Data Center ManagementIn this era of “big data,” the modern datacenter is critically important for facilitating nearly all major human endeavors. Businesses, schools and governments all rely on datacenters for saving and organizing vital information. Each datacenter administrator is tasked with a highly important job that requires responsible preparation.

Though datacenters vary in size and capability, certain tactics are key for optimizing any datacenter. These are time-honored principles that have proven useful since the early days of IT and business computing. The following strategies can simplify datacenter management for career IT professionals and IT novices alike.

01. Maximize Storage Space

Though efficient storage should be a given in modern IT, far too many people lag behind when it comes to efficiency. Even in this advanced time, admins too often rely on direct attached storage (DAS) for the bulk of their storage needs. This type of storage is only accessible to physically connected servers. In some cases, this limited access is justified by the need to protect sensitive data. More often than not, overuse of DAS lingers out of habit more than practical need.

Networking storage devices is a low-overhead process that can produce a wide variety of benefits. Networked storage is more flexible and prevents the formation of “storage islands” or pools of capacity that are underutilized and difficult to access. With the many affordable security applications available today, network storage solutions are more than safe enough for the average datacenter. In a fully networked storage system, it is far easier to allocate and provision storage in a sensible manner.

02. Prioritize Automation

Datacenter automation is essential for managing IT infrastructure and human resources. Even the most basic modern datacenter uses automation to one degree or another. For truly exceptional results, admins need to keep up with the latest developments in industry-standard automation. Here are four tips for more painless implementation of datacenter automation:

Keep accurate records. Though datacenters do well in maintaining data, metadata on datacenter processes is often surprisingly disorganized. Often, veteran data workers keep important information on post-it notes or even in their heads. Gathering this information is critical for ensuring adequate ROI for automation projects.

Break down how much time workers are spending on monthly, weekly and daily tasks. This identifies areas where automation can make the most difference.

Delegate tasks and assign responsibility. Oftentimes, admins attempt to take too many automation tasks upon themselves. When possible, delegating steps and making subordinates accountable is a fine way to proceed.

03. Make Incremental Improvements

If possible, it is best to roll out new technologies incrementally. Admins can set themselves up for failure if they try to implement changes too quickly. Although systemic changes are always made with the best of intentions, too much downtime can lead to unintended consequences. For major tasks like data migration, it may be impossible to move forward without major systemic interruption. However, there is no reason one can’t roll out installations, upgrades and patches in a low-impact, incremental fashion.

04. Use Redundancy to Limit Risk

Redundant systems are central to IT best practices. While most IT professionals are sold on the virtues of redundancy, finance departments occasionally balk at signing off on funding backups. Vital servers, network components and storage devices all need twins to ensure data security and uninterrupted access.

When hardware is in short supply, any admin can create workarounds with a little imagination. For example, one could partition an underutilized device to create a virtual backup server. Necessarily, these ad-hoc backups can’t fulfill all server needs. However, any backup is better than nothing when it comes to limiting data interruptions.

05. Manage Physical Cables Properly

Whatever their sizes, datacenters generally have to operate with highly specific budget constraints. Smart cable handling will make cables last longer and contribute to institutional cost-effectiveness. In too many datacenters, cable management is a passing afterthought. For more conscious management, lay out cables according to a predetermined plan.

A simple spreadsheet can do wonders for smart cable maintenance. Proper labeling is also vital, particularly for small and mid-sized datacenters. Smaller datacenters may require more frequent hardware upgrades and installations, which can become frustrating when wrangling disorganized cables. Color coding cables is a time-tested method for quick identification.

Use plenty of upright and horizontal cable guides to ensure proper airflow for hot power cables. Elevating cables can protect against the menace of pooling water, a rare but destructive problem for datacenters worldwide.

What are your top datacenter management tips? Share in the comments.