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7 Tips for Running a Data Centre Business During Covid-19


7 Tips for Running a Data Centre Business During Covid-19

 

 

7 Tips for Running a Data Centre Business During Covid-19

Steve Bowes-Phipps DCA Advisory Board and Senior Data Centre Consultant, PTS Consulting 

As Senior Data Centre Consultant for PTS, I sit on the advisory Board of The DCA (UK Data Centre Trada Association) and sit as Chair on the DCA Special Interest Group for Workforce Development and Capability 
I thought it would be helpful to create a brief information video https://youtu.be/DAnsHAZDj_I on seven things you could be doing as a data provider or end user that would perhaps help you in some way during a period of time which we have never experienced before.

1) Maintaining Availability

During this pandemic most data centres will be seeing a huge upturn in traffic and demand due to a lot of home working, online courses and streaming services etc.. so my number one thing that comes up time and time again around Datacentre availability or lack of it shall we say " it’s human error" and if you want to really produce human error then minimise change;  change in at Datacentre can be devastated if it’s not managed appropriately and correctly, and even if it is, there's still the opportunity for somebody to make a mistake or to put in place something that impacts a production environment which will take time to rectify , so minimise change and maybe put in place a change freeze for this particular period that’s what I would suggest and you may go  some way to minimising any change related outages that may result.

2) Understand your Business

There is a well tried and tested exercise called "Operational Risk Assessment" the framework firstly looks at understanding what it is you need to provide as a business, then what you have in place operationally to assist you in delivering this, where you might have gaps around some of the controls and measures you would use to double check processes are being followed and finally having strategies and tactics in place to eliminate or mitigate any of the risks that have come out of this exercise. This exercise can be tremendously formative and enlightening and is really recommend that you do this as it can make a big difference to the way your organisation could cope with situations such as these.

3) Maintaining a Safe and Healthy Working Environment

During the Covid19 Corona Virus outbreak, particularly in commercial data centres they tend to have concentrated touch points such as kitchenettes, which unfortunately are where the virus could easily be passed on from one person to another, you may want to consider closing these communal areas down at this particular time,  yes there's going to be impact on people so communication is key, explain the reason you are doing this and advising how long this restriction might be in place including washing hands and distancing one’s self from others is clearly a sensible move, that way you are preparing those visiting your site so they bring their own food/drink etc if catering or vending machine are no longer available. Whatever it is you do to keep customers and staff informed is a very prudent measure.

4) Reviewing your Disaster Recovery Plans

Now you may or may not have those kinds of plans in place for your own organisation, I hope you do, but the important thing particularly as a provider of services  is that you talk to all your vendors and your 3rd parties who are also providing support for you vendor is so parties who also providing support for you because you need to understand what challenges they may be going through, do they themselves have a DR plan in place and do they understand the impact it could have on your business due to a lack of resources on the services they deliver to you. Whether it’s the cleaning company, security or plant maintenance/hands and eyes in the data centre it is vital that you understand what they’re doing to maintain the services they provide you. If necessary. If you don’t feel comfortable this is the case it might be prudent to decide upon an alternative supplier or backup supplier if the worst happens, for example many data centres have contracts with two fuel suppliers, just in case.

5) Communications

Communication with clients and customers is vital, it is really crucial for them to understand what it is you are doing, initially you may wish to do this via email that’s obviously a good medium to start with and sometimes clients but I would like a phone call,  but I think at the very least you should consider putting up a status page on your customer portal or website and then keep it regularly updated in light of the Covid19 outbreak and associated restrictions on business, travel and social restrictions which appear are going to be in place for quite some time to come.

6) Staff and People

if your job normally involves meeting people and going to businesses,  visiting customers and or sites and you know are no longer able to do that, now is the time to look at all those jobs and tasks that you have put off because you've too busy so you can now get everything up-to-date so whether it is working on that project business plan or doing proactive activities to increase brand awareness which will hopefully bring in more business, this could include preparing industry insight, writing articles, blogs and white papers or even improving your skills by taking some online training courses for you or your staff so everyone is ready for the upswing which is inevitably going to happen as we globally come out the other side. Because I know a lot of plans are currently on hold and at some point soon there will be a massive rush to get things done you are going to want to be prepared for that rush to come, and the better you are prepared the more likely you are  going to benefit from it and that leads me onto No 7.

7) Only Make People Redundant as a very Last Resort

My final point is actually a plea not to fire or make people redundant until you really have to, and until you have seriously investigated all other options there might be first. See what Government help there might be, talking to suppliers about deferring payment or coming up with a repayment plan or you get paid quicker in order to support your pay pipeline. Whatever it is you do try and keep those people employed as long as you can. There are several good reasons for this; one is "it shows leadership in the industry, it shows that you care about your staff, it shows you value them and that you continue to provide a place where people want to come to work and shows that you are investing in them for the long term through both to good and bad times and not just reacting to short sharp shocks like the one we are currently experiencing.

Secondly as I said in the end in number six there is quite likely going to be a huge amount of work coming down the line and as I have seen in my role as chair of the with the Workforce Development and Capability Special Interest Group for the Data Centre Alliance and I'm constantly meeting with my colleagues and peers and talking about how difficult it is even before the outbreak to get people on board with the right kind of skills but can’t experience and do you want to exacerbate the problem for yourselves by getting rid of all those people with great knowledge of your organisation? Of course, you don’t, because when your business improves and starts picking up again you what to be there taking advantage and hit the ground running with all the resources you need in place when that starting gun is fired. So hold on to people for as long as you can, get whatever grants you can or loan deferrals there are available and whatever you need because this will subside we will get to the other side and your need those people know what you want to increase your business as well.

Conclusion

So that’s just some of my thoughts and I hope there was something in there for you.  I’m happy for you to reach out to me, you should be able to find my profile on LinkedIn under PTS Consulting. Please do feel free to do that I’m sure that the Data Centre Alliance will have their own section on this critical time period relating to Covid19 and there will be lots of interesting and informative stuff on there that you want  to keep the viewing so look out for that as there will be a lot of people contributing to the information all will have more great insight to how we can make the best of the situation and be positive and I hope that you, all your family, colleagues and business remain healthy.

Searcher