Who are you letting into your data centre?

March 11, 2014

8 Solutions warns against unchecked and untrained technicians being allowed inside tightly controlled and secure data centres

Data centre security is always at the top of the agenda for any company running their own data centre or for co-location organisations. Typically, this includes a permanently manned security presence and the use of multi-layered physical security, including a secure perimeter, biometrics and video surveillance. Entry to each facility is tightly controlled, with strict procedures in place to monitor and control visitor access both into and within the data centre.  But, according to David Hogg, Managing Director at 8 Solutions, many data centres are being exposed to risk by allowing external cleaning technicians, many of whom are temporary staff, into these secure sites without undergoing the necessary security checks.

In addition, data centres are also allowing untrained technicians to carry out specialised cleaning, often with little or no experience of cleaning mission-critical environments.  This, believes David, is exposing these facilities to a potential plethora of problems.

8 Solutions is a specialist at increasing efficiency and mitigating against the risk of down-time in critical facilities and carries out technical data centre cleaning for approximately 80% of the FTSE100 data centres, as well as having a major presence within the colocation market.

David explains the problems, which he believes are becoming a real issue in the industry, “The degree of security surrounding data centres, especially in high security sites is incredibly tight. Unfortunately this security is not always extended to the cleaning technicians who are often unchecked personnel being allowed into the heart of data centres, often into areas with highly sensitive information.”

National Security Vetting is designed to screen out people who may pose a threat to national security.  In addition to the Enhanced Check, National Security Clearance may be required for more sensitive posts.  There are three levels of National Security Vetting depending on the nature of the job role: Counter-Terrorist Check (CTC), Security Check (SC) and Developed Vetting (DV).

8 Solutions’ technicians are all fully employed, security cleared and trained in critical environments. This gives clients reassurance that the individuals working within their data centres pose no threat.  Before SC (security cleared) clearance is achieved, the individual must undergo a pre-appointment vetting screening procedure.  This confirms the identity of the applicant, nationality and work entitlement.  It also includes a range of vetting checks including CRB Disclosures and National Security Clearance.

The company’s reputation has resulted in a number of its FTSE 100 clients requesting permanently-based, full time 8 Solutions technicians at their data centres.

David continues, “SC clearance is required for any individuals who are to be assigned to posts whereby they have either long-term, frequent or uncontrolled access to confidential assets or areas, have occasional, supervised access, or for people working in areas where secret or top secret information might be overheard.

“For 8 Solutions’ clients, having technicians that have been SC vetted gives peace of mind on a number of fronts.  This includes being confident that individuals pose no threat to national security and the clients infrastructure, reassurance that the individual will not discuss or disclose information on client sites under the data protection act and the knowledge that all are able and willing to safeguard classified security information.  It also provides the knowledge that all are cleared to work in the UK and they are who they say they are.  This allows our technicians to work in any data centre regardless of its levels of security.”

Training is a critical part of 8 Solutions’ service delivery. All the company’s cleaning technicians receive extensive on-going training in both critical environments and specialised cleaning tools and techniques which are essential to maintain the optimum performance of critical facilities. More than half of 8 Solutions technicians have been working in the business for more than 10 years and undergo regular re-training courses. New technicians undertake an intensive 3-day training programme at the company’s purpose built data centre training facilities and then have to pass a three-month on-the-job training programme that is assessed and signed-off by experienced team leaders.

8 Solutions highlights 8 areas where using untrained cleaning technicians could cause data centre problems, these include:

  1. Impact to on-going productivity caused by a failure to distinguish potential risks within the data centre including unstable floor panels/pedestals, water ingress and other sources of specific contaminates i.e air condition drive belts
  2. Risk of causing temperature increases due to inappropriate lifting of floor tiles. 8 Solutions monitor the temperature within a room being cleaned at all times and only ever lift 3 panels in any one area
  3. Failure to isolate the fire suppression system thus creating a health and safety issue dependent on the type of gas suppression used and failure to safeguard the clients infrastructure against false gas discharges which has a large £-cost impact
  4. High risk to IT equipment and impact on uptime caused by a lack of knowledge of data centre equipment and processes ie taking water into the data centre for cleaning
  5. Major impact on uptime through lack of knowledge with the emergency power off mechanism
  6. Failure to identify problems with high risk mission critical equipment such as evidence of zinc whiskers or  zinc flakes
  7. Failure to identify and report mechanical faults (oil, water leaks) within the subfloor of the data centre
  8. Danger of incorrect positioning of access floor panels and vented grills in-respective to hot and cold aisle containment in the data centre