These days, it’s hard to tell which aspect of data centers is greater: their criticality or their complexity. Data centers have become the essential drivers of many businesses, and their rise in importance has been paralleled by the evolution of technology necessary to maintain them. Managing them requires using the best tools and practices, because downtime carries high costs. Here are three keys to effective data center management.

Get the Big Picture

Data center performance is multidimensional. It involves many IT and facility factors that are interconnected, including power, cooling, energy efficiency, server capacity, asset tracking, and maintenance needs. Information about one of these aspects isn’t much use without the context of the other aspects. Good data center management requires a platform that can unify all of the information about the various systems and operations to present a holistic view of the enterprise.

Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software provides centralized, real-time visibility into all aspects of the data center and enables the most informed operational decisions. The e-book 40 Critical Problems Your DCIM Should Solve, from Raritan, details many ways that DCIM (data center infrastructure management) software can provide actionable intelligence. For example, it should help you easily identify physical connectivity between devices, improve power capacity planning, keep up-to-date inventory of assets, know the downstream impact of change, and identify and prevent potential power problems.

Benchmark and Document Everything

Effective data center management involves tracking performance and measuring the impact of changes. Doing so involves getting benchmarks for everything from power consumption to environmental conditions (information that the DCIM software readily provides). Later measurements can be compared with these baselines to chart trends, take a proactive approach to potential problems, and evaluate the success of efficiency initiatives.

Besides benchmarks, thorough documentation of policies and procedures is a data center management best practice. Clear directions for IT and facilities staff to follow in situations large and small can keep things running smoothly. With documented procedures in place, changes and crisis response becomes far more effective.  DCIM information also supports a data center’s existing processes, such as change-ticketing workflows.

Go High Density

Some experts suggest that migrating to a high-density environment is the latest best way to reduce costs and streamline operations. It involves expanding vertically rather than horizontally, increasing cabinet utilization and processing performance while using less floor space (thus saving on environmental control costs). Reducing IT requirements by 1 watt saves 2.84 watts of power and cooling. DCIM software is integral to determining whether such a migration to high-density is possible, because it provides key insight into your data center operations and how your systems interact. Your baseline environment readings will help you plan your strategy.

Whether you are moving to a high-density environment or looking for other ways to increase efficiency, lower costs, and reduce downtime, information is central to effective data center management. The knowledge obtained from DCIM software solves problems and improves plans for the future.