Why Clean Your Data Center

“Computers, like giant electric furnaces, generate vast amounts of heat and their components are very sensitive to extremes of temperature, humidity and the presence of dust.” (Quoted from the Liebert Corporation’s “The Seven Elements Every Manager Should Know About Computer Air Conditioning”)

Concern for What You Can See – More for What You Can’t

Renee M. Robbins, assistant editor of Infosystems, said: “The cost of detecting and preventing environmental threats to a data center is often less than the cost of system downtime.” He continues: “Such budgeting for an acceptable amount of unexpected downtime is a reactive and often costly approach, especially when it is possible to prevent such occurrences. Many of the causes are literally under your nose; in the air you breathe and under the floor you walk on. The trouble is, most are invisible.”

Electrostatic Discharge and Dust Fires

Evidence has linked the constant movement of air and dust across concrete surfaces, combined with humidity fluctuations, as the cause of severe electrostatic discharge. Dust fires, that leave only a burn mark to show that they have occurred, are found in unclean subfloor plenums. These electrostatic discharges can adversely affect memory chips. A voltage discharge can also directly damage the circuitry of a system, especially in terminals and microcomputers. These units can tolerate up to a 1,000-volt discharge without being affected, yet normally a person can feel a shock only if it is greater than 3,000 volts.

According to Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, keeping areas clean is key in preventing dust fires.

“Have you looked for “hidden” areas where dust may accumulate (e.g. , behind false ceilings, inside ventilation or conveyor equipment, in ducts, on support beams, etc. )?

Do you have a housekeeping program to regularly remove dust?

Do you have a dust collection system in place?

If yes, does your dust collection system conform to local requirements (e.g. , fire code)?”

Ferrous Metals on Circuit Boards

Because of the high volume of air blown over circuit boards, to cool them, both dust and tiny ferrous metal slivers are deposited on electronic components because of their magnetic properties. Because components are becoming smaller and are being packed more densely on a circuit board, the likelihood of problems is increased.

Additionally, any particle that can absorb moisture can also conduct electricity, such as, Carbonaceous particulate. These carbon residues are moisture-absorbent particulate from automobile exhaust (brought in by air conditioning), smoke, and oxidized organic material such as clothing fibers, paper dust, and hair.
Interestingly, carbon dust is also combustible. It has become the mythical bug of computer lore, which shorted out one of the first computers by straddling two poles of a switch. Like the bug, which mysteriously vanished after the incident, carbon contaminant-related failures of computer circuit boards are often logged “cause unknown.” This, because carbon particulate incinerates at the moment that it causes damage, thereby resisting identification by service technicians, who are more inclined to attribute board failures to faulty components than to microscopic contaminants.

High Humidity and Rust

On the other end of the spectrum from electrostatic discharge problems, are over-humidity and rust. Rust can be found on the floor jacks and grid, as well as in air conditioning and computer equipment. Humidity, at its worst, causes condensation on equipment resulting in, not only rust, but also short circuits. Infrared humidification systems, that provide instant on/off service, use electric coil systems that bring a column of water to the boiling point to create water vapor. These preheat units allow the dust and lint in the subfloor air plenum to gather on the coils of HVAC preheat units which then smoke when operated. Carbon and smoke can set off fire detectors and/or affect disk drives.

Crashes and Mechanical Wear

Today’s disk drives are particularly vulnerable to dust. Because the distance between the head and the thin film disk is micron’s (a micron is 1/1,000,000 of an inch), not even dust particles can squeeze through. Read/write errors and head crashes result. Tape drives can also be affected. Tiny dust particles, capable of passing through equipment filters, can agglomerate inside disk drives creating particle sizes capable of striking the floating head. This emphasizes the need for vacuums that can remove particulate to the submicron level. Airborne dust also reduces lubrication in mechanical linkages, which in turn, accelerates parts wear.

Food, Insects and Rodents

This common food chain can wreak havoc with electronic equipment. These live contaminants do not depend on the air plenum for movement. They move at will, attracted to the warmth and protection afforded by operating equipment. This especially happens when food or beverage is dropped under the floor, drawing cockroaches, spiders, ants, even rodents.

Employee Health

Process computer cooling is different from comfort cooling found in office spaces. This means that building codes requiring fresh air for people is often ignored. With few people and lots of equipment, probably 95% of computer rooms don’t follow the fresh air requirement. Thus computer rooms are good candidates for Indoor air pollution. Yes too, there is something about a clean area that seems to indicate that the work done there is being done with precision. The opposite is true in an unclean area.

Contact Paragon to get a quote for the professional cleaning of your Data Center.