Generator system expansion

As part of the recent expansion and capacity upgrade project at our London Central data centre, we have deployed another backup diesel generator, which joins the existing sets already providing protection to our clients.

This ensures our N+1 resilience level on backup power is maintained as we continue to introduce new customers into the data centre, and provide ongoing scalable growth to those already with us.

The new set – while outputting the same level of power as its existing counterparts – is a next generation unit that we’ve had presented in an inverse colourway; anthracite grey. This stands in contrast to the existing units, which are in an off-white colourway. Of the three sets which now make up the full system, it is the smallest, quietest, and sleekest looking unit, perfect for demonstrating where we’ve made tangible upgrades to our critical infrastructure.

As part of this new deployment, we’ve adjusted how the setup works as a homogeneous system, with regards to the operational logic for running three sets in an N+1 fail-over scenario.

The new generator is actually now Set 1, with the existing units becoming Sets 2 and 3. This allows the newest set to become the primary unit in this multi-generator system.


How our generator system works

We’re not doing anything particularly ‘special’ when it comes to mixing in our backup generator sets, however in the interest of total transparency, we thought it of interest to explain exactly how this system works in real-world scenarios.

We have enough backup generator capacity on-site to cover full load in the facility on two sets, reserving one as a swing set. This can be called into service should one fail during emergency operation, hence giving us our N+1 resilience.

There are two main invocation scenarios in a facility with A+B mains power systems, which are:

  • A single side power failure, either A or B (the most common)
  • A full blackout of both A and B (less common)

The computer systems that control our generator logic (both inside the generators and as part of our Automatic Transfer Switches) handle each case slightly differently, depending on what has happened.


A single side power failure

As expected with any mains power issue, our UPS systems take load immediately to ensure faultless operation while the generators are instructed to start up. We have a minimum run-time on our UPS’s of 10 minutes, though most have more than 20 minutes in reality.

All generators as part of our system are kept on hot-standby, with all oils and pumps kept warm ready for the immediate firing of engines. In this state, the generators are known as ‘At Rest’, and available for service.

During a single side failure, two of the three generators will be instructed to fire, which will then startup, self-test, and synchronise with the sister unit.

If for any reason one unit fails to sync, the remaining swing set will be called up and take over, placing the other into a cool-down state.

Once online and synchronised, which takes around 60 seconds, the ATS’s will switch through the load, allowing the generators to take over from the inline UPS’s.

If the load is at below 60% of a single unit’s capacity, the system will then allow for the load to be taken up by a single generator, placing two units back into the swing pool, to be invoked again if required.

We’re then running on generator for as long as required, with 48 hours of fuel on-site, and refuelling contracts with two separate entities for refuelling within 2 hours.

Once the mains feed is seen to be restored by the system, it will hold on generator for another three minutes to ensure stability, before automatically switching back to the mains feed for load.

The online generators then enter into a three minute cool-down cycle, before dropping back into their ‘At Rest’ state, ready to be called up again if required.


A full blackout of both A and B

Although this is a less common real-world scenario, it is one of our test simulations, and invokes the generators in a slightly different manner.

Should this occur, most actions as above remain the same, however in this case, all three generators would fire as part of stage one, rather than just two.

They will then test and sync together, and again have a set fall away to become the swing unit once the system is spun up and ready to take load.

In this way, the backup system is always able to both take load, and provide a swing set for resilience should there be an issue with a unit during emergency operation.

The entire system enjoys a rigorous testing schedule, which is incredibly important for a backup power system. Sets are test fired every two weeks and allowed to run warm for five minutes, checking for any running issues. We also complete on-load tests every month, to ensure the sets can take full load; an important step missed by many facility operators.

The system is also fully maintained by Shenton Group, the organisation responsible for the build, supply and initial testing, ensuring our units are in tip-top operational condition year-round.


What’s next?

That’s not the only upgrade coming as part of our backup generator system. The investment in this critical area continues in Q4, as we introduce a brand new mixing enclosure in our Electrical Intake Room, which will improve and update what is in place at present, finalising developments in this area in the mid-long term.

The new internal enclosure will allow for the use of next generator smart rotary breakers, something not presently in service as part of the current enclosure panel.

The 6 most important questions to ask about data centre services

Is colocation the right strategy for your business? Is it about time you moved your data to the cloud? Or maybe you’d like to move from one colocation provider to another? How do you know if a data centre service is the right choice for you? Technically, they all look the same, right?

Choosing the best data centre services provider is one of the most crucial decisions you may ever have to make for your business. Which begs the question, how do you find the best one? Well, to answer that question, you need to ask the data centre management team several questions during the vetting process.

Exceptional security is non-negotiable. You are entrusting the data centre service provider with valuable data and IT assets you cannot afford to lose. Don’t proceed unless you have suitable answers to these questions.

In this post, we are going to address six of the most critical questions you should ask.


1. What are your cooling, carrier, and power redundancies?

Power redundancy is vital when it comes to keeping a data centre up and running. Ask the data centre service provider about their power sources, where they’re fed from, how many commercial feeds they have; and most importantly, the redundancy of their UPSs. Data centre services need ample power not only to run client hardware, but also to cool the facility.

They must operate multiple backup generators to ensure availability at all times. Enquire about their connectivity options, which should also offer full redundancy of delivery to client deployments.


2. What level of protection do you have against natural disasters?

Regardless of the facility’s geographical location, there are always chances of natural disasters. Even if he facility survives a disaster, how long would the on-site generators continue to supply power?

Do they have emergency fuel suppliers? Understanding their contingency plans based on possible risks is vital. Knowing how they will inform you of the status of your systems following such disasters will help you decide if they are the facility operator of choice.


3. What level of uptime does their SLA provide?

When vetting data centre services, one of the most crucial questions you could possibly ask is how much downtime they expect to suffer. It could be devastating to lose access to your critical systems due to data centre downtime.

This could cost your business revenue, opportunities, and maybe even diminish your brands reputation. This is something you cannot afford. You’ll find 99.99% uptime SLAs in most data centres.


4. What security measures do you have in place?

Data centres nowadays feature top-of-the-line security features and access policies that protect the precious data entrusted to them by multiple businesses. Good security will always start at the perimeter, with the fencing and sensor surveillance, through to the data floors.

Aside from the layers of physical security they may offer, a data centre service needs to have logical security protocols in place that will restrict different people from accessing different areas. Companies with multi-factor authentication processes, such as biometric technology, work better in terms of protecting critical assets. They ensure only authorised personnel access certain areas of the facility.


5. Can the facility handle future growth?

Your business may have simple needs such as space, connectivity, and power at the moment, but what about your future requirements? You may need certain managed services, including cloud computing, replication, backup and archiving, managed SAN services, disaster recovery-as-a-service, among others.

Will the facility offer you such services? What about future power and space requirements?

Specify how much power you’ll be consuming and ensure they have room for more. You may be surprised later on to learn that you are limited to a certain circuit capacity, which may not be enough. Avoid placing your business in a position where you’ll need to start looking for another data centre once you experience growth.


6. How many data centres do you have and what are their locations?

This seems like a basic question, but it’s imperative. You see, you need to have a data centre that’s close enough for your frequent travels. Your technological requirements may need you to travel to the centre for maintenance, hardware and software upgrades, and server installations. A data centre close-by will certainly save you time and inconvenience.

It helps if the data centre operator has a national footprint, with facilities strategically located in different areas in case you need to branch your business. Having various centres in different locations is an assurance of redundancy. In the case of a natural disaster, you will be able to replicate your critical systems.


Bonus question: how do you handle temperature control?

Cooling innovations are important in data centres, more so as cabinet deployments increase. Enquire if the company uses cold and hot aisle containment, or whether they defuse hot air with cold. How do they manage the temperature in the facility? Do they have advanced predictive analytics and monitoring? Can they handle special cooling when the need arises?


Choose a professional data centre services company

With so many data centre options available, you may have an abundance of operators on your shortlist. However, you have to be careful about who you entrust your critical systems to. Besides all of these questions, ask about their transparency, staff qualifications, certifications, and attestations.

How often do they perform power switching tests for load performance? Do they provide 24x7x365 remote hands support? Answers to these questions will help you arrive at the right data centre service operator.

If you need state of the art colocation services, get in touch or check out our website.

The biggest business benefits of colocation

An emerging cost effective solution for businesses large or small when it comes to their investment in infrastructure, explore the benefits of colocation.

Colocation is a hosting option that businesses all over the world use for a variety of reasons. A data centre facility generally provides colocation services, along with other related services. Data centre facilities let companies rent space for their servers and computing hardware.

Such data centres, also referred to as ‘colo data centres’, will provide the secure rack space and resilient power. They also provide connectivity / transit, cooling, and physical security for the hardware. The customer generally provides their own servers and storage.

Depending on the colocation service you choose, you can upgrade these services on the fly. Premium colocation services also offer 24×7 technical support. You can enjoy access to teams of experts that can assist your business; you can also get remote hands that can handle physical technical issues. 

So, what are the benefits of using a colocation service?


Capital expenditures

There are many reasons to use colocation services instead of building an on-site data centre space. One of the main benefits is the avoidance of huge capital expenditures (CAPEX). The CAPEX associated with creating, maintaining, and updating large computing facilities is significant. 

Relying on a colo data centre allows your business to cut these costs, moving them instead to a more manageable OPEX cost. At the same time, you get to keep ownership and complete control of your physical servers, something not offered through the use of cloud and virtual services.

The only thing to note when it comes to spending is upfront expenses. Using a colocation service still requires your business to shoulder the upfront costs of buying your own hardware. You will also typically need to shoulder the travel costs of your engineers whenever they need to access the hardware manually.


Reliable connectivity

When running a business that relies on connectivity for many core processes, uptime is absolutely critical. With a colocation service, you can enjoy 100% uptime. Constant and reliable connectivity is a significant feature colocation providers supply. 

They have superior and fully redundant high-capacity network connections. These allow colo data centres to make sure that your equipment is connected to the rest of the world 24×7. 

Furthermore, colo service providers focus considerable time and effort on proactive maintenance. This means that everything is kept running smoothly, avoiding issues that could cause downtime.


Green energy

Data centres use a considerable amount of energy. Some data centres now elect to operate in places where inexpensive green energy is available. Sometimes, it’s a product of corporate social responsibility, and other times, it’s financially practical. 

Either way, you can expect many top-tier colo providers to employ the use of green energy. We’re a good example of this, having been named one of the Best Green Business winners in the recent past.

Your company could already be green. Or, you could be looking into ‘going green’. Either way, using a colocation service instead of running a local data centre or comms room will help you achieve far greater sustainability.


Fire protection

Office buildings are generally fire protected as standard, so you may feel that this is not a feature that you specifically need. But did you know that servers need specialised fire protection?

Servers draw a lot of power. On top of that, they’re easily damaged by water. Colocation centres can handle the specific protection needs of servers and associated equipment. These include both passive and active fire protection systems. 

Passive elements include sensitive smoke detectors and VESDA systems. These are particular types of smoke detection units tuned to detect smouldering electrical components, which can identify an issue before ignition. Such methods make your servers’ fire protection to be more vigilant.

Data centres also have more passive elements like walls to prevent fires from spreading. Active elements include fire suppression systems like electrical-safe sprinklers and inert gas fire suppression.


Temperature management

Servers have to be kept at cooler temperatures than the average office space, so your employees and your servers won’t make for great office mates.

You might be willing to invest in the creation of a separate space and a cooling system in this new location, but such an endeavour can prove expensive.

Using a colocation service can help solve this issue. Colocation providers are able to watch the temperature in the data halls at multiple points, allowing them to use their robust ventilation systems to deploy climate-controlled air.

Components are kept at their optimal temperatures in this way. Other colocation providers go as far as placing their data centres in places with naturally cold climates, which offsets any additional risks in temperature rises.

Note that humidity can also affect the operation of these components. Colo data centres watch the humidity levels around your components for this very reason. This way, their humidification systems prevent static electricity build up and discharge.


Cloud migration

Cloud migration is a trend in companies of every size today. If you’re also looking to make the move to cloud computing for your business, colocation can pave the way. Colocation provides the tools you need for a smooth transition and an excellent base to build a robust hybrid system.

It allows you to move your hardware to a facility with more capacity to manage the necessary changes, meaning it can add much-needed support to the process, making it both easier and faster.


Making room to grow

The current size of your business is not likely the size it will remain forever. As you grow, your infrastructure will have to grow with you. Colocation services allow you to expand your infrastructure in-line with your growth. 

You don’t have to take on more capital expenditure. This means you will be able to expand your critical IT infrastructure, and provide support for it more quickly. You’ll also be able to do it with much less investment than you would with an on-site data centre or comms room.


Colocation solutions

When your business owns its networking equipment, servers, and storage, it’s tempting to host it all on-site. After all, it might seem like a waste to have all the equipment and have to pay someone else to host it. But you should keep in mind that office spaces are designed to meet the needs of people, not critical IT equipment.

Servers and related hardware has its own needs. These needs are specialised and highly technical. For each group – either servers or people – their needs have to be met for them to be optimally productive.

Considering a colocation service may be the best choice you could make for your business to address all these needs

Contact us to speak with an expert.

How to decide between half and full rack colocation

You’ve decided that colocated services are the way forward for your business. You want a reliable data centre so you don’t have to worry about building, maintaining and updating a large computing facility. These rentable data centres take care of all the extra expenses and work with the kind of security that provides peace of mind.

However, you’ll need to analyse the pros and cons when deciding whether a full or half rack is the best solution for your business. Read on to learn more about these options so you can make the most informed decision.


What is Colocation? 

Colocation can be a difficult concept to describe if you’re new to it. Simply put, the term means that servers and other IT equipment from many different companies are ‘co-located’ within one data centre. 

Also referred to as a ‘colo,’ these data centre facilities rent out rack space to third parties. It’s a simple solution designed to assist businesses that don’t have enough resources to maintain their own data centre, but still need the benefits.

Some of the benefits include lower costs, fewer members of staff, easier scalability, and the ability to choose a data centre that’s near your users. Last but not least, because the contracts you sign last at least one year, your monthly expenses are extremely predictable.


Half rack colocation

Half racks offer 20U of colocation space – a perfect solution if your needs are on the smaller end of the spectrum. At 1.75”, a rack unit (or ‘U’) measures the thickness of a single unit server.

Because of the smaller size, most half rack options are less expensive than full rack options, typically ranging between £299.00 to £479.00 per month. They also include: 

  • Power feeds of 2 to 8 amps at 240v
  • Multiple connectivity options 
  • Lockable, segregated racks for extra security

This isn’t a good solution for your business if you’re planning on growing beyond 20U, as you’d need to migrate to a larger enclosure, or contract for another. Half racks don’t give you a lot of available room to add additional equipment, but if you don’t predict on adding more equipment, this can be the most efficient and cost-effective option for your business.


Full rack colocation

If you do planning on scaling your business and adding more equipment, full racks are generally the best option. The larger size allows you to store many more servers and network equipment. 

Like half rack options, full racks are lockable cabinets for extra security. They can only be accessed by IT professionals that are approved by your business.

Because of the extra cost, you don’t want to pay for space that you don’t need, so make sure that your business actually needs this extra room. However, you may want to consider private cages or suites if you anticipate lots of growth that will soon require multiple cabinets. 

Private cages give you a little extra flexibility, such as adding desks, keyboards, monitors, additional cooling elements and more room for network equipment.


Choosing your colocation service provider

There are many providers available for colocated services, and it can be overwhelming to decide who to go with. After all, this is a long term decision that will determine the safety and upkeep of your IT equipment. 

Besides software, hardware, and cost, here are some important aspects to consider:

Security

Ensure that the provider offers both logical and physical security. Logical security is more difficult to determine than physical security, so do your research, or talk to a provider’s customer service department for clarity. You also want features such as biometric or security card access, 24×7 on-site personnel, and the ability to mitigate DDoS attacks.

Carrier options

It’s important that the data centre has various connectivity options available, including a range of blended transit and off-net, direct connection options. The best will be able to provide a wealth of options to suit any budget and requirement. 

Contracts and SLA

Part of the contract should include an SLA (Service Level Agreement) that guarantees certain levels of service, such as uptime, throughput and the mean time between failures and recovery. Ensure that you compare SLAs with the providers you’re considering, and find the one that gives you the most security.

Privacy

Make sure that the colocation service provider you’re considering has the necessary technology, policies, and procedures in place to match your regulatory compliance requirements. For instance, if your data is being transferred to another country, determine the privacy laws there and if any would be violated. 

On-Site Monitoring and Managing 

It’s important to find a provider that provides a consistent temperature-controlled environment. However, that’s not all you need to ensure your equipment is working properly. 

It’s necessary to keep track of the on-site security measures, cooling performance, power conditioning and the general operation of your equipment. You can do this yourself by travelling to the data centre on a regular basis. Another option is to determine if your provider also offers managed services. 

Moreover, environmental probes, rack monitors and power management software can help you monitor the health of your equipment even when you’re not at the location.

The My Netwise customer control panel provides most of this data to end clients as standard, meaning less of this responsibility is placed on the service user.


Colocated services for your business

As you can see, choosing a half rack versus a full rack service is all about your infrastructure needs in the moment. You also need to take into account your anticipated growth.

Geographic flexibility and the ability to travel to your colocation provider is important. It’s also recommended to shop around to find the best deals, SLAs, and features for your area.

Now that you know which option is best for your business, contact Netwise today. As one of the UK’s leading colocation service providers, we offer state of the art, highly resilient private facilities

The benefits of workplace recovery for SMEs

We recently launched our new Workplace Recovery London brand, which now provides invaluable peace of mind to businesses in and around London from our on-site disaster recovery suite.

As part of the recent launch, we are helping SMEs to better understand the benefits of having such a service in place.

Workplace Recovery London

73% of small businesses admit to lacking a business continuity plan. And yet SMEs may struggle to recover if they’re hit with a disaster. Some never reopen at all.

This serves to highlight the importance small businesses should place in their own recovery plan.

Still not convinced? Below, we’ll take a look at the benefits of workplace recovery for a small business.

 

Prevent Lost Sales

The moment a crisis strikes your business, you begin to experience lost sales.

These losses only compound the longer the crisis continues. Lost sales become lost customers. Missed SLAs become financial penalties or lost contracts. After an extended outage, there’s a good chance you’ll need to pay extra to win back your customer base, too.

It’s rare that small businesses can take sustained losses like these. They often lack the financial safety nets of larger operations. A few weeks of lost revenue could ensure a small business will never recover.

Workplace recovery restores your services at the first possible opportunity. That way, you can begin making up for your lost revenue immediately. A good business continuity plan is one of the few things that will carry your business through a major disaster.

 

Customer Continuity

A workplace recovery plan can measure its success by whether your customers notice any disruption.

With the right recovery service in place, you can transition into backup services without your customers even spotting the difference. As we mentioned before, customers are more likely to abandon a service when there’s a break in continuity.

Investing in workplace recovery increases your chances of retaining your customers by preventing a hit to the customer experience.

This is especially vital for any businesses offering ongoing support. If your services go down, your customers could end up losing money themselves. In a worst-case scenario, your service outage could even pose a risk to customer well-being.

 

Staff Continuity

You also have your workforce to think about when you’re hit by a disaster.

If your staff are on flexible contracts, they’ll be unable to earn a living while you’re out of business. If you’re out for long enough, they’ll need to move on to other employment to cover their living costs.

But you need to consider permanent staff, too. Each day your company is out of action is another day you’re paying wages and benefits without RoI to your company. That’s yet another financial hit on top of the others we’ve covered.

Workplace recovery services can bring your premises back online to ensure continuity for staff. Where that’s not practical, they can help establish temporary operations centres.

Notifying your staff of an incident becomes much easier when vital services are in place. If you can bring your business back online even in a limited way, you can prepare your workforce for any disruption to their schedule.

 

Respond Efficiently

Humans in an emergency situation have a tendency to make poor decisions.

It’s not a universal trait, though. Most notably, those who know there’s a plan to follow can perform much better in a crisis situation. That’s why it’s so important to have a process in place for a major service outage.

A strong workplace recovery service fields a team of experts who know how to respond to disaster situations. They’ll follow a pre-planned set of actions to ensure your business continuity.

A business faces the prospect of huge financial losses when there’s a break in business continuity. They can’t afford to waste time figuring out what to do next. Fast, decisive action is the only way to limit the damage.

A recovery service will also work with you to come up with a preemptive plan. That way, you can rest assured that a plan is in place no matter what happens.

 

Maintain Your Brand

The general public understands that one-off incidents are largely unavoidable. But a prolonged issue suggest a deeper cause.

If you lack a recovery plan when an incident hits, you send a clear message. The message says you’re an amateur brand. It’s not nice, but it’s a fact. And these days, that’s likely to see you mocked on social media.

The hit to your reputation is yet another way you stand to suffer massive financial losses without a recovery plan. As your customers spread the word, they’ll drive away new custom.

Unless you have a masterful PR team, negative media coverage will only destroy the reputation you’ve built for your brand.

But with a good recovery plan, you’ll actually get to show off your competence. It’ll impress your customers if you pull off providing your service even in the event of a disaster – it might be the only British instinct stronger than the urge to banter.

 

Peace of Mind

Running a small business already demands a lot of hat-wearing. Without the luxury of dedicated teams, employees at a smaller company often have no choice but to juggle multiple tasks.

The last thing you want to add to the daily concerns of running a business is the fear that it could all end at a moment’s notice. Yet a single fire or flood could wipe out everything you’ve built.

Hiring a workplace recovery service puts your business continuity in the hands of experts.

That frees you up to spend mental energy on your business instead. It also makes each investment in your business less of a gamble, as you’re less likely to lose everything overnight.

Small-business owners often undervalue peace of mind. Yet peace of mind is what stops work overtaking your life. With a business continuity plan in place, you’re free to focus on your core business without distraction.

 

Workplace Recovery is Serious Business

Running a small business doesn’t mean you have to think like one. You’re vulnerable to many of the same factors that can hit a larger business. Yet your position can rarely take the hit in the same way. Consider workplace recovery services if you plan to take your business seriously.

Looking for more disaster recovery information? Be sure to get in touch with our team.