Insight and analysis on the data center space from industry thought leaders.

Leak Prevention in Data Centers: How Prepared Are You?

Leaks are one of the major causes of downtime in data centers. Fortunately, they can be prevented by following four best practices: Don't overprotect, don't assume you know the location of a leak, use wire-free detection, and empower your staff.

3 Min Read
Leak Prevention in Data Centers: How Prepared Are You?

Jeremy Swanner is the Executive Vice President of RLE Technologies.

One of the biggest downtime threats for data center operators is leaks, and preventing them is one of the most fundamental areas of protection for data centers and critical facilities. The 2013 Cost of Data Center Outages study by the Ponemon Institute reported that, of the data centers surveyed, 24 percent of unplanned outages were caused by weather, water, heat, or CRAC failures. Clearly, damage caused by moisture: weather-related fluid intrusion, faulty piping, and structural failures of roofs and windows, are some of the largest problems of which most data centers must contend. At the same time, leaks from water, caustic chemicals, or other corrosive fluids are also easily detected and extremely preventable. The following best practices for leak prevention can help ensure avoid moisture-related downtime.

Don’t Over Protect

Some facilities managers think they need to protect every square foot of space from water intrusions. While this is an attractive option for those with unlimited budgets, in reality the best use of resources is to fully protect critical areas around sensitive equipment with a variety of tools (fluid and chemical sensing cables, zone controllers, humidity sensors) and to use spot detectors to protect the rest of the facility (in some cases skipping nonessential areas altogether). Assess where the threats will most likely come from and only protect the necessary areas.

Don’t Assume You Know Where Water Will Run

In my experience, it is a bad idea to assume that water is going to run or pool in a certain way. When performing facility evaluations after a downtime event due to fluid incursion, I often see spot detectors in very logical places close to sensitive equipment that water has simply gone around. While well intentioned, in these instances I recommend the use of liquid detection cables. They are extremely versatile and can reach most of the areas where fluids discharge in a facility. This allows facilities managers to protect larger areas at a lower cost, and more importantly, removes the onerous task of trying to predict the direction liquid will flow if a fluid intrusion should occur.

When Retrofitting, Think Wire-Free

It’s not always feasible or cost effective to run more cables and wires all the way back to your home monitoring station or BMS/DCIM. Wire-free leak detection can be quickly and easily deployed to communicate wirelessly back to the base unit, saving you installation costs and time. Recent advances in wire-free monitoring technology have made it an attractive option for the modern facilities manager. Extended battery life, energy harvesting technology, ease of scalability, increased fault detection, and more robust security encryption are just a few of the reasons that wire-free sensors are gaining wider adoption in mission critical facilities.

Empower Your Staff

When an alarm goes off, you don’t want your staff waiting for someone else to show up to fix the problem or standing around and wondering what to do. Implement a reporting and documentation system that includes everyone who might be called upon to act in a crisis. Ongoing training for staff allows managers to make adjustments and improvements, analyze and rectify errors, and avoid making similar missteps in the future. When it comes to water and other fluid incursions, seconds truly count. Make sure everyone can act and knows what to do.

There are a wide variety of threats that facilities managers have to contend with on a daily basis: hardware failure, hackers, natural disasters, and of course, human error. Thankfully, downtime due to fluid intrusions in the data center are one of the few threats that can be prevented, thanks to the advances made in modern facility monitoring technology. By employing these four best practices, you can ensure that small leaks are stopped before they cause big problems.

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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