Data Center FAQs

Here are some common questions we get asked by data center managers every day.  We hope this information helps you or your facility and invite you to contact us for a free phone or email consultation to discuss your needs in further detail.

Data Centers

Are the Standards for Cleaning My Data Center Different Than My Office Building?

Yes, there are several standards for data center cleaning that are different from normal commercial office buildings. Regular commercial buildings are not built to house computer equipment that has to operate every minute of every day without failing, overheating or being interfered with (RF and HFI). Cleaning services in a data center have to be carried out by controlled environment specialists that understand the data center dynamics and how to decontaminate these areas without causing downtime or microscopic long-term damage. Data Center Cleaners decontaminate (clean) equipment and supplies and their affects on different surfaces, energies and microscopic air particulate using testing instruments and specialized cleaning equipment and chemicals.

Since there are static, particulate, network signals and heat sources in the Data Center that can cause disastrous catastrophic loss of uptime to companies, cause fires and Indoor Air Pollution – there are several standards that help keep these environments safe including: ASHRAE, Federal Stan 209e, ISO, NFPA, RFI, HFI and IEST Standards [each one of those link to their respective websites].

Most equipment manufacturers have included standards for microscopic particle limits as well. Many of the warranty returns and faulty products have been linked to contamination at microscopic levels in the data centers where the equipment was installed or housed. Risk of loss and reputation has forced server manufacturers to confirm compliance of air particle, surface particle and static standards before they will install or warranty equipment within a facility.

Chart I: Equipment Manufacturers Statements on Contamination

IBM INSTALLATION MANUAL Publication GC22-7072-1 “If your site is unusually dirty or has a chemical odor, you should be concerned. Dirt and corrosive gases can cause corrosion and possible equipment damage. The building floor should be sealed to prevent dusting of concrete.”
AMDAHL PHYSICAL PLANNING MANUAL Publication MM-108334-010 “Environmental conditions for the room environment must be maintained within the acceptable limits to prevent adverse impact on performance and reliability. Electronic equipment is sensitive to air contaminants such as ferrous metal slivers, dirt fibers, and concrete particulate from unsealed concrete. Cement should be sealed to prevent the generation of particles.”
UNISYS INSTALLATION MANUAL Publication MA5227 “The quantity of dust in the air must no exceed 0.39 gram/1000m 3[0.03grain/1000ft3] maximum. The specifications for dust pollutants as per United states Federal Standard 209b.The primary floor must be poured concrete that has been sealed to provide dust and humidity control.”
MMEMOREX ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS Publication 9885-4920 “In order to assure reliability operation of the HDA and its filter system, the size and type of airborne particles must be controlled. The computer room should meet or exceed Federal Standard 209E.The subfloor area must be cleaned and sealed prior to equipment installation”

What is Real-Time Air Particle Monitoring?

With real-time particle monitoring, a single particle counter or sensor is used at a specified location. Each event is detected and counted, and there are no gaps in the particle counting data. And particles are monitored in particles per cubic foot or per cubic meter. This system is best suited at very critical or sensitive operations, where events can occur suddenly or without warning.

If I am planning Construction in My Data Center, when in the construction process should I have Data Center Cleaners come in?

From the beginning – data center cleaners should be on-hand before the construction starts. There are three main phases of data center cleaning – if a common janitor or laborer does the cleaning during these stages, they could be setting up the data center facility for microscopic damage by using the wrong equipment, process or chemicals that degrade (take life from) your data center equipment. Many times, the effects from improper cleaning methods are microscopic and the corrosion process won’t be visible to the naked eye for a period of time.

For example, stainless steel… it can rust too! However, when you purchase a stainless steel item you expect it to withstand some long-term use before any corrosion can affect it – however, what if you wipe that stainless steel with bleach? You took the life of the item down to nothing and it can begin to rust immediately. The chemicals someone uses on a surface does not disappear, it changes form in order to dissipate.

What Are Some of the Basic Things I Should Be Doing To Keep My Data Center Safe From Downtime Due To Contamination?

Some of the basic contamination control methods in a data center are:

  • Utilize clean step mats at doorways
  • Clean / replace CRAC unit filters on a regular maintenance schedule
  • Use particle testing as a gauge of environment condition
  • Use Brush Grommets to Close off server cabinet cut outs or access floor holes.
  • Have delaminated or trip tiles replaced
  • Inspect water cooling units regularly
  • Disallow cardboard and pallets in the data center or provide plastic storage bins for boxes that need to remain.
  • Removal and repair of sub floor corrosion
  • Change any rubber belts used in Data Center AC Units to Tech Pro Belts
  • Air Particle Counts to confirm micro-contamination levels
  • Clean Your data center, network room, ISP or other controlled environment on a regular schedule every year according to industry standards with qualified Data Center Cleaners (including subfloor plenum, top of floor and equipment)

What is the minimum Frequency I should be cleaning my Data Center?

Although there are many benchmark levels and consistent building specs followed by most data centers – every data centers has unique operations, equipment and personnel circumstances. Some have human operators in the room all the time everyday, some have almost no human traffic – whereas some have equipment that emits high amount of belt debris or hydrocarbons and others do not.

The main concern in determining the frequency of cleaning your data center is your operations as a unique data center. SET3 tests 8 data points on every full service clean including air particle counts, surface contamination and more according to ISO Standard 14644-1 through 9, WHO a& ASHRAE to help you confirm a tailored schedule to fit your operations.

Some Data Centers reduce risk by having day-to-day, weekly or monthly dust maintenance program with our Data Center Cleaning Technicians – while others set up a maintenance program on a quarterly, semi-annual or yearly basis. Among typical data centers with low foot traffic and up to code with the latest equipment, air and building technologies – a good baseline is as follows:

Minimum Frequency Recommendations for newer low traffic data centers:

Type Description
Quarterly 2x per year Annually
Subfloor Plenum Cleaning Cleaning, inspection of source of contaminates / building structure and air quality testing
X
Top of Access Floors ULPA and anti-static cleaning leaning of the top of conductive access floor tiles
X
VCT Strip and non-conductive Coating (if applicable) Removing the ESD Coating using antistatic HEPA filtered equipment and chemicals and recoating with a fresh ESD protection Layer
X
Ceiling Plenum Cleaning the plenum in the ceiling between the drop ceiling tiles and the roof
X
Equipment / Cabinet Exterior Cleaning Cleaning of the Exterior of the equipment / equipment cabinets
X
Interior Server / Equipment Cleaning Ionized antistatic cleaning of the interior of servers
X

There are other surfaces in a data center that may need cleaning also. For more information – contact SET3 representative (888) 935-0620.

Why shouldn’t I use the in-house or subcontracted janitorial service already in our building?

In house janitorial services for normal office buildings are usually supplied by a contractor or in-house employees that are not trained for this type of cleaning / decontamination work. Common janitorial cleaning chemicals, equipment and wax may make the data center look great now – but they will create chemical and physical transformations at microscopic levels causing corrosion, rust, static, overheating and hundreds of other problems leading to eventual downtime.

Since there are static, particulate, network signals and heat sources in the Data Center that can cause disastrous catastrophic loss of uptime to companies, cause fires and Indoor Air Pollution – there are several standards that help keep these environments safe including: ASHRAE, Federal Stan 209e, ISO, NFPA, RFI, HFI and IEST Standards.

Cleaning services in a data center have to be carried out by controlled environment cleaning specialists that understand the data center dynamics and how to decontaminate these areas without causing downtime or microscopic long-term damage. Data Center Cleaners decontaminate (clean) equipment and supplies and their affects on different surfaces, energies and microscopic air particulate using testing instruments and specialized cleaning equipment and chemicals.

No English Communication Skills can be catastrophic – If a cleaning person is not proficient in English – this can lead miscommunication to pushing buttons, EPO switches, unwanted fire suppression release and much more. SET3 condones all races, creeds and nationalities and is an Equal Opportunity Employer – however, proficient English, technical training and problem solving skills are a must for technical and emergency situations in Data Centers. Data Centers have unique dynamics and operations that are not found in normal commercial building applications.

SET3 crews have been expertly trained and certified on how to measure unseen particles to clean, on different types of chemical’s influences on charged/uncharged ESD surfaces and understand the science of static charges – and our technicians have the tools to remove these influences safely. If a janitor cannot understand the science of the unseen, cannot test for accuracy of particle/static removal, doesn’t understand static energy dynamics or how equipment and power in a data center works – they are missing the very basics of what is needed to clean your environment. There are hundreds of factors that a Data Center Cleaning Technician must be trained in – or they can cause downtime.

Download our related PDF: Improper Access Floor Cleaning PDF Download

Why, how and when should I seal my subfloor concrete?

The subfloor deck of a data center (computer room) is typically made of concrete and carries the physical load of the room, while at the same time directing the conditioned air to the equipment that rests on it. Concrete is a great structural foundation for most building applications, however, if concrete is not properly sealed – it can cause downtime in a data center environment. Some common dangers concrete floors can pose to data centers are outlined in this document.

Particulate Trapping

Unsealed concrete causes issues to a data center in multiple ways. Concrete is extremely porous, so it regularly traps and releases particles with which it comes into contact. Over time gravity helps this porous surface loosely collect many contaminants such as metal oxides, biological growth, and dust contamination. Air pressure or other environmental changes can then release plumes of these contaminants into the air-cooled equipment thereby causing downtime.

Concrete Dusting

Another point of concern is the composition and curing process of unsealed concrete. Concrete continues to cure continually over its lifespan, growing harder and continually turning back into its natural elements (efflorescence process), thus creating concrete dust. Concrete dusting occurs when the elements from the efflorescence process become airborne in the subfloor plenum and migrate to air-cooled equipment.

Three conditions must be present for efflorescence to occur: (1) presence of soluble salts, (2) availability of water to carry the salts in solution, and (3) a pathway for the solution’s migration to the surface (and water evaporation). Of the most common efflorescence salts — calcium carbonate, sodium sulfate, and potassium sulfate — the most prevalent and deleterious, by far, is calcium carbonate. During the cement hydration process, calcium hydroxide, Ca(OH)2, which is slightly soluble in water, is formed. The Ca(OH)2 dissolves and is carried to the concrete surface, where it reacts with carbon dioxide, CO2, in the air to form calcium carbonate, CaCO3, plus water (as shown below).

Ca(OH)2(dissolved) + CO2(dissolved) → CaCO3(solid) + H2O(liquid)

The water evaporates, leaving insoluble CaCO3 on the surface. Since the residue cannot be simply rinsed off with plain water, its removal requires the application of weak acid and/or abrasion; which may be impossible to do on a circuit board. If properly sealed or encapsulated, efflorescence may be stopped.

Improper Sealants For A Data Center

Normal to high profile seals applied to homes, garages or industrial buildings are not adequate for data centers – even if they adequately provide a moisture barrier. Most sealers are made with conductive elements such as minerals, metals and other cross-linking elements. As little as 250 volts of static electricity can cause data and memory loss, resets, erroneous commands, and damage to sensitive micro-circuitry.

    Typical signs of improper sealants are:

  • LOW P.S.I. RATING – A p.s.i. (pounds per square inch) rating less than 100,000 should not be used. A data center needs a mechanical seal that will adequately withstand the constant air pressure coming from the CRAC units, while still providing a moisture barrier. Normal seals deteriorate too quickly.
  • COLORED SEALS & COLORED EPOXY SEALANTS – Color is held in seals by the use of metals. Metals create cross-linking which easily conduct static charges. Some colored seals claim to be anti-static; however, static may still occur due to the metals within the seal once the seal has cured. Although the room is grounded, static events still can occur throughout the data center and cause downtime. It is has been learned that as little as 250 volts of static electricity can cause data and memory loss, resets, erroneous commands, and damage to sensitive micro-circuitry.
  • MINERAL SEALS – Mineral sealants are made of conductive elements. Since static can only be dissipated and cannot be controlled, use of a mineral seal is not sufficient for a data center and may increase the risk of static caused downtime.

Proper Data Center Subfloor Deck Sealant Application

Only a 100,000 p.s.i., low odor, non-conductive seal should be used in a data center. The seal should be clear and not have a colorful finish. It is best to apply the seal before installing the equipment in the room; however, if the data center is already in operation, a seal can still be put in place utilizing proper line-flow techniques from a professional data center sealing company. It is important to check the references of the company before allowing them into the data center, as this process is specialized. Normal contractors that provide floor sealers will not have adequate training to work safely in the data center without causing downtime. A trained technician for data center subfloor seal applications should be able to provide the proper chemical with the above stated qualities and have a track record of successfully working in a data center environment applying the sealant.

Download our related PDF: Subfloor Seal ServicesPDF Download

REFERENCES
American Concrete Institute, ACI 116R
Technical report — “Evaluation of the Causes of Efflorescence in Concrete Masonry Products and Recommended Guidelines for Efflorescence Control,” Degussa Admixtures (Barbour, Culton, & Nmai), 2005

What ISO class is a data center, server room, telco, MDF, IDF etc?

Typically these areas are labeled cleanzones and they are air quality controlled environments according to ISO Class 8 (According to ASHRAE TC9 and ISO 14644 and current definitions of air quality standards for controlled environments).

What temperature and humidity should my data center be at?

The laws of thermodynamics govern all data processing hardware. The computer manufacturer sets the temperature and relative humidity tolerances at a certain level, so room conditions need to be maintained at the set level to ensure that the equipment performs properly. Generally, the optimum temperature level is 65-72 degrees and the optimum humidity level is 45-55%.

Even though the equipment can operate within a fairly wide environmental range, it has been found that low humidity can cause electrostatic discharge. As electronic components, such as microchips, have become smaller, they have become more susceptible to damage from electrostatic discharge.

On the other hand, high humidity can cause corrosive build-up both in equipment and the subfloor structure. Metal oxide particles from floor pedestals, access grids, water pipes, and other exposed metal surfaces will find their way into sensitive electronic devices. Then, in addition, there is bacterial growth that can be found in air conditioners and the concrete subfloor. Fungal spores and mold growth can begin to form above 60% Humidity and can pose an occupant health threat, but the organic matter will also endanger the computer hardware as well. Organic bacteria can attach to sensitive materials within the computer hardware as well as form obstructive growths on DASD platters. Organically acidic growth will degrade the fine lubricants on the thin-film equipment or circuit units within the room.

Can I dry mop my access floor?

We do not recommend using janitorial cleaning personnel, dry mops or unspecialized janitorial equipment in the data center – as these can cause long term surface, air and static damage to the environment and equipment. Occasionally there may be a need for quick cleanup of a spill or dirt that was tracked into the environment – if a Data Center Cleaning Professional cannot be contacted, a data center engineer (whom understands the equipment in the room) should use 70% Isopropyl alcohol or EnviroTek and a microfiber wiper (new – not used in another part of the building) to clean up the mess.

Can I wax my access floor?

Normal janitorial wax is not approved for access floors or VCT floors. The dynamics of energy, static and the wax properties are catastrophic to the Data Center – in these environments wax will yellow, rub off the floor, dust up and go airborne and can land and encase around circuitry and sensitive equipment. Also, wax does not allow the static dissipation critical environments are built to have (ESD).

ESD coatings can be used on some surfaces, contact SET3 for more information (888) 935-0620.

Should I clean my ceiling plenum?

Yes. Drop Ceilings (or acoustical ceilings) are one of the main causes of fallout contamination and should be cleaned at least once per year. Fallout contamination becomes airborne and can infiltrate sensitive air-cooled equipment. Drop ceilings move slightly from pressure changes in the room – for example when someone opens a door to the data center the pressure changes and some ceiling tiles may shift slightly – causing particle fallout.

I want to do construction in my data center, how can I protect my live equipment?

A vapor barrier seal with negative air filtration should be set up around the construction area so as not to affect the running equipment. Drywall, concrete and other materials used contain conductive material such as calcium. Construction dust is a major cause of equipment failure in Data Centers and must be controlled. If a construction company does not utilize a Data Center Cleaning company or does not have a barrier protection plan according to ISO 14644 – they are not qualified to control the contamination.

What cleaning chemicals should I avoid in my data center?

There are some approved monitor cleaners that manufacturer’s sometimes recommend – other than those we do not recommend using janitorial cleaning personnel, mops chemical or equipment in the data center as these can cause longterm surface, air and static damage to the environment and equipment. Occasionally there may be a need for quick cleanup of a spill or dirt that was tracked into the environment. If a Data Center Cleaning Professional cannot be contacted, a data center engineer (whom understands the equipment in the room) should use 70% Isopropyl alcohol or EnviroTek and a microfiber wiper (new – not used in another part of the building) to cleanup the mess.

Who is responsible for confirming proper cleaning according to ISO 14644 standards?

Since cleaning affects everyone and everything in a clean room according to ISO 14644 standards, everyone who has any job in a data center or clean room has a responsibility to confirm that all proper standards are met and upkeep is regular keep them that way. Typical positions in a data center include:

 

DATA CENTERS

IT Manager
Software Engineer
Systems Engineer
Database Administrator
Network Administrator
Network Engineer
CIO
Subject Matter Expert
DC Manager
Facilities Program Manager
Technical Program Manager
Electrical Engineer
Mechanical Engineer
Data Center Specialists
Environmental Technician
Data Center Technician
Hardware Planner
Smart hands technician
Computer Operations Manager
Computer Operations Director
Data Center Facilities Manager
Hardware Specialist
Data Center Operator
Data Center Drones
Colo Expert
Colo Technician
CLEANROOMS
Cleanroom Technician
Cleanroom Manager
cleanroom Engineer
Cleanroom Systems Engineer
Cleanroom Administrator
Cleanroom Product Administrator
Cleanroom Engineer
CIO
Cleanroom Expert
Facilities Program Manager
Technical Program Manager
Electrical Engineer
Mechanical Engineer
Cleanroom Specialists
Cleanroom Planner
Cleanroom Operations Manager
Cleanroom Operations Director
Cleanroom Facilities Manager
Product Line Operator
Cleanroom Operator