaces are recommended for areas inside server rooms, so disinfectants are not swept into equipment through the room’s airflow. Many experts now recommend disinfecting high-touch surfaces as a regular cleaning program.

For areas outside server rooms, like office areas, disinfectants may be applied using electrostatic sprayers. Electrostatic sprayers provide better coverage to surfaces at a much faster rate. Electrostatic spraying is often deployed when an outbreak has occurred across a large building or campus area, and speed is needed to get the facility reopened to employees and customers.

Use a professional data center cleaning company.

Look for a professional data center cleaning company that offers disinfection cleaning services as part of their services. Ask for details about the cleaning procedures and disinfectants your cleaning vendor plans to use inside your data center. Developing a disinfection program as part of routine cleaning is recommended for best results. Also, a qualified data center cleaning vendor will provide emergency response services when an outbreak occurs.

ProSource Technical Services is a certified data center cleaning company with over twenty-five years of experience working with mission-critical facilities across the United States.

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The Importance of Server Cabinet Cleaning

Server cabinet cleaning is essential for an effective data center maintenance program and provides several benefits. Regular cleaning prevents contamination build-up and optimizes airflow. In addition, many server manufacturers recommend a clean environment for the best performance. Therefore, the industry recommends routine cleaning as a best practice for data center cabinets.

Contamination increases risks to servers.

Contamination includes dust, ferrous metal, and other harmful contaminants. If left unchecked, the cooling system will sweep contamination up into the airflow that cools equipment. Once contamination becomes airborne, it passes through the internal components of servers during cooling. In addition, electronic devices attract dust and remain inside servers. As a result, the build-up of these contaminants over time poses serious threats. However, the regular cleaning of the subfloor and cabinets helps prevent dust build-up by removing contamination using special vacuums designed for data center environments.

Cleaning prevents contamination build-up.

Cleaning server cabinets improve equipment reliability by ensuring airflow is free of contaminants. Dust build-up occurs over time. Problems arise when too much accumulation occurs inside servers. These problems include disk errors that may cause intermittent failures or permanently damage internal components. Even though equipment failures occur for many reasons, cleaning helps reduce the risk.

Cleaning optimizes airflow efficiency

Cleaning also optimizes airflow efficiency in servers. Another benefit is that equipment remains free from dust build-up on the intake and exhaust openings. Dust accumulation restricts airflow on intake and exhaust openings. Restricted openings reduce the volume of airflow entering and exiting the server. As a result, less airflow means higher internal temperatures. Therefore, routine cleaning ensures optimal airflow and cooling efficiency.

Utilize a professional data center cleaning vendor

Always utilize an experienced data center cleaning professional to perform this type of maintenance. Vendors who specialize in cleaning data center environments use the proper vacuums and processes to safely and effectively clean your equipment. Server cabinet cleaning should be part of a preventive maintenance program that includes cleaning of the subfloor, raised floor, and cabinets. We recommend that clients clean their cabinets at least once per year at a minimum. However, for best results, server cabinets should be cleaned quarterly.

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How to Select a Data Center Cleaning Company

Data centers are critical facilities that require regular care. An effective maintenance plan includes regular cleaning to remove built-up contamination and keep the facility looking its best. In addition, since data centers contain sensitive computer equipment, a cleaning vendor should have extensive experience and meet data center cleaning standards. As a result, it’s essential to use a qualified company that can safely clean your data center.

Experience and qualifications

The first step when choosing a vendor is to check their amount of experience. Look for companies that focus on data centers and understand their sensitivity. A qualified vendor will have several years of experience with references. Plus, qualified data center cleaning companies will also help assess and determine what cleaning services and frequencies your facility needs to meet industry standards.

Trained personnel

Another important factor when selecting a cleaning vendor is whether they use trained personnel. Look for companies that screen and train employees on how to clean safely. Background screening will ensure that personnel are high-quality and present no risks. A professional data center cleaning company will not use temporary labor to perform work in the data center environment. Training should include making employees aware of how data centers work and the importance of following proper cleaning procedures. More importantly, experienced and knowledgeable staff should supervise cleaning personnel.

Comprehensive services

Also, look for data center cleaning companies that offer a full range of services. Qualified vendors will provide cleaning for your data center’s critical and non-critical areas. Critical cleaning is necessary because it removes harmful contaminants that disrupt servers, and non-critical cleaning keeps your facility clean and neat.

A qualified vendor should offer critical cleaning for white and gray spaces. White spaces include areas like server rooms, telecom rooms, command centers. Gray spaces include UPS rooms, generator rooms, battery rooms, electrical rooms, mechanical rooms, and HVAC galleries. All of these areas support data processing and require periodic cleaning and decontamination. Therefore, you need a vendor who can provide all of these services.

Professional data center cleaning companies also clean non-critical areas like offices, conference rooms, break rooms, restrooms, lobbies, and loading docks. These areas require routine cleaning and disinfection. Like other buildings occupied by employees and visited by customers, data centers should also clean these areas. Finding one vendor that offers these services can help implement industry standards. Plus, a single vendor enables you to provide greater control over the quality of cleaning and saves money.

Scheduling flexibility

Another factor to consider when selecting is a vendor’s ability to schedule work within prescribed maintenance windows. These work windows are often limited throughout the year and after regular business hours. Professional cleaning companies that routinely work in critical facilities typically have more flexibility to meet your needs. In addition, qualified vendors schedule weeks in advance so you can plan accordingly with other scheduled maintenance.

Approved cleaning equipment

A qualified vendor will also use industry-approved equipment to clean your data center. Using the right equipment ensures that contamination is efficiently captured, removed, and not reintroduced back into your environment. For example, data center cleaning vacuums should be rated for cleanroom environments and use ULPA (Ultra-low Penetration Air) filters. A ULPA filter removes 99.999% of dust up to particles at a size of 0.12 microns. Vacuums should also be equipped with insulated motor housings to eliminate magnetic and radio frequency interference around servers. In addition, all vacuum attachments should be non-conductive to prevent static discharge around data processing equipment. Finally, all cleaning chemicals should be anti-static, non-ammoniated, and rated safe for use on high-pressure laminate floor tiles and equipment surfaces in data center environments.

Standards and certifications

Finally, a qualified data center cleaning company will meet the minimum standards by organizations like ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) and ADCCP (Association of Data Center Cleaning Professionals). Data center cleaning standards have been established to protect data center equipment. Therefore, the industry recommends that data centers use only professional cleaning companies. To be considered a professional data center cleaning company, vendors should meet minimum requirements. Minimum requirements include expertise, experience, employee screening and training, scheduling flexibility, and proper equipment and chemicals.

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