“Where we’ve taken it another level as even the normal day to day access of arriving and departing on the site is remote controlled.”
Andrew Bishop CEO of Nuco Technologies runs automated data centres in the UK that can be remotely controlled right down to the door locks. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, he’s understandably keen to promote the benefits of such operations.
At the company’s Tier 4 Milton Keynes data centre, support staff are operating remotely using an IP phone accessible from the main switchboard.
Customers needing to visit their racks are carefully tracked, he says: “We can just activate a fob and they can access the data centre. Our systems track them through the centre and when they leave, we expire it.”
The limited number of staff working in and around the site are all observing internal cleaning regimes. If someone accesses the data centre, the workers will then clean all of the door handles and surfaces to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
Automated Data Centres Taking Remote to the Next Level
Monitoring the sites remotely is a key part of security of the centres, as Bishop notes: “We’ve taken it to another level, as even the normal day-to-day access of arriving and departing the site is remote controlled, as is all the security.”
Essentially the centre’s security is segregated into two components; a team that works remotely with access to the alarm system and CCTV, and on-site security personnel stationed near the site.
Bishop says neither the remote monitoring team nor security staff has direct physical access to the site, with one depending on the other to enter the centre. The local security team can only get inside when granted permissions by the remote personnel.
The Staff on Site
During the coronavirus pandemic, staff have been protected by splitting the main facility into two areas. One is a primary space that operates as normal, with a single member of staff reacting to events and keeping the office sanitised.
If that person is sick or not working, a second worker — known as a backup buddy — will enter the building and go to the second area reserved for them. Here they will have all the facilities required to carry out the work of the primary staff member.
Bishop says: “In the event that both [staff members] become ill, then another person needs to go in and use their own desk, which is in the secondary person’s office, but we have a cleaning regime.”
These are Standard Systems for the Centres
Despite obvious relevance during the coronavirus crisis, these segregated and remote working systems are not a direct reaction to current events. Many were put in place over the past 10 years, with disruptive snowfall in 2015 pushing the firm to finalise many procedures: “We said, look, everybody and everything needs to be able to operate without having physical access.”
That is not to say the data centres experience no footfall, they do. These are sites with machines belonging to clients and sometimes new equipment needs to be deployed, repaired or a worker needs to splice fibre, for example. As Bishop spoke to us on the phone, he remotely counted five at the site — with two of those identified as cleaners.
He admits the control and cleaning regimes may seem extreme, but the result is a system that ensures all of his staff are safe while continuing to keep the centres running smoothly.