This could have saved our data.
I worked as a Sales Manager for a manufacturer a number of years ago and we had a small computer room to support our one rack of server gear. We weren’t a huge company, so there wasn’t a huge IT equipment demand, but that one rack was still critical to business.
The gear was cooled with a single small room air conditioner — critical to keep the equipment from overheating. This also wasn’t ideal, but it was better than nothing.
And like most small facilities, we didn’t worry about airflow—we just pumped cold air in, and then exhausted the warm air to the outside. This might sound familiar if you work in a similar setting.
One late Friday afternoon we all packed up and went home to enjoy the weekend, making sure the air conditioner and servers were chugging along fine. But that weekend, as it happens sometimes in Winnipeg, a cold front roared in and the overnight temperature dropped below 12 degrees. It wasn’t great for our weekend plans, but it became even worse for our equipment.
The cold outside air got sucked in, causing the air conditioner compressor to fail and the cooling unit shut down completely. Of course, we didn’t have any alarms or monitoring so nobody was notified of the impending disaster. Unbeknownst to any staff, the computer room started to heat up…
We arrived at work on Monday to a completely overheated computer room. Without a functioning air conditioning system, temperatures had skyrocketed into the mid-30s and several servers completely failed. It was a horrible thing for our business and one that was completely avoidable. We lost accounting data, along with some automated controls for the manufacturing equipment, and we had to replace a couple of machines.
Was This Preventable?
You bet. Despite the obvious option to have alarms triggering an overheating computer room, there are more sophisticated measures that could have been taken in advance.
We didn’t know it at the time, but having our IT gear in a colocation facility would have protected us from this risk.
In my current role, I know infinitely more about the risks and benefits of such situations, and I feel it’s important to share that knowledge so others don’t get stuck in the same heated situation.
Colocation Service Options
A quality colocation facility should be able to protect your business operations and equipment. That can take care of a number of factors that you would otherwise have to handle internally.
- Monitoring: Conditions are monitored and reported on a 24/7 basis. This includes environmental, security and access.
- Staffing: Staff are also on-site around the clock and can respond to any adverse developments, like temperature changes. If there’s any equipment acting up, they’re on it.
- No Fails: There is no single point of failure in a data centre. If an air conditioner or critical piece of equipment fails there is another one to pick up the load until the original unit is repaired.
- Preparation: Staff even monitor weather conditions and forecasts, so there are no weather surprises for them like there was for me back in the day. Like a good Boy Scout, they are always prepared.
- Testing & Maintenance: Staff perform regular scheduled testing and maintenance on all critical equipment in the facility.
- No Worries: Facilities and services are a top priority since this is the facility’s focused business. This means you can rest assured your business data is in good hands.
I highly recommend that you review your business data infrastructure. Get your IT provider to show you where you can make modifications to improve your operations, and figure out the risks that you may have in your current structure.
Next, create an outline that shows those risks along with the potential solutions and business benefits. If the benefits outweigh costs and risks, you’ve got a business case to consider colocation services.
Clearly, show the top considerations of using a colocation facility service or data centre so that you make the most informed decision for your business.
What Else Should I Consider?
- Timing: It takes about 6-8 weeks of execution in order to move IT infrastructure into a colocation facility.
- Costs: There’s no doubt that the costs of repairing or completely replacing your business infrastructure after a crisis will outweigh costs of renting space in a colocation facility. Make sure you do a proper assessment of your costs in advance and ask your IT provider to help with this step.
- Staffing: Consider who you have on staff to currently manage your in-house facilities. Do they have enough time to properly manage and maintain all the equipment? Would their time and expertise be better served on other functions? Make this consideration part of your business evaluation.
Looking for more information on data centres and business data security? Check out our Data Centres section of the Business Hub, or ask a question in the comments below.