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An Introductory Guide To Safe Data Centre Operations

Aug 14, 2008
When designing a computer network the old conflict of efficiency versus safety always comes up. The client is expecting data centre operations to optimise the maximum amount of data storage from the smallest space possible. Many clients when action planning this sort of instillation know very little about the essential safety elements involved in the installation and maintenance of the server room and this article acts as a basic introduction to the health and safety principals involved.

A data centre can be known as a server room, computer room or operations room, however they serve fundamentally the same purpose. This is provide a place where computer components can be stored in an environment where they can fulfil their function of storing data. The amount of data storage required differs from each client however it is important to be realistic about the space to storage ratio which is essential to data centre operations.

If you can communicate to your client basic health and safety principals that they will recognise then this will help. It helps to relay that efficiency and safety in data centre operations come hand in hand. The data centre is the life blood of many companies and although it is not accessed by many employees it must allow for the same basic health and safety regulations that govern the rest of the work environment.

As data centre operations usually revolve around a basement or isolated room one major oversight is the lack of fire escapes. There must be clear paths and easy, uncluttered access to fire escapes. Server rooms can come with high priority fire hazards that need to be addressed. This is due to the amount of electrical equipment, the complex wiring and the heat that the server rooms can reach.

This needs to be taken into account during the planning stages and it is recommended to use a consultancy in the planning. Power points must not be overloaded not just due to fire hazards but to ensure the efficient running of data centre operations. Overcrowded power points can cause power surges and result in system crashes, the loss of data and in a worst-case scenario fire.

During the planning or restructure of data centre operations there must be enough space for technicians to access the equipment without risk of injury. These include musculoskeletal lifting injuries, electrocution and trip hazards. Equipment should not be stacked too high and lifting equipment such as ladders or a server lift mechanism. All employees should be trained in basic manual handling skills and heavy servers should not be lifted by one employee.

Protective footwear is another common oversight. Data centre operations can involved the moving of heavy objects and serious foot injuries can be avoided by implementing the wearing of steel toe cap shoes or boots by technicians. There should always be space available for a technician to manually lift in a safe manner and space is also essential to maintain an optimum temperature.

For environmental reasons as well as safety data centre operations should be carried out in a cool environment. This can be addressed during planning by not overcrowding or over-stacking the servers. Technicians should not be expected to work in hot and crowded conditions and as with many data centre operations, the safety of the employees and efficiency of the system go hand in hand.
About the Author
Shaun Parker is a consultant on data centre operations and a leading technician for a top data centre consultancy.
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