Avoid data centre contamination and reduce risk

March 20, 2014

8 Solutions top 10 worst offending contaminants and best practice tips

Contamination is a constant threat to sensitive data centre equipment. Its potential effects range from impaired power efficiency to catastrophic equipment failure. In some instances, the equipment warranty provider may deem a warranty void if there are excessive levels of contamination. But, what causes contamination in such sterile environments?

David Hogg, Managing Director at 8 Solutions, a specialist at increasing efficiency and mitigating against the risk of down-time in critical facilities, explains: “Contamination affecting ICT typically comes in two forms—particulate matter and gaseous. These can cause a number of problems.  If particulate matter blocks equipment cooling fans and heat sinks, equipment needs to work harder in order to keep within operating temperature limits. This can increase a data centre’s power demand and also shortens the lifetime of critical equipment, as well as causing hardware failure due to overheating. Oxidisation arising from gas interaction can cause permanent corrosion, leading to irreparable equipment damage and failure.”

He continued: “Although contamination can have far reaching implications, there are some relatively straight-forward initiatives that can be introduced to reduce risks and avoid problems.  These include banning a number of contaminants from the data centre as well as introducing practical measures to alleviate impurities and reduce the risk.”

The top 10 worst offending physical data centre pollutants include:

  1. Cardboard, or any paper based material
  2. Sweeping brushes
  3. Non HEPA filtered vacuum machines
  4. Any liquids or water
  5. Wooden pallets
  6. Mops/Buckets
  7. Fibrous carpet mats or tiles
  8. Contaminated tools or materials
  9. Food or drink
  10. Untrained cleaning operatives

8 Solutions carries out technical cleaning for a large majority of FTSE 100 data centres, often recommending ways to avoid contamination (both particulate and gaseous) and reduce the levels of risk.  Here, the company shares its best practice tips and advice on how to minimise potential contamination problems:

  1. Ensure all bare construction materials such as, concrete, plasterboard, masonry, brickwork are sealed with the relevant non-water based paint/sealer. This is to stop surface particles being drawn into the air flow and subsequently deposited into critical equipment.
  2. All equipment is to be de-boxed in a dedicated staging/de-box area, fibres in cardboard and paper and related products are released when handling and distributed into the airflow.
  3. Facility staff and contractors should remove all debris from their work site after completion of a project, tie wraps, nuts bolts; screws etc. whilst these items will not be picked up in the air flow they do obstruct airflow.
  4. Facility staff and contractors should use a HEPA vacuum or equivalent and extract and contain any dust particles whilst drilling, pulling through cables, knocking through walls etc.
  5. All construction/dirty works within a DC should be completed under a “Permit to Work” scheme and checked off after completion to ensure that all debris/contamination has been removed.
  6. Carpet tiles within a DC should be removed and replaced with vinyl or laminated RAF tiles to eliminate the distribution of carpet fibres.
  7. Foot traffic through a critical facility should be kept to a minimum to avoid the distribution of clothing, hair, skin and foot borne contamination.
  8. ACU drive belts to be regularly inspected to ensure that the drive pulley is inline as an out of line pulley will cause the drive belt to wear quicker distributing rubber particles into the environment.
  9. Tak mats or tak panels to be placed at all entry points and any key thoroughfare points through the DC.
  10. Overshoes to be compulsory for anyone entering a critical environment.

For additional advice please contact 8 Solutions on +44 (0) 845 602 3075.

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