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Winter is coming – is your data centre ready?

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For data centres managers winter introduces a number of possible weather related challenges that require some “just in case” planning.

Most of the items in context are very minor but even the smallest thing can have a cascade effect.
For example, the cold weather can place a strain on water chiller systems that have inadequate anti-freeze, outside air conditioning arrays can be damaged in winter storms, and generator starter batteries can give up as soon as load is placed upon them.

It’s that last item that can catch data centre managers out, just like your family car when it’s cold a weak battery will turn into a dead battery, most data centres have their generators inside steel containers, which are exposed to the elements, and can get very cold in Winter. Don’t think the heating of the generators water system will provide enough latent heat to protect the battery and the constant charge will ensure the battery is always available, they won’t. This along with the Building Management System (BMS) showing correct voltage can have even the best operation believing all is well! However, most of these batteries are sat on steel cradles away from the block and get no heat at all. The battery fluid can get boiled off over time by the constant charging, while the voltage displayed on the BMS for the battery is in fact no indicator of the batteries ability to take load.

Here at Redcentric we have replaced all our lead acid generator starter batteries with sealed jelly batteries; we keep spare batteries on site, and have an aggressive replacement cycle to ensure a battery that has a cost of a few hundred pounds doesn’t cause us any downtime.

Other small things to consider are staff availability and client / staff welfare, just in case we get the tabloids’ “doomsday snow” prediction and people either can’t get to site or get stuck on site. This is unlikely in our Reading data centre but a real consideration for data centres which are further north where snowfall is more common, such as our Harrogate facility.

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