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The 7 Pitfalls of Data Centre Design

2nd, May 2019

Choosing a data centre to house your most important assets is a risky business. Workspace Technology have listed the main pitfalls face by those responsible for the procurement and management of their mission critical infrastructure.

Your data centre or server room primarily serves two functions. Firstly, they provide an appropriate space for your IT assets and secondly, they ensure that your mission critical infrastructure is secure and reliable.

Designing your data centre space is certainly not a decision to be made lightly as failing to consider all design options could lead to an ineffective data centre and an increase in energy costs. Once a location is carefully identified it is of paramount importance that the suitability, reliability, and security are key considerations.

Investing in a data centre is a significant purchase, with decision makers being faced with budget constraints and conflicts of interdepartmental strategic priorities. Compromise will undoubtedly play a part in the final decision. However, compromise increases the likelihood of risk! Our article looks to highlight the key pitfalls in data centre management and how to minimise the risk.

Pitfall #1: Creating Opportunity for Downtime

Downtime is one of a data centre’s greatest risks and one that should always be avoided. Although the public utility power distribution systems are reliable in most developed countries, even the best utility systems are inadequate to meet the needs of the critical non-stop data processing operations.

By opting for a Data Centre UPS solution, it will maintain service for critical devices by delivering continuity of service under power failure conditions. However, regular servicing and ensuring that batteries are replaced is crucial to ensuring that they are available when needed.

Standby power generation is a key component of high availability power systems for Data Centre and Server Rooms. IT systems may operate for minutes or even a few hours on a UPS battery, but local power generation capability is crucial to achieving high availability and continuous operation in utility power failure situations.

By ensuring the deployment of ‘right size’ data centre power design techniques it will help to reduce overall power consumption and lead to a reduced total cost of ownership. The design of the electrical switchgear and associated power distribution systems need to meet the predicted design capacity and system availability.

Pitfall #2: Construction Not Fit for Purpose

No doubt one of the first decisions that you will make is where your data centre will be located and depending on this it will often lend itself to a certain type of construction. If you have a vacant office or warehouse area you may opt for us to repurpose the space or if you have available land you may prefer a modular data centre which can be expanded upon in time if required.

The environment in which the data centre will be operating within will also play an important part. Is it near the sea? Saltwater can play havoc with A/C systems. Is it in a dry and dusty area? Those dust particles can cause devastating effects if they get into the equipment. Is it on a remote site? If so, security is of paramount importance.

Design is key to ensure that the data centre construction is fit for purpose. It’s fine to put the A/C units on the roof but consider the practicality when they need to be serviced and replaced. Investing in a data centre is a significant expenditure therefore if your company is agile and looking to potentially grow or wind up over the coming years then a modular data centre is the perfect fit as it as it can be added to and reduced as required providing greater flexibility rather than a ‘brick and mortar’ solution where you may find yourself struggling for space or rattling around.

Pitfall #3: Inadequate Cooling Systems

The cooling of data centres is not only expensive but is the most likely piece of equipment to go wrong. The heat generated from the cabinets needs to be neutralised adequately to ensure that equipment is kept between 18 to 27oC with a maximum humidity level of 60%3 according to ASHRAE’s 2008 guidelines. Failing to do so risks equipment failure.

Consideration to the type of cooling system is as equally important opting for either traditional Perimeter Computer Room Air Conditioning (CRAC) units, In-Row, On-Rack/Rear Door, Overhead Cooling systems and our award winning Freecool® evaporative fresh air free cooling technology.

The type of airflow management system should complement and enhance your data centre cooling technology. Airflow management systems include floor brush grommets, blanking panels, baffle systems and aisle containment systems.

Energy efficiency is often at the top of a company’s agenda placing a high value on Corporate Social Responsibility. A data centre’s Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) ratio tends to be the accepted measure of the energy efficiency. Importance may be placed on not only how energy is consumed but also how it could possibly be re-used to increase your ‘green’ credentials.

Pitfall #4: Technical Turbulence

Cabling is in abundance within a data centre and it is important that is not only adequate but also scalable. Data centre cabling infrastructure supports flexible connectivity, future growth and potentially new technologies, providing data centre performance, density and manageability, without compromise.

Communications availability is crucial to data centre operations. Afterall, if connectivity is compromised risk arises and the consequences are both costly in terms of money but also reputation.

Ensuring that you have the correct type and quantity of cabling and that it has been installed correctly will help to improve continuity of communication and if nothing else if it is nice and tidy rather than a jumbled mess if there is a problem it will be easier to rectify.

Pitfall #5: No Big Brother

A data centre is not for the faint hearted it takes qualified IT personnel to ensure that it is operating correctly. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to be onsite 24/7/365 and when you are not there who is keeping an eye on it?
Firstly, who has access to this valuable equipment? By having a robust security system in place, it will mitigate the risk of rogue individuals entering unauthorised. This could include CCTV, key access pads, biometrics and gated access where possible.

If you are not physically working within your data centre, you need to consider incorporating Management & Monitoring equipment. The ability to alert a business to disasters or potential performance issues at the earliest moment is paramount. If a business can prevent a disaster or the occurrence of ‘over capacity’, it can safeguard against associated disruptions such as waiting for replacement systems or relocating staff to a recovery centre. The management and monitoring of systems are therefore essential to ensuring continued availability and performance during the lifecycle of any critical data centre or server room environment.

Pitfall #6: Poor Aftercare

Failing to maintain your data centre is a pitfall that sees IT managers come unstuck time and time again. Skipping corners by attempting to maintain equipment in-house by untrained personnel proves to be both costly and ineffective in the long-term.

By undergoing a regular schedule of Planned Preventative Maintenance, it ensures that equipment is running correctly and efficiently whilst prolonging the life span. Combining traditional data centre maintenance with our Optimised Support Services; Workspace Technology can reduce operational risks for Data Centre Managers whilst helping to improve energy efficiency. Ongoing energy improvements can range from 5% to 30% depending on the current performance of the data centre with typical average improvements in the region of 15%.

Managing daily data centre infrastructure operational challenges associated with complex technology and multi-vendor relationships can be frustrating and time-consuming, depriving you of precious time to focus on what is important. Internal personnel are challenged with maintaining a full range of data centre infrastructure while addressing budget pressures, critical project deadlines, and shortage of skilled resources. Opting to outsource the facilities management of your entire data centre environment, or parts thereof, to a trusted service provider is a smart alternative and ultimately the most cost effective!

Pitfall #7: Fire Protection

Some companies risk losing millions of pounds with one single data centre glitch. Therefore, it’s not hard to believe that in the event of a catastrophic data centre fire, a company may not only lose millions but may also go out of business.

By having a suitable fire suppression system, it will provide essential security against fire. Simply put, if an environment is incapable of breeding a fire then there will be no threat of fire damage to the facility. In a Network Critical Physical Infrastructure, the main goal of a fire protection system is to get the fire under control without disrupting the flow of business and without threatening the personnel inside.


Designing and operating a data centre is a far more complex process than it may at first appear. Hopefully this article draws attention to some of the main pitfalls that you should be aware of before deciding on the final solution. Remember cost should not always be the determining factor in the final decision, having a quality fit for purpose data centre should be your priority.

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