FAQ for Data Centre Cleaning

Why should I have my Data Centre Cleaned?

There are several benefits to professionally cleaning and reducing the static electricity in a data center’s floor, plenum, sub floor, sub floor frame, hardware, equipment, overhead cable trays, lights and wall fixtures. The benefits include appearance, air quality, air density, airflow efficiency and most importantly the reduction of potential hardware malfunction and costly downtime related to the build up of dust, debris and static electricity within the plenum, sub floor, sub floor frame, hardware and equipment.

Contaminants such as: dust particles, dust mites, paper dust, cardboard dust, printer toner dust, hardware packaging materials, sticker label peels, paper, plastic, metal shavings, wire clippings, wire connectors, cable ties, hair, bugs, spider webs and zinc whiskers are continuously being introduced into your data center and they can build up inside hardware and equipment critical components as well as cooling and filtration areas. This build-up increases the risk of a power supply short circuit, circuit board malfunction, thermal system shutdown and electrical fire. Static electricity build up in your high-pressure laminate sub floor can cause system malfunction and it can also be hazardous to your equipment.

IT and other sensitive environments are often required to meet maximum levels of dust particle levels in Federal 209E and ISO 14644-1 Standards.

Types of environments:

  • Data Centres (Large or Small-Scale)
  • Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
  • Network Control Centres (NCC) or Network Operations Centers (NOC)
  • UPS and Power Rooms
  • Computer Server Rooms
  • Wiring Closets
  • Any Raised Floor Areas (Subfloors)
How can dust affect modern equipment?

In modern Disk Storage systems, the hard disk head hovers just 12-13 millionths of an inch above disk surface. By comparison, a cigarette smoke particle for instance is around 5 times larger than this gap between disk and head. If a tiny particle of concrete dust, invisible to the naked eye, blown by the Air Conditioning system from the sub-floor, lands on the disk head, it may well be enough to cause a read/write error or even cause the head to crash altogether.

Also excessive heat can cause numerous problems. Excessive dust build up effect airflow not just in the plenum under the subfloor but in the spaces between equipment. Blocked air flow passages from dust buildup is a major source of excessive heat build up.

How often should I have my facility cleaned?

The short answer is, it depends. It depends on how clean you need it to be and how much contamination is introduced to the facility by the activities conducted within the facility.

In general subfloors in most rooms should be cleaned at least every 12-18 months. Cleaning above floor and around the equipment should be more frequently usually monthly or quarterly.

During any renovations or construction, steps MUST be taken to keep dust levels down before, during and after the work is performed. Sycorp can help with all your renovation needs with portable air filtration, containment barriers, and special cleans.

Why should I use a specialty company like Sycorp?

A clean critical environment will help prevent costly downtime and the loss of valuable data. Like so many disciplines, even cleaning has its specialties. You wouldn’t take a fine painting to the car wash to be cleaned and you shouldn’t let the custodian who cleans offices and bathrooms clean your controlled environment. The equipment, materials, and training for each discipline are different.  The collective experience that the contractor brings to bear on the project will provide the best long term value.

Data center cleaning is unique when it comes to the process, training, equipment, chemicals and materials; therefore janitorial or commercial cleaning companies with no technical knowledge or specialization in data center cleaning should not clean them.

Sycorp has over 15 year experience in IT cleaning services in rooms ranging from 20 sq ft to 40,000 sq ft, across Canada.

So why can't the housekeeping and janitorial staff do it?

They don’t have the training or the tools. This is a live, high liability environment full of very expensive equipment, and downtime is extremely costly. If your janitor plugs into UPS power, the whole network might go down. Cleaning a data centre requires different procedures. At Sycorp we use no-touch methodologies to ensure our personnel don’t interrupt any critical interfaces that will inflict downtime on equipment.

Also, knowing what equipment and products to use is critical. For example, you can’t use a ShopVac because it will literally blow particulate right back into the ambient air. The standard is HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtered vacuums, certified to a submicron level.

What is ESD, is it a problem?
Absolutely. Electrostatic discharge (ESD) is a big problem in the data centre because it can wreak havoc with your chips and circuits, as well as igniting dust fires. It all starts with particulate contaminants. Any particle that can absorb water can conduct electricity, and this is especially true of the extremely combustible carbon particles which are always present in data centres. It isn’t just ESD. These particles will also damage your circuit boards and cause head crashes. Today’s disk drives are really vulnerable to dust. The distance between the head and the thin film disk is now down to only 12 micro inches so even dust particles can squeeze through.
What are other hidden sources of contamination?

There are numerous other hidden sources of contamination.  For example, if you don’t have a good seal on the cement in the subfloor, it goes through a process of efflorescence, where water soluble salts will come to the surface, dry, and become particulate matter that can get into your equipment and vents. You can prevent this with a good subfloor deck seal. We can put down a sealer without incurring any downtime to your room.

Another source of contamination is the anti-static properties of your floor tiles. These tiles have a laminate top with little micro bumps, and if your floor gets soiled, those micro bumps can become filled with particulate. If the tiles aren’t cleaned correctly the electrons in the particles will pool and cause ESD.

The interstitial zone or ceiling void is another big source of contaminants. Generally, people don’t think to clean this area and facilities usually have cardboard or fiberglass tiles which generate numerous particles. If tiles get lifted for any reason (i.e., an electrician), particulate dust will rain down on top of your cabinets.

Are their steps I can do to reduce contamination day-to-day?

Contractors are a big source of contaminants. Insist that they clean up after themselves, and monitor them when you can. However, make sure they are not using Shop Vacs or other non-HEPA Vacuums when they clean up, as this will just kick more dust up in the air.

Another great way to reduce contaminants is to put down a “Tacky” mat at the entrance to the facility, so everyone has to walk over it. It removes a great deal of particulate and debris.

Do I have to shut down my operations to have my facility cleaned?
No. Shutdowns and downtime are kept to a minimum. Our technicians work with you to keep interruptions to a minimum. Of course, certain activities will require unrestricted access to your work area.

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