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Tips to Improve the Efficiency of a Data Center

In addition to ensuring a stable physical environment, data center managers have another responsibility that's sometimes overlooked. This involves ensuring that efficiencies are designed into the management of their computer facility. Following are seven helpful tips to improve the efficiency of a data center.

Utilize Well-Designed Physical Layouts

A stable and reliable operating environment will result in an effective data center. Well-planned physical layouts will result in an efficient one. Analyzing the physical steps that operators take to load and unload printers, to relocate tapes, to monitor consoles, and to perform other routine physical tasks can result in a well-designed floor plan that minimizes time and motion and maximizes efficiency.

Factor Future Expansions into Current Floor Plans

One other point to consider in regard to floor plan is the likelihood of expansion. Physical computer centers, not unlike IT itself, are an ever-changing entity. Factoring in future expansion due to capacity upgrades, possible mergers, or departmental reorganizations can assist in keeping current floor plans efficient in the future.

Maintain Video Surveillance Systems

Video cameras have been around for a long time to enhance and streamline physical security, but their condition is occasionally overlooked. Cameras must be checked periodically to make sure that the recording and playback mechanisms are in good shape and that the tape is of sufficient quality to ensure reasonably good playback.

Analyze Environmental Monitoring Reports

Environmental recording devices must be checked periodically. Many of these devices are quite sophisticated; they collect a wealth of data about temperature, humidity, purity of air, hazardous vapors, and other environmental measurements. The data is only as valuable as the effort expended to analyze it for trends, patterns, and relationships. A reasonably thorough analysis should be done on this type of data quarterly.

Inspect and Maintain Water and Fire Detection Systems

In my experience, most shops do a good job of periodically testing their backup electrical systems, such as UPS, batteries, generators, and power distribution units (PDUs), but not such a good job on fire detection and suppression systems. This is partly due to the huge capital investment companies make in their electrical backup systems—managers want to ensure a good return on such a sizable outlay of cash. Maintenance contracts for these systems frequently include inspection and testing, at least at the outset. However, this is seldom the case with fire detection and suppression systems. Infrastructure personnel need to be proactive in this regard by insisting on regularly scheduled inspection and maintenance of these systems, as well as up-to-date evacuation plans. If possible, involve your local fire department in these types of inspections.

Remove Tripping Hazards

One of the simplest actions to take to improve a computer center's physical environment is to remove all tripping hazards. While this sounds simple and straightforward, it's often neglected in favor of equipment moves, hardware upgrades, network expansions, general construction, and—one of the most common factors of all—temporary cabling that ends up being semi-permanent. This is not only unsightly and inefficient, but can be outright dangerous as physical injuries become a real possibility. Operators and other occupants of the computer center should be trained and authorized to keep the environment efficient, orderly, and safe.

Prepare for Natural Disasters

The final tip is to make sure that your staff is trained on preparedness for natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes, particularly in geographic areas most prone to these types of disasters. Common practices such as anchoring equipment, latching cabinets, and properly storing materials should be verified by qualified individuals several times per year. Procedures involving evacuation routes, holding areas, and communication mechanisms should all be well understood and tested.

These seven tips are simple to apply and beneficial to use. When combined with the elimination of many of a data center's common exposures, it can make enhancing the efficiency of your facility a virtual reality.

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