Data centers play a vital role in enabling digital services, from the routine dissemination of information, communications, and multimedia content to advanced cloud services. The critical nature of digital capabilities in our world today means that uptime is more important than ever, and the onus is on operators to keep data centers running smoothly.

At Princeton Digital Group (PDG), uptime is the culmination of sustained efforts on multiple fronts, including establishing a robust, best-of-breed operating platform, and operational excellence enabled by stringent procedures and talented employees. Equally important are the physical security measures to protect the data center, and the establishing of a safe environment for workers, partners, and customers.

The importance of safety and security
But how do safety and security contribute to uptime within data centers? Physical threats are easy to grasp: a malicious event such as a terrorist attack can take an entire facility offline, while the theft of a storage drive containing highly confidential data can affect the viability of the victimized organization. To prevent this from happening, most data centers implement multiple layers of security, typically by demarcating the facility into multiple restricted zones on a need-to-access basis.

Safety cannot be ignored either, with global safety standards constantly evolving in tandem with a growing awareness of workplace safety. Within the industry, safety is viewed as the successful mitigation of internal, inherent risk in the data center. By focusing on safety, we also extend the concept of performance beyond uptime, ensuring that the work environment is a safe one where specialists can focus on keeping all aspects of operations running smoothly.

To secure our facilities, we incorporate up to eight levels of security. We also believe in owning the safety, health, wellbeing, and dignity of everyone engaged in our projects and data centers. Indeed, one of the earliest hires at PDG is our Safety Manager. This was a deliberate decision that ensures safety and security are incorporated right from the design phases of all our projects and adhere to the norms in the early stages of our projects.

Overcoming complexity
Safety and security are horizontal enablers that span across all aspects of the data center, from design, operations, and maintenance. Ingrained in every aspect of day-to-day activities within the data center, it is also extraordinarily complex to implement well. For instance, the diesel tanker used for refueling on site must be parked on a special platform to ensure that stray electrical and static charges are properly discharged. This isn’t a matter of simply grounding the vehicle, but the entire platform, its distance from other infrastructure, flow rate management etc is a much more complicated proposition.

A typical data center incorporates scores of machineries to deliver reliable power and cooling, manage utility feeds for power and water, as well as network paths for connectivity. The sheer variety of systems and varied climate and local cultural considerations mean that designing and implementing safety and security across locations is not only complex but can differ across locations.

PDG adopts a multi-pronged approach to overcome this complexity and deliver safety and security. Here are three of them:

  • Safety-first: The very first step towards implementing effective safety and security practices is a genuine appreciation of its importance. This calls for cultural awareness and begins with a vision and prioritization that must begin at the board level. The focus is not just to achieve zero accidents, but to go beyond that with constant improvements and audits to achieve heightened performance.
  • Resources: Once the appropriate organization policies are crafted, the appropriate resources must be allocated to make safety and security a reality. This ranges from the financial resources to promote, implement, sustain, and evolve these policies, to bringing the right talent on board. Follow-up evaluations are also vital to verify that they have not been addressed properly, considering how safety initiatives rarely provide immediate gratification and risk being put off.
  • Accreditation: Aside from complying with regulatory standards, additional safety certifications, periodic internal audits, learning, and self-enhancement of evolving industry standards are key tools to achieve desirable performance. Among others, organizations globally are aligning to a comprehensive mix of ISO 45001, ISO 27001, TIA 942, TVRA, OSHA standards, and various other standards depending on the local norms. PDG’s facilities in Singapore and Indonesia have been audited by external accreditation authorities for some of these certifications and have plans in place to acquire local certifications such as Bizsafe in Singapore.

Connecting the dots on safety
Safety and security are inherent aspects of data center operations. Given the costly IT systems and ancillary equipment they house a safety lapse can easily become a major disaster. The only way to avoid a risk to data center operations is to treat safety or security incidents with the utmost seriousness.

This begins with a robust data center designed by experienced professionals, methodical construction that puts safety and security at the forefront, and properly defined safe operating procedures for every component and all possible contingencies. This must obviously be supported with a strong safety-conscious mindset across the organization – where every employee feels a strong sense of personal responsibility and derives security out of it.

Of course, safety and security best practices will necessarily evolve over time. But as standards and expectations evolve, you can be assured that PDG will be committed to be at the forefront of meeting them. PDG currently operates a comprehensive data center portfolio of more than a dozen data centers in multiple digital economies in Asia such as China, India, Indonesia, and Singapore.

Vipin Shirsat

Author Vipin Shirsat

Managing Director, India at PDG

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