The average cost of a data center outage is just over $740,000, according to a 2016 Ponemon Institute Report, and the figure continues to rise each year. Avoiding such an event is one surefire way to save money. The following four activities will help your organization avoid downtime while also optimizing infrastructure performance for additional savings.

1. Commission Your Facility

Increasingly complex systems and assemblies mean more opportunities for problems that could lead to costly outages for your facility. Commissioning (Cx) is a quality assurance process that mitigates your risk. It helps identify and correct the major culprits behind failures such as design, installation, and startup deficiencies. To further maximize availability, Cx verifies and documents that all critical systems — power, cooling, and building automation — function together as a fully integrated system.

Cx also helps to reduce the lifecycle costs of the facility. The Cx process improves system operation while providing benchmarking data that can be used to maintain optimal performance. This optimization helps decrease operation and maintenance costs. Cx activities also improve efficiency. They verify proper functionality of specific efficiency features that are part of your system design, helping you reduce energy consumption and cut your utility bills.

Overall, a commissioned data center often experiences fewer delays than seen with traditional deployment, making it more likely to be delivered on time and on budget.

2. Optimize Electrical System Performance

The electrical system will need to evolve as the data center landscape changes. As networks are consolidated, expanded, or dispersed, verifying and documenting that the system is sufficiently supported is important.

Assessing your electrical system can uncover areas for improvement that can help you manage challenges in your data center, such as increased availability expectations, moves or consolidations, increased power and heat density, and regulatory compliance.

The first step to optimizing your electrical system performance is ensuring you have a clear picture of all your assets, including unit location, capacity utilization, and initial condition assessment. In addition, taking steps to evaluate the overall reliability of your electrical system can help you identify defective components and connections before they cause business disruption, as well as identify gaps in equipment maintenance and documentation. Additionally, engineering services such as short circuit and coordination studies and arc flash studies can improve workplace safety and ensure compliance.

A work environment that complies with all applicable standards not only helps your organization avoid fines and penalties from groups like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), it also minimizes threats that can lead to costly equipment damage and productivity losses.

Ultimately, electrical system assessments conducted by certified technicians allow for detailed analysis that leads to recommended corrective actions and risk mitigation strategies, which help you cost-effectively improve the reliability and availability of your data center.

3. Improve Thermal Efficiency

An updated approach to thermal management can cut energy costs and improve efficiency. In a typical data center, cooling accounts for 38 percent of total energy consumption. If you want to make an impact on energy usage, focusing on your cooling system can provide a quick return on investment (ROI). In fact, an upgrade to equipment featuring new economizer technology typically provides a full ROI in less than two years and you may even qualify for the energy rebates available in every state.

By pinpointing and correcting issues like power inefficiency, hot spots and airflow problems, you take an important first step in reducing your energy draw. From there, you can implement variable speed technologies and intelligent controls to realize further efficiency improvements. These technologies are available as upgrades to your existing equipment.

With variable speed technologies, such as electrically commutated (EC) fans and variable speed drives (VSDs), thermal management equipment can better match fan speed to IT load. When you reduce fan speed, you stop wasting energy on overcooling that your IT equipment doesn’t need. By adding intelligent controls, you can improve coordination across thermal management units, enable more precise control of temperatures at the rack, and gain increased visibility into equipment and environmental conditions.

Advanced thermal controls can decouple cooling components such as compressors, chilled water valves, and economizers from fan operation, allowing them to precisely match airflow and temperature to requirements for the IT load. Air is returned to the cooling units at a higher temperature, allowing them to operate more efficiently.

Correcting situations that waste energy and using only the energy you need to ensure critical system availability can dramatically reduce your energy costs without impacting availability.

4. Safeguard Your Emergency Power System

The impact of a power system failure is far reaching when considering potential damage to data and equipment, business disruption, remediation costs, legal ramifications, and damage to your brand and reputation. The full costs associated with an unplanned data center outage can be staggering. Often, these significant costs can be avoided through preventive maintenance.

A regular preventive maintenance program performed by qualified technicians is key to ensuring maximum reliability of data center equipment, including batteries, UPS systems, and power distribution units. In a study that included analysis of more than 185 million UPS operating hours, reliability of the unit, as measured by mean time between failures (MTBF), increased as the number of annual preventive maintenance visits increased.

System issues that are just beginning to appear are detected through regular preventive maintenance. This systematic inspection and analysis allows you to correct these issues, ensuring you have emergency power when you need it and helping you avoid costly, unplanned downtime.