Data Center Cleaning Best Practices

Wiping Down Data Center Racks

Last Updated on June 28, 2022 by Josh Mahan

Keeping data centers clean and ensuring that they are free of dust and debris is critical to ensure that their equipment continues running safely and effectively without encountering server issues, crashes and system failures, and potential fire outbreaks. The following is a selection of some of the best practices used by professional data center cleaning services. If you own or manage a data center and are looking to hire one of these professionally trained services, please consider reaching out to the experts at Alterum Technologies today to learn about what they can do for your business.

Related: Data Center Infrastructure: What You Need to Know

SubFloor/Plenum Cleaning

When cleaning a data center, staff should begin with the sub-floor plenum area by carefully removing and cleaning accessible floor panels one at a time with lint-free, microfiber, or electrostatic discharge (ESD) wipes. Cleaning staff should be careful not to remove too many floor panels at once, as that can lead to several problems, including floor instability and overheating equipment.

The process should be taken slowly as cleaning staff vacuum all sub-floor areas and carefully clean the cabling and hardware of the data center equipment. Once everything is clean, staff should return the floor panels to their proper place before wiping them down with a staticide chemical solution.

Related: Data Centers: What They Do & Why [2021]

Floor Cleaning

From there, floors should be cleaned with an ESD vacuum with specialized HEPA filters to ensure that even the smallest particles of debris and dust are removed from the data center. This can be followed by a general rubdown with anti-static rags, a PVA mop, and a non-conductive staticide cleaner to ensure that all dust, dirt, grime, and other contaminants are also removed. Repeat the process as needed. Cleaning staff should take great care to ensure that as little liquid as possible is used to prevent seepage through the floorboards or potentially causing damage to expensive data center equipment.

Data Center Surface Cleaning

Do you want to learn more about how to keep your data center spotless and ensure that your specialized equipment is running as effectively as possible? Check out the wide range of top-quality services proudly provided by the experts at Alterum Technologies today to learn more.

Surface Cleaning

Once the floors are clean, staff should focus on cleaning and vacuuming light fixtures, ledges, air conditioners, work and desk surfaces, and other accessible areas before moving on to cleaning all other surfaces, including racks, storage cabinets, shelves, monitors, and more. Tape racks and the surfaces of exterior hardware should also be carefully vacuumed with HEPA filters, along with outlet and inlet grills of server cabinets, before being wiped down with an anti-static cleaning solution.

Special care should be used to ensure that all equipment and technology are being handled with the utmost respect to prevent costly damages. Whether internal or external cleaning services are being used for this process, they must receive specific training for correctly cleaning critical and delicate data center equipment without causing harm to it.

Tape Library Cleaning

Staff should clean and vacuum all surfaces, including individual tape slots. Ideally, cleaning teams should work with an on-duty member of the information system development (ISD) department or another relevant department to ensure that all tapes are handled carefully and returned to the proper locations once cleaning has been completed. 

Related: Data Center Cooling 101: From Start to Finish

Data Center Dust Cleaning with Microfiber Cloth
Data Center Dust Cleaning with Microfiber Cloth

Clean Data Center Best Practices for Maintained Cleanliness

The data center cleaning process noted above is not the only element that keeps these facilities in top form while helping them protect the integrity of their equipment over time from the harmful effects of dirt, dust, and other contaminants. There are several other factors and best practices that data centers can use to stay as clean as possible while ensuring the quality of their technology. The following are some of the most valuable procedures and policies that data centers can put into place to help ensure the center stays as clean as possible for as long as possible.

Data Center Protocols 

  1. Food and beverages of any kind should not be permitted in the same room as any critical equipment. 
  2. Cleaning crews should take care to use as little liquid cleaning solution and water as possible on or near equipment to help prevent accidental and costly damages.
  3. All cleaning tools and materials should be rinsed or emptied away from the equipment. Vacuums, in particular, should be cleaned on the outside of the building to help prevent the release of light, airborne dust particles which can get into and cause harm to the data center equipment.
  4. Cardboard, paper products, and other office supplies should not be stored in the same rooms as critical data center equipment.
  5. Doors between non-equipment rooms and equipment rooms should always be firmly closed after use and never be propped open to prevent potential contamination.
  6. Packing and unpacking any tools or equipment inside the rooms containing computers or other critical equipment should be prohibited.
  7. Only authorized personnel should be granted any access to rooms containing critical data center equipment. Said personnel should also receive training on how to handle this equipment without causing any damage.
  8. Work should not occur in the same rooms as critical data center equipment until the environmental impact of said work is fully understood and approved by data center superiors to prevent possible contamination.

Routine Data Center Cleaning Protocols

  1. Cleaning should take place on a consistent schedule that relevant data center employees know to ensure the process is as effective as possible. 
  2. Floors, underfloor plenum, and other surfaces should be cleaned regularly by qualified cleaning staff.
  3. Equipment should be regularly checked for dust, debris, and other contamination particulates before being carefully but thoroughly cleaned.

Why Do Server Rooms Need to Be Routinely Cleaned?

While it may seem like server rooms are relatively clean, it is critical to routinely clean your data center because of the damaging effects of dust and debris. These menacing particles can accumulate if left unchecked and wreak havoc on your data center. A recent report found that dust and debris can:

  • Damaging equipment.
  • Creating grime buildup on server fans that affects efficiency.
  • Increasing the temperature of your equipment by as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit, potentially causing failure and higher energy costs.

How Often Should a Data Center Be Cleaned?

A data center should be cleaned once a quarter to ensure that your equipment and facility are free of dust, dirt, or other contaminants that can damage your equipment’s lifespan and your data center’s efficiency. You can rest assured that your data center isn’t compromised by setting up four routine cleanings a year. 

How Often Should Servers Be Cleaned?

Your servers should be cleaned every quarter when you clean your data center. Trained professionals should clean servers to ensure the equipment isn’t compromised or damaged during the process. You’ll want to use HEPA filter vacuums to get into areas that aren’t visible and wipe server surfaces with anti-static cleaning cloths.  

How Much Does It Cost to Clean a Data Center?

Having a small data center cleaned professionally typically costs between $6,000 – $7,000 annually. But this price can fluctuate based on location and availability of professional cleaning services. 

When designing your data center, you should consider the cost of cleaning as part of your yearly operational costs so that you budget accordingly. While these costs may seem steep, they can extend the life of your equipment and data center and ensure that your equipment isn’t compromised and susceptible to failures caused by particle contamination.

Best Practices When Utilizing a Professional Data Center Cleaning Service

Here are some essential tips and practices for hiring a professional data center cleaning service:

  • Check References: You’ll want to talk to some of their other clients to ensure they maintain quality without compromising equipment or causing other issues.
  • Establish Service Level Agreements: Document and sign service level expectations and requirements to ensure the quality and safety of the data center. 
  • Create a Detailed Scope of Work: Some professional companies already have a clear scope of work with detailed tasks that are completed during cleaning. You’ll want to see and approve all tasks or create a customized scope of work for your data center so that expectations are clear.
  • Empty Equipment Outside: Ensure all vacuum cleaners and other cleaning equipment are emptied outside the data center. 
  • Provide Maintenance Outlets: When designing the data center, ensure there are maintenance outlets available so that the professional cleaning crew doesn’t use server outlets inside the cabinets.
  • Do Not Remove Too Many Floor Tiles at Once: Clearly explain and designate which floor tiles can be removed from each section. Ensure they know not to remove too many floor tiles at once because it can lower static pressure and cause overheating.

Looking for a professional data cleaning service with over 30 years of experience? Learn more about our data cleaning services that beat industry standard prices.

Related Link: 5 Reasons to Use Raised Flooring in Your Data Center

Are you looking for a way to keep your data center spick and span while ensuring your equipment is running as effectively as it should be? Take a look at the superior services provided by the technical experts at Alterum Technologies today to learn more about what they can do for you.

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