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What's Your Data Center IQ? The Survey Says ...

What's Your Data Center IQ? The Survey Says ...

Do you know what the most common root cause of data center outages is? Have you implemented proper arc flash protection?

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. --Ponemon Institute and Emerson Network Power teamed up recently to develop a 36-question Data Center IQ test to gauge key best practices that 560 IT operations, facilities engineering, and senior management professionals in North America may know about but may not necessarily implement.

In order to identify personal and industry strengths and weaknesses, the multiple-choice test focused on five areas: availability, speed of deployment, cost control, productivity, and risk management.

The full Ponemon report won’t be released until next month, but Dan Draper, director of data center programs for Emerson, shared a portion of that test and results with Data Center World attendees on Tuesday. Some questions were thought-provoking and some simply “trivia,” according to Draper. All in all, though, the results were interesting, to say the least.

Some of the more serious questions revolved around downtime and arc flashes in the work environment.

When asked about the average duration of a complete data center outage according to Ponemon, the majority knew that 107 minutes was the correct answer. That’s based on the time nothing is computed or processed in the data center and based on on-site triage audits, said Draper.

The majority also knew that battery failure in a UPS was the number one root cause of data center outages. However, Draper questioned whether knowing this fact and having a protocol in place for testing and replacing weak batteries are two different things. “You know that batteries are the weakest link in your data center. You knew that coming in, but do you test your batteries? I just want to get you thinking,” he told attendees.

The question about how many US workers wind up in burn centers caused by arc flashes annually in an organization, and how many had one in their data centers, raised some eyebrows. Most respondents knew it was the highest answer option provided—2,000. Yet, 5 percent had first-hand experience. It gave Draper cause to question how well-prepared industry professionals actually are.

In fact, revisions to the 2015 National Fire Protection Association’s Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace (NFPA 70E 2015) mandates annual arc flash training, according to an article in Data Center Management magazine.

The new arc flash requirements also force data centers to calculate the arc flash boundary distance for each piece of hazardous equipment and to determine what arc flash protection and personal protective gear are required.

“Do you have areas roped off while doing maintenance that involves electricity to protect a vendor for yourself?” asked Draper.

Not every test question focused on such dire issues. For example, when respondents were asked if they knew their PUE, 87 percent did; yet only 32 percent actually knew what PUE (Power Usage Efficiency) stood for. When Draper asked everyone in the room if they had to report that number to a company executive, everyone raised their hands. When test-takers were asked if turning off the lights was part of the calculation, only half answered “true.”

“So, we all have to measure and report the PUE to someone, yet most don’t know what the letters stand for and only half know that turning off the lights is part of the equation,” quipped Draper. “Is this a meaningless, worthless metric? I don’t know, but it’s something to think about.”

He then asked attendees how they pronounced DCIM. Some said each letter individually, and others called it D-CIM. Draper's point in asking? “There are a lot of new terms out there, but how well do we really understand them?”

While some of the questions were light-hearted and others very serious, combined they all served to bring awareness to key issues facing data center and facilities professionals.

Draper concluded: Ultimately, it’s one thing to know best practices, but if you’re not implementing them, what’s the point?

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