Instructions Not IncludedI’m often amazed at the way kids can pick up seemingly any new piece of technology and be able to quickly master it. My own kids seem to figure out how to work their new smart phone or master a video game—my characters seem to always get knocked off before I can even begin to figure out what is going on—without having to refer to an instruction manual. Actually, I’m not sure they even know if one comes in the box most of the time. Now I know that some of you view having to refer to the instructions as a sign of weakness, or as my marketing guy likes to say, “the last refuge of the truly desperate”. I understand this “I’ll just wing it” approach to learning how to use a new app or figuring out how to transfer my iTunes library to my new iPod, but when it comes to data centers I’m not sure I’d recommend such a high risk approach.

By definition data center customers aren’t known for their “devil may care” attitudes toward the operation of their facilities. This makes sense. They don’t call them mission critical applications for nothing, and everyone knows who is going to get the call when customers start helpfully informing the company that “the server requested is unavailable”. Thus, the average data center manager is a big fan of documented processes and procedures. In other words, when they get the facility, they’d like an instruction manual as well.

Unfortunately, as most data center customers know, when the average provider hands them the keys to their new site, the keys are all they get. I guess they must subscribe to the adage that experience is the best teacher; except with a data center, nobody really wants to learn how to learn how to maintain a CRAC unit while temperatures in the data center are matching those of the Sahara during the dry season. In all seriousness, most data centers are turned over without providing customers any formal training program or documentation as basic as the Sequence of Operations or Emergency Operating Procedures. While this provides an excellent opportunity for some On the Job Training (OJT), as a method of maximizing the uptime of the facility, it lacks the structure I think most customers would prefer.

Recognizing that going through all the value of obtaining a Tier certified data center is somewhat diminished if no one knows how to operate it, the Uptime Institute (UI) has developed a new certification program for management and operations. This new M&O stamp of approval program has been developed to help data center operators incorporate best practices into their processes and procedures while also clarifying the support deliverables that wholesale providers should be placing into the hands of their customers at the time of the site’s turnover. Among the areas that this new program addresses are:
– Staffing and organization
– Training and professional development
– Preventive maintenance program and processes
– Operating conditions and housekeeping
– Planning, management and coordination practices and resources
By providing this on-site investigation, analysis and certification the UI will help providers and end users inculcate the best practices of the industry into their operational processes and procedures. Compass is currently working with the UI to obtain this certification for the training and documentation that we provide to all of our customers as part of our CompassCare™ program.

Like most things in life the decision to forego the instruction manual is a question of how much risk one care’s to assume. Deciding to hook up your own home stereo system or learning to play “Call of Duty” without the aid of a formalized instructional program may result in some degree of frustration, but no one is going to be too upset if you run into some problems. The same can’t be said of your data center. A provider that turns over a facility without a training program and extensive documentation on the facility and its operation is asking their customers to take on an unacceptable level of risk. While most of us may find the owner’s manual superfluous when we buy a new iPhone, our level of expectation is just a little higher when we take control of our data center. In other words, instructions included is not optional.

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