With a global pandemic that fundamentally transformed the business landscape, demand for data centers skyrocketed to new heights in 2021, particularly in the U.S. Why? Every single piece of data transmitted online is stored in a data center. The swift and sudden switch to remote work was accompanied by a surge in internet usage as people limited their in-person activities and, instead, met up for Zoom happy hours, purchased groceries via Instacart, and shared life experiences 24/7 across the breadth and depth of social platforms. Today, the data being stored is more about new polo shirts purchased for the golf course or vacation pictures posted to Instagram. Society's demand for online services hasn't abated.

If the pandemic left us with one certainty, it's that data centers have become firmly entrenched as the backbone of today’s society, supporting the modern technologies used daily for work, play, and everything in between. They offer enterprises security, speed, and scalability, but only if they’re functioning properly and at full capacity.

As data center demand boomed during the pandemic, it became (and remains) increasingly important to deliver quality customer support, perform timely repairs, and quickly engage new builds — necessities complicated by constraints placed on workers to remain at home during the pandemic's peak. How could an enterprise maintain its colocation infrastructure from afar while keeping costs down and customers happy?

As it turns out, the way to keep ahead of data center issues and provide smart, superior service in a timely manner is to implement digital tools, like augmented reality (AR). AR makes expertise accessible. It narrows the skills gap for new employees, upskills existing employees, strengthens digital transformation strategies for innovative organizations, and introduces a more sustainable alternative to in-person troubleshooting and repairs.

The implications of downtime

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) Hourly Cost of Downtime Survey found that downtime costs have risen 32% over the last seven years, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic that exacerbated existing administrative and security issues. The same study found that 91% of corporations saw hourly downtime costs of $300,000 or more, including 44% that exceeded $1 million.

Customers want a seamless user experience, and downtime negatively impacts employee productivity and customer satisfaction, damaging brand reputation relative to competitors. Downtime can also lead to damaged or stolen data. When a server or multiple servers go down, private data can end up in the hands of bad actors. In 2021, global ransomware cyberattacks surged 105%, leaving some of the world’s largest companies crippled and elevating cybersecurity to the top of the priority list.

AR can help combat the high cost of downtime, reducing problem resolution timeframes and significantly improving customer satisfaction. 

The power of AR

Timeliness in Troubleshooting — On average, nearly half of field service technicians report that their tools and technology are difficult to use, while more than 60% have struggled to adapt to accelerated technology shifts in the wake of the pandemic. 

An AR-enabled service experience changes the game, allowing service technicians and data center teams to solve critical issues, regardless of location. AR reduces support dispatch requirements, increases the accuracy of site builds, eliminates the need for repeated service calls, improves time to restoration, and boosts customer satisfaction. 

Rather than disrupting an organization’s digital infrastructure or requiring investment in new equipment, AR operates in parallel with existing information technology to enhance the organization. Incorporating AR into a service workflow has a relatively low barrier to entry and does not require extensive coding or deep technical experience.

AR gives service technicians the power to capture real-time visuals, diagnose problems, and identify solutions within minutes. AR can be used to create digital twins, virtual replicas of a machine, allowing for troubleshooting anywhere, anytime. 

Enabling new builds — As organizations build new data centers to meet customers’ growing storage demands, digital tools provide an immersive experience. From pre-project planning to team collaboration to on-demand modifications, AR offers real-time updates and predictive technology, providing accurate data and keeping the project on track. This limits the need for an in-person presence for site surveys and deployment initiatives, cutting costs and freeing up time for other critical strategic initiatives.

At each milestone of a new build, AR delivers virtual walkthrough inspections with the same level of detail as an in-person experience. Inspection results can be shared with key C-suite and other stakeholders and viewed on any device, anywhere, offering a streamlined, collaborative process that is both time- and cost-efficient.

Consistently superior customer experience

The AR market is growing at a rate of 31% annually and is predicted to reach nearly $90 billion in value by 2028. Data center employees armed with powerful AR technology are primed to provide a consistently superior customer experience. AR wearables make the entire process more efficient and effective, from initial build to deployment to maintenance. Data center customers are given complete visibility into the facilities’ efforts to protect their proprietary information and securely support their storage needs.

Embracing AR technology will significantly improve customer and service experience — two major determinants of success.