Friday, 10 July 2015

Payback time: The constraints of contracted data centre staff

It’s common for data centre providers to outsource the running of their facilities to outside companies; they provide the building, power and cooling and get other people to run the data centre itself.

These outsourced companies may sign a three, four or five year contract (or for even less if they come in halfway through) and so there is little incentive for the engineers and technicians to improve the smallest things that ultimately pay dividends later on down the line.

Those that implement initiatives that pay off in 10, 20 or 30 years are rarely given the credit they deserve; instead, when the effect kicks in, someone else takes the praise. The “payback” period is therefore relatively short and not conducive to a world-class, incentivised operation.

There is a focus at an industry and government level on improving the efficiency of data centres. When providers outsource the running of their facilities, they risk missing the incremental improvements that ultimately add up and become best practises.

Permanently employed data centre operatives have a high level of personal investment, which should be reassuring to those handing over a certain degree of their IT infrastructure. These permanent staff maintain accountability for their facility and know that they can make a serious difference - it feels like ‘theirs.’ If they think of a better way of doing something, they’re empowered to implement process optimisations and drive them into global operations. You can be sure that the rightful credit is given and that person gets the recognition he or she deserves.

The ability to make a real change is a powerful motivator and helps attract the best operatives. Equally, the operations employing permanent staff are incentivised to invest in their people and provide industry-leading training.

There is an important distinction between specialised real estate and professional data centre operation and that is, more often than not, the people.

Connectivity, cooling and power are (of course) fundamentals but it’s the people inside that are the real differentiators.  They have the power to evolve a facility; they have the power to make a potentially great data centre average or a good data centre great. But it’s not just about the quality of staff; it’s about enabling those talented individuals to constantly improve to the benefit of everyone involved. And when data centre engineering staff can stay with their company for 25 years, even the smallest things are worth doing as they feel the benefit down the line.

We’ve all heard the story of how British cycling coach Dave Brailsford enabled Team GB to completely dominate London 2012’s cycling medal table through marginal gains. The same principal applies to running a data centre. It’s the little things that add up to make a difference.

If a data centre is filled with employees who are motivated and enthusiastic about finding new and more efficient ways of doing things and solving issues instead of just leaving things as they are, there will be a constant stream of innovative forward thinking and strategies.

This attitude will inherently be the catalyst that spurs on constant improvement and advancement in the set-up, and provide customers with peace of mind that their infrastructure is being handled by the best in the business.

Guest blog by Mike Bennett, VP Global Data Centre Acquisition and Expansion at CenturyLink EMEA


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