Operations Objectives Should Drive Data Center Staffing Decisions

By David Boston  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: How to Minimize Human Error, Prevent Data Center DowntimePt. 2: This PagePt. 3: Develop Comprehensive Work Rules, Procedures To Minimize Human Error In Data CentersPt. 4: Site-Specific Infrastructure Training Can Help Limit Data Center Human ErrorPt. 5: How To Use Incentives To Improve Data Center Staff Retention

Operations objectives should drive the appropriate size and structure of the data center staff. If the organization can survive occasional unexpected interruptions to cooling or power at the critical facility, then a single day shift operation on weekdays may well suffice. In this scenario, the facility staff plan provides for a regular presence to support customer requests. Preventive maintenance (PM) tasks may also be performed during the weekday shift. If the infrastructure systems are concurrently maintainable, overtime will not be required, unless there is a lengthy repair or a special project to support. Incident response on weekends or during evenings will sometimes result in operations interruptions before someone can react to a call-in. Generally, five to seven individuals and a manager will effectively cover the workload in a single shift operation model for a standalone critical facility. A higher than average volume of PM tasks or customer requests may dictate a few additional staff members. More staff members will be needed if the critical facility is part of a larger campus or "shares" a larger building with non-critical functions. In "shared" operations, it is advisable to designate sub-groups within the facilities department, with separate supervisors and subordinates supporting the critical and non-critical areas, reporting to one manager. This ensures the critical operation does not suffer from a distracted facilities staff, as often happens when there is no separation.

If the organization's objectives require that the potential for a facilities-related interruption to the critical operation be absolutely minimized, a more robust staff plan is needed. A minimum of two people on each shift, when provided effective procedures and training programs, can confidently respond to all mechanical and most fire protection systems incidents before they cause operations interruptions. Electrical systems incidents will also be resolved more quickly with this model. For a standalone facility, a minimum of nine shift engineers is required (one to cover sick time and vacation), in addition to two or more project coordinators and a manager.

3. Workload balance and accountability. Instead of relying on a group to collectively perform all projects, PM tasks and customer requests successfully, it is essential to distribute ownership of specific activities to individuals. With this approach, the facility manager has a single individual to interact with when a process, task, or request needs attention. More importantly, individual staff members will gain increased knowledge, confidence, and pride in performing their responsibilities when expectations are clearly defined. The group should share common objectives for continuous operation and safety, but the remainder of their task and process assignments should be individually assigned and documented as part of their annual objectives discussion with their manager. A few examples of individually assigned ownership functions are procedures programs, change management, power quality monitoring, safety programs, water storage and water treatment, and computer room air handlers.

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  posted on 8/16/2013   Article Use Policy

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