6 Data Center Questions Can Determine Mission Critical Needs at Branch Offices

The answers to these six questions can help facility managers determine the needs of each and every mission-critical facility.

With so many companies putting critical applications and databases in the cloud, or hosting their IT footprint in a colocation facility or private data center, facility managers might think that server rooms and data closets they have gone the way of typewriters, VCRs, and public telephones. But these types of mission-critical data rooms are more common than initially believed.

Every remote office or branch office owned by a company has a server room or data closet, whether or not those terms are used to describe it. It is the place to house mission critical IT and / or network equipment that is specific to the needs of that particular site. Some IT professionals now use the term “perimeter room” to describe a room that houses servers connected to a perimeter network.

“Many companies don’t bother to consider the mission-critical infrastructure needs of branch offices or edge locations,” says Scott Offermann, general manager of critical environments, Cushman & Wakefield. “Only after they have a power outage at that site do they realize that their operations are much more critical to their business than they thought.”

It’s time for facility managers to take another look at server rooms and data closets. During this review, FMs should measure the uptime requirements and potential downtime losses of remote offices to determine how much infrastructure and redundancy equipment they actually need at each site, based on its importance to the business.

When assessing mission-critical needs, facility managers must first make a list of all remote offices, branch offices, or edge locations owned by the company. Then ask the following six questions regarding each site:

1. What types of mission critical teams does the company have at each site?

Even if managers have already moved all of their essential applications and data to the cloud, and / or moved critical IT servers to an off-site facility, each remote office or branch location will still have some type of IT or network equipment. that must be maintained. on premises, to support the ongoing business operations of that site.

In some locations, on-site mission-critical equipment may be limited to the building’s Wi-Fi router, firewall, and communications equipment. These items may not seem essential, until you realize that a workplace can’t do business without them.

“Many companies don’t realize how dependent they are on Wi-Fi until they lose it,” says Offermann. “If your Wi-Fi goes down, your employees instantly lose access to the Internet, email, VoIP phone, online meeting services like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and any off-site production environment or software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications they use on a daily basis. Often, they lose their ability to interact with customers and conduct simple business operations. These days, no Wi-Fi equals no business. ”

Elsewhere, FMs may choose to keep certain IT servers on site for various reasons, such as:

  • Servers host intellectual property that managers prefer to keep behind a firewall.
  • The servers host applications or data that, for security reasons, cannot be moved to an external data center or hosted in the cloud.
  • The servers are on a perimeter network and host high-speed applications used by employees at that particular site. By keeping these servers on premises, in close proximity to end users, administrators reduce application latency and also reduce the amount of bandwidth required to transmit data collected by applications to a central server in a data center. far.

2. What mission critical infrastructure (if any) do FMs already have at each site and how much redundancy is there?

At each business location, facility managers must take inventory of any mission-critical infrastructure equipment (UPS, cooling units, etc.) they already have in the server room or data closet. Next, determine how much redundancy they do or do not have to support critical IT servers and network equipment in the event of a power, cooling, or network failure.

“We often consult with companies that are repurposing mission-critical space across multiple offices,” Offerman says. “In some places, it’s a server room that used to house IT teams that were moved into a data center. In others, it is an independent distribution frame (IDF) closet that previously contained both landline and Internet cables, which have been replaced by Wi-Fi and VoIP. These locations have power supplies, cooling units, and a rack-mounted UPS, so the company believes it is okay to move production servers there. But often these sites don’t have full redundancy. If the UPS fails or a single air conditioning unit fails, the servers in that room could also fail. ”

3. What are the uptime requirements for each location?

Facilities managers must evaluate the uptime requirements for each site the company owns, based on its importance to business operations. Some sites will require 100 percent uptime, while others may require less availability. The requirements will be different for each site, but for each remote office, branch, or edge location, you should evaluate the following:

  • The functions of each site and the duties it performs for your business;
  • The importance of those functions to your overall business operations and profitability;
  • What could happen if this site suffered a sudden outage and how the employees at each site would handle it.

4. What is the cost of downtime for each location?

It is important to understand that it is not a question of if, but of when a remote office or branch will be closed. As with uptime requirements, the cost of downtime will depend on the importance of each site to business operations.

In some cases, a good contingency plan can offset potential downside losses. For example, if you have a branch that handles all customer service operations and that site goes down, facility managers can determine that the losses resulting from downtime will be $ 1 million per day. However, if there are three branches handling customer service and one office goes down, the other two locations could temporarily take over customer service functions. In this case, the losses resulting from your business downtime could be determined to be only $ 300,000 per day.

“When calculating downtime losses, be sure to factor in reputational loss and how it will affect your business,” says Offermann. “If, for example, your one customer support site goes down for a day, you may not lose too many customers. But if your customer support goes down for a full week, will your customers decide to take your business down? another part? lose if that happens? ”

5. How much mission critical infrastructure would you need at each location to make it completely redundant?

For each office, branch, or edge location, you must determine the following:

  • The additional mission critical infrastructure that you would need to add to achieve full redundancy at this site and how much it will cost.
  • The annual costs of maintaining the mission-critical infrastructure for this site.
  • The services (i.e., fuel supply for backup generators) that you need to achieve full redundancy at this site and the cost of those services.

6. What is the TCO of mission critical infrastructure versus cost of downtime for each location?

Before facility managers purchase any new equipment for facilities, they must first compare the total cost of ownership (TCO) of mission-critical infrastructure against potential downtime losses for each location. It may be that the cost of downtime is actually less than the TCO of mission critical equipment, which means that the downtime for this site would be more profitable.

For example, to achieve full redundancy at a given site, FMs can determine a total cost of $ 1 million. This could include $ 200,000 for a UPS, $ 200,000 for a backup air cooling unit, $ 500,000 for an on-site generator, and $ 100,000 per year for maintenance, parts, fuel services, and so on.

However, you can also determine that if this site goes down, your business loss will be $ 100,000 per day. Even assuming the worst-case scenario of a week-long outage, the largest loss from a seven-day downtime would be $ 700,000. In other words, the business losses from the downtime of this site would be less than the TCO of the mission critical infrastructure.

“At some point, downtime in a remote office or branch becomes more profitable than achieving full redundancy,” says Offermann. “If you determine that taking a site down would mean a great financial loss and a loss of reputation, then it is worth investing in the infrastructure equipment you need. But you should not spend unnecessary money if you determine that the potential downtime losses are tolerable for your company. ”

Robert S. Lindsay is a marketing and technical writer based in the Seattle area. He writes for the data center and critical infrastructure industries, as well as for cloud, IoT, mobile and telecommunications technology companies.

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