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Battery Maintenance & Monitoring Key to Reduced Outages in Data Centers

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If you have ever tried to turn on a flashlight only to realize the battery no longer works, you are familiar with the importance of battery maintenance and monitoring.  Yes, it is on a smaller scale, but it illustrates the problem.  If a room is dark and you need light, that worn out battery will do you no good and you will be left in the dark.  The same holds true for a data center.  Maintenance and monitoring are the key to ensuring your backup battery and power supply will function when you need it most.  Proper monitoring and maintenance will not only ensure that a battery is not dead, but also that a battery is capable of handling required power loads.  So often, backup power supply is inadequate because routine maintenance and monitoring was neglected and when the need arose, it was already too late.  Downtime is dreaded among data center managers, and for good reason.  Data Center Knowledge points out just how costly a single minute (yes, just one minute!) can be for a data center,” Unplanned data center outages are expensive, and the cost of downtime is rising, according to a new study. The average cost per minute of unplanned downtime is now $7,900, up a staggering 41 percent from $5,600 per minute in 2010, according to a survey from the Ponemon Institute, which was sponsored by Emerson Network Power. The two organizations first partnered in 2010 to calculate costs associated with downtime. Downtime is getting more expensive as data centers become more valuable to their operators. The increase is driven by the increased value of the business operations being supported by the data center, the survey indicated.”  And, we do not even need to point out the fact that this study was conducted in 2010, 5 years ago, which means that data center downtime is likely even more staggeringly costly now.

One of the best ways to ensure that your data center does not experience costly downtime is to properly maintain and monitor your backup power supply.  A data center’s uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is only as good as the battery it depends on.  If the battery fails, it is far from “uninterruptible.”  And, maintenance and monitoring must be complete and thorough because even a partial outage will be costly.  While we discussed the cost per minute above, it is important to note that most outages do not last only one minute – far from it.  Data Center Knowledge goes on to note that data center outages are often quite lengthy, ” The average reported incident length was 86 minutes, resulting in average cost per incident of approximately $690,200. (In 2010 it was 97 minutes at approximately $505,500.)  For a total data center outage, which had an average recovery time of 119 minutes, average costs were approximately $901,500. (In 2010, it was 134 minutes at about $680,700.)  For a partial data center outage, which averaged 56 minutes in length, average costs were approximately $350,400. (In 2010, it was 59 minutes at approximately $258,000.)”   Battery maintenance and monitoring should be a part of any data center routine maintenance and continuous monitoring strategy and if not, it could cost millions!  It is critical that data center managers do not rely on battery manufacturer’s strategy battery life expectancies.  By putting all your eggs in that basket, you rely heavily on controlled test environments which are often vastly different than real applications in an actual data center environment.  Most data centers have experienced an outage in the last year or two but that does not mean it has to be your data center.  By performing visual inspections and using a quality monitoring service you can prevent a large number of unnecessary outages from occurring, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of dollars for your business and keeping your clients happy.

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Distributed Antenna Networks and Small Cell Networks Require Reliable Power Supply

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We have all been there – we need a wireless connection but just cannot seem to get a good signal.  We scream at our phone and shake our fists at the heavens in frustration because we expect to have constant wireless signal for our wireless devices.  When it does not happen, we are truly astonished because good and reliable wireless service has become as expected as water is when you turn a faucet on.  Distributed antenna networks or (DANs) require a reliable and strong power supply but another solution – small cell networks –  also require a reliable power supply.  Just like any data center relies on a strong and reliable power supply, so do networks that distribute wireless connections for mobile device users.

Small cell networks are believed to be a critical part of the future as mobile data traffic continues to rapidly grow each year.  A small cell network is easier to implement and also more environmentally friendly.  It does not require a large cell tower but, instead, a compact base station that are relatively lightweight and easy to deploy, making them very appealing.  These small cell networks provide data support to only a limited number of customers based on subscription so that, rather than being a part of a large group all trying to access the same network, you are part of a much smaller base accessing an network which helps control output power needs.  These small cell networks are being deployed at a wide range of locations such as event stadiums, convention centers, theme parks, malls, colleges and universities, hotels or resorts, hospitals, medical centers, and much more.  This allows for  a more reliable service with a lower power supply need.  But, even with a lower power supply need, the supply must be reliable.  Uninterruptable power supply is the crux of a good service in the data industry.  With small cell networks there will be more reliability and a decrease in delays.  They provide much more capacity than macro cells to their subscribers which means more satisfied customers.    Getting power to small cell networks can be challenging if they are outside mounted on lamp posts or other inconvenient areas.  Luckily, so often, there are reliable power supplies available from local utility companies but it is critical to ensure that you have uninterruptible supply even in the event of emergencies – when people often need their wireless devices.   Because of the rise of small cell networks there are many power supply companies that create reliable power supplies directly designed for small cell networks.  Whether talking about a distributed antenna network or a small cell network, uninterruptible power supply must be present with redundancy so that unfortunate power outages do not occur and customers remain happy.

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How to Transform Your Data Center By Implementing Energy Efficiency

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It may seem like, when it comes to data centers, all we talk about is energy efficiency.  While this may be somewhat true, it is for a good reason.  Data centers use A LOT of energy.  Just how much?  The New York Times provides more information about how much energy data centers are using and points to why energy efficiency is needed, “Worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants, according to estimates industry experts compiled for The Times. Data centers in the United States account for one-quarter to one-third of that load, the estimates show. “It’s staggering for most people, even people in the industry, to understand the numbers, the sheer size of these systems,” said Peter Gross, who helped design hundreds of data centers. “A single data center can take more power than a medium-size town.”  That description is truly astonishing and as technology evolves data usage is only growing.  But, the way data centers use energy is something that can be controlled and more and more data centers are looking at every possible option to improve energy efficiency.

It can be easy to theorize ways to improve energy efficiency but it seems that often so many ideas remain theories.  And, if energy efficiency measures do get discussed the road to implementation is frequently long.  For existing data centers the focus must be on improving PUE (power usage effectiveness).  A complete audit of existing infrastructure is necessary to develop a proper DCIM plan and begin to implement continuous monitoring.  With a complete picture of infrastructure you can locate areas in which energy is not efficiently being used and either eliminate that infrastructure, replace that infrastructure or find better ways to improve efficiency through other methods such as improved cooling.  More and more we see data centers relocating to climates in which it is easier to take advantage of cooler temperatures for a form of free data center cooling.  If relocation is not a possibility there are other ways to work with your existing location and still use cooler weather to efficiently cool your data center when it is available.  Additionally, by creating zones such as hot zones and cold zones or hot aisles and cold aisles you can take advantage of containment and focus your energy where it is needed without wasting it on other areas.  Regardless of whether you are moving or retrofitting your data center, there are ways to improve energy efficiency that will not only be beneficial to the environment but will save a significant amount of money once implemented.

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Droughts, Heat Waves, and High Data Center Cooling Costs

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Just like a homeowner is familiar with the steady increase in utility bills during the hot summer months, so are data center managers.  Data centers use a lot of energy to maintain proper temperature and maximize uptime through properly running infrastructure.  The hot summer months make it more difficult to keep things cool without going bankrupt.  As we move into the fall and enjoy cooler temperatures, it is a good time to take a look back at the cooling measures implemented in the data center and see what improvements can be made to make it as efficient as possible.

To begin identifying where improvements can be made you must first identify what exactly is using the most energy.  By determining, for instance, where hot spots are you can begin to see where cooling measures must be directed.  Rather than uniformly increasing or decreasing temperatures, seek first to locate and contain high temperatures.  What works best for a data center will depend on certain factors like data center size, infrastructure, and specific needs.  What works for many is to implement a hot aisle/cold aisle containment system or even a completely contained room.  By doing this you can direct cooling to the specific area you need it without wasting those efforts on areas that are not hot to begin with.

While this is a good starting point, to better manage a data center and adjust management strategy on a regular basis it is imperative that a data center implements continuous monitoring.  Without continuous monitoring, making adjustments will often be based on guess work.  With the help of continuous monitoring you can have real time data that shows what is happening so that you can make adjustments on a month by month, day by day, hour by hour and even minute by minute basis.  This will not only improve your ability to improve energy efficiency but also help prevent downtime.  Continuous monitoring will also allow you to begin to recognize patterns in the data center and anticipate what your data center can handle.  Armed with this information and a more targeted approach to cooling, you can operate comfortably at warmer temperatures – even one degree can have a significant impact on utility bills – and be able to make appropriate adjustments should they be needed.  By the time the temperatures begin to warm up again next year you will be well-seasoned at understanding what is happening in your data center and will be able to make informed decisions for how to better approach cooling during the hot summer months.

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UPS Life Cycle

UPS lifecycle

Most UPS systems are the first line of defense against utility outages and load failure, so it’s important to understand how long the system will last and when to repair, maintain or replace the system. Having a conversation with a knowledgeable industry expert will help you determine the optimal time to purchase a new system, as well as help you determine the type of system that best meets your requirements, restrictions and budget. Contact Titan Power today for a FREE system consultation.

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What Kind of Power Distribution Unit (PDU) is Right for You?

Advanced PDUWhen it comes to data center design few things get more attention than power distribution.  Power distribution units (PDUs) must be carefully selected for any data center based on power usage needs, anticipated future needs and what level of intelligence you would prefer from your PDU.  Power distribution units can be quite simple and straightforward or they can be very sophisticated and intelligent with power metering, environmental monitoring within the data center and the ability to support very sophisticated and high powered systems.  Downtime is crippling and costly so it is critical that extreme attention is paid to selecting just the right power distribution units for your data center.

There are many kinds of PDUs available today including basic PDUs, metered PDUs, and switched PDUs.  A basic PDU is exactly as it sounds, a reliable power distribution source that sends power to multiple pieces of equipment within a network application.  While it may sound simple, it gets the job done and that is the most important thing.  However, if you need something with some more features, such as metering, a metered PDU may be ideal.  Metered PDUs still provide the same basic use but in addition it allows for better data center management because metering provides data center managers with information as to how much power is being used.  This is important for growing data centers because it will give data center managers a heads up when power supply is may be insufficient.  If power usage is going to exceed what the PDU is capable of data center managers will be able to remedy the problem ahead of time rather than potentially having to deal with downtime.  And, for added convenience, switched PDUs provide the same benefits bas basic PDUs and metered PDUs with the addition of being able to turn PDUs on and off remotely.  This is ideal for data center managers that oversee a large network of data centers.  They can turn PDUs off remotely without having to travel to the data center itself, saving time and money.  Also, smart or intelligent PDUs are similar to switched PDUs and are able to be managed remotely and from the web.  The type and size of PDU you choose will depend heavily on what specific equipment you have and what your needs are.  You may even deploy a variety of PDUs throughout your data center.  Be sure to continually assess your data center to ensure that your PDUs are sufficient for your needs to avoid downtime.

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Preventing Problems in Data Centers

Business loses power

When talking about data centers we tend to talk a lot about the importance of uptime and the measures to take to avoid dreaded downtime.  This is for good reason.  Clients and their employees and customers want uptime and downtime can lead to not only a lot of frustration but significant financial loss.  Data center managers must carefully assess the current needs of their data center as well as attempt to forecast future needs to properly prepare their data center and prevent downtime.  Good preparation is often the key to success.  Even if things in a data center are running relatively smoothly, downtime is minimal or non-existent and you feel pretty confident in how things are running.  But, it is usually soon after you start to get a little too comfortable and confident that vigilance begins to become less of a priority and problems arise.

To begin preventing problems in a data center, data center managers must have a firm grasp on exactly what infrastructure and equipment there is in the data center.  Additionally, they must understand current power and data usage.  By knowing this, and having a proper DCIM plan in place a data center manager will be ready to anticipate future needs.  When you assess your needs you will see if there is wasted power and be able to devise a plan to better use power.  Many data center problems are directly related power issues.  Server racks wasting power or not having an adequate backup supply of power in place.  In addition to taking a good preliminary assessment, it is important to schedule routine assessments often for your data center.  How often may depend on your specific data centers and its needs but it may need to be as often as once per year and as infrequent as every few years.  Routine assessment should check in on everything from infrastructure to the human side of data centers.  So often, when we think about data centers all we see are racks upon racks but there is still a human side to data centers and, in fact, human error can often be the source of a data center problem.  Data Center Knowledge points out just how significant a risk human error is in data centers, “But one of the leading causes of data center downtime is human error, as ComputerWorld reminds us in Stupid Data Center Tricks, which relays anecdotes of data center mishaps. The story notes a study by The Uptime Institute, which estimates that human error causes roughly 70 percent of the problems that plague data centers today.”  By identifying potential human error risks and dealing with them before they arise you will save yourself a lot of headaches.  Once you are in the habit of completing routine assessments you will begin to see patterns and be able to anticipate needs, make adjustments ahead of time and maximize uptime by minimizing data center problems.

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High Cost of Cooling Data Centers & How To Improve

googledatacenter1Just like a homeowner is familiar with the steady increase in utility bills during the hot summer months, so are data center managers.  Data centers use a lot of energy to maintain proper temperature and maximize uptime through properly running infrastructure.  The hot summer months make it more difficult to keep things cool without going bankrupt.  As we move into the fall and enjoy cooler temperatures, it is a good time to take a look back at the cooling measures  implemented in the data center and see what improvements can be made to make it as efficient as possible.

To begin identifying where improvements can be made you must first identify what exactly is using the most energy.  By determining, for instance, where hot spots are you can begin to see where cooling measures must be directed.  Rather than uniformly increasing or decreasing temperatures, seek first to locate and contain high temperatures.  What works best for a data center will depend on certain factors like data center size, infrastructure, and specific needs.  What works for many is to implement a hot aisle/cold aisle containment system or even a completely contained room.  By doing this you can direct cooling to the specific area you need it without wasting those efforts on areas that are not hot to begin with.

While this is a good starting point, to better manage a data center and adjust management strategy on a regular basis it is imperative that a data center implements continuous monitoring.  Without continuous monitoring, making adjustments will often be based on guess work.  With the help of continuous monitoring you can have real time data that shows what is happening so that you can make adjustments on a month by month, day by day, hour by hour and even minute by minute basis.  This will not only improve your ability to improve energy efficiency but also help prevent downtime.  Continuous monitoring will also allow you to begin to recognize patterns in the data center and anticipate what your data center can handle.  Armed with this information and a more targeted approach to cooling, you can operate comfortably at warmer temperatures – even one degree can have a significant impact on utility bills – and be able to make appropriate adjustments should they be needed.  By the time the temperatures begin to warm up again next year you will be well-seasoned at understanding what is happening in your data center and will be able to make informed decisions for how to better approach cooling during the hot summer months.

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Company Computer Room vs. Data Center

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What is in a name? Data center, computer room, server room?  Most people probably think they are all basically the same thing.  The names seem interchangeable, right?  Wrong.  When a business is determining what is best to manage and facilitate their data it is important to distinguish between the common names and assess what is best.  For a long time, if a business was large enough, it was common to utilize the services of a data center rather than attempt to manage IT infrastructure in house.  This was for a variety of reasons but they often boiled down to three things: proper backup power, cooling ability and adequate space.  Many businesses simply did not have the ability to properly supply backup power to maximize uptime.  Additionally, due to the existing structure of their building, proper cooling was often a challenge and lastly, working with existing office space often meant that there was just not enough room to house IT infrastructure or outgrowth happened very quickly.  But, as happens very quickly with IT, technology changed.  As technology changed, needs shifted and it has left many businesses wondering what is better, an in-house computer room or an outsourced data center?

For small, and potentially even some medium size businesses, it may be possible to have an in-house computer room solution for managing and storing data.  But, this depends on a great many things.  For one, it depends heavily on the existing structure with which you have to work.  Does your office building have adequate space to house all of the necessary IT infrastructure, backup power and cooling systems?  If you are able to essentially shrink all of the components of a larger data center into a smaller computer room application to fit your businesses needs then it may be ideal to keep it in house.  After all, by bringing it in house some security threats could be avoided and IT budget may be easier to manage.  The problem is, many offices are not capable of accomplishing this and, barring moving your entire office to accommodate a new computer room, it is often more practical and ideal to outsource to a data center.  In addition to consider existing capabilities it is also important to consider future needs.  Do you anticipate a lot of growth for your business, additional data to manage or significantly increased IT infrastructure needs.  If so, do you have the room to manage more server racks or the ability to cool more dense server racks appropriately?  Finally, it is critical that you either have personnel capable of effectively managing your computer room and all of the moving parts that come along with that or are prepared to hire personnel that can do it.  For most, it is still ideal to opt for a data center over an in-house computer room to ensure data is secure, managed and properly backed up and to maximize uptime for your business.

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3 Reasons Data Centers Must Transform

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Change is inevitable.  And when it comes to technology, if there is one thing you can count on it is transformation.  Technology changes on what often seems like a daily basis and for data centers that must coordinate their infrastructure to optimally manage, store and protect data it can be a head-spinning ordeal.  Data center managers are tasked with knowing what is happening in their data center at all times, properly managing capacity, proper cooling, maximizing uptime and on top of just trying to maintain they must also anticipate needs so that problems can be avoided.  With so many moving parts it is no easy task.  But, inevitably data center managers cannot bury their heads in the sand and at some point, they must update and ultimately transform their data center to keep up with technological changes so that their data centers run properly and maximize efficiency.

One of the first things many data center managers may notice that begins to trigger the need for transformation is business growth.  Most businesses desire to grow over time and as they grow their data needs increase.  With more data, shifting technology that transforms the kind and amount of data and increased customers (and thus, stakes) many data centers have no choice but to transform themselves.  To keep up with growing demand and additional infrastructure to support growth data centers must adapt everything from physical space to rack density to cooling methods.  Second, another common trigger of data center transformation is the increasing important and pushed for demand to become more energy efficient.  Energy efficiency may sound like a buzzword at this point but every business wants to lower overhead and expenditures and IT budgets are often so significant that they are one of the first things to look at when hunting for potential budget cuts.  By increasing energy efficiency data centers can lower overhead expenses and help keep CFOs happy.  Third and finally, another thing that triggers data center transformation is compliance.   This can be to meet mandatory regulations or to meet the needs of shifting technological advances.  Technologies must be compliant to work with each other and if systems are outdated and can no longer run properly transformation must occur.  But, what many data centers are running into are federal mandates and regulations.  These restrictions and rules are in place for many reasons and if a data center is outdated or ha simply failed to meet regulations in the past they may now be facing a major overhaul in order to become compliant.  One thing is certain, no matter what the reason, as technology changes data centers will continue to transform in order to keep up and provide optimal service.

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