As the physical home of the internet, data centres have always played a vital role in our infrastructure, and as Covid-19 brought the world to a physical lockdown, reliance on data centres increased even more as the need for a virtual, online presence grew.
Home workers, home schoolers, video callers, gamers, box set streamers…. With the world at home our dependence on the internet became even more apparent and with it, the demand for data centre continuity.
As a data centre provider we have to keep the lights on at all times, so how have data centres adapted to ensure a continuation of service, whilst keeping staff and customers safe?
Well data centres are designed to provide operational continuity in adverse conditions. Business Continuity Planning (BCP) and risk management is at the centre of what we do. Data centres are designed to carry on running through power outages, floods, equipment failures, fires… The very nature of the design of a data centre, from the technical infrastructures to the buildings, is carefully orchestrated to ensure a 24/7 continuation of service.
Perimeter fencing, secure gates, CCTV, audio challenge, biometric access controls, virtual tripwires, mantraps, tremor sensors, on-site substations, transformers, backup generators, on-site battery storage, fire detection and suppression systems, VESDA, FM200 suppression…
Need I go on? However, none of these technologies are capable of stopping a virus. So how did we adapt to a global pandemic?
Well, we’ve certainly never faced one before, and the virus brought the obvious implications that every business has faced, meaning that we had to quickly and successfully implement social distancing and decontamination processes to reduce the risks to our critical on-site data centre teams.
One thing that goes in our favour here, is the relatively low footfall that data centres have compared to conventional office, factory or warehouse environments. In addition, all movement within data centres is monitored, and traceable, producing a good audit trail should anybody who has accessed the building fall ill.
And in reality, the rest was quite simple…
Team members who are not critical to the running and maintenance of the data centres were sent to work from home (in fact, we implemented this before the lockdown - data centre providers are always one step ahead of the game). Our team was already well used to home working, and our BCP is tested regularly, meaning our staff were well versed in how to continue with business as usual from home.
Next, we restricted access to the data centres to ensure that the number of people on site was kept to a bare minimum. Essentially, the building was now in a locked down state. Customers were asked to use our on-site team for remote hands services wherever possible and all access to the data centre was now by appointment only, with data centre access cards disabled until such time as an access request was approved. Non-critical scheduled work was cancelled, and of course our on-site team of data centre engineers have been social distancing and following recommendations on hygiene.
We’re lucky, that our 70,000 square foot building gives us plenty of room to socially distance our team, and our customers have been instrumental in enabling us to implement these new procedures, working with us to create a safe, low risk environment that keeps our critical key workers safe, and in turn, our data centres running - and we thank our customers for that.
So actually, the answer to the question of how Covid-19 has changed data centres, is a short one. In reality, it hasn’t changed much at all and we’re proud to be part of a sector that has risen to the operational task at hand at a time of increased risk, and increased demand.
The data centre industry deserves recognition for this. The sector is resilient, has continued to keep the lights on during unprecedented times and has lived up to its reputation of being able to keep calm and carry on in adverse situations.