Avoid Contamination

The most cost-effective way to prevent downtime is to avoid contamination. Modern, higher density racks require a clean environment for proper heat dissipation. Clogged air intakes or heat sinks can cause premature equipment failure–or worse. Contaminates come from two main sources and are made up of many different types of materials and substances.

Outside Contaminates

The outside air around us is full of contaminates from natural and man-made sources. Some common contaminates include the following:

  • Dirt
  • Pollen
  • Gases
  • Smoke

Contaminates Originating from Inside

Everything decays, including materials used in building data centers. Some contaminates that originate from within a data center may include:

  • Clothing and apparel
  • Drywall and metal corner beading
  • Drop ceiling tiles
  • Wall or piping insulation
  • Carpet
  • Unsealed cement
  • Unfiltered exhaust from electric motors
  • HVAC units
  • Raised Floor and Grid metal
  • Fasteners
  • Boxes and paper based materials

Step 1–Identify Contaminates

What is the cause? Identifying contaminates and potential contaminates is the first step in avoiding contamination. Many facilities have operating protocol that includes a list of contraband materials and a program of best practices to follow in order to avoid introducing contaminates into the environment. Following are some suggestions that you might find helpful in developing a plan to avoid contamination in your data center or server room.

Boxes and packing materials are a very common contaminate and should be kept out of the data center if at all possible. This is especially true of cardboard boxes because of their rapid rate of disintegration. If at all possible, unpacking of shipments should be done in non-critical areas and their contents brought in.

The flow of people that are allowed into the data center should also be limited. Of course, unnecessary personnel are normally kept out of critical spaces. In addition to the site being more secure, when a person enters into your facility they bring with them on average .015 pounds of dirt. That means that, on average, after 70 entries into your data center you have accumulated 1 pound of dirt! Obviously, those numbers depend much on how dirty the surrounding areas are. However, we all know what the floor would look like if we didn’t vacuum the white carpet in our house for a week. Thus, we can easily see how quickly dirt can accumulate.

Contamination control tacky mats are very helpful in reducing the amount of contaminates introduced by people and should be placed at every entrance to the critical areas of your facility.

Food and beverages should never be allowed in a critical environment because of the danger to equipment and introduction of contaminates.

Cracks in walls, slabs and other openings can also be a source of contamination and, if at all possible, need to be plugged and sealed. Doing this also serves to keep rodents and other pests out. Raw building materials are also often an unnoticed source of contamination and need to be appropriately sealed. This would include concrete slabs and any unpainted sheet rock below or above the subfloor.

You might also want to consider making posters of banned items and having them posted at all entrances to the critical areas.

Step 2–Maintenance & Cleaning

The second step should be to have a comprehensive schedule for maintenance and cleaning. Keeping a log of when the filters on CRAC units are changed can help to make sure that they are changed at regular intervals. If your CRAC unit uses a return duct system, that should also be regularly cleaned. Another area that is often overlooked is the subfloor in legacy style data centers. Just because the subfloor plenum is out of sight doesn’t mean that it can be neglected or that it should be out of mind. Any contaminates in the subfloor will eventually begin to clog AC filters and also eventually recirculate into the environment. Subfloor cleaning is really the most important part of a regular maintenance program. It can reduce the spread of contaminates to other areas, thus reducing need for maintenance on the whole.

Why Bring In Outside Help?

Keeping a good critical filter vacuum on site so that facility personnel can can clean up spills and messes as they happen is a good practice. A critical filter vacuum is essential because if other non-critical filter vacuums are used, all smaller size, more insidious particulate will pass through the filtration system and actually be spread by the exhaust of the vacuum into the circulating air.

In addition, the time required to properly maintain the standards of cleanliness necessary for an efficient data center are typically too great for regular IT staff to meet. For example many data center experts recommend that the entire data center be thoroughly cleaned at least quarterly. If the data center has a lot of traffic this cleaning may need to be done on a much more regular basis. Therefore, when considering their ROI, many facilities managers opt to bring in outside help. How can Paragon International assist?

Paragon employees are thoroughly trained in all aspects of data center maintenance. We have been in the business of keeping data centers clean and efficient for over 25 years. We are detailed and careful. We can also help you put together a program of maintenance that will actually help your bottom line by reducing downtime. Contact us today to find out more and for a list of satisfied customer references. Alternatively, you can quickly get a detailed quote with no strings attached by filling out our online form by clicking here.