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What does a data center facility manager do?

Data center facility managers are responsible for the data center at large -- from the outside of the building to the infrastructure it houses.

Facility managers ensure that a data center remains available, secure and running optimally. Because data centers power much of today's businesses, organizations rely heavily on facility managers.

A facility manager differs from a data center administrator when it comes to maintenance responsibilities and troubleshooting involvement. Admins and facility managers often have separate and distinct roles in the data center, but must work closely together and communicate efficiently with one another to ensure the data center runs smoothly.

The role of the facility manager

Facility managers oversee the building that houses the data center, such as HVAC, power, security and other mechanical operations. Management responsibilities also include:

  • environmental health and safety;
  • personnel management for facility employees, which includes hiring, onboarding and training;
  • emergency preparedness and response for the facility;
  • change management processes for the facility itself;
  • energy management; and
  • financial management for the facility.

Facility managers should be good project managers who can organize resources, prioritize tasks and schedule work efficiently, especially those who manage colocated data centers with multiple customers using their facilities. These managers should know how to balance competing priorities and demands for resources, and how to adapt based on fast-changing situations.

Advanced knowledge facility managers require

Data center facility managers must collaborate and coordinate with IT administrators to ensure their complex ecosystems run smoothly. Facility processes must not conflict with admin work, and vice versa. For example, facility security protocols must have enough flexibility that admins can go in as needed to maintain and support their infrastructure, but tight enough to restrict them to only specific areas. HVAC systems should be set at appropriate levels for the infrastructure inside the data center, which requires admins and facility managers to exchange information about their needs.

Facility managers must also have a thorough understanding of data center design principles, industry best practices and up-and-coming technologies. They should know what kind of infrastructure their data center houses -- such as servers, virtual machines, SANs, storage and networking -- and how the physical environment can affect this infrastructure.

Facilities managers often use data center infrastructure management tools to help them monitor certain aspects of their facilities, such as power usage or cooling. Such tools can also help data center admins monitor their infrastructure more closely.

The difference between data center administrators and facility managers

The facility manager oversees the entire data center building -- from the outside of the building all the way to the rooms housing the infrastructure. They work directly with all these areas to maintain and support the facility. They integrate some monitoring systems that administrators also use and use role-based dashboards to track environmental controls or security access for admins.

Although facility managers are responsible for maintaining and monitoring the HVAC systems that control the environment in infrastructure rooms, they typically do not handle any upkeep or fixes that happen to the hardware or software there. This means that if the temperature in the server room goes too high, they can fix the cooling system, but typically do not step in to fix any servers that stop functioning because of the heat. Instead, they work with data center administrators and other specialists to coordinate repairs. Facility managers would also dispatch facility teams to investigate the environmental problem and fix the issue.

Facility managers do not decide the layout of and connections between infrastructures in the facility. However, they should know how design can affect facility usage to ensure power, environmental and electrical factors remain adequate.

IT admins' responsibility is to maintain infrastructure uptime. They coordinate with facility managers as needed to keep things running smoothly. Whether in a dedicated data center or colocated facility, facility managers watch over the physical location and support IT teams to improve infrastructure uptime.

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