Depending on where you are and what you enjoy, this winter’s weather forecast for the United States contains good news or bad news.

If you are a skier or snowboarder, you’re in luck. If you love shoveling snow, you’ll be happy as well. But if you don’t care for frigid temperatures and higher-than-average snowfall, this winter might be a challenge for you.

The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting “A Wet and Snowy Winter All-Around,” calling for “above-normal amounts of snowfall” and advising us to “Get your shovels ready!”

AccuWeather is warning that the “northern Plains” could see temperatures “dip to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit” and that the “Northeast and mid-Atlantic” should expect “an above-normal snow season” and “abundant snowfall” is expected “to bury the Northwest, Rockies.”

And after this past summer’s long list of severe weather conditions – hurricanes, floods, rains, fires – it’s not hard to believe that weather patterns are changing.

If you are charged with keeping your data center functioning and available no matter what Father Winter dishes out, you’d better get started preparing for colder, snow-filled and largely unpredictable weather.

How important is being prepared? According to IDC, “It’s estimated that the average cost of a data center outage in 2016 was $740,357, or $8,851 per minute of lost revenue,” not to mention the cost in damage to company reputation, customer loyalty and trust.

Besides ensuring that the physical data center building is taken care of – back-up generators and spare parts are in place, roofs shoveled, cooling units on the roof cleared of snow and ice, staff can get into the facility, food/supplies are stocked up in case staff are stuck in the facility due to bad weather conditions – there’s more you can do to prepare your facility for winter’s wrath.

Winter weather conditions can cause utility power interruptions (water/power/natural gas). Obviously, the most important thing you can do now is to assure that your back-up generators are ready to go at a moment’s notice. And that they not only have sufficient fuel, but that they have been tested recently and are functioning well. A recent well-publicized data center outage was chalked up to a back-up power system that had not been tested and maintained, and when called upon, failed.

The more you know about your infrastructure going into a potentially rough season, the better prepared you will be. That’s where a Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solution can be vital to ensure your data center’s continued uptime.

With a DCIM solution in place, data center management will know exactly what assets are where, which are carrying mission-critical load, where power is coming from and how devices are connected and to what power source.

So, it’s probably a good idea to start reviewing winter solutions now to make sure crucial plans are in place.  A good winter survival guide should include these elements:

  • Check to be sure all scheduled maintenance is up to date – A DCIM with Workflow can help keep track of what maintenance is completed, and what still needs to be done.
  • Conduct “what-if” scenarios in advance of a winter storm – Check your power chain for weaknesses and redundancy flaws by selectively “failing” equipment in a simulated environment, with no risk to uptime.
  • Review/confirm emergency, back-up power plans
  • Perform advanced monitoring and alarming to track vital energy metrics – Energy monitoring boosts efficiency by spotting where your funds could be used more effectively.  Real-time capacity utilization information is vital in a disaster situation. Alarms ensure that if a problem crops up, the right staff members are notified quickly. And a DCIM dashboard will make sure that all your personnel, both Facilities and IT are looking at the same information, for better, faster collaboration.
  • Ensure IT and Facility staff preparedness and availability – Check staff proximity to the data center in case they need to get to the facility in an emergency. Keep in mind, employee safety is the most important consideration. So getting on the site might not always be possible or the most desirable way to deal with an issue.
  • Getting to the facility is not always safe or possible in severe weather, state of emergency, roadblocks, impassable roads, etc. The ability to remotely control data centers can be beneficial in such instances. Having a “virtual command center” for the unreachable facility will give a data center manager a view and control from afar.
  • Pay attention to environmental alarms. These alarms allow operators to view temperature, humidity, leak detection, and more.
  • Create a disaster recovery plan with roles assigned to critical employees.  Make sure all employees know their specific roles and duties during an emergency and that you have a priority calling/telephone list of staff to be notified immediately. If possible, practice for disaster scenarios so everyone across the organization is well versed with what needs to be done and how. Your first rehearsal shouldn’t be a real emergency.

As Author Douglas Adams is quoted as saying, “You can’t fix the weather – you just have to get on with it.”

So, whatever the winter throws your way this year, be prepared with a full tank in your generator, a fully-charged cell phone, and a DCIM system on which you can depend on for safety, security and operability.

About the Author

Mark Gaydos is Chief Marketing Officer for Nlyte Software, the leading data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solution provider for seamlessly automating data center operations and infrastructure into an enterprise’s IT ecosystem.