As the COVID-19 response moves in and out of various phases, companies are moving from updating their response plans to implementing them. Each organization is different, and responses vary based on site environment, the number of COVID-19 cases in the area and government-mandated restrictions. One thing all companies hold in common, though, is their priorities: the health and safety of their staff, partners and customers; business continuity; and compliance with the guidelines and regulations issued by public health and government agencies.
Uptime Institute prepared recommendations for minimizing data center risk based on feedback and comments from their network. A well-prepared data center response includes the following:
Review maintenance prioritization. Review maintenance plans and prioritize: Determine which tasks and issues can be downgraded/responded to last or not at all if operating on a skeleton staff crew.
Ensure good team communication. Establish protocols by which teams isolated from each other communicate virtually (e.g., by radio, phone/video conference) with one another on a set schedule and test the system in advance.
Avoid workspace sharing. Most data centers have limited workspaces for staff (e.g. BMS room, operations office, etc.). If possible, designate meeting rooms or other spaces for shift personnel to use on an alternating basis — for example, the day shift uses the operations office, the evening shift uses the conference room, and night shift uses the facility manager’s office. Set up BMS consoles and network access so that shifts do not have to enter each other’s workspaces. Where this is not possible, institute procedures to clean the shared spaces between shifts.
Avoid equipment sharing. To the extent possible, avoid sharing equipment — provide each staff member their own resources.
If equipment must be shared (e.g., shift phones, radios, tablets, tools, keyboards, etc.), sanitize at the start of each shift.
Review external services. Increased telecommuting means increased stress on bandwidth, the power grid, networking, etc. Review and revise backup/disaster recovery plans as necessary.
Make provisions for emergency housing. Although housing staff on-site should be considered only as a last resort, regions could go into lockdown mid-shift, so prepare for that eventuality:
• Arrange with local authorities in advance for the data center to be designated as a critical facility (similar to a hospital or police station) and obtain permits for essential staff to travel. Explain the critical applications that the site supports (e.g., online banking, telecommuting, etc.).
• Obtain supplies such as food, basic hygiene and medical supplies.
If possible, identify a hotel close to the site (ideally within walking distance) that can be used for staff to rest between shifts. Ensure the environment (hotel or on-site living quarters) is conducive to good physical and mental health (a clean, private, quiet sleep space; access to a variety of fresh, healthy food; access to showers and exercise facilities, etc.).
Review deferred maintenance. Consider the consequences of deferred maintenance, as it may increase the risk of component or system failure. As always, have a plan in place to respond to any major problem, coordinating with vendors as necessary, to ensure issues can be addressed.
• If equipment failure cannot be addressed promptly, ensure procedures to address safe shutdown/isolation of the equipment and digital infrastructure is sufficiently resilient to absorb the loss of failed equipment (at least until workload can be transferred).
• As time passes and restrictions remain in place, revisit deferred tasks and determine whether continued delay increases risks beyond reasonable tolerances.
Update core materials. While projects and maintenance activities are reduced, take advantage of the slower cycle to review and update plans and libraries (e.g., procedures, training content, skill inventories, plans for upgrades, succession plans). This can be accomplished off-site.
• Encourage documentation and knowledge transfer from experienced personnel; this could take the form of annotating procedures and manuals, video conferences between relevant parties, etc.
Consider “recovered” staff both potentially infectious and at risk. Some reports indicate that people who have contracted the virus and recovered have only limited immunity and may become re-infected. Therefore, all the same rules and policies should apply to all staff: Until more data becomes available, consider staff who have had COVID-19 to be both as potentially infectious and as at risk as all other staff.
These are just a few guidelines on minimizing data center risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. To discuss your specific business needs, contact Silverback Data Center Solutions.
Source: Uptime Institute