Greater efficiency and performance through data centre cleaning

Greater efficiency and performance through data centre cleaningHigh levels of contamination in a data centre or server room will result in rising power usage, increased downtime and reduced operating efficiency. Natalie Coleman, Senior Business Development Manager at HiTech Cleaning Solutions, discusses some of the issues and takes a look at how effective decontamination can overcome some of these challengesThe public sector is under increasing pressure to improve energy efficiency and make the most of IT resources not only to reduce carbon emissions but also to prepare for anticipated spending cuts over the next few years. The Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme comes into force in April 2010, which will see organisations financially penalised if they exceed the government-set carbon emissions levels, so there is a massive incentive to drive down energy consumption.

Data centres can now represent more than 30 per cent of an organisation’s overall energy usage (In fact, it is estimated that data centres in the UK are responsible for between 2.2 and 3.3 per cent of the country’s total electricity usage). With today’s high density IT equipment emitting vast amounts of heat, the necessary cooling requirements make up as much as 50 per cent of this consumption. Therefore, even a small improvement in a facility’s overall performance will lead to considerable savings.

When dirt and particle matter settles on vents and drives, the effectiveness of a cooling system can be reduced, resulting in increased energy consumption to keep IT equipment at the optimum temperature. Furthermore, these contaminants can severely affect technology performance, causing costly corruption, corrosion and damage to hard disks, servers and other sensitive IT equipment.

One method of maximising a cooling system’s energy use and protecting valuable technology resources is through cleaning and decontamination, which not only prevents costly efficiency losses, but also helps to avoid unnecessary downtime and a decrease in the usable life of IT equipment. By eliminating contaminants within the data centre environment, organisations can protect assets and ensure that valuable IT Infrastructure remains hazard free, hygienic and operates to maximum efficiency.

Some of the most harmful contaminants are often overlooked because they are so small, with most particles less than 10 microns and not visible to the naked eye. It is these particles that can pose the greatest risk to sensitive IT equipment by migrating to areas where they can do damage.

Day-to-day movement within a data centre is the single greatest source of contamination. Such activity is not only likely to bring in dust, dirt and other particles in an otherwise clean room, but also simply walking across the floor is likely to agitate settled contaminants making them airbourne and potentially harmful. Even everyday tasks such as the opening and closing of drawers or hardware panels can produce metal filings, so human activity in a data centre should be kept to a minimum.

Regular maintenance involving hardware installation and reconfiguration will involve on-floor and sub-floor activity resulting in increased contamination, whilst cardboard boxes or wooded skids used to store unused equipment and supplies are likely to shed fibres when moved or handled. Meanwhile, many chemicals used in office cleaning including chlorine-based, phosphate-based, petrochemical-based and bleach-enriched products can also damage electronic equipment, with gases from these products or direct contact causing component failure.

The cleaning and contaminate removal is not simply a process of sweeping away the dust.  Data centre cleaning requires specialised skills and equipment and is not a function that should be carried out by housekeeping or general janitorial staff. A data centre is a live, high liability environment and whilst the direct costs of incorrect cleaning methods and use of equipment could prove staggering, an organisation could also face far greater risks to its reputation and breach its regulatory obligations.

For example, it is important that any decontamination team has been trained to clean to a sub-micron level to eliminate problems associated with electrostatic discharge. Furthermore, using tools such as high filtration vacuumation systems, microfibre technology and anti-static products will ensure that all areas of the data centre are effectively cleaned including sub-floor void, interstitial zone (ceiling void), floor tiles, IT hardware and all high and medium level surfaces.

HiTech Cleaning Solutions
HiTech Cleaning Solutions, part of PROtech IT Hygiene, specialises in the cleaning and decontamination of data centres and computer rooms to minimise the risk of downtime and protect return on investment. Whether a substantial IT facility or a small server room, the company provides a cost-effective environmental cleaning programme that meets the precise needs of the customer.

In 2009, PROtech IT Hygiene and HiTech Cleaning Solutions combined to create the UK’s largest desktop and data cleaning services provider. This expanded organisation is a specialist cleaning operation within Initial Facilities Services.

For more information
HiTech Cleaning Solutions will be exhibiting at Data Centre World (stand 138) at the Barbican in London on 23-34 February 2010. For more details call 01689 885 890 / 07834 046 570 or email