So how have Interactive’s Data Centre customers managed the increased pressure on their core ICT infrastructure in conjunction with the need for social distancing? And exactly what have they called on us to help them with during extraordinary times?
Increased physical access security
We’ve always maintained strict customer access security at all our DC facilities, but for our pandemic response plan, we upgraded it to minimise the chance of entry by an especially nasty virus! All staff and visitors pass temperature scanners and we streamlined entry points for external visitors to reduce clustering in reception areas.
Very early on we created standard operational guidelines for continuing operations including working securely from home, Addressing the Business and Health Risks of COVID-19, and made them available to our customers. We also continuously update our on-premises processes and access procedures to comply with successive Federal and relevant State government lockdown requirements.
Remote Hands to the fore
Even customers who typically attend our multiple DC facilities in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to manage their hosted equipment were trying to avoid doing so for health and safety reasons. Some live in regional locations so it was no longer as easy to visit while working from home. Increased demands on their working hours also made them less able to commute. In these cases, we provided Remote Hands services to reboot devices, connect cables and install additional equipment and services.
Some organisations have had to stand IT staff down or make them redundant due to the economic downturn – so remaining IT resources have been hard-pressed. Those businesses are trying to ‘do more with less’ and have sought assistance from our DC experts – within our facilities, third-party data centre premises or remote working at their own.
We always assess each request carefully, conducting risk assessments to ensure we have the capacity to deliver the required services – but, overall, we managed to deliver any additional support required.
Industry-specific pandemic consequences on DC ops
We provide DC hosting to a wide range of industry sectors and have seen them affected in different ways. One retail customer had to shut all its outlets and lay off nearly 100 staff. On the other hand, their online sales boomed, which saw them need to increase internet bandwidth and additional redundancy to their e-commerce servers.
Customers in professional services which require them to visit their clients’ premises had to pause much of their operations. A university for which we host servers and storage abandoned campuses – and needed our help supplementing its own ICT team to provide remote support for its staff and students.
Extraordinary effort in extraordinary times
The pandemic saw our own people upping their efforts considerably, and I’ve been delighted by and very proud of the way the Interactive team has worked together. Staff levels have been our biggest challenge, with everyone working one week in the office and the next from home so we could increase distancing to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. The challenge is, ours is essentially an onsite business, and a lot of DC tasks must be done on-premises.
Having been involved in a number of disaster scenarios throughout my career in data centres and Business Continuity, this was the first time I’ve seen organisations having to manage their operations with half their staff on deck at any time. Apart from the risk of a deadly infection, it is hard to imagine a similar scenario – or one with such a long-lasting impact. For that reason, I predict it will redefine Business Continuity Planning for many organisations in the months and years to come.
If you’d like to understand how our Data Centres and expertise can support your ICT infrastructure and operations, visit our website or talk to your Interactive Account Manager.
Ben has extensive experience leading high performance teams responsible for deploying and supporting Infrastructure services that are part of Australia's critical infrastructure – but this has been his first Data Centre pandemic response. At Interactive he is responsible for managing our six owned facilities and our space in those of our partners Equinix and Polaris – ensuring best practice operations and a high level of service for our hosting, co-location and Business Continuity customers.