Five Budget-Saving Ways to Maintain Data Center Uptime

Five low-cost tips for maintaining a government data center in these tough economic times.

by / June 14, 2009

Government data center managers must identify where to make cuts in their operating budgets without compounding risk in the data center environment. These decisions can be the difference between maintaining facility uptime and a devastating failure.

Advances in data center technology, hardware, maintenance and processes enable public CIOs to enhance efficiency while reducing costs. The following five strategies, when carefully implemented, can reduce maintenance costs and operating expenses without adding measurable risk.


1. Review Manufacturer's Maintenance Recommendations

It's no secret that the service departments of most data center infrastructure manufacturers exist to sell preventive maintenance service contracts. This isn't a criticism of manufacturer service providers or people who buy the "full boat" maintenance package. These contracts do result in greater reliability and operational continuity. But in the current financial climate, it's wise to know what manufacturers consider the minimum acceptable annual maintenance scope. Examples of this type of maintenance reduction:

  • elimination of minor preventive maintenance visits;
  • reduction from a comprehensive maintenance plan to preventive maintenance only;
  • reduction in service response time; and
  • postponement of interval maintenance services.


2. Consider Third-Party Maintenance Providers

Data center best practices dictate that the manufacturer or its authorized representative is the ideal service provider for data center infrastructure. The manufacturer:

  • will have the best-trained field engineers;
  • will be aware of firmware upgrades;
  • will be aware of field advisories, recalls and technical notices; and
  • can access to original equipment manufacturer repair parts.

Although the manufacturer is the ideal choice for preventive and remedial maintenance, some third-party maintenance providers can provide high-level service at significantly lower rates. Reputable third-party service providers exist for most data center infrastructure components, including uninterruptable power supply (UPS) systems, battery systems, generators, HVAC systems and switchgear (panels and circuit breakers that distribute electrical power in a building).


3. Maximize Monitoring Capabilities and Automate Maintenance

Every critical building has monitoring that informs personnel of failures or risk situations. Because this monitoring is often built into each building, monitoring personnel are idle for extended periods at times. One way to maximize monitoring capabilities without risking downtime is to examine whether multiple buildings can be networked so monitoring is aggregated at one or two locations.

Monitoring solutions can also reduce preventive maintenance costs. For example, maintenance of UPS batteries is labor-intensive, requiring multiple annual site visits. A simple battery monitoring system can automate the measurements, eliminate many site visits and dramatically reduce UPS maintenance costs.


4. Enhance Efficiency, Loading and Coordination

Data centers consume massive amounts of electricity. Fortunately several low-cost strategies can make your data center more energy efficient without sacrificing reliability, including:

  • enabling server power-management features;
  • server consolidation;
  • powering off dead servers;
  • storage consolidation;
  • higher voltage;
  • filling holes in your data center floor to keep cold air in;
  • using a hot aisle/cold aisle strategy to make the most efficient use of cold air;
  • HVAC coordination; and
  • finding the UPS efficiency sweet spot.


5. Outsource Maintenance Management

Human error is the single greatest contributor to data center disasters, which is why organizations must proceed carefully when cutting staff. Outsourcing maintenance management to a qualified firm presents a number of benefits for the budget-conscious data center, including:

  • reduced expenses;
  • reduced training time;
  • better use of in-house resources;
  • access to specialized skills;
  • single point of accountability; and
  • prevents "brain walk."
Eric Gallant Contributing Writer
Eric Gallant is a senior data center consultant for Lee Technologies in Atlanta. He has 17 years' experience providing solutions for mission-critical environments.