Top 10 data center operating procedures

Every data center needs to define its policies, procedures, and operational processes.

Every data center needs to define its policies, procedures and operational processes.

An ideal set of documentation goes beyond technical details about application configuration and notification matrices. These top 10 areas should be part of your data center's standard operating procedures manuals.

    1. Change control. In addition to defining the formal change control process, include a roster of change control board members and forms for change control requests, plans and logs.
    2. Facilities. Injury prevention program information is a good idea, as well as documentation regarding power and cooling emergency shut off processes; fire suppression system information; unsafe condition reporting forms; new employee safety training information, logs and attendance records; illness or injury reporting forms; and visitor policies.
    3. Human resources. Include policies regarding technology training, as well as acceptable use policies, working hours and shift schedules, workplace violence policies, employee emergency contact update forms, vacation schedules, and anti-harassment and discrimination policies.
    4. Security. This is a critical area for most organizations. Getting all staff access to the security policies of your organization is half the battle. An IT organization should implement policies regarding third-party or customer system access, security violations, auditing, classification of sensitive resources, confidentiality, physical security, passwords, information control, encryption and system access controls.
    5. Templates. Providing templates for regularly used documentation types makes it easier to accurately capture the data you need in a format familiar to your staff. Templates to consider include policies, processes, logs, user guides and test/report forms.
    6. Crisis management. Having a crisis response scripted out in advance goes a long way toward reducing the stress of a bad situation. Consider including crisis management documentation around definitions; a roster of crisis response team members; crisis planning; an escalation and notification matrix; a crisis checklist; guidelines for communications; situation update forms, policies, and processes; and post-mortem processes and policies.
    7. Deployment. Repeatable processes are the key to speedy and successful workload deployments. Provide your staff with activation checklists, installation procedures, deployment plans, location of server baseline loads or images, revision history of past loads or images and activation testing processes.
    8. Materials management. Controlling your inventory of IT equipment pays off. Consider including these items in your organization's documentation library: policies governing requesting, ordering, receiving and use of equipment for testing; procedures for handling, storing, inventorying, and securing hardware and software; and forms for requesting and borrowing hardware for testing.
    9. Internal communications. Interactions with other divisions and departments within your organization may be straightforward, but it is almost always helpful to provide a contact list of all employees in each department, with their work phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Keep a list of services and functions provided by each department, and scenarios in which it may be necessary to contact these other departments for assistance.
    10. Engineering standards. Testing, reviewing and implementing new technology in the data center is important for every organization. Consider adding these items to your organization's standard operating procedures manuals: new technology request forms, technology evaluation forms and reports, descriptions of standards, testing processes, standards review and change processes, and test equipment policies.

About the author 
Kackie Cohen is a Silicon Valley-based consultant providing data center planning and operations management to government and private sector clients. Kackie is the author of Windows 2000 Routing and Remote Access Service and co-author of Windows XP Networking.


 

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This was first published in March 2006

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