— Data Center Security must include Fire Suppression and Safety

25.10.2021 | 3 min read

What needs to be focused on when it comes to data center security?

When one thinks about data center security, most people think of unauthorized physical intrusion initiated by unsavory characters scaling fences or circumventing reception access management procedures. The same goes for digital security – we again imagine faceless hackers attempting to take down network systems to not only disable a data center facility, but also, to render its clients’ systems inoperable. Fortunately, data centers mitigate these risks through a robust multi-layered security infrastructure with processes that are just as sophisticated. Of course, if data centers didn’t have these systems and response plans in place, they would not be viewed as a trustworthy, high security, high availability facilities – the foundational attributes for which any operator needs just to conduct business.

Data center security must also have systems in place to prevent, anticipate and respond quickly to accidental incidents which could affect a facility’s continuous operations. These are largely mitigated through access control permissions, video cameras and sensors which work together to monitor sensitive technical areas for unauthorized (and untrained) people in a sensitive room and to make sure equipment is operating correctly. However, accidents do happen and the ability to respond to them quickly and effectively is just as imperative as stopping someone from sneaking into a data center. Smoke and fires are potential issues that data center operators should ensure that they have monitored at all times as the damage generated by such an event has extremely high tangible and intangible costs for an operator.

Just this past March, a fire destroyed OVHCloud’s SBG2 data center in Strassboug, France and damaged an adjacent facility as well. From what is known currently, it appears that this was an accident where equipment did not function correctly. In fact, the fire may have started with the Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS), one of which had been worked on in the days preceding the event.

But many are asking how could a fire destroy the entire data center? Aren’t there processes in place to identify, notify, isolate and suppress a fire situation quickly? The real answer may not be available for several months as investigators, staff, and insurance companies sift through the evidence. Even then, one may never fully understand the root cause of the fire and all the actions that were taken, or not taken, to contain it.

One thing is clear though. All facilities, especially data centers, need to have an up-to-date fire suppression system and preparation plan in place that is tested and updated often. Accidents do happen and their results can have devastating consequences across a wide range of areas. Therefore, one cannot ignore fire risks regardless of their remote likelihood of occurring. Fire protection should take a holistic approach and take into consideration the building’s construction, HVAC and other physical infrastructure features. Fire protection preparation takes into account a data center’s building materials and maintenance and works to isolate IT installations, cable ducts, technical installations and various support infrastructure items into separate fire compartments for better containment. One of the base duties of customers and internal staff is to keep all rooms free of fire loads and a key duty of the security guards is to check everyday that this duty is taken seriously by everybody, and to remove debris themselves when observed. Fire protection should also utilize technology and up-to-date systems to detect smoke and fire early, leveraging systems that can quickly suppress the fire. Monitoring and surveillance is a 24/7 responsibility and should be managed by experienced personnel. There must also be a clear communication plan for evacuation, business continuity and disaster recovery (from both the operator and customer perspectives).

Security and protection are key components of a data center operator’s key selling proposition along with high availability power, multiple carrier network offerings and perhaps most importantly, a track record of trust and reliability. At e-shelter security, we handle the security component of data center protection from all angles. We are certified and have highly trained staff to support 24/7. We manage everything security and protection and deliver peace of mind so operators can focus on growing their business. By mitigating diverse risks that can be either deliberate attacks or accidental events, we work to best protect your organization’s reputation – the foundation to keeping your brand and business successful. With respect to fires, only a coordinated approach which combines passive protection (no combustible materials and separation of technical installations in dedicated fire compartments), technical measures (surveillance, sensors and fire suppression) and organizational plans (alarm notifications of internal staff and fire brigade, evacuation plans, training and testing) can fires be effectively prevented, contained and controlled throughout all points of their lifecycle.

To learn more about e-shelter’s data center solutions, please visit: Data Center White Paper from e-shelter.

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