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Dirty data centers are inefficient and prone to failure. Equipment that is not clean, containing dust or other contaminants, can cost time and money to fix. This makes data center cleaning best practices, such as cleaning servers regularly and keeping subfloors clean, crucial to extending the life span of a data center.

Check out the following six best practices to keep the organization’s data centers clean and operating optimally.

1. Ensure subfloors are cleaned

The first step in underfloor maintenance is to clean out old, abandoned cable. The length of time an old cable has been in place correlates to a more difficult cleaning task. Removing old cable is important for dirt reduction and improved cooling. Once the underfloor is organized, contract a professional data center cleaning service to do a thorough job. Many data centers do this yearly.

2. Check for dirt, dust and other contaminants in equipment

Dirt is the enemy of equipment. Change filters in the computer room air conditioners and computer room air handlers. Routinely inspect and clean server filters. No matter how careful employees are, contaminants still get into the data center.

Dirt and dust can clog server intake filters and accumulate on heat sinks. This increases fan speeds and energy use, as well as equipment overheating and early failures. Because of this, do not put printers and paper inside your data center.

People bring dust and dirt into the room through their clothing and hair. Installing pads for wiping feet at entrances and changing them regularly help minimize dirt and dust.

Contaminants still intrude from outdoors via the code-required ventilation system. Positive pressure design should keep most building dust from entering the data center when doors are open. But, if ventilation air is delivered from the same ducts that serve the rest of the building, it’s not likely to be filtered well enough for a data center.

3. Prohibit food and drink, limit work done inside the data center

It isn’t uncommon for data communication operations to use data centers for storage and to unpack crates and boxes. In those facilities, particulate contamination flourishes.

Avoid unpacking items and equipment inside the data center. Never bring boxes or packing materials into the data center, and prohibit food and drink. Any maintenance work, such as cutting ceiling tile edges and sealing penetrations with paint, should always be done outside the data center.

Maintenance done inside the data center should be highly restricted. If someone has to drill into metal or concrete, use a clean, high-efficiency particulate air vacuum close to the work. Isolate the work area if possible, and clean up thoroughly when finished.

4. Beware of gases

Data centers located near an industrial area, major highway or chemical plant are at risk of gas contamination. Two problems occur when certain gases mix with high humidity:

  1. Nitrates and sulfides become conductive and can bridge circuit board contacts. Chlorine and hydrogen sulfide acids eat away solder joints; the copper “lands” on printed circuit boards and connector contacts.
  2. In high-exposure locations, failures have occurred in as little as three months. The problem stems from the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive. Circuit boards and connections used to be dipped in lead-based solder, but manufacturers now use silver. Lead is inert, but silver and copper are not.

If there is a gaseous concern, incoming air must pass through special filters. Testing requires placing thin strips of silver and copper, known as coupons, in the environment for a month. The corrosion rate is then analyzed in a lab. The greater the corrosion, the greater the problem.

5. Monitor humidity

The newest ASHRAE Thermal Guidelines allow up to 70% relative humidity when gaseous contaminates are low, but the guidelines specify 50% RH maximum in data centers with high gaseous exposure. This helps ensure that pollutants do not form acids.

Maintaining high humidity is no longer justified. In 2014, ASHRAE research showed that humidity levels as low as 8% RH would still not cause damaging electrostatic discharge in properly grounded rooms. This means organizations do not need to add humidity in winter, which saves energy, unless they’re still running magnetic tape drives. In locations with high summer humidity, pre-condition incoming air to both filter and dehumidify.

6. Ensure floors are clean

Damp-mop the floor regularly, and wipe down cabinets and equipment if dust starts to accumulate. Never allow anyone to wax the floor or use harsh chemicals to remove dirt. Tile floors should never be buffed because it creates microscopic dust.

Raised access floors have long been a major source of data center contaminants. Old floors may still grow zinc “whiskers,” which, along with dirt, fibers and wire clippings, travel through the air stream into server intakes.

Digital Creations is an IT company providing solutions for businesses to accomplish their goals currently and in the future.

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