Mission critical facilities house and protect sensitive information from some of the world’s most important industries, from finance, to government, to healthcare. Even just seconds of downtime can have a significant financial and operational impact on both the businesses that are maintaining the data as well as the end users who are counting on its availability. Jeremy Swanner, executive vice president of RLE Technologies, a provider of leak detection systems and web-based monitoring solutions for mission critical facilities, provides insight on protecting these facilities.
The negative consequences from a downtime event are numerous, and these include:
Destruction of mission critical data: Whether you are a co-location (co-lo) data center that houses data and processing power for multiple customers, or managing the internal IT needs of THE company, a fluid leak that brings down a server could easily cause loss of the “electronic gold” that is stored data.
Damage to equipment and other important assets: We all know that sensitive electronics and water do not mix, even in small amounts.
Legal and regulatory impacts: If you house data for other legal entities, you likely have agreements that clearly define uptime threshold requirements. These agreements typically include enormous liability figures to ensure that you maintain 99+% uptime, and one fluid-related incident can easily spur a legal dispute.
Loss of confidence by staff and consumers: Today’s society is extremely dependent on access to the technology that we have become accustomed. While it makes us much more productive, losing access to that technology can be paralyzing, and morale can suffer.
Harm to brand and reputation: Probably the least considered but most impactful result of leak related downtime is how it affects the customers’ view of your company. If you are a co-lo facility, news of downtime spreads like wildfire and can easily cause you to lose existing clients as well as make it difficult to find new ones. If network downtime causes a disruption in your company’s ability to conduct its own business (billing, shipping, support, etc.) and the customer’s businesses are impacted by these delays, they might decide to move to the competition.
Leak detection and monitoring are crucial elements to consider when trying to minimize the damage done by these types of disasters. Facilities should ultimately make a relatively small investment in both training and equipment to prevent costly downtime events.
When assessing your facility’s greatest threats for 2015, remember to consider these five areas of focus, which are the most frequent points of failure from a fluid intrusion perspective:
1. Faulty Mechanical Equipment: Uncapped sprinkler lines, leaky storage tanks, improperly monitored air conditioning units, and leaking water filter units. Suggested protection: Run leak detection cable or spot detectors around equipment that may exude conductive fluids and have the associated monitoring unit notify facilities if fluids are detected.
2. Structural Failures: Leaky roofs, improperly installed windows, clogged drains, and overall general faulty construction. Suggested protection: Place leak detection cable connected to a distance read controller around the perimeter of sensitive areas and serpentine leak cable under raised floors to identify quickly when there is a structural leak. This will allow you to pinpoint exactly where that leak is so the staff can correct the issue before damage occurs.
3. Piping Issues: Failing pipes/fittings/valves, freezing pipes, fluid hammer effect (a pressure build-up when fluids stop or change directions suddenly), and faulty pipes in primary plumbing walls. Suggested protection: Zip tie leak detection cable to the bottom of overhead pipes so that even the smallest amount of water is detected before the problem gets out of hand.
4. Human Error: Overflowing basins, accidental damage to sprinkler lines, and intentional sabotage. Suggested protection: Place leak detection cable around any second water sources (sinks, toilets, refrigerators, etc.) that are in rooms above or adjacent to sensitive equipment.
5. Environmental Intrusion. Minor flooding as a result of unexpected weather issues. Suggested protection: Perimeter and serpentine cable will generally catch these types of issues quickly and notify those that can take action to mitigate the issue.
Proactive measures, like reliable monitoring equipment and fluid sensing cable systems are the useful tools to avoid these five critical threats. Ultimately, every facility should compile a comprehensive business continuity or disaster mitigation plan that includes both proactive and reactive solutions in the face of damaging leaks.
While it is impossible to prepare for every type of threat, water leaks and other fluid intrusions are one of the few that have an established solution with a preventable approach. Being able to solve a small issue before it becomes a large problem is always worth the investment.