Maximizing Uptime: Strategic Equipment Restoration for Data Centers and Clean Rooms

Categories: Data Centers, Industries

Data Center

In today's business landscape, data centers and clean rooms are indispensable assets, playing host to crucial high-value equipment, invaluable data, and applications that keep businesses afloat. Due to the intricate and fragile nature of these rooms/setups, contamination from unforeseen disasters such as fires, floods, or even a simple construction mishap can cause severe disruptions and downtime for a business and potentially even create a need to replace equipment. Amidst this chaos, equipment restoration can emerge as a viable alternative solution that often remains overlooked. This blog will shed light on the strategic approach to equipment restoration in data centers and clean rooms, with a focus on efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Managing Data Centers and Clean Rooms: A Practical Approach

Data centers serve as the operational hubs for business, hosting servers, storage devices, and network equipment that underpin vital business operations. Despite their importance, these facilities are unfortunately susceptible to equipment failure due to various factors, including power surges, over-temperature events, contamination, and human error. Determining the equipment's power path, isolating the malfunctioning components, and carrying out testing to pinpoint the failure's origin are paramount in the event of a failure.

Switching focus to clean rooms, these are meticulously controlled environments utilized for manufacturing and research purposes. They are engineered to sustain exceptionally low particulate levels, including dust, airborne microbes, aerosol particles, and chemical vapors. Any degree of contamination in these settings can result in significant product defects and losses. Therefore, the upkeep of these rooms, through rigorous cleaning procedures, specialized equipment, and high-efficiency filters, is of utmost importance.

Effective Restoration Strategies for Equipment Failures and Contamination Incidents

Even with top-notch preventive measures, equipment failures, and contamination incidents are still possible.  The best strategy is to delineate the extent of damage, collect relevant data, inspect the affected equipment, and assess repair or replacement costs.  Sometimes, disassembling the equipment into subcomponents for comprehensive testing and diagnosis may be a part of the restoration strategy.

In the IT equipment sphere, failures can be intricate and multifaceted. They can range from hard drive and RAID controller issues to software and application failures, presenting a multitude of potential causes. The introduction of virtual machines has also added an extra layer of complexity because these software-based servers mimic physical servers, but their existence can complicate log file retrieval and increase data recovery costs.

Equipment restoration is the act of returning equipment to its original condition post-disaster. This process may employ various techniques, such as dry methods like using a HEPA vacuum and brush to eliminate particulates, or wet methods involving deionized water to cleanse contamination. The ultimate aim is to eradicate all contaminants, often returning the equipment to a cleaner state than pre-disaster.

Efficiency and Cost-Effectiveness of Equipment Restoration

Understanding the nature of contamination is a crucial aspect of equipment restoration. High contamination levels can compromise equipment reliability, rendering restoration less feasible. Taking wipe samples and conductance readings to assess the contamination level and its corrosive nature are necessary, along with consulting guidelines on acceptable contamination levels are provided by standards such as the Department of Energy study and the IPC-J standard.

When restoration is viable, it presents several benefits over replacement:

  • Primarily, it is often quicker. The average project time for restoration is 12 days, whereas replacing equipment might involve lengthy lead times, especially for items manufactured overseas.
  • Restoration also proves to be more cost-effective, usually costing less than 30% of the replacement price. Restoration can also aid in maintaining business continuity. Many businesses cannot afford to have their equipment offline for extended periods. Collaborating with a restoration company allows them to operate at a reduced capacity while their equipment is being restored.

There are challenges to consider, though. Some manufacturers may nullify warranties on restored equipment, but third-party manufacturers frequently offer replacement warranties that surpass the original.

The effectiveness of equipment restoration is evident in a case involving a university data center that suffered a fire. Smoke and soot contamination affected $40 million worth of IT equipment. Through meticulous restoration, the equipment was operational again for less than $1 million.

In a separate incident, a biomedical vaccine production facility experienced two contamination events due to construction errors. Despite the contamination of $2.7 million worth of equipment, restoration was accomplished for $67,000.

Managing and maintaining data centers and clean rooms requires an in-depth understanding of the equipment and potential failure modes. Understanding the complexities of these environments and the equipment they house means better preparation for and responses to equipment failures, minimizing downtime and disruption. Equipment restoration emerges as a practical, economical solution for businesses dealing with contamination disasters. By determining the nature of contamination and applying approved restoration techniques, equipment can be returned to its pre-loss state, saving valuable time and money.



Jared Fegan

Jared Fegan

Jared is a Senior Project Consultant, IT Hardware for Envista Forensics in Columbus, Ohio. In this role, Jared provides failure analysis of computer network equipment by developing methodology and testing procedures for computer server examination as well as conducting onsite evaluations. Based on his thorough analysis, Jared provides written reports and valuation of remediation to clients in the insurance, legal, law enforcement, and public communities.

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