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Importance of Data Centre Room Integrity Testing

4th, June 2019

As the population increases its demand for data availability at the touch of a button in real time, we see the reliability upon our data centres intensify, but the complexity of these challenging mission critical infrastructures can often be underestimated until disaster strikes.

Of the myriad of threats facing data centre operators, perhaps none is as damaging as a fire. A blaze can spread quickly and annihilate operations in very little time.

Ensuring that adequate fire suppression is installed within the data centre will assist in reducing the effects of a fire should one break out and with 33% of all unplanned outages caused by thermal issues a fire suppression system is a must have for data centre operators.

On 12th September 2016 Dutch banking giant, ING saw their gas-based fire suppression system mistakenly discharge resulting in an emergency shutdown denying customers access to their money for almost 24 hours.

Although this was a false alarm it demonstrates the importance of such a system and the need for them to be reliable, which the likes of BT know only too well when in June 2015 they lost service for a day when the data centre operated by a company in Belfast caught fire.

Choosing the correct fire suppression system should be given careful attention so that it can alert you to an incident and have the capability to suppress a fire before it has taken hold, maintaining it is just as important which includes undertaking Room Integrity testing and sealing on a regular basis.

If a room is inadequately sealed this can allow the fire suppression gas agent to dissipate too quickly and not extinguish the fire, and if the room is not equipped with a fire damper activation of the gas suppression system may cause internal structural damage to the building with the possibility of causing the extinguishant to escape, before it has dealt with the fire. Both scenarios being ineffective in distinguishing a fire and preventing a disaster occurring.

British Standard ISO 15004 states that any enclosure protected by a gaseous fire suppression system must have a room integrity test carried out annually. Failing to do so could also affect your insurance policy!

Before you think to ignore the warning, consider how much it costs to undertake a Room Integrity Test, on average less than £800, compared to the cost of downtime. The Poneman Institute and Emerson Network Power study shows that the average cost of a data centre outage has steadily increased from $502,502 in 2010 to $740,357 in 2016 (38% net change). This cost will, and has no doubt, continued to increase over the past three years.

Workspace Technology offers Room Integrity Testing and Room Sealing services at a competitive cost. Prevention is always better than cure and when it comes to your data centre protection can you really afford not to act?

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