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Fatal Fallacy 4: Relying Solely on Environmental Monitoring to Eliminate Supplemental Analysis

The fourth fatal fallacy involves a misunderstanding of the role of environmental monitoring in facilities management. A robust facilities management process ensures the continuous operation of critical equipment. The overriding implication is that the physical environment in which these devices operate is sound, stable, and likely to stay that way. But how does one determine the current state of the physical environment, and what the likely trend of its state will become?

IT facility managers sometimes believe that the more they automate the monitoring of their data centers and server room, the less effort they'll need to expend to ensure stability. This is a natural conclusion, but flawed. A patient in intensive care hooked up to dozens of monitoring devices still requires doctors and nurses to periodically check the patient's vital signs. This serves to record the current condition of the patient and to verify the proper operation of the equipment. Similarly, IT facilities managers need to evaluate—rather than simply monitor—the current state of their data center's physical environment. The fallacy of relying solely on monitoring systems can become fatal if sensors, alarms or other types of annunciation systems fail during a major disaster.

A number of sources of information can assist data center managers in evaluating the current state of their physical environment. Outages logs normally associated with availability reports should point to the frequency and duration of service interruptions caused by facilities. If the problem management system in use includes a robust database, it should be easy to analyze trouble tickets caused by facilities issues and to highlights trends, repeat incidents, and root causes.

The remaining sources are of a more human nature. Facilities department staff can sometimes speak to unusual conditions they observed as part of normal walkthroughs, inspections, or routine maintenance. Similarly, hardware supplier repair technicians can typically spot when an element of the physical environment appears out of the ordinary. Some of the best observers of their physical surroundings are computer operators, especially off-shift staff who are not as distracted by visitors, telephone calls, and the more hectic pace of prime shift. Support staff who frequent the data center (such as network, systems, or database administrators) are also good sources of input as to possible glitches in the physical environment. Finally, there are facilities-type auditors whose job is identifying irregularities in the physical operation of the data center and recommending corrective action.

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