Can They Contain The Strain? The Data Centre & The Pandemic
Even though data centre staff are deemed as ‘critical workers’ – footfall traffic at the sites has been scaled down massively. As it stands, most facilities have enough tools and ‘remote hands’ services in place to allow their customers to manage and monitor their infrastructure remotely.
In response to the pandemic, we have found that organizations have fallen into three camps; those who can quickly adapt and who are geared up for remote working; those who feel unprepared for the change; and, of course, many who simply can’t comply, including care workers, hospital staff and those that work in providing crucial data infrastructure, such as data centres.
Nevertheless, whatever camp they fall into, it is essential and necessary to remain productive and profitable, even when staff are not physically in the building.
Staff Meetings Go Virtual
Chief Revenue Officer from a North Carolina-based colocation provider, Patrick Doherty says that all staff that are non-essential are now working from home. For meetings, they are using video conferences, as well as one-on-ones to make sure employees feel connected.
However, for sales staff it has been more challenging, as they would normally visit potential customers along with data centre tours. Although, Doherty quotes that they have adapted and instead, created virtual video tours. Current and potential customers can see inside, at the same level of detail as they would during a physical walk through. Despite the crisis, he says, there is still a demand for tours.
Remote Data Centre Management Tools
For colocation providers, experts say they are generally in good shape – this is because the providers previously had systems in place for remote monitoring and teach support requests. To meet customer needs, they are using online data centre infrastructure management customer portals for remote monitoring and IT support according to a report by Uptime Institute.
Promotion of colocation’s remote-hand services – these cover IT equipment moves and additions, changes and maintenance, troubleshooting of power, IT, router, firewall, and shipping and receiving on customers.
On March 23rd Equinix closed its data centres in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Following the COVID-19 protection measures, they have said that all visitors, customers, customer contractors and non-critical Equinix vendors will not be permitted to enter the IBX facilities.
The decision to restrict data centre access was said to be “made in accordance with our business continuity plans to minimize the risk of impact within our data centres while maximizing our ability to operate and maintain our services on behalf of our customers”.
Additionally, Equinix have stated that “In the event a complete lockdown is required, Equinix is prepared to maintain the necessary on-site staffing levels required to support continuous operations”. Measures have been taken whereby no more than five people per party are welcomed – everything visitors touch are frequently swabbed with various destroying liquids.
The company’s optimum goal is to make sure facilities do not become infected and their employees are healthy.
Complete Remote Automation
Andrew Bishop CEO of Nuco Technologies runs automated data centres in the UK that can be remotely controlled right down to the door locks. Amidst the coronavirus, he is keen to promote the benefits of this type of operation.
One of the company’s Tier 4 data centres in Milton Keynes is completely remotely run, with staff operators using an IP phone accessible from the main switchboard. Any customers that need to visit their racks are carefully tracked, he says “We can just activate a fob and they can access the data centre. Our systems track them through the centre and when they leave, we expire it.
For the few staff that are working within the facility, they have to implement a new cleaning regime, for example, if someone accesses the data centre, the workers will then have to clean all of the door handles and surfaces to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
Scalability Boosts Cloud Platforms
As the crisis has placed a premium on speed and scalability (according to 451 Research), for some requirement, cloud platforms will become more attractive. As a result of the virus, we can expect some web applications to dramatically increase with traffic, while others might dwindle to near nothing. For this changing demand, scalable cloud applications should be able to grow shrink dependant on the demand. For those who are in the suffering from lower hits, the scale down can save them cash. However, for those experiencing surge, the cloud lets websites continue to perform under pressure.
The COVID-19 crisis will eventually subside, though, it’s impact will be with the industry for some time. Sami Badri, senior equity analyst at credit Suisse says “virtual connectivity is a must. It’s no longer a debate. It’s now a case of survival, relevance and productivity. You’re starting to see permanent shifts”.
Existing experiences have shown us that those who were early adaptors of virtual run businesses, or encourage remote working, are the ones reaping the benefits. Coronavirus has undoubtedly changed people’s attitudes and behaviours. The Data centre strategy, will after this, become even more critical in ensuring the infrastructure is powerful, safe and reliable for people to work wherever they want, whenever they want.
The industry is trying to work out new ways in dealing with the pandemic as lockdown is not sustainable for the industry. Whilst data centres such as 4D Data Centres have 85% of their staff working from home. There are only few going in to keep the data centres open and to make sure all the facilities are kept running – but it’s really the bare minimum.
Many data centre operators have confirmed that remote working methods will continue even when the crisis has passed. Customers have been stopped from making any visits to their computer systems in their data centre unless urgent.
Allan Bosley, information managers at Ark Data Centres, said ‘We are still understanding the impact”. He goes on to say “It would be very difficult to make decisions about the medium and longer terms.’