Uninterruptible Power Supply Maintenance Planning and Execution

UPS Maintenance

Uninterruptible Power Supply Maintenance










How An Uninterruptible Power Supply Is Maintained

Maintenance is a must for all computers and all computer network components.  Without maintenance, developing problems are left unchecked, updates and upgrades don’t get installed, and an accurate picture of network and server operation never develops.  Planning for the maintenance of any network component can be a challenge and planning for the maintenance of your uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system is perhaps most challenging.  Regardless of the apparent challenges this important task needs addressed.

What Maintenance Achieves and Why it’s Important

In short, UPS system maintenance helps ensure that your system is going to perform dependably regardless of changing circumstances.  The impact of variables such as power interruptions, variances in voltage and frequency, and other disruptions are minimized through the regular attention given to each data center component.  Regular maintenance checks reduce the possibility of unplanned downtime and help ensure that all data center components are operating at peak efficiency.  A well-functioning data center provides secure and stable computing power for all employees.  Since well-maintained data centers and UPS systems function more effectively, they contribute to overall productivity – and thus to your bottom line.

What is the Maintenance Process?

Maintaining a UPS system is a multi-step process that includes inspection, analysis, and testing.

  • First a visual check is conducted on the physical components.  Anything found to be worn, loose, burned, or otherwise compromised will be removed and replaced with new components.
  • Next all equipment housings are cleaned and vacuumed by hand.  Removing dust and minute debris helps maintain the optimal operating temperature of each component; environmental systems work more effectively in spaces where air is able to freely circulate and keep electronics cool.  Even though there are few moving parts inside a UPS system, dust can still penetrate module chassis and interfere with necessary function.
  • Batteries and capacitors have the potential to leak fluid onto surrounding components.  A visual check of each battery will be performed during maintenance.
  • The HVAC system and climate controls tasked with maintaining a stable environment inside the space housing the UPS must itself be checked.  Depending on the nature of this system and the extent of its infrastructure, this stage may take some extra time to complete.
  • An operational test will be run on the entire system, including batteries.  The report generated at the end of this test will allow technicians to analyze functioning parameters and gauge the remaining longevity of all battery strings and cells.

Detecting the First Sign of Trouble

All electrical devices generate some degree of heat.  This heat must be safely channeled away from the device through the use of fans, heat sinks, outside cooling agents, and a stable environment.  Some of the steps mentioned above are done to help create a stable environment optimal for UPS systems.  This stability is created through temperature moderation, humidity control, and air circulation.  When the HVAC system is working correctly and when all heat regulation components within the system are also functioning, there should be no heat spikes.  The only way to detect spots of irregular heat is with a thermal scan.  This scan gives particular attention to all the electrical connections present in the system.  These points of connections are apt to generate heat when not working correctly; this initial malfunction can indicate an existing problem or one that is in development.  A thermal scan will detect these early warning signs and give technicians a chance to deploy early intervention strategies.

Assessing Power Generation and Use

Another important part of UPS maintenance is the testing of the system that manages power transfer throughout the rest of the center and its modules.  This test assesses the circuit breakers and transfer switches within the UPS; these components are responsible for regulating the flow of power and, if not working correctly, will supply too much or too little to the other components.  The maintenance bypasses must also be checked at this stage to make sure that they’re working within their optimal operating parameters.

Most UPS systems are designed to function for a short, albeit critical, period of time.  This length of time allows for maintenance intervention during planned or unplanned interruptions in power before the system is restored to its usual source.  Some organizations require a backup power system that is capable of generating its own electricity in the case of a supply disruption or stoppage.  UPS systems connected to a backup generator are likely to require additional maintenance checks to assess its function.

The Ideal Maintenance Schedule

Not every step in this maintenance list will be conducted during every check.  Doing so would cause unnecessary interruption in organization function and demand the presence of skilled technicians when they really aren’t required.

A visual inspection of component integrity should be conducted once each quarter.  This inspection can be completed in a short period of time and requires little special training; with some instruction any technician can perform this check.  The check of the climate control system and visual check of the batteries should take place once every six months; vacuuming can take place at the same time.

An operational test and complete thermal scan should be conducted once each year.  This may require you to arrange a maintenance check from your UPS company if you don’t have qualified technicians on staff.  Every two years test the power system, battery backups, and any generators.

If possible, plan these checks well in advance.  Good advance planning allows for adequate preparation for any system downtime that may be required.  Because downtime is costly in terms of time and lost productivity, advance preparation is necessary to minimize any negative impacts this period of time may have on your organization.

Between Each Maintenance Check

As thorough as all these maintenance checks sound, there is actually additional work that should be done in between checks.  This work will make maintenance simpler and help your team respond to unexpected circumstances.  Make an inventory list of all spare parts and materials; keep a running tally of materials used so new items can be ordered and kept on hand.  Coordinate the maintenance schedule with larger workplace operations so conflicts in labor and budget allowances are avoided.  And finally, make an effort to keep up with the latest developments in the UPS industry.  Understanding the larger trends will help your organization adapt to the many changes likely to impact your operations.


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Uninterruptible Power Supply Industry Changes in Technology

UPS Technology







Important Changes Taking Place In The Uninterruptible Power Supply Industry

It’s taken for granted that the technology field is changing every day.  Because data centers and the uninterruptible power supply systems connected to them are found in an increasing number of organizations you’ll need to keep up with the tech news related to these subjects if you’re going to stay competitive.  Uninterruptible power supplies (also called UPS) are a vital part of an organization’s informational infrastructure; they power the networks and servers required by an organization.  One of the latest UPS developments to be experimented with is called the N+1 strategy.  This strategy makes redundancy an asset rather than a liability and introduces a new way of thinking about the overall design of UPS systems.

Rethinking the Role of Redundancy

Redundancy is typically thought of as unnecessary repetition; it’s often considered a negative thing because it adds waste to an otherwise efficient system.  While redundant steps in protocol and redundant stages in management are to be avoided, there are instances where excess can be helpful, even necessary.  The additional repetition of elements within an uninterruptible power supply system may be the key to avoiding some of the most complex and costly problems associated with these systems.  The N+1 strategy first calculates the number of power modules that are absolutely necessary to run any given UPS system.  That number (represented here by the variable N) is then increased by one- thus, the N+1 equation.

The large individual UPS modules that are present in the data centers of most modern enterprises are vulnerable to failure; this inherent vulnerability is a primary drawback of these modules even though their use is standard across industries.  If a failure occurs, there is no backup available to continue the data center’s normal operation.  In an N+1 system numerous smaller modules are grouped together and given their own batteries.  The streamlined operation of the discrete large modules is duplicated by these smaller grouped modules; under normal circumstances grouped modules will behave the same way as an individual one.  The similarity in operation makes it simple to integrate new module formations into an existing data center.

The Primary Benefits of the N+1 UPS System Design

Though the large UPS modules perform admirably in normal circumstances, if a failure occurs the entire system goes down.  System down time is very costly and can cause severe information compromise if the down time is not being managed.  Even the managed down time required for maintenance can cost a lot in terms of lost money and productivity.  The main advantage of the N+1 system is that there are always enough modules in operation to sustain the system’s power, thus fulfilling the promise of an uninterruptible power supply.  The redundant module built into the system allows for any individual module to be serviced without sacrificing any data center function.  Once that module has been addressed, it can be brought back online and another module removed for servicing.  All necessary maintenance and service can be taken care of without planning for downtime or anticipating any of the problems that can happen as a result.

The Anticipated Growth of UPS System Usage

As interesting as the development of N+1 systems are, the news that has really gotten people talking is a recent study conducted by Pike Research that gives developers a solid prediction with regards to the growth of energy storage use in commercial buildings.

Commercial buildings, energy storage, and UPS systems are closely connected and are anticipated to become increasingly reliant on each other.  Because commercial buildings house agencies whose work demands a stable and secure source of power for their computer servers, energy storage is now an anticipated architectural consideration during preliminary building planning.  Those agencies without current UPS needs occupying buildings with the capacity for these systems are likely to express interest in taking advantage of this potential.  As an agency grows it can either make use of existing facilities or relocate to a building that can better accommodate them.  Companies creating commercial buildings need to anticipate the changing needs of growing agencies and build in the resources that will be required at different stages of development.

Some Useful Facts and Figures

In 2011, UPS systems were estimated to have generated $3.4 billion worldwide; in 2013, the income generated is predicted to be nearly $4 billion.  By 2016 analysts are predicting that UPS will mature into a $4.8 billion industry worldwide.  Feeling comfortable with these systems and the way that they dovetail with other related fields is going to help organizations strategize for short and long term growth.  How so?

  • Understanding these related concerns will help with selecting the facilities that will house your organization and any affiliated groups housed in distant locations.
  • Computer technicians, network administrators, and computer system designers can provide valuable input with regards to space selection to help decision makers select appropriate facilities.
  • Knowing what energy supply infrastructure is present in a building will help decision makers create more accurate budgets for the purchase of necessary UPS components and for future operation and maintenance costs.
  • Vetting potential UPS suppliers will be simpler because decision makers are already familiar with both the power supply needs of their organization and with the infrastructure available on the property.

Other Industry Changes Due to the Growth of UPS Demand

As demands for UPS systems accelerate and multiply, more companies offering supplies, maintenance, and installation will come into existence.  This increased competition means more options for the consumer.  It also means that the consumer needs to be more aware of the ins and outs of their data center and the power supply that’s connected to it.  Though the Pike Research study didn’t explicitly state the intangible impacts of increasing UPS usage, it’s safe to assume that this increasing demand will translate into an increasing literacy among employees working at all levels inside an organization.  Just as computer literacy has become so widespread as to be assumed, familiarity with the basics of UPS can be expected to spread in a similar, though rather more limited, manner.

The growth of UPS system demand and its impact on related fields and the development of N+1 redundancy planning are just two examples of the changes taking place in the data center industry.  As the need for these systems continue to grow, it’s certain that many more exciting changes will take place.

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Places Most In Need Of The Benefits Offered By A Data Center

Business Data Centers







There are many businesses that benefit from the usage of a data center.  A data center is essentially a computer center where a company will hold all servers and equipment necessary to keep the technology side of the business running at full capacity.  Having all equipment and servers under the same roof is not the only benefit that comes from utilizing the benefits of a data center.  Other benefits include:


  • Easy maintenance for all equipment
  • Presence of routers and switches to help servers communicate
  • Continuity of business in the event of a failed server
  • Ability to accommodate a growing business


Perhaps the biggest benefit from using a data center is the assurance you have that your equipment will never fail.  Data center design allows for an uninterrupted power supply that immediately takes over in the event of a power outage.  This power supply is unique from a back-up generator or emergency power supply in that it uses batteries to run the equipment.  If you have a failed server, professionals are on hand to quickly fix the problem before your customers even notice there is a glitch.  You will never deal with a network that is down for several days, disrupting your business, when you use the services of a data center.


Although almost all businesses can benefit from using a data center, there are certain businesses and complexes that should always be using the data center services.  Companies with larger networks and more servers are obviously more likely to benefit from the accommodations in a center.


High Security Requirements Of Data Centers Benefit Banks


In today’s economy and volatile banking climate, many banks find it hard to operate.  With regulations increasing, continuous cost pressure, high stakes mergers and acquisitions, and changing business models, it’s becomes incredibly hard for a bank to operate profitably.  In order to remain competitive in today’s world, banks must employ any solution that is efficient, flexible and smart.


Banks benefit from the strong security systems used by data centers to protect not only their equipment, but also the information that is sent through each server.  A bank must be able to guarantee to their customers that their personal and financial information is handled with the utmost security and care, and data centers allow them a higher degree of safety.  Because many banks also offer online services, their information must be available at all hours of the day.  There is no allowance for a failed server or a power outage.  Data centers use techniques and tools that can quickly recover power or fixed a failed server.


Government Buildings And Military Complexes Benefit From Data Centers


Any entity that needs to move a lot of information regularly and quickly can benefit from the use of a data center, and government buildings are no exception.  The more information that is handled electronically, the more servers needed.  When you add more equipment and more servers to effectively handle all the needed information, you then must provide a large space to hold all of the equipment.  Rather than keeping it stored in a basement where environmental conditions are a concern, many government buildings opt to create a data center to keep their equipment safe.


Military complexes process a large amount of confidential information that must be kept from the basic public and computer hackers.  The military also processes information that must be retrieved in the event of a disaster.  Storing the information in a data center ensures that it is afforded the high security level of the center, both physically and electronically, and that information can be retrieved in the event that it is lost or destroyed.


With the large amounts of information that are processed through both government buildings and military complexes, data centers offer a fast way to process and move information from one place to another, to ensure that it is available to all necessary parties at the right time.


Power Plants Benefit From The “Always On” Mentality Of Data Centers


There is no shut-off button for a data center.  And when your plant is working to provide power to a certain geographic area, there isn’t an option to be shut down for a period of time.  If you do find yourself in the event of a power outage, getting power restored quickly is essential to the millions of people who are counting on you to light their homes and keep their food cold or frozen.


Data centers offer the ability to restore power to your network within a second of the original failure, allowing you to pinpoint where the problem is and fix it quickly.  And with a data center, your equipment and information is easily reached for simple maintenance tasks.  Power plants use data centers because this storage system helps you to pass on the convenience to your customers quickly and efficiently.


Casinos Value The Ability To Process Large Volumes Of Information


Every time a slot machine is pulled, that pull is recorded and produces a small amount of data, which is then sent to the server.  At that point, employees with the right clearance know exactly what is held within that slot machine at that exact moment.  Algorithms are then used to determine gambling outcomes and generate random combinations in the millions on that particular machine.  You can see how large amounts of information can quickly become overwhelming and bog down an average server.


The main benefit casinos have when using a data center is the speed with which they can process transactions.  In any given night, a casino is facing a large number of transactions that must be handled and recorded, and then kept on the server for future reference.  Staying on top of all transactions and what is in each slot machine after every pull is a job for an organized and intricate data center.


Data Centers For Every Business


It’s simple to see that any business that processes large amount of information on a regular basis can benefit from a data center.  The less obvious benefits are the high level of physical and electronic security, the ability for quick repairs, and the option to control the environmental conditions for each and every piece of equipment.  Any business can benefit from electronic equipment that runs more efficiently and helps to maximize profits and performance.

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Five Key Elements Every Data Center Should Have

data-center-requirementsYou’ve probably heard the term data center, but may not completely understand what it means.  Data centers are often referred to as computer centers, and are large facilities that are built as home to computer systems and any other associated parts needed to run these systems for several businesses.  Most data centers also house power supplies for backup, communications connections, appliances to control the environment and keep it at an optimum climate, and security devices for the computers housed within.  There are also five key elements that every data center should have before it can be expected to function at highest capacity and efficiency.


A Steady Power Supply


In most data centers, overhead energy is used almost as much as energy used to power the servers.  For example, non-computing energy uses like cooling and power conversion are used as extensively throughout the data center to keep the building at optimum temperature for the supplies being housed there.  Because of the unique needs of a data center, it’s essential that an uninterruptible power supply be used to keep the power flowing steadily through the building and all equipment.  Without a steady source of power, information can be lost, systems will quickly shut down, and companies will be left explaining to their customers why their products are not functioning.


An uninterrupted power supply is often used in the case of data centers that will pick up maintaining the electricity the second there is a problem with the regular power supply.  A UPS is different from an emergency power system or generator because the protection it provides from power interruptions is almost immediate.  The UPS can provide this service with the use of batteries or a flywheel.


An interrupted power supply can disrupt computers, telecommunications equipment, and all other appliances within the data center.  A steady power supply is necessary to prevent fatalities, injuries, data loss, or a serious disruption to everyday business.


Proper Temperature Control Throughout The Building


Maintaining the proper temperature throughout a data center is one of the most critical factors that should be considered in design and construction.  Keeping air moving through the center and keeping the air cool has become increasingly hard as processors get faster, server form factors get smaller, and server rack densities get higher.  While all these things may make the equipment function better and information travel more quickly, it does present a unique problem in maintaining temperature control within the data center.


Not only is temperature control important, but also maintaining the right level of humidity is essential to keep all equipment running at full capacity.  Environmental control concerns should be high on the list of important issues to be discussed when designing a data center.


A Comprehensive Security System Custom Designed For Each Center


Data centers hold many key pieces of equipment and information that are absolutely critical to the success of a business.  In order to protect the integrity of a data center and protect the interest of any business housing network information there, it’s essential to have a security system that increases the resilience and security level of the data center.  A comprehensive security system also keeps the center running at a higher level of productivity, protects your profits, and helps to establish a good reputation.  If your data center had a major power outage or a major security breach, the reputation and credibility of your services would be greatly lowered.  These problems can cause disruptions in customer service and operations for any number of companies that you service.  Rather than waiting for a problem to happen, equip your data center with the best security system to protect your interests and the interests of those you serve.


Some factors involved in data center security that should be analyzed and discussed in great detail before deciding on a particular system are listed below.


  • Data Protection: find the balance between keeping the information available and keeping it secure.
  • Compliance Assurance: meet objectives from both internal and external sources to keep risk levels low and stay within budget for the center.
  • Application and Threat Security: manage threats to your data center, especially application level vulnerabilities, one of the biggest security issues today.
  • Administration And Access: provide access to the correct users and keep information available in a timely way.


Raised Flooring Options For Larger Centers


You may be scratching your head wondering why your data center would need a raised floor.  In order for your center to run at optimal capacity, you’ve got to be able to run large numbers of data cables, handle a high heat load, and have a flooring system that has a high static load and rolling capacity.  Raised floors also allow you to respond more quickly to client changes and any technological problems that must be addressed sooner rather than later.


With new technologies being adapted in the world of the data center, the task of keeping the center cooled has become even more difficult.  Using raised floors has long been a way to help control the temperature in the data center and keep the area cool.  Air flow is delivered by air-conditioning units under a raised floor and is distributed evenly through airflow panels placed in front of important equipment.  Recent research shows that over 90% of data centers use the raised flooring to help keep the center cool, proving that this is an effective tool.


High End Network Solutions


Because so many things are always changing in the industries you help to support, it’s important to offer your clients the most high end network solutions when they store their equipment with you.  Because their business relies on the Internet and equipment that is constantly being upgraded, your data center must also be up to date with the newest technologies to offer to your clients.


When businesses choose your data center to host their equipment and run their networks, they expect reliability, security, and credibility to keep their business running at maximum capacity.  When your business operates intermittently, they are the ones who suffer.  The best thing you can offer to your clients is a steady power supply, temperature control for all equipment, a strong security system to protect their equipment and information, raised flooring for more efficient problem solving, and network solutions that are updated regularly.

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Why Phoenix Is A Great Place To Build A Data Center

Data Center Best LocationPhoenix is a great place to build a data center due to ample cheap land, proximity to an urbanized area with a skilled workforce, available power grids, and existing telecommunications infrastructure.  One of the first things to remember when building a data center is that it will likely be operational in current form for well under ten years (estimates by Gartner Inc. approximated that a new data center will be operational for 7 years; the International Data Corporation estimated that the average new data center will be operational for less than 9 years).  Due to the relatively short “shelf life” of data centers, it is imperative that one invests wisely.  Like any building, one first needs to choose a location.

Phoenix climate

Phoenix is known for its hot, arid climate.  All data centers have a virtual atmosphere created by extensive HVAC systems.  A successful data center can neither be too hot nor too cold.  Similarly, it cannot be too dry or too humid.  Most data centers rely heavily on having a quality cooling component to combat the heat generated by various servers and other large machines that run 24/7.  Instead of focusing on building in the perfect climate, focus on building near things one cannot readily find elsewhere.  First, there is no such thing as a natural climate that is perfect for a data center.  It is nearly impossible to get around creating an artificial climate inside any functional data center.  Especially given the relatively short time in which a data center may be operational, one of the most pertinent things to look for is cheap land near utility lines and close to general contractors.  Focus on upfront costs first.

How to cut building costs without sacrificing quality

Obviously, purchasing cheap land is one of the best ways to cut costs without compromising the future quality of a data center from the start.  The next big thing to think about is available utility lines.  One of the most expensive aspects of any major building project can be rerouting utility lines.  Fiber optic lines for faster download-upload speeds are essential to the success of most major data centers.  Depending on the scope of the conceptualized data center, it will be likely that a representative of the project will have to closely collaborate with local utility companies and internet providers for a few reasons.  First, rerouting utility lines is not cheap.  Depending on the location of the existing grid and any unforeseen issues regarding constructability, rerouting utility lines can realistically cost over $1-2 million.

Second, an internet provider would have to ensure that a new data center would not crash their existing system.  For some reason, there is a common belief that the internet is a magical place.  The phrase “cloud” does not help with this misconception.  Almost all aspects of uploading and downloading data require multiple physical components, including a data center connected to a system of fiber optic cables that can handle the anticipated “flow” of data.  The transfer of data through cables is analogous to the transfer of water through a pipe.  If too much water if forced through a pipe that is too small, it will crack and burst, thus rendering the larger system nonoperational.  Cables and electric conduits must be able to handle the capacity added by implementing a large data center on the grid.  Or, necessary modifications must be made prior to the data center’s launch.

Another way to cut costs while keeping quality is to work near a populated area, such as Phoenix.  Data center construction requires the successful transportation and installation of various breakable pieces of equipment, from generators to servers in addition to standard materials for the actual structure in which they will be housed.  Cut shipping and transportation costs by building a data center in a location that has many necessary components nearby.  In addition, there are ample general contractors in Phoenix, some of which specialize in data center construction.  Choose the best person to execute the best data center in the shortest period of time instead of trying to assemble a team that is willing to temporarily relocate to work in the middle of nowhere.  In short, one has more options.  The increased level of competition in Phoenix will allow one to choose the best GC for the job.  Spe ts are available to take a data center from a concept to a fully functional operation while providing consultation and ongoing support.  For future data center owners who are subject matter experts, hiring a reputable build firm and select technicians may be adequate.

Costs after construction

After successfully going through the rigmarole of building code compliance, utility rerouting, and internal data center requirements, one must anticipate how to make the data center functional and ensure that it remains fully operational.  Search for resources on data center design and equipment experts in the Phoenix area.  In many data centers, staff reports to work 24/7.  Employees including educated IT professionals and security personnel must be paid enough to ensure retention and must be able to drive a reasonable commute when earning wages congruent with current local industry standards.  In addition, specially trained technicians will need to be able to perform routine maintenance on necessary equipment including power generators and complex HVAC systems onsite.  Paying extra for travel or relocation can dramatically increase the cost of overall operations in the following several years.  It is also imperative to remember that it is predicted with much certainty that a new data center will likely be obsolete within the next decade.

Other considerations

Look for groups of Phoenix data center experts in the area before deciding to build.  Ideally, a group could help with every aspect of data center creation and/or provide ongoing support.  Always think of data centers in terms of cost-benefit.  Unlike other ventures, construction costs may be more pertinent to the overall fiscal success of a new data center that caters to 3rd party clients.  Given the relatively short lifespan of the average data center, it is imperative to keep upfront costs low while refusing to sacrifice quality.  Building a data center in an urbanized area surrounded by cheap land, such as Phoenix, can be the most logical choice.  Have necessary resources readily available, existing functional utility grids, and an educated workforce.  In short, Phoenix has all data center construction and implementation necessities: proximity to existing power grids, preexisting telecommunication infrastructure, and the building conveniences associated with proximity to an urbanized area.

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When Backup Generators Must Be Installed In A Data Center

Critical Power ManagementThe TIA-942 Data Center Standards Overview, published by the Telecommunications Industry Association, sets several basic standards for the overall design of data centers.  The document outlines basic best practice for structural design, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and HVAC in regards to data centers that fall in 4 different tiers, or levels.  Whereas any data center needs a primary power source as well as a secondary source in the event the primary source fails (e.g. there is a surge or outage in the primary source), redundancy can be conceptualized as backup.  Backup generators are another level of redundancy found in data centers.  If N represents the need of a data center, redundancy would be N+1.  Whether or not one must install backup generators when building a data center opposed to when it is optional depends on a few different variables.

4 tiers of data centers

The 4 tiers of data centers can be viewed as levels.  Tier 1 is the most simplistic, and Tier 4 is the most complex.  Whereas Tier 1 data centers have an average annual downtime of 28.8 hours and must be shut down for maintenance, Tier 4 data centers only have 0.4 hours of annual downtime.  A Tier 4 data center virtually never stops running.  The required redundancy for all critical elements for data centers depends on tier classification.  Tier 1 data centers are only required to have need (N) for critical components (e.g. power sources, HVAC systems, etc.).  Tiers 2 and 3 require redundancy, or N+1.  Tier 4 data centers require extra redundancy, 2(N+1).

When building a data center, referencing best practices in redundancy can be a good place to start.  For example, one might need backup generators to meet the requirements for most tiers.  Are you looking to build a Tier 1 data center in which you will usually only store and host data for a small municipality or government entity?  Or, do you wish to store and host data for a diverse set of service providers which would require a Tier 3 or 4 data center?  A large part of data center design involves some form of cost-benefit analysis.  What would the cost of building a more secure data with additional redundancies be as opposed to the consequences of lost data and system failure?

Consequences of losing power

When acting as a data center for a popular webhosting service or ecommerce giant, losing power can have real consequences.  By having the servers go down due to failure to follow best practice, one could be held legally responsible for millions in lost revenue.  Download-upload capabilities would be stalled in addition to pertinent data potentially lost.  Besides legal fees and many, many settlements out of court, losing power can cause panic.  The Obama administration has repeatedly voiced concerns about the threat of cyberterrorism.  Whereas lost power may be due to a power surge instead of a terrorist attack, public perception often matters more than the root cause of power failure in a large data center.  Think back to Y2K in late 1999.  There was no logical basis for panic (or even concern), but certain individuals did panic nonetheless.  Besides causing legal trouble, loss of power can result in general public mistrust and lost clientele.

Lights-out data centers

Lights-out data centers are increasingly gaining popularity.  In a lights-out facility, lights are literally all off, thus saving money on keeping electric lights on.  Also, few personnel are required to physically go to a lights-out data center.  Instead of having trained technicians, security personnel, and other staff physically at the data center 24/7, a lights-out facility will remotely notify the right personnel of any detected potential mishap, such as a rise in room temperature.  Other than having a few staff on-call, the only other people who need to visit a lights-out data center include those who must perform routine maintenance on generators, HVAC systems, etc.  Lights-out data centers are often considered superior as they are less susceptible to human error and can be much more cost-effective.

In addition, lights-out data centers are presumed to have increased security from a terrorist attack as fewer individuals are aware of their locations.  Given personnel is not frequently onsite, lights-out data centers require increased redundancy.  There may often be increased lag time between when a signal of potential mechanical failure is sent and a qualified person can physically address the issue.  Thus, it is of greater importance to invest in measures for increased redundancy such as backup generators, batteries, and multiple power sources.

When backup generators are considered a luxury

Many smaller municipalities own and operate independent data centers.  Also, many of these government entities might be on a strict budget.  It is imperative to think about “what if” scenarios when eliminating redundancies in data center design.  For instance, if a small data center lost power, consequences might include unproductive city employees, and the need to later re-enter data physically stored in an old-fashioned file cabinet.  Often, crucial government entities such as fire, ambulance, and police dispatch are held at a county level and/or have complete redundant systems onsite.  If the data center were to fail, relatively little monetary loss could be anticipated.  The public would not become mistrustful as the only indicator to an external audience would be that the municipality’s website would not be operational.  In addition, hardcopies of pertinent documents would not be lost.  While system failure would create much unneeded hassle, consequences would unlikely be catastrophic.

How to decide if backup generators are a necessity

After referencing the 4 different tiers of data centers, general best-practice, and thinking about what-if scenarios, one needs to conduct a final cost-benefit analysis to determine how many redundancies a data center will need.  Data centers are not adequate forever. Research firm Gartner Inc. and the International Data Corporation both estimate that the average lifespan of data centers are under a single decade. When conducting a thorough analysis of how additional redundancies may benefit a new data center, it is imperative to consult with those who have a documented history of data center expertise—from conceptualization to design and construction.  Building a data center is a notable investment.  Never risk financial and personal ruin by saving a small percentage of overall project costs.  Additional redundancies are almost always beneficial, but at times redundant generators and HVAC systems are an absolute necessity.  In other common scenarios, one can take more risk to reduce cost.

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Using Improved Energy Efficiency To Increase Mission Critical Elements

Green Building Data CenterMost businesses today rely on computers and modern technology in order to run efficiently and to meet the needs of customers whether local or worldwide. The data center plays an important role in keeping the operations of any business running effectively. However, as more business operations shift to computerization, the complexity and capacity of those systems must increase. This growth can put a strain on the resources and energy efficiency of the data center. When that strain leads to data center downtime, the losses for the affected businesses could be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This presents a crucial dilemma for the data center administration: Maintain a balance between energy efficiency and the mission critical element.

Requirements of Mission Critical Facilities

When a facility has the “mission critical” status, then it must be operational at all hours of the day every day without fail. In a data center, this applies to the air conditioning systems and each server, as well as other crucial systems. It means that any given component of the system must maintain its reliability. In other words, every action taken must have a positive influence on how well the systems in the data center function. In order to maintain or to improve reliability, there are five strategies that data center administration must implement.

1. Redundancy

This is often achieved by maintaining a second set of components which are either running all the time or which would instantly switch on in the event of failure in the primary components. As maintenance is performed on the primary system, the secondary system may need to be operational. The second system of components will also need consistent maintenance in order to guarantee that they will be functional under emergency circumstances.

2. Maintainability

This means that all mission critical components must be available for regular and routine maintenance without disrupting the crucial function of the components.

3. Flexibility

Individual components of the data center and the data center itself must be planned and built so that they will be able to adapt to changes as they occur. Some of the changes that must be anticipated may occur in the following areas:

  • Power requirements
  • Communication and connection needs
  • The availability of physical space for expansion
  • Environmental factors which could impact the efficiency of cooling systems
  • The density necessary for appropriate operation of data center components

Flexibility is best achieved during the initial design stage of the planning and building operations.

4. Hardening

In order to protect the critical data housed in the data center, the facility must be able to stand strong in the face of natural elements, man-made disasters, or acts of terrorism. If a data center has undergone “hardening”, then the facility is capable of withstanding those dangers. The architects of data centers must also be aware of emerging dangers, so that their designs will be hardened in the event of any new dangers.

5. Security

Security measures are closely tied to the hardening steps. Data centers are often home to highly sensitive information, so quality security measures must be put into place. The IT professionals who design the facilities’ security measures must also be continually investigating new threats to computer security in order to stay a step ahead of hackers and other criminals.

Can A Data Center Obtain Both Energy Efficiency And Reliability?

There are several ways that data centers can improve their energy efficiency. With carefully researched planning, many of the measures for improving energy efficiency will also positively improve the reliability of the data center operations. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are three significant strategies which can be employed to improve energy efficiency without losing the reliability of mission critical components: employing stand-by modes, implementing energy monitoring software, and installing efficient cooling systems.

There are other plans suggested by data center planners and architects which can provide additional improvements to energy efficiency without detracting from mission critical reliability.

1. Employing Stand-By Modes

One estimate suggests that 3% of all the electricity used in the United States is used by data centers. As data centers are used more and more to house online information, this percentage is certain to grow. Reducing the energy use of data centers will prove beneficial for the data centers and for the other energy-consumers in the United States, and across the world.

New studies and technology are consistently improving the benefits of stand-by mode. Typically, devices which are running on stand-by mode are drawing on a little power in order to quickly move from inactivity to activity. Traditionally, data centers house servers which are constantly running, creating a great deal of heat, and requiring continual and intense air conditioning. In an energy efficient data centers, servers switch to a stand-by mode when they aren’t in use. This reduces that amount of electricity used, reduces the buildup of heat, and decreases the necessity for air conditioning.

2. Implementing Energy Monitoring Software

The appropriate us of energy monitoring software have dramatic benefits in reducing the energy usage of a building or company. This happens as the software monitors patterns in energy use, tracks utility bill problems, isolates spots of inefficiency, and recognizes areas where energy is being wasted. Utilizing the right software may mean that the data center is able to monitor losses from mistakes on bills to comparing the amount of energy used at different times of the day and in different areas of the facility.

3. Installing Efficient Cooling Systems

This crucial step becomes much easier when other strategies have been implemented to decrease the amount of energy being used and the amount of heat being generated. Nevertheless, there are a couple of important factors that can affect the efficiency of cooling systems, whether or not those other strategies have been employed. These factors include:

  • The climate and weather patterns of the physical location of the facility
  • The actual occupancy and power loading rate of the facility
  • Continuous maintenance of the cooling system equipment
  • The forethought of architects in developing an energy efficient building
  • State and local energy costs and energy efficiency incentives

There are many methods employed by data center planners to improve the efficiency of the facilities and the cooling systems. Some plans involve recycling warmed air throughout the buildings’ heating systems and some plans involve structured ventilation to maintain cooler temperatures.

Energy Efficiency Improves Mission critical Reliability

It should seem reasonably clear that improving energy efficiency allows more resources to be diverted to reliability. Reducing the dangers created by over-heating also improves the safety of the information housed in the data center. Money originally allocated to paying energy bills could be spent to research better ways to increase security for the facility. Improving the overall energy efficiency of data centers can reduce the number of man hours required to manage the data center and this reduction in human traffic at the data center can also improve the level of security at the facility. These examples and many others illustrate how mission critical elements improve as the energy efficiency of the data center increases.

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Plan Your Data Center With The Future In Mind

Plan for the Future Data Center NeedsBusinesses today rely on computers and technology more than ever before. The earliest beginnings of email in the 60s marked a rapid change toward today’s almost complete reliance on computers. When considering the degree of change that has taken place over the last fifty years and the current rate at which changes are now taking place, it is clear that data centers must be planned with expansion and future operations in mind. As you consider the specifics of your data center design, you must always consider how well the design fits those needs of today and how well the design will meet your future needs.

Crucial Elements of Data Center Planning

The basic elements of designing the data center facility and the factors which affect the efficient operation of the data center can be planned with an eye on the future as well as meeting current needs. Many of those elements and factors are as follows:

Design Elements of Data Centers

  • Facility Location
  • Facility Occupancy
  • Power and Communication Capacity and Availability
  • Ease and Schedule for Maintenance
  • Power Density

The location of the data center facility plays a very important role in determining how well the center will run today and in the future. Features such as the vulnerability of the site to natural dangers and the ease of access to a consistent power supply must be carefully considered. Planners must consider physical vulnerabilities of potential sites such as the proximity of earthquake fault lines, whether or not the area is a flood plane, and how well the soil drains the amount of water that the area typically experiences. Other important factors such as how isolated the data center is or how prone the area is to political or criminal activity must also be taken into consideration.

Some locations may seem ideal today, but a look at future planning maps may show that traffic and construction activities are likely to increase. It is more cost effective to plan ahead for your growth and neighborhood growth than it is to rebuild because your current location is no longer appropriate.

In many situations the facility occupancy of today’s data center will be less than the occupancy needs of the future. However, efforts to maintain a facility which is large enough to accommodate future needs can create energy efficiency problems. The initial design plans can incorporate expansion plans while providing for energy efficient use of the facility during current operation. A couple of examples for doing this include using modular data center units and allowing for expansion without fully maintaining the entire structure.

Establishing access to an adequate power supply will be a major concern during initial construction and will continue to be a major concern especially as power needs increase. The power capacity of the facility will present similar concerns. The same will be true for access to secure communication systems. Neglecting to make accurate predictions about the necessary power and communication requirements of the facility now can become a very expensive problem just a few years down the road.

The ease of maintaining the facility and all necessary equipment is an element of data center design that is sometimes overlooked. If air conditioning equipment is mounted on the roof of the building, then the maintenance which affects the efficiency of that equipment will be more difficult than maintenance on equipment which is easier to access. With a little bit of foresight, the necessary maintenance on future expansions can be as convenient as the maintenance on current facilities and equipment.

Many older data centers cannot handle the same power density that newer facilities can handle. As data center technology improves, the power density of growing facilities should also improve. It may be difficult to determine exactly how technology will improve, but careful planning can leave options open so that facilities don’t become obsolete.

Clearly the expansion potential of the building site must be an acknowledged priority for facility planners.

Factors Affecting Efficient Operation of Data Centers

  • Anticipating and Preparing for Risks
  • Quick Fixes Can Create Problems for the Future
  • Security and Hardening of the Facility

One of the major benefits to preparing for the future of the data center is that potential risks can be headed off before they cause expensive down time. It is very important to the well-being of the data center and the businesses whose information is stored at the data center are protected against all natural and man-made risks. By anticipating risks, the administration of the data center can fully prepare to withstand those risks without losing power, information, or control.

Many problems facing data centers are experienced over and over again – sometimes by the same facilities. This is because there is a tendency to solve today’s problems as quickly and easily as possible. Those quick fixes are often temporary fixes, and may sometimes actually cause other problems for the future operations of the facility. This happens because quick fixes are often focused on just one area of the system at a time and the changes made by the fix may have operational consequences for the future of the data center.

The initial hardening of a data center should be done during the planning stages of the building process, but it should also be a continual focus for facility administration. The security of the data center will be constantly at risk. Cables and telephone lines present an easy to reach point of vulnerability. Non-security personnel such as maintenance people or even strangers wandering in off the street can often gain access to important areas of the data center if the staff hasn’t been trained to be on guard and vigilant. Other risks may be posed because of outdated wiring or software. Lack of familiarity with emergency procedures may lead to chaotic events which increase the chances of intruder vulnerability or loss of equipment and information.

Protect the Future of Your Data Center

Protecting the valuable information stored in data centers must be a top priority for data center administration. This protection cannot be achieved without careful planning for the future. Emergencies, natural disasters, terrorist infiltration, and other risks must be anticipated and prepared for in order to prevent significant losses and dangerous information situations. One of the best ways to protect the information stored in the data center is to plan the design of the data center with an eye on the future and not just today.

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The Success Of A Mission Critical Facility Starts With Good Construction

Nevada Data CenterThough many considerations go into the design and implementation of a mission critical facility, few are more important than the physical construction. Mission critical facility construction has to be reliable, secure, and safe for the valuable equipment and data stored within, and so it is generally much more difficult than the construction of a standard office or business. Even if you plan to have your mission critical facility at the same location as other parts of your business, you may want to hire additional or different contractors just to make sure your mission critical facility construction is the very best that it can be.

Use premium building materials

Just as you wouldn’t outfit your mission critical facility with a computer cobbled together from spare parts or power it with a second hand generator, likewise you should not skimp on the materials you use in constructing your mission critical facility. Make sure the material you use for the facility is appropriate for the area. For example, brick is an excellent insulator and can help keep computer equipment at a stable temperature in places where the external temperature fluctuates wildly. However, it can easily become damaged in places where earthquakes or similar natural phenomena are common.

Additionally, make sure the internal materials of your mission critical facility are of high quality as well. Use good quality wiring and insulation and both will be less likely to cause you problems later on. When choosing heating and cooling units, as well as computer equipment, opt for electronics whenever possible. While there are cases where second tier or off brand electronic equipment can work just as well as their premium counterparts in mission critical facility construction, it is not a chance you want to take when the safety and operation of your entire facility is on the line.

Hire an experienced contractor

You probably wouldn’t hire a contractor who only has experience working on residential buildings to design and construct your office building, and it is doubtful that you would get a contractor who specializes in working on restaurants to work on your grocery store. Similarly, it is very important to find a contractor or construction company that specializes in mission critical facility construction to work on this very important part of your operation.

You may or may not be surprised to find out that mission critical facility construction is a growing business. A number of recent seminars have been held to discuss construction techniques that maximize safety and efficiency. There are special certifications that contracting and construction companies can get if they elect to specialize in mission critical facilities. It is very important to do your research before deciding on a contractor.  See what other facilities the company has worked on and whether former clients are satisfied with their work. Many companies will have a list of references that you can call and find out what other customers’ experiences were like.


The success of a mission critical facility starts from the ground up. Making good decisions in the early construction stages of the facility will often make the day to day operations run much more easily and smoothly later on.

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Five Mission Critical Facility Design Strategies

Mission critical facilities are vital to the continued safe and secure operation of many business and governmental operations. However, the necessity of mission critical facilities is a fairly recent development, and so many laypeople do not understand the fundamentals of mission critical facility design as well as they might.

A lot of unique considerations go into mission critical facility design. These facilities often house delicate and sensitive equipment which needs specialized climate controls to keep it in good working order. Reliable power and security features are also necessary for mission critical facilities. To top it off, many times it is the facilities themselves that need maintenance before the equipment being stored in them does, so ease of care for the facility must be factored into the design process.

These five basic design strategies will help your mission critical facility remain reliable and secure for years to come.


Make sure to have backup systems in place in case primary systems go offline or fail. Some important systems to take into account when planning for backups are power, heating and cooling, and facility locks and physical security measures. Even the very best mission critical facility design cannot prevent the inevitable power outage or equipment wear and tear that are the reason backup systems are in place.


Regular inspections and repairs are necessary events in the life of a mission critical facility. It’s a good idea to implement steps at the mission critical facility design stage to make this maintenance as easy as possible. Whenever possible, standardize machines and equipment. It is also important to keep detailed inspection records and make sure that equipment is easy for maintenance personnel to find and access.


You will want your mission critical facility to be able to grow and change in order to meet future challenges. Though it may seem like a tricky step in the mission critical facility design process, it is very important to leave room for expansion and equipment upgrades. Keep in mind that upgrades and changes will have to be implemented in such a way that they run smoothly without interrupting or affecting ongoing critical applications.


Depending upon where your mission critical facility is located, the building may have to face a unique battery of environmental forces. When choosing construction materials and implementing design options, try to be prepared for the worst. If your facility is in an area that is prone to earthquakes, for example, use flexible earthquake-safe materials and architectural techniques. If you live in an area that frequently has strong rainstorms, then reinforce roof areas to prevent leaks from damaging the building.


Mission critical facilities should be designed with an eye towards protection from security breaches and man made threats. Your facility will likely be housing a great deal of sensitive equipment and information, which unfortunately may make it a tempting target for thieves. Make sure that security features are built into the design process and not added as an afterthought.

There are a number of skilled professional contractors who have experience designing and building mission critical facilities. If you are ever in doubt as to whether you have adequately implemented the above strategies, then don’t hesitate to consult a professional.

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