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COVID-19 best practices for data-center operators

Updated: Jan 23, 2021

Data-center operators are trained to anticipate upheaval due to fires, floods, power outages and other catastrophic events. The novel coronavirus, however, is sending people in charge of mission-critical facilities into uncharted territory.

"Data centers and IT teams are typically very good at planning. We plan for normal operations, we plan for the future, we plan for abnormal events ... [but] very few people have planned for the type of pandemic that we're facing now," said Fred Dickerman, senior vice president for management services at Uptime Institute.

The data-center advisory organization just released a report aimed at helping operators of critical infrastructure facilities respond to the impact of COVID-19 as well as prepare for future epidemics by refining strategies and procedures. The free report, "COVID-19: Minimizing critical facility risk," details recommendations and possible next steps.

"This is a very difficult but necessary subject," said Andy Lawrence, Uptime Institute's executive director, in a webcast put on by the organization to discuss the industry's response to COVID-19 so far and what needs to happen going forward.

"It’s clear, I think, that this pandemic is going to last many months, possibly longer," Lawrence said. "A lot of what we talk about today will form the foundation for, probably, a class of resilience planning that we're all going to have to invest more time and effort into. Hopefully this is the first stage of that."

As a result of the pandemic, tech dependency is increasing: The number of teleworkers is skyrocketing, online retail is surging, business-to-business communications are taking place digitally, and social interactions are moving online. "All of that is going to drive more network use and more use of the essential infrastructures that we're responsible for maintaining," Dickerman said.

"In the midst of all that, those of us in the data-center industry are facing the same health challenges that the general population is facing," Dickerman said. Maintaining the health and safety of data-center staff is the top priority – and it's essential if companies want to ensure data-center resiliency.

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