The world is facing an unprecedented pandemic that has led to many governments instating ‘stay at home’ and/or quarantine orders. While employees are allowed to go to work if their business is considered ‘essential,’ many businesses are encouraging employees to work from home in an attempt to reduce the risk of spread. We are all trying to flatten the curve and stay home but that means that more mission-critical services, daily business, and daily life takes place online. Because of that, there is an increased demand being placed on data centers.
Data centers are not immune to the spread of Covid-19 which has led to many data centers restricting access to facilities to only critical personnel and have stopped the construction of new facilities as well. All data centers should have a disaster recovery plan in place with various contingency plans for a variety of scenarios but it is unlikely that data centers have prepared for the current situation we are facing with the coronavirus. While some of the components of certain disaster recovery plans may be useful, many data center managers are finding that they must quickly pivot their plan and develop new strategies to meet a massive increase in digital traffic, the support needed for remote workers, and remote monitoring needs.
Data Center Remote Work / Telecommuting
Because data centers have restricted access to facilities and due to the fact that many people are quarantined at home, telecommuting and colocation are more important now than ever before. There was, of course, remote work prior to the pandemic but it was certainly not the standard for most industries. Due to social distancing requirements, there are more remote workers than ever before and those remote workers are supported by (or very frustrated with) data centers. And while we all look forward to a time when some normalcy can be resumed, remote or telework is not going to stop and in fact, companies will likely rely on it for some time to come. Microsoft, for example, has seen a marked increase in users and they are certainly not the only ones. As Data Economy points out, Microsoft saw a rapid increase in users and they are anticipating supporting that increased demand long after Covid-19, “Microsoft Teams, has grown from 32 million daily active users to 44 million, mainly driven by the COVID-19 coronavirus. The company recorded a 12 million increase in users in the last seven days according to its figures, adding that those users generated over 900 million meetings and calling minutes on Teams each day last week. “It is very clear that enabling remote work is more important than ever, and that it will continue to have lasting value beyond the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365.”
Data Center Colocation During the Pandemic
Colocation offers a large number of advantages and never has effective and efficient colocation ever looked so good as during the pandemic. All businesses are social distancing and employees are being encouraged to telecommute whenever possible – two things that perfectly lend themselves to colocation. Businesses are relying on data centers now more than ever with so much physical traffic being driven online. Colocation is designed to be it’s most effective through distance so it is perfectly suited to the current pandemic restrictions and, better yet, because it was already designed to work within that infrastructure, it is generally fast to on-board for businesses.
Data Center Colocation with Remote Monitoring
Due to the increased social distancing and rapid growth of remote work, a robust digital infrastructure is essential to support the new digital demands during this time. For businesses and data center managers/personnel, remote monitoring is a critical component of data center colocation during the pandemic. Colocation data centers that can quickly and effectively leverage and expand remote monitoring will pave a smoother path through the choppy and uncharted waters of the pandemic. Data Center Knowledge explains how data centers are reacting to the pandemic and adjusting their services and DCIM to meet constantly changing needs, “To meet customer needs, colocation providers are using online data center infrastructure management customer portals for remote monitoring and IT support ticketing, according to a report this week by the Uptime Institute. Colocation providers are also promoting their remote-hands services, said the report…’We’re seeing increased demands for secure remote access solutions,’ said Mitch Fonseca, VP of data center products at Cyxtera, a global data center provider. The company’s data center platform offers both web and API access to configuration and deployment tools, which reduces the need for customer technicians to visit its facilities, he told DCK…With the pandemic, demand for more remote-access tools is accelerating. Colocation providers that had started work on these tools earlier should now have an easier time meeting their clients’ needs…For example, one major media customer saw a spike in its data center workload because of the combination of employees connecting from home and the heavy demands of the news cycle. That quickly affected their infrastructure, Bensten said. ‘They had three cabinets that were hot. In the past, that customer would have had to enter their space.’ Now, they saw the problem with real-time power analytics, saw that they had available capacity in other cabinets, and swung capacity in real-time to the other cabinets – all without entering the data center.”
Data Center Operations Beyond the Pandemic
It would be foolish to think that once social distancing restrictions are lifted and the economy re-opened, telecommuting and remote work will go away. Data center operators need to think beyond crisis management to the next phase of the pandemic. Just because workers will be allowed to congregate in common spaces once again does not mean that they should at the volume or frequency that they were prior to the pandemic. And hopefully, with proper data center infrastructure management strategies implemented, they will not need to. We all look forward to the day when we can be around each other again, but that does not mean that we should place unnecessary risk on others so we can only expect colocation and remote monitoring services to grow extensively in the coming months and years. The way we have prepared for disasters in the past – anticipating natural disasters such as hurricanes or cyberattacks, for example – will forever be altered. We still need to be prepared for those things, of course, but now we know that a pandemic can bring even the most industrialized nations to a grinding halt and data centers need to be prepared to support that at a moments notice with strong remote monitoring, colocation data centers, hyperscale data centers, edge computing, and AI.