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COVID-19: Critical data center facility guidelines from Uptime Institute

Experts running data centers share tips on how to keep teams safe and facilities operational

The Uptime Institute, known for its data center industry specialization, organized a group of experts, clients, and data center operators to gather tips and best practices for minimizing the impact of the current coronavirus pandemic on backbone operations.

The advice, compiled in its “COVID-19: Minimizing critical facility risk” report, includes basic protections, operational suggestions, and potential starting points for reevaluating overall operations strategies moving forward. Here’s a quick overview.

Basic protections

Many suggestions follow the pattern already established for minimizing risk, especially regarding sanitation, self-quarantine, evaluation of potential infection vectors, and travel between sites. Suggestions also extend current protective measures in very proactive ways. For example:

  • Rotate teams: If you have sufficient personnel, consider voluntary self-quarantining as part of the staff rotation policy. If there is more than one staffer in a critical role, consider rotating between one person being on site and the other being in voluntary self-quarantine, alternating after the two week quarantine period ends.
  • Work from home: Staff rotation also addresses issues of who works at home and who must be on site in this case. This can also be extended to entire teams if the organization is large enough, with team A in self-quarantine while team B works on site, alternating every two weeks.
  • Limit use of person-trap access points: If you use single-person access controls, which would require sanitizing after each use, consider looking at other access control methodologies that would still allow appropriate security.
  • Require on-site visitors to be preapproved: Contact visitors at least 48 hours in advance with a health questionnaire that is double-checked, with answers confirmed on arrival.
  • Take non-contact thermometer readings: Any personnel entering the building should be checked in order to screen those with a measurable fever.

Operational issues

This may be the time to evaluate and roll out remote management plans and evaluate operational staffing to determine the minimal staffing requirements for different operation levels. Considerations include:

  • How many people does it take to run at 100 percent, 75 percent, 50 percent?
  • What services can move to fully remote management?
  • What as-a-service options apply?
  • What vendors agreements are in place for operational continuity?

Hold for now

What new tasks should you not be considering now?

This is likely not the time to roll out extended operational plans or deploy new technologies that could potentially require a major human effort to keep operational. Examples include:

  • Anything that requires significant in-person support
  • Things that change your business process or workflow beyond what is necessary to stay operational
  • Patching non-critical software flaws
  • Significant changes to the security infrastructure beyond what is currently necessary

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