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Data center dunces cause operations, security failures

Data center security is paramount to ensuring the safety of your employees and data. But what happens when you let a fool into your facility?

They say a team is only as strong as its weakest player, and if that's case, then these data centers don't stand a chance for survival.

Without proper training, education or experience, some data center employees become detrimental to the business and daily operations.

SearchDataCenter spoke to various data center staff members about their experiences with security and operations.

"I got into IT last year when my dad became CEO and hired me to analyze the servers. I have no formal tech training, but Dad says I'm learning fast." -- James Stevens III

James Stevens III is the official server analyzer for a small jewelry supply enterprise in Delafield, Wis. Without any technology training, Stevens does hold a liberal arts degree from a prestigious college. He entered the data center field when his dad was sick of him sitting around at home.

"I was sad to leave the couch, but when Dad told me what I would be doing, I was psyched to learn what the pretty blinking lights on the servers do," he said.

During our interview, Stevens seemed distracted. He kept looking at the adjacent row of servers, where a laptop was live-streaming NCAA March Madness.

Minutes later, I got word that Stevens accidentally sent confidential files to a particularly destructive group of hackers, known as Bloodshed. Oops.

"I was recently demoted to assistant security guard since some guy strolled in here and unplugged a few servers. So now I just sit here and watch the equipment." -- John Pledger

Some businesses spend thousands of dollars protecting their digital assets from intrusion and misuse, but data center security best practices can't save you from human logic.

"We thought he was authorized to be in here," said John Pledger, former data scientist at Palo Alto, Ca.-based New Education (NE), which focuses on reevaluating old school data center equipment.

About a month ago, an NE employee entered the server room and unplugged two servers. He was able to get by undetected and did not appear to tamper with any other equipment. No information appeared to be stolen, but several applications went offline, costing the business several thousands of dollars in lost course time and damaging its reputation with connected users.

In the aftermath of the mishap, NE asked Pledger to take on an assistant security guard position, in which he "sits on an uncomfortable chair all day" and stares at the servers. NE systems administrators believe that Pledgers' new role will bring an extra, necessary layer of security to their facility.

"I just wanted to charge my phone." -- the culprit

To ensure your facility is protected from bad guys and boneheads, plan for data center security upfront and avoid NE's blunder.

Pledger found Vince Vaughn, internationally recognized celebrity and budding data center enthusiast, in NE's facility with an iPhone 6 charger. Vaughn had just returned from a business trip to Europe and was immediately blamed for unplugging the servers to charge his phone.

"All of the outlets in the office were taken. Honestly, I didn't think it would be that big of a deal. Come on, can't we get past this?" Vaughn asked as he was escorted out of a training session and off the premises.

Don't let your team end up like them

Improve IT team structure

What is an admin worth to you?

IT skills for every employee

Failure is a good thing -- sometimes

"I think I'm stuck." -- George the Cat

Unraveling a cabling muddle is time consuming and frustrating. There are proven methods to effectively cabling your data center, but one staff member says there's a better way.

For George the Cat, systems coordinator at a Boston, Mass.-based mission-critical data center facility, it is imperative that you play with the cables, but be careful as you do.

"Really get into them and get to know them, but be sure to have an exit strategy," he said.

As a business changes, servers, storage and switches multiply. This causes an increase in the amount of cables under floors and in available pathways. Mr. Cat suggests you plan your path before entering. Study it, have a plan in case things go sour and always have a snack ready for you as you return.

When asked why he wears a fur coat to work, Cat said "It's freezing here in the winter."

Editor's note: April Fools!

 

Next Steps

April 1 is the time to ask these three questions

This was last published in March 2015

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