T5 Facilities Management – Data Center Rounds: Using Your Senses

In our data center management and operations world, one of the most critical duties we have at our sites is the accurate and detailed execution of shift rounds. Shift rounds not only ensure that our data center infrastructure is functioning correctly at the time of the round, but they also alert us to future data center maintenance requirements that may be developing.

During a shift at our T5@ Dallas Data Center, the data center facilities maintenance team performs rounds every 12 hours to review all of our critical systems. Our rounds cover all physical areas of our facility and all data center infrastructure equipment. T5 Facilities Management staff specifically tailors rounds to the individual requirements of each data center’s critical infrastructure. Our rounds checklist is written to ensure we check every piece of equipment and capture vital information necessary for accurate trending. We use that information to predict future maintenance needs outside our regularly scheduled data center planned maintenance.

Through the years, I have heard data center operators complain about rounds. Many operators simply rely on the data center monitoring system to send out an alarm when something is wrong, and then react to the problem. This belief doesn’t exist at T5 Facilities Management. As data center management specialists, we know the only way to effectively mitigate risk of downtime in a data center is to get ahead of maintenance issues before an event arises that triggers an alarm. We take extreme pride in our data center facilities and in our service to our customers. This is accomplished by conducting careful rounds, ensuring accurate documentation, and paying close attention to our equipment and the facility.

For example, while performing shift rounds, we always make it a point to use our senses when monitoring the facility, not just relying on the recorded readings. We train our data center management staff to slow down and pay attention to their senses when inspecting an area or a piece of equipment. We take time to feel the pumps, listen to the chillers, and smell the rooms for unusual odors. We touch the equipment to make sure that it is within normal temperature ranges. We recognize small nuances in smell could indicate a leak or future potential overheating of a piece of electrical gear. There have been many incidences of an engineer performing rounds and noticing a strange smell that identified a failure well before it could occur. This use of senses, along with knowing a site inside and out, make for a stronger, more pro-active facilities management team. We know the sounds and smells of every room and every piece of equipment. We spend the time to become aware of what a UPS, transformer, chiller, or cooling tower sound like in normal operation.

In addition, this is a great way to identify other work that needs to be done, such as light repairs or even general housekeeping. Incorporating the use of our senses in our shift rounds, along with our technical training, is what keeps our T5@Dallas data center infrastructure and equipment at its peak efficiency. This attention to detail is the key to making and keeping our facility at top performance and providing our customers the level of service they have come to expect from T5 Facilities Management.


Written by Richard Wittiger, Critical Facility Technician

Richard Wittiger is a Critical Facilities Technician with T5@Dallas.  Richard has over 25 years’ experience in facilities and critical infrastructure, including data centers, high rise office buildings, distribution centers, and multi-tenant residential.  His extensive mechanical training coupled with past roles of Chief Engineer and Assistant Critical Facilities Manager provide the backbone of Richard’s facilities expertise. Richard began his career in the US Coast Guard where he served as a Main Propulsion Engineer.

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