When you ask a data center manager about their biggest concern, you rarely hear them talk about cleaning. Yet anyone who maintains a house knows how skipping a few days of clean-up can lead to bigger problems down the road. Data centers are large facilities with a lot of moving parts. Here’s why you should prioritize regular cleaning of your facilities.
Keeping Your Data Center Clean from Top to Bottom
Data centers with their tightly-packed equipment, lots of nooks and crannies, cooling systems and raised floors are ideal for contaminants. Even a data center that looks meticulously-clean to the naked eye can be a disaster waiting to happen. Half a micron (0.00001 inches) sized contaminants are enough to adversely affect data center equipment.
And there is no scarcity of contaminants. Anyone walking into the server room is carrying dust and other particles to the environment. The cooling system is bringing additional particles through the air ducts. There are debris, zinc whiskers and ferrous metals that can easily damage server, networking and storage devices.
Zinc whiskers are particularly hazardous in the data center environment. Even NASA is worried about them. They are minuscule zinc formations on electroplated surfaces. They can cause electrical equipment to short-circuit. You can try to avoid zinc coated materials. But if you want to keep your metals rust-free, zinc is an important component. In short, cleaning is the only way to make sure you don’t have a short-circuit meltdown on your hands.
Sweeping IT Under the Rug
How often does equipment failure happen due to contaminants? They accumulate over time and then when a piece of equipment fails, there is no certain way to verify that contaminants caused it, so it is generally reported as hardware failure. Of course, if multiple pieces of equipment start failing in the same area, then it might point to a dirt problem. But in situations like that, data centers probably don’t report the event externally. Nobody wants to tell the world that they have a dirty house that needs cleaning.
On the bright side, most data center managers have learned through experience that cleaning regularly and securing the facility from unwanted traffic can prevent equipment failure, so most facilities have proper safeguards to prevent extra contaminants. Foot traffic is controlled and filtration systems are put in place to keep the air clean.
Dusting it Off
Scheduled cleaning of data centers is a must. After a construction or server maintenance, all the debris, nails, wire clippings and tapes should be removed and disposed of. The area around the server racks should be visually inspected.
For subfloor and ceiling plenum, the cleaners should use industrial strength vacuums like HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) and ULPA (Ultra-Low Penetration Air) vacuums. All surfaces of devices, doors, windows and cabinets should be wiped with static-dissipation solutions.
Customers generally judge data centers on "ISO 14644-1: Classification of air cleanliness by particle concentration.” This defines the standards for air quality of cleanroom environments and rates facilities based on the presence of particulates in the air. Data managers should get acquainted with the standard and make sure their facilities meet the requirements.
Cleanliness is Next to Performance and Efficiency
Clean data centers have better performance, efficiency, and longevity. Considering the amount of money spent on equipment and energy, it makes sense to keep every data center clean.
When you’re uncertain where to begin, look to Instor for Data Center Cleaning Services. With three decades’ of experience under our belts, we know how to get you from “look at this mess,” to “wow, now that’s a clean data center” in no time. Download our data center cleaning checklist below to get started.