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

7 Tips for Managing Preventive Maintenance at Data Centers

Preventative maintenance ensures maximum reliability by taking precautionary and proactive steps to reduce unscheduled equipment downtime and other avoidable failures. The purpose of preventive maintenance is to institute scheduled inspections so that defects can be spotted before they evolve into something more severe, writes Jeff O'Brien of Maintenance Assistant.

Industry Perspectives

January 23, 2014

5 Min Read
Data Center Knowledge logo

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. 



Maintenance Assistant

Can you afford to have one of your critical power distribution assets fail because you missed your scheduled preventative maintenance? According to a recent study by Ponemon Institute, one minute of data center downtime now costs $7,900 on average. With an average reported incident length of 90 minutes, we can calculate that the average incident now costs $700,000. This large cost is related to the fact that modern data centers are supporting critical websites and cloud software applications.

Preventative maintenance ensures maximum reliability by taking precautionary and proactive steps to reduce unscheduled equipment downtime and other avoidable failures. The purpose of preventive maintenance is to institute scheduled inspections so that defects can be spotted before they evolve into something more severe. Those data centers that don’t carry out planned and preventative maintenance have an increased risk of asset failure. Here are seven tips for first class preventive maintenance at your data center:

Safety First

Data centers contain numerous hazards that can impact the life and health of technicians. Data center technicians need to be aware of potential safety hazards when performing preventive maintenance activities. Use lockout tag out where necessary. Ensure data center technicians are familiar with health and safety processes when performing preventive maintenance tasks by documenting them in every PM procedure and by providing regular safety training.

Schedule Regular Maintenance and Inspections

Performing preventive maintenance on UPS and batteries greatly reduces the chance of failure during power outages. In a recent study by Emerson Network Power, the Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) for UPS units that received two PM service events per year is 23 times higher than a machine with no PM service events per year. The same is true for other critical systems such as HVAC and generators. Regular preventive maintenance can reduce the chance of failure, reduce the amount of energy consumed and extend equipment lifetime. The manufacturers recommended preventive maintenance is a goof place to start. These can be revised over time.

Use Standardized Checklists

Standardized checklists ensure technicians know what to do during the preventive maintenance, while ensuring the same standard checks are being performed every time. Again, the manufacturers recommended maintenance is a good point to start and this can be refined over time. In data centers, these are called Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), Methods of Procedure (MOP) and Emergency Operating Procedures (EOP). Certain jobs may require additional training and safety procedures so SOPs, EOPs and MOPs should outline what is required.

Enforce PM Compliance

Given the potential costs of data center downtime, it is important to complete PM’s and to complete them on time. The easiest way to do this is to measure and enforce PM compliance. Your preventive maintenance compliance (PMC) score is the percentage of scheduled PM work orders that get done on time. Who decides that time? The 10% rule of maintenance is a good starting point. The rule states that a preventive maintenance action should be completed within 10% of the scheduled maintenance interval. For example, a quarterly PM every 90 days, should be completed within 9 days of the due date or it is out of compliance. The 10% rule can help keep your PM intervals constant, reducing the time variable variation, thus improving reliability.

Keep Detailed PM and Work Order Records

If things go wrong, insufficient documentation can lead more heartache than a data center manager needs. Well-documented PM reports ensure the data is readily available whenever the auditors come to inspect. Also Historical work order information can be used to identify chronic equipment problems and unacceptable levels of downtime so solutions such as regular inspections or preventive maintenance can be put in place to proactively reduce the level of downtime going in the future.


As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “you cannot improve what you cannot measure”. By measuring your performance through KPI’s such as PM compliance, availability and reliability; you can optimize your preventive maintenance to maximize its effectiveness while minimizing costs.

Get a CMMS

A CMMS is the best way to help track, measure and improve your preventive maintenance and meet 6 tips and tricks mentioned above. Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), sometimes called Preventive Maintenance Software, enables the facility manager, subordinates and customers to track the status of maintenance work on their assets and the associated costs of that work in one comprehensive system. CMMS software can help a data center drive down the cost of maintenance, increase asset life, improve reliability and productivity and reduce equipment downtime. It ensures that preventive maintenance is performed regularly according to established protocols. It will also give the maintenance technician quick access to equipment information such as procedures, work order history and maintenance data, and metric indicators.

Regular, scheduled maintenance can easily pay for itself by preventing unplanned downtime events thanks to battery or capacitor failure, clogged air filters, welded relays and even outdated firmware. You can digitize and streamline your preventive maintenance operations by consolidating personnel, documents, assets, data, work logs and inventory in one location using a CMMS.

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.

Subscribe to the Data Center Knowledge Newsletter
Get analysis and expert insight on the latest in data center business and technology delivered to your inbox daily.

You May Also Like