Look For Critical Facilities Design Experience, Knowledge When Choosing A Data Center Assessment Team

By David Boston  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Data Center Assessment Can Prevent Downtime By Identifying Weak Spots In Design, Equipment, And Operations Pt. 2: This PagePt. 3: Primary Objective Of Data Center Assessment Is To Identify Previously Unknown Risks

The most significant factor in choosing the team that will perform the site assessment is experience. Critical facilities systems design and configuration knowledge is essential. Actual experience in operating critical facilities, not just designing them, is another important criteria. The team should include mechanical, electrical, and facility operations specialists. The more assessments performed, the more observations and recommended solutions the team can bring to the assessment effort.

An external assessment team can offer breadth of knowledge and experience. An internal assessment team can be very effective at identifying what they know to look for, but most will have seen far fewer facilities and issues. An exception would be when an organization has hired someone who previously conducted multiple assessments while working with an engineering company.

When screening external firms, ask for team member resumes (verify they are for the individuals planned for the assessment); customer lists; contact information for customer references; and description of items typically included in assessments.

An effective assessment report will generally include:

  • A list of each system and process reviewed, with observations on items that did not meet the stated operating objectives for the facility, such as single points of failure and systems that are not concurrently maintainable.
  • Statements of remaining useable capacity for each system.
  • Prioritized recommendations for needed upgrades, modifications, additional processes, etc.
  • A list of commendable practices observed.

You should require the assessment team to provide a summary update on initial findings before they depart from your facility.

Preparing For The Assessment

Once the assessment has been arranged, you must schedule time for selected staff members to escort and work with the assessment team. Assign those with the most experience and knowledge on a given system or process to work with the appropriate assessment team member. Prepare key support providers, such as your electric utility's customer engineer and your design engineer of record, for potential phone calls from the assessment team.

Next, organize and set aside relevant documents, such as as-built drawings and current one-line diagrams, procedures, training and orientation materials, organization charts, annual objectives, facility work rules, the master plan for the computer room, etc. Also include commissioning records, short circuit coordination studies, O&M manuals, design intent statements, and incident reports.

Assessment findings will generally fall into one of these categories:

1. Systems risks: lack of redundancy, single point of failure, limited capacity, etc.

2. Human factors risks: undefined ownership, lack of procedures or training, incorrect procedures, insufficient staff size or shift coverage, outdated documents, ineffective or absent safety policies.

3. Site risks: proximity to highway, airport, railway, combustible materials, hazardous waste, regional weather hazards, etc.

4. Commendable practices: robust design, creative design solutions, fault tolerance, concurrent maintainability, planned growth potential, carefully chosen site location, clarity of ownership, comprehensive procedures and training programs, well managed documentation, etc.

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  posted on 5/23/2014   Article Use Policy

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