What is a Data Center?
A Data Center (American English) or Data Center (British English) is a large group of networked computer servers typically used by organizations for the remote storage, processing, or distribution of large amounts of data. In addition to housing computer systems it could house associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems. It generally includes redundant or backup components and infrastructure for power supply, data communications connections, environmental controls (e.g. air conditioning, fire suppression) and various security devices. A large Data Center of industrial-scale operation could use as much electricity as a small town. Data Centers can also be know as Comms Rooms, Server Rooms, Network Rooms, IT Rooms, CCNR’s or MMR’s.

What is ISO14644-1 Classification?
Classification of air cleanliness – ISO 14644-1 covers the classification of air cleanliness in cleanrooms and associated controlled environments. Classification in accordance with this standard is specified and accomplished exclusively in terms of concentration of airborne particulates. The document was submitted as an American National Standard and has been adopted as ANSI/IEST/ISO 14644-1:2015 in the United States, following the cancellation of FED-STD-209E.

Why should I use a specialist Data Center cleaning company?
Particulate and other types of contamination build-up in equipment, in servers, on heat sync’s or fan bearings and will eventually cause failures within IT equipment and the associated plant equipment if left unchecked. This build up causes thermal clogging that will increase heat. This heat will result in servers slowing down, it will result in fans not operating efficiently and slowing down and possibly a complete failure. With the requirements for zero downtime and numerous redundancies built into modern Data Center’s things like loss of data or latency and performance issues are scrutinized in more detail. Keeping contamination in check through regular cleaning can help to mitigate these risks.

While none of them would let an untrained or uncertified technician service their UPS, Generator or Chiller some may give a generalist and opportunity to deliver less ‘critical’ works such as floor levelling, fire stopping or ISO level cleaning. We think there are a few reasons for this but the main one is legislation or warrantee compliance. You need to have a certain level of qualification to work on power systems, or gas systems but, hey, a cleaner is a cleaner, what damage can sweeping up do right! Another may be the criticality of the equipment, or the perceived criticality. Ooooohhhhh it’s our UPS it’s our ‘backup’ and if it fails we don’t have any power. Well is that actually correct? If you have a Generator or additional UPS or A and B feed it may only be ONE source of power. At design stage redundancy is built into many of these primary systems. It may in fact be less risky to service an off-line UPS in by-pass then to lift a floor tile out, that’s hovering above your fiber cables, to clean the sub-floor void to ISO14644.

The reality is you should only allow a specialist Data Center or computer room cleaning company that uses trained technicians and specialist materials and equipment into your environment. It is also important to ensure you choose a company that understands the environment completely and who is able to provide full risk assessments, method statements, COSHH sheets and a program of works.

Which facilities require these services?
This question has many answers but essential any room in your facility that houses Mission Critical active (IT, Electronics, Communications, UPS etc) equipment that is paramount to running your business should be cleaned professionally to the ISO14644 standard. These could include:

Large or small-scale Data Center’s; Internet Service Providers, Network Control Centres, UPS Rooms, Computer Rooms, Raised Floor Areas (Subfloors), Comms Rooms, Server Rooms, Network Rooms, IT Rooms, CCNR’s or MMR’s, Generator Rooms, HV & LV Power Rooms and any other critical technology area within your facility.

How can Data Center Cleaning prevent downtime?
Particulates which are brought into the facility build-up in dead space and can be carried into hardware’s internal circuits in the air conditioning process, and even more so once disturbed due to changes in the environment caused by movement of people, opening of doors or any other necessary works. In a raised floor environment, equipment within the Data Center, computer room or server room is cooled using air circulated under the raised floor by CRAH units (Computer Room Air Handler). Internal components of electronic computer equipment can fail due to various factors, with heat and contamination identified as two of the most common causes of failure. Airborne Contamination Particles are one of the main causes of this; using the airflow created in the room to drive cold air to the front of the IT equipment, the particles hitch a ride right to the active components within the equipment. Specialist computer room cleaning removes these particulates before they have a chance to reach the equipment, significantly reducing the risk of hardware failure. The cost of prevention when using a qualified computer room cleaning company to perform Data Center cleaning is far lower than the cost of any potential downtime caused by contamination.

Research by IBM found that for a large organization downtime can cost between $100k and $1m an hour. By comparison, the investment in a planned specialist cleaning programme is negligible.

  • 65% of Data Center and computer room problems are caused by environmental contamination but less than 5% of a typical Data Center’s expenditure is allocated to hygiene and contamination prevention.
  • Many IT and Facilities Managers are unaware that equipment manufacturers’ warranties could be deemed void as a result of poor environmental conditions.
  • “Avoid dusty or dirty work environments. Dust and dirt can clog the internal mechanisms and cause the server to overheat. Damage caused by extreme temperatures is not covered by your warranty.” Gateway Server Guide
  • “The quarterly statement of work involves a much more detailed and comprehensive decontamination schedule and should only be conducted by experienced computer room contamination-control professionals.” – Sun Microsystems – Environmental Planning book
  • “Periodic Data Center maintenance is a vital, ongoing process for any Data Center. Whether your facility has 500 square feet or 50,000, professional cleaning of your Data Center can have a dramatic effect on the longevity of your infrastructure, your system’s reliability, and your power consumption. It is more than just cleaning surface debris from your raised floor; it’s a systematic approach to keeping your Data Center clean and operating properly” Prosource Vol.27 Issue 28

How do I choose a qualified Data Center Cleaning company?
Look for a niche provider that’s core focal point is the Data Center and Services relating to Data Centers. They will have a in-depth understanding of the environments and not only the services. Test them, test their knowledge around the parts that make up a Data Center and how they effect one another. They should fully understand the criticality of your facility and your systems. Only then can they design a bespoke solution for you. A qualified company will have the specialized equipment, trained technicians, and a great deal of experience in Data Center cleaning and maintenance. They need to match your business, if you are a global organization then they should have a global infrastructure in place to support the on-going needs of your facility. See our accreditations and how well we are qualified.

How often should I perform a Data Center Clean?
Each Data Center is different and here at Critical Facilities Solutions we prefer to meet with each customer, inspect and survey their environment, understand their aspirations and then to tailor a bespoke solution that fits their requirements, budget and strategy.

Recommended Cleaning Frequencies
Cleaning frequencies are designed to provide an easy and clear standard for determining what services and frequencies are needed for your Data Center. Frequencies are based upon guidelines recommended by ASHRAE in their publication Particulate and Gaseous Contamination in Datacom Environments. Datacom equipment center cleanliness can be maintained by establishing a consistent cleaning schedule. Cleaning frequency should be increased during construction or other contamination-producing activities. The essential areas to clean and time intervals are described below:

Under Floor
Minimum of once per year:
remove large debris that cannot be vacuumed by hand.
vacuum all accessible surfaces with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter vacuum
Use mechanical actions (i.e., wiping) to remove contamination that cannot be removed by vacuuming alone.

Floor Surfaces
Minimum of once per week:
HEPA vacuum floor surface.
Do not dry mop or sweep the floor surface. This does not remove contaminants and can resuspend material.

Minimum of once per quarter:
Damp-clean entire floor surface
Scrub floor surface as needed
Remove contamination beneath equipment racks and cabinets by brushing and HEPA vacuuming

NOTE: Most raised floor panels are covered with high-pressure laminate (HPL). This surface material is very durable but should not be abused. High-speed buffers should not be used. Low-speed scrubbers can be used. Water and non-corrosive cleaning solutions should be used sparingly and should be removed promptly from the surface. HPL flooring should never be waxed. Some, but not al HPL materials are conductive for electrostatic discharge (ESD) control. Coating this surface with standard floor finish may block the ESD path through the panel. Vinyl composition tile (VCT) floors should be periodically stripped and refinished with antistatic floor finish.

Equipment and Rack/Cabinet Exteriors
Minimum of once per quarter:
HEPA vacuum and/or dam-wipe surfaces with an antistatic cleaner.
Environment – Walls, Sills, Ledges, etc

Minimum once per quarter:
HEPA vacuum and/or dam-wipe surfaces with an antistatic cleaner.

Is an Indoor Air Quality Test (IAQT) in itself enough to determine if Data Center Clean is needed?
The simple answer is NO. These tests are a snap shot in time of the air quality within a room. Changes within the room immediately before or after a test could negatively or positively effect the results. It does not measure all particulate contamination that is settled under and above the raised access floor. Settled particulate should also be addressed when considering your Data Center cleaning program. A common sense approach which includes; visual inspection, air quality testing, surface cleanliness testing and sample analysis is the only way to confidently determine if a room needs a clean or to the point, what level of clean the room needs.

How should Indoor Air Quality Testing be done?
A single Air Particle Count or Indoor Air Quality Test (IAQT) measures the volume of airborne particulate within one cubic meter (1m3) of air within the room. The ISO standard requires that a number of test be taken at different positions in the room depending on the size and shape of the room. The sum of the results is then divided and the average is the volume per cubic meter for that room.

The Process
1. Using a hand held or static air particle machine that has been properly calibrated collect one (1) air sample per 25 square meters of room space. (I.e. in a 100 sqm room a minimum of four (4) tests should be taken.

  • The location of each test should be documented and if you are looking to trend the air quality in a certain room future tests should be taken at the same location each time.

2. The particle machine should be at an elevated height of one (1) meter above the floor surface.

  • The particle machine should remain static during the test.
  • The machine should be set to complete each test over a one (1) minute (sixty (60) second) period.
  • During the test the machine will draw in one (1) cubic meter of air for analysis.

3. The machine should be set to test particles at 0.5 microns for Class 7 & 8 and 0.3 micron for Class 5 & 6.

4. The results of each test should be recorded. (I.e. test 1 = 3,100,000; test 2 = 2,400,012; test 3 = 832,000 etc) these results should be added together (6,332,011) and then divided by the number of tests (3) to get an average for the room (2,110.670) which in this example is a Class 8.

5. ISO table to identify the class achieved:

Can the facility be cleaned while its live?
Absolutely, 99.9% of our cleans in operational Data Centers are done while the environment is live and in full operation. No shutdowns or downtime is required for the vast majority of our cleans. The only acceptations would be if you want CFS to do internal cleans to Servers or Network Equipment (Component Level Cleans) or internal cleans on UPS’s, Air Handles or LV/HV PDU (Power Distribution Units) systems. We will work around your operations and your staff to ensure as little disruption as possible. Some activates however require undisrupted access to your work area for quality and Health & Safety reasons.

What vacuums should my cleaning company be using in the Data Center?
All vacuums should either employ a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter at a 99.97% efficiency at 0.3 microns; or a ULPA (Ultra Low Particulate Air) filter at 99.999% efficiency at 0.12 microns.