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How data center operators should prepare for water risks?

How data center operators should prepare for water risks?

17.12.2021 – Data centers are long-term investments and the clients appreciate security, connectivity, stability and scalability. How should the data center operators prepare for water risks?

Data and digitalisation, Maintenance, Property management, Sustainability

Data centers prefer stable environments and predictability. The location is of course crucial as always in the property business, but with data centers the criteria are very different. Data center clients appreciate security, connectivity, stability and scalability, but also environmental sustainability and future with minimal risks. Data centers are long-term investments for operators and investors and this is why stability is very important for them.

Risk strategies to be reconsidered

2021 has had its share of natural disasters on a scale that has scared many business areas. There have been delays in deliveries with components and end products as well as blockages of physical streams of goods or virtual data.

One of the shocking natural disasters was the flooding in northwestern continental Europe from July to September 2021. The heavy rains and unprecedented flooding combined with landslides created havoc in Germany, Belgium, the Low Countries and France.

This all made many companies reconsider their risk strategies. The security departments were instructed to make new assessments for risks that were often very lightly considered earlier. Also, the importance of the location of data storages came up.

How the risks for massive amounts of water should be assessed?

One of the risks that the owners and service providers are confronted with is the situation that water may pose to servers and storage systems. Water is crucial to all life, but nobody wants to have it in the wrong place.

A full assessment of water risks should cover the whole site inside out. The assessment starts from the location and plot topology. All third-party installations nearby need to be clarified and also surveys need to be done about the overall preparedness of the site to handle extraordinary surface water amounts, moisture condensing, snow melting and ice forming.

The risk assessment continues with the most exposed building part – the roof – and proceeds inside to piping and plumbing. Local natural conditions need to be taken into account in design, as well as the probability of extreme natural phenomena in the life span of the data center in 30 to 50 years.

A well-prepared water risk assessment gives valuable information

Inside the building a good assessment includes the zones and how they are located within the premises. Also the risks of condensation and breakage or leakage of pipes need to be taken into account. Finally the assessment is completed with “what if” scenarios and interviews with the operators. A good assessment will guide how the issues are monitored, how the sensors should be deployed and how the personnel should be prepared to act in extraordinary situations.

A well-prepared water risk assessment gives valuable information for the operator with notes for improvement and plans for development. It may be difficult to change our future, but together we can face it with good preparation.

Arttu Ruismäki

The writer works as Senior Advisor in the Data Center Department at Granlund

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Arttu Ruismäki

Arttu Ruismäki

Senior Advisor, Data centers
Granlund Finland