Running a data center is not easy.
Agility, efficiency, and stability reign supreme. If you cannot deliver these elements, your platform will suffer.
Naturally, there’s a rate of failure to contend with because data centers rely on hardware, and hardware can fail at any time.
So, you end up with experience “putting out fires” and bringing your data center back online. But the key to running a good platform is making sure downtime is not a regular thing.
With a stable data center, IT teams waste less time on fixing issues and spend more time rolling out new technologies and optimizations. This leads to a better experience for customers.
You should strive for that by implementing a solid data management plan.
Sometimes you have no control over what’s happening, like when there are major hardware failures. Servers fail, software malfunctions, and stuff just happens.
That’s why you need a data management plan.
A data management plan is a pre-determined outline that details how you will run, manage, and maintain your data center.
Data center problems can be managed two ways, preventatively and correctively.
Obviously, preventative maintenance is better, because you’re fixing potential problems before they happen. But during an emergency, corrective maintenance is necessary. In your data management plan, you must address both of these methods.
1) Maintain Proper Rack-Level Capacity
In a data center, there are a ton of servers, and they vary in utilization, power draw, and performance. These factors all correlate with one another. For instance, if you have a server that is being utilized heavily the power consumption ratings are going to increase.
This can lead to you putting too much stress on certain servers or hardware.
It’s best to figure out the power draw for a rack before you get things running, that way you can choose the proper equipment. It also allows you to plan space for upgrades of servers or arrays.
Deploying your servers in an efficient configuration will mean less stress, and better reliability.
2) Observe Server Racking Best Practices
Because you are packing servers, racks, cables, and equipment into a confined space, you want to make sure you are doing it efficiently.
Unorganized dense configurations will lead to extreme temperatures and frequent hardware failures.
Poor cable management will raise temperatures, especially if they block cooling vents or airflow. A messy space will mean more time cleaning when you need to fix a problem or perform maintenance. Your engineers will have to fight through all the cables to get to the racks.
3) Benchmark Your Servers
You can hire vendors and maintenance teams to track core counts, workloads, and performance. But what you need is a way to benchmark server performance along with a system to keep track of this data.
This info will help you with preventative maintenance, allowing you to take action before a major problem or failure. For instance, if a server is having unexpected issues then you can replace the hardware before it fails completely.
4) Always Observe Security Best Practices
Security is important. Customers want to know you can protect their data and keep it secure.
Never allow unauthorized personnel to handle equipment, and don’t give them access to your network either. Always observe basic data center security protocols.
5) Use IT Infrastructure Tools to Your Advantage
As a data center manager, no tool is more crucial than your IT infrastructure data monitoring system. Why? They monitor stats like bottlenecks, server capacity, total usage, external access attempts, and more.
When used properly, monitoring tools can tell you just about everything you need to know about the regular operation of your servers.
Implementing the tools can be a real pain, but it’s worth the hassle.
6) Configuration Management Tools Can Help
Facebook completed a migration to a Chef configuration management system, which took three years. That may seem like a long time, and it is. Hopefully, with their advice—including details about mistakes and best practices – you will be able to deploy sooner.
But don’t let that scare you. You should be following Facebook’s lead.
Configuration management tools allow for better stability and faster updates. These two things are sorely needed in the world of data centers.
7) Standardize and Optimize Change
As technologies continue to grow, change is just something you’ll need to accept. All data centers must be able to scale, which means being able to change at a moment’s notice.
Establish a change management process so that you can quickly roll out changes without running into serious problems. This will translate to a better experience for your customers, better agility, and much more flexibility. Having a good change management plan also means you can modify your platform without affecting online servers.
8) Plan for Contingencies
Imagine it’s summer and your Air conditioning units fail. You’re going to have severe heat problems inside your server room. What if there is a power surge or outage due to a storm? Do you have proper circuit boards in place to manage the power supply?
These are just two possible scenarios! You need to plan for these contingencies before they happen. Install an environmental monitoring system to monitor temperatures. Have backup AC units in the event of a serious emergency. Backup data regularly and keep replacement hardware too.
9) Get a Handle on Your IT Assets
Do you know how many users and devices are accessing your network? Do you know what OS and application licenses are going to expire soon? Do you know the age of your hardware? Do you know how many backup assets you have at your disposal?
You cannot do your job as a manager without first knowing the where, what, and why of all your IT assets. This means managing them properly. It’s not out of the question to enlist help for this. But get a system in place—digital or not—and stick to it.
10) Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you run into a situation such as a bug, hardware failure, software issue, or general problem that you and your team cannot solve, then ask for help!
It’s okay to enlist help from a third party or vendor if you are having trouble.
Your primary goal should be to keep the data center operational, and if it’s down, get it up and running as soon as possible. That means doing what it takes, including seeking outside assistance.