How to Structure Your Data Center Risk Management Plan19 min read

by | Oct 21, 2020 | Blog

Today’s business representatives who rely on data centers know that outages or other difficulties could directly affect their clients and profits. Therefore, a risk management plan is crucial for these critical facilities to operate smoothly to not only satisfy existing customers, but to also gain new ones. These six tips for structuring a formal risk management document will help data center professionals anticipate the worst-case scenarios and prevent them.

1. Implement Details for the Types of Risks Faced

Various risks could hinder data center operations. Dealing with each one means identifying each type and getting into more specifics as needed. Some leading data center brands structure these risks as tiers to keep them organized. The first tier might address power loss risks, while the second one goes into handling floods or fires.

After settling on the risk types, data center professionals could break the content down further by selecting subcategories for each main section. For example, a segment about security-related threats could give information about physical security, as well as people who might remotely log into data center tools on their mobile devices.

Sticking to a strategy when organizing the content requires forethought. However, doing it makes the information in the plan easier to find and update as needed.

2. Recognize the Shared Responsibility of Risk Mitigation

A well-structured plan to minimize risks in a data center features content that emphasizes how everyone has a vital role in threat mitigation. Every person can help keep a data center operating without incidents, and the processes they follow collectively achieve that goal.

For example, a facility’s front gate security guard could require that each visitor sign in upon arrival and present evidence of a previously arranged appointment. Similarly, data center employees who work around electrically powered equipment must receive training and follow safety procedures to reduce threats.

Including a part in the plan that describes how people in certain roles contribute to risk management gives clarity and sets expectations. It also helps data center managers identify where to invest in more education or other resources so that people feel well-prepared to carry out their duties.

3. Evaluate the Suitability of Third-Party Infrastructure

When service providers offer data center audits, they work with colocation and cloud partners, plus assess on-premises infrastructure. Anyone tasked with creating a plan to deal with risks should use the same approach for all-encompassing results.

One option is to split the plan into several sections. The first might include the risks directly within a company’s control. Another could have the threats primarily associated with third-party entities. A third segment could detail the issues that a company and its outside providers have a shared responsibility to conquer.

Making those distinctions facilitates asking the right questions and confirming needs during conversations with external providers. Additionally, data center managers can become more aware of, if and when, third-party providers may expose their customers to excessive risks. In those cases, it’s necessary to have serious conversations about fixing the issues of concern and potentially switching to another data center if problems persist.

4. Incorporate Disaster Recovery Steps

Cutting risk does not mean only identifying the situations that could disrupt a data center’s operations. It means knowing what to do after disasters strike.

Disaster recovery in the IT sector generally falls into two categories — natural disasters and system failures. However, recent months introduced new challenges due to COVID-19. Some data centers included pandemics in business continuity plans, making them better prepared than other businesses.

Besides addressing things like backup power and systems that stop fires from spreading, planning for disasters also means determining what to do if entire departments or teams become infected with the novel coronavirus. Additionally, companies should explore new precautions to take when employees work remotely.

Ensure that data center risk management efforts include step-by-step instructions for dealing with specific risks when they arrive. Giving a facility’s employees access to a document that equips them to act quickly and decisively helps limit a catastrophic event’s impacts.

5. Account for Sound-Based Risks

Designers of music venues and rehearsal studios consider acoustic needs among their top-of-mind concerns. However, people who plan and assess data centers may overlook how acoustical threats could interfere with a facility’s operations.

The tricky thing is that some products installed to limit risk could introduce it in other ways if they cause prolonged acoustical disturbances. For example, loud alarms associated with fire suppression systems could affect sensitive hard disk drives’ functionality. Noisy climate control equipment could have similar effects.

When writing risk reduction plans, data center managers should describe any current measures that deal with acoustic threats, as well as future updates that could do even more. For example, soft materials in rooms make sounds less likely to carry, thereby limiting the vibrations that could harm delicate equipment.

6. Describe Alert Notification Procedures and Appropriate Actions

Today’s data centers have advanced systems that monitor the environment and issue prompt warnings about potentially dangerous situations. A plan created for data center risk management should explain how those systems work and what people should do after receiving notifications of possible problems.

For example, what steps do they go through to verify whether there’s a genuine issue or a false alarm? Should a person notify other team members after getting an alert, or immediately start investigating the matter?

The people involved in structuring the risk plan must ensure that the document includes up-to-date contact details for the relevant parties. If a worker struggles to find their superior’s phone number, they could waste valuable time, meaning an incident may worsen and progress uncontrolled for too long.

Don’t Delay When Dealing with Data Center Risk Management

Coming up with a detailed approach for handling data center risks takes time, effort and input from multiple parties. However, it’s well worth doing because these plans can stop problems from escalating and help make facilities and their team members more resilient.

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Devin Partida

Devin Partida

Editor-in-Chief at ReHack

Devin Partida writes about data, cybersecurity and smart tech for ReHack.com, where she is also the Editor-in-Chief.

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