A clean data center is not only important for aesthetics, but also critical to operational performance. If dust or dirt accumulate, equipment can overheat and reduce its lifespan. When equipment goes down, your customers’ data is at risk. Inconsistent or poor cleaning should never be the reason your company’s reputation suffers.
Data centers can present a unique challenge for your cleaning team. There are floors and sub-floors to consider as well as the special surfaces within the room. Microfiber cloth and HEPA filters are your most common tools but there are other considerations too.
In most situations, cleaning beneath the top floor is a periodic requirement. If contaminants accumulate between the floors the debris will circulate throughout the data center and end up affecting your servers.
You should start your cleaning routine at the top – cleaning server racks and cabinets first and then proceed down to the space between the floors. This keeps more dirt away from the subfloor. Clean no more than 24 square-feet at any one time to limit contaminants becoming airborne.
If you outsource your data center cleaning, make sure your contractor’s staff is qualified and experienced with the special standards needed for cleaning a data center.
Depending on the data center environment, cleaning once per week or more often is recommended. Perform daily light cleaning if the environment has heavy traffic. Use anti-static cleaning solutions and microfiber cloths for most surfaces.
The raised flooring should be deep cleaned at least once every 3 months and the space between the floor and subfloor at least twice annually. This is also a good time to inspect cabling and air plenums for any needed maintenance.
If the server room has a ceiling plenum or overhead cabling, inspect and clean once every 3 months and perform deep cleaning at least annually.
The Dirt You Can’t See
There are many sources of contaminants that can enter your data center but the ones that pose the greatest risk are the ones that you cannot see. Small particles like skin particles, clothing fibers, or the debris from the bottom of shoes can cause catastrophic damage.
Other contaminants like belt debris can enter your data center environment. Belt debris is caused by the friction of slightly misaligned pulleys on belts within your room’s cooling system.
Always use the right tools
No dry mopping or brooms should be used as these will just push the dirt or debris around. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter on the equipment, and make sure to clean the areas that may not be visible. Wipe surfaces with damp wipes that contain approved antistatic cleaning chemicals.
Outsource or In-house?
It may not be sensible or financially feasible to have a dedicated manager and team for data center cleaning. But there are hidden costs that can be catastrophic if the job is not done right. Downtime is devastating.
If you choose to outsource you must make sure the contractor has an experienced team. They need to understand and practice the special methods of cleaning a data center. Look for solid references and experience in data center cleaning.
Ask them if they perform particle count readings before and again after the cleaning is completed. If so, ask them what their acceptable levels of particles per cubic foot are when the job is completed. There is an industry standard and they should know it. You can download a complete list of questions for potential data center cleaning contractors here.
Make sure they provide “trained” staff specifically for data centers. Finding the right contractor will save you headaches (and money) later.