The expansion of the digital economy has brought about the need for specialized facilities called data centers. These facilities process, store, distribute, and protect vital information using computer servers connected to the Internet.
In addition, these servers host essential business applications like email, purchasing, inventory, sales, distribution, accounting, and more. Therefore, data centers are considered “mission-critical” and are appropriately referred to as “critical” facilities.
Because computer servers need consistent power and precision cooling data centers are designed to tightly control their environment. As a result, operators focus on maintaining support systems to avoid the loss of power and cooling and minimize airborne contaminants that can cause servers themselves to fail.
Unplanned interruptions in data centers cause substantial ﬁnancial threats for organizations. For example, according to a recent study, 91% of sites experienced unexpected outages with an approximate cost of $8,900 per minute, lasting an average of 95 minutes for a total cost of $845,000.
Data center cleaning is recommended
Data center cleaning is recommended by the industry as essential preventive maintenance to reduce downtime.
Regular cleaning of the data center helps remove contamination that can go undetected and build over time. If left unchecked, contamination can build up inside servers resulting in unplanned interruptions and thousands of dollars in lost time.
Contamination sources and effects
Contamination sources include paper, cardboard, drywall, concrete, insulation, and ferrous metals. These types of contamination can go undetected and build over time.
Often, contamination accumulates under raised floors and migrates to cabinets and inside servers, and circulates through the cooling system’s airflow.
Once contamination becomes airborne, it is ingested by servers and can cause problems. Some of the most common effects in servers include thermal issues, short circuits, and interconnect interference.
Contamination pathways to servers
Since most data centers use raised floors, conditioned air is forced under the floor to be distributed to server racks. Next, accumulated contamination is swept up in the subfloor by the room’s conditioned airflow and ingested as cool air passes through servers.
Preventing contamination from becoming a problem
To prevent contamination issues in data centers, managers should maintain control over contamination by implementing a preventive maintenance program in critical areas.
Cleaning program features include preventing contamination sources from entering critical areas and regularly removing contamination.
Moreover, regular cleaning by a qualified vendor that uses proper equipment and procedures will prevent the build-up and prevent downtime caused by contamination.
How contamination can cause issues
Recently, a large data center experienced downtime due to a contamination-related event. The contamination source was a misaligned belt assembly in the air handler that created black dust.
Even though the contamination was hidden under the raised floor, it accumulated and went unnoticed over a period of time. Plus, servers ingested the black dust through the conditioned airflow that grew in size over time.
After a period of time, server failures resulted in extended downtime and cleanup that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. This problem could have been avoided if the facility had been following a routine cleaning program.
Implementing a data center cleaning program
When implementing a preventive maintenance cleaning program, managers should clean the subfloor, racks, overhead raceways, ceiling plenums, and raised floors. These cleanings should be regularly scheduled as part of a preventive maintenance schedule.
Industry experts recommend cleaning plenums at least annually, but every six months is recommended for best results. This includes both subfloor and ceiling voids. Also, clean surfaces of server racks, raised floors, and overhead raceways to remediate all contamination.
What to look for in a qualified cleaning vendor
Data center managers should select a qualified vendor that specializes in cleaning data centers because they know how to safely and effectively remove contamination.
A qualified cleaning company will use the proper equipment like cleanroom grade vacuums with ULPA filtration and shielded motors, and know the proper procedures for removing raised floor panels and cleaning around cabling and servers.
Furthermore, qualified companies screen and professionally train their employees so they understand how to safely and effectively clean your data center.
Plus, these specialized cleaning companies will have the flexibility to clean during your standard maintenance windows. Data center cleaning is a best practice because it helps managers avoid the risk and cost of adverse effects from contamination.
About the author
Kevin Vickery is the President of ProSource Technical Services, and has more than 25 years of experience in the data center cleaning industry. ProSource cleans millions of square feet of data center space every year all across the U.S.