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Maintenance Management and Your Data Center

Data center maintenance needs to be planned proactively so equipment issues can be identified before they become serious, writes Jeff O'Brien of Maintenance Assistant Inc. Develop an asset management strategy for your infrastructure to stop the problems before they start.

Jeff O’Brien is an industry specialist and blogger at Maintenance Assistant Inc., a provider of innovative web-based CMMS, which is a tool to manage facilities and infrastructure equipment at data centers. 

Unplanned maintenance costs 3 – 9 times more than planned maintenance which is mainly due to overtime-labor costs, collateral damage, emergency parts and service call outs. When data center infrastructure equipment goes down, there are a number of other costs to consider such as data loss, data corruption, damaged reputation, inefficient use of resources and safety issues, among others.

Can you afford to have one of your critical power distribution assets fail unexpectedly?

According to the Ponemon Institute, downtime costs the average data center $7,900 per minute. With the typical outage lasting 86 minutes, that equates to approximately $700,000 for an average outage. As data centers grow, become more complex and host progressively more critical business data, you can expect this number to scale accordingly.

Stop the damage before it starts

Like any asset intensive businesses, it is vital that critical infrastructure assets are kept in good working order and ready to function when needed. For the average data center, the basic “fix it when it breaks” strategy is not an acceptable approach for mission critical assets such as backup generators, CRAC units and fire suppression systems. Yes, it is difficult to tell when a hard drive is going to fail so you replace it when it breaks. But data center organizations cannot allow this reactive mentality to bleed into the maintenance approach for support systems such as HVAC, UPS and generators.

Unplanned power outages can be seamless when backup UPS and generators activate flawlessly but the equipment must be able to perform its function when required. Data center maintenance needs to be planned proactively so issues can be identified before they turn into something more serious.

So how do you effectively plan and manage maintenance on critical infrastructure assets to limit emergency breakdowns and keep maintenance costs under control? The answer is simple - develop an asset management strategy for your infrastructure assets that focuses on planned preventative maintenance, set availability and reliability targets, and track it all using a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS).

What is a CMMS?

A CMMS is a software tool to help manage and track maintenance activities such as scheduled maintenance, work orders, parts inventory, purchasing and projects. It gives full visibility and control on maintenance operations so everyone can see what has been done and what needs to be done.

Dashboard KPI’s help measure current performance against defined goals. It also helps identify recurring tasks that need to be done or prioritized ensuring nothing is overlooked.

Benefits of using a CMMS

One of the biggest benefits of a CMMS is increased labor productivity as the system can help plan and track work so technicians can complete their tasks without interruption. This also helps optimize maintenance schedules and troubleshoot breakdowns because you can see what’s been done in the past.

A CMMS can also help a data center become more health and safety compliant. Safety procedures can be included on all job plans ensuring technicians are aware of the risks, and regular inspections on fire suppression systems can be planned and tracked ensuring the organization is compliant and ready for those audits.

CMMS software tracks how much time and money is being spent on which assets helping organizations make repair versus replace decisions effortlessly. Business intelligence reports built into the CMMS can be used to analyze and refine your maintenance tactics. Rather than trolling through receipts and dockets at the end of a year, the manager can simply run a costing report to see where the budget was spent and what needs to be improved.

It takes more than just software

A CMMS is not a magic bullet that will effortlessly turn your maintenance department into a well-oiled machine. Asset management is an ongoing process of continuous improvement and the CMMS is the tool to help manage it.  In time, it becomes a database of maintenance related information that can be used to outline best practices, identify workflow improvements, pinpoint cost savings and eliminate waste.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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