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Remaining hopeful for the data centre sector’s future after the big freeze

Remaining hopeful for the data centre sector’s future after the big freeze

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Steve Hone, CEO, DCA – Data Centre Trade Association, discusses some of the significant moments that have taken place over the course of 2020 in the data centre sector and why he is hopeful for its future development.

Many businesses tend to impose some form of change freeze across all production systems during peak times of the year. Change freezes can be a few days during public holidays to as long as five weeks during the summer months in some cases.

It is not unusual for data centre, network/computer/storage providers to adopt the same ethos and defer major upgrades to reduce the risks of unplanned outages or interruptions to service for example, over the Christmas period.

In normal times, many data centre owner/operators adopt the saying ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’, this is to reduce the risk of downtime and maintain continuity of service during what is seen as business-critical peak times. That’s understandable, however, life cannot stop even during a pandemic. I doubt anyone could have predicted at the start of 2020 that we would be plunged into a change freeze which for some has lasted for 12 months.

It is vital that all data centre owners and operators continue to perform routine planned maintenance to avoid unplanned outages. Many businesses have been forced to extend the life cycles of installed equipment due to the unintended consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is the time, as we begin a new year, to reignite those maintenance and upgrade projects; after all, no one reasonably expects their car to continue to run reliably without checking the fluid levels or changing the brake pads and data centre environments are no different.

If the last 12 months has taught us anything it is what a vital role the data centre sector plays in supporting what most of us take for granted, namely our ability to communicate with each other. There is an increasing reliance on the digital services which we use not only to stay in contact with each other, for remote working during lockdown, but right the way through to shopping online for everything from essential food to stocking fillers.

The date centre sector is without question at the very epicentre of the mechanism that keeps our digital lights on, but unless we continue to proactively maintain these mission-critical services, we run an increasing high risk of sleep walking into a whole heap of pain further down the road. With so many consumers now relying on us and our data centres to be there (even if they are invisible to most), this is not the time to take our foot off the gas by delaying vital upgrades and modifications.

Having polled DCA members who supply products and services to many UK data centre owners and operators, I took the time to ask what impact COVID-19 had had on their businesses over the past nine months. The feedback was very mixed, with some reporting a massive drop in revenues due to client’s projects being delayed or shelved – even before the ink was dry on their 2020 sales forecasts. However, the other end of the spectrum was situations where clients/customers have continued to press ahead with upgrade/refurb projects and new builds throughout the year. Change is normal and it is all around us, all of the time. Data centres must accommodate this change and continue to ensure seamless services are provided.

To see so many projects still managing to go ahead despite the obstacles and challenges put in the way due to repeated lockdowns and restrictions is great to see. Many of these projects were acknowledged at the recent Data Centre Solutions Awards, which for the first time ever were held virtually. Congratulations to all the entrants and the winners of the 2020 DCS Awards – particularly DCA Corporate Partners; Teledata, Chatsworth Products, Asperitas, and Schneider Electric.

There has also been a great response in the form of entrants for the new Data Centre World Awards. These will all be reviewed and judged in the coming months ready for the next Data Centre World Exhibition and Conference in London, which is to be hosted again at the Excel from July 7-8, 2021, rather than in March 2021.

Despite what has been a very turbulent, unpredictable and discombobulating year for many businesses, the quality of all the awards entrants clearly demonstrates that the data centre sector continues to go from strength to strength. Like many, I am pleased to see the back of 2020 but I am equally really looking forward to bouncing back by the spring and working with DCA Members and Partners to ensure we all have a great 2021.

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