Written by Nate Josephs

Sr. Systems Engineer/Data Center Manager

In the previous article series, I discussed policies, processes, and procedures and how they reduce human error in data centers by setting expectations and showing how to meet those expectations.  Training is also key in minimizing risk by ensuring staff read and understand policies, know all critical steps of processes, and can perform tasks per procedures.  Training also provides supervisors a fair and objective way to assess employee performance.  Furthermore, organizations can justify disciplinary actions if an employee was trained yet willfully neglected to perform per expectations.  The following is an overview of how to create effective training material for your data center staff.

Training Content:  The following content is typically included in data center-related training material starting with safety as top priority.  Safety content may include evacuation procedures, how to use a fire extinguisher, ladder safety, lock-out-tag-out (LOTO) procedures, and how to respond if police, fire, or emergency medical services arrive onsite.  Additional safety topics may describe various alarms that could be triggered, what those alarms mean, and appropriate actions to take.

The second most important training topics relate to data center uptime.  Supporting uptime applies to anyone entering the data center including guests, vendors or IT personnel.  Uptime content would cover data center rules such as no cardboard, food or liquids allowed in the data center, or “no piggy backing” where someone with access to the data center holds the door open for someone who does not have access.  Uptime topics should also discuss control panels and buttons located in the data center.  For instance, anyone entering the data center should know where the EPO button is and understand that pressing it shuts down the entire room!

Along with safety and uptime-related topics, an effective training program includes sections tailored to each data center role.  Here are a few training topic examples based on various roles supporting the data center:

  • Security Guard
    • Identifying and addressing issues and emergencies
    • Policies relating to security
    • Panel alerts
    • Operating camera and door access software
    • Identifying all on-site critical infrastructure equipment
    • Creating badges
    • Performing walkthroughs
  • DC Technician
    • Racking, cabling and cable testing
    • Capacity load limits for electrical and cooling
    • Operating DCIM software
    • Operating critical infrastructure: CRACs, breakers,
    • Placing fire suppression systems in test mode
  • Facilities Maintenance
    • SOPs, EOPs
    • Power and cooling installation, repair and maintenance
    • Hazardous material handling
  • Outside vendors
    • Background check process
    • Dust/shavings mitigation when cutting/drilling
    • “Hot work” processes
    • Writing MOPs and MOP approval process

Format:  Three important items to include in training are a curriculum, syllabus and instructor’s content.  The curriculum describes what the course is about, the course’s goals and objectives, and requirements to pass.  A syllabus describes the course in greater detail. These two items allow students to know exactly what they are getting into before starting a course.  Instructor’s content contains the trainer’s lesson plans, test answers and anything else that helps the instructor teach the course.

Training material can be delivered in many formats depending on what is being taught.  The following are some formats and when they work best:

  • Online videos such as YouTube work great for visually explaining something that is difficult to explain in writing.
  • Classroom (in-house, vendor site, or at a school). Effective when multiple people attend the class at the same time.
  • Mentorship such as a senior technician training in a new-hire “on the job” works well for teaching company-specific or job-specific material.
  • Drills are a great for simulating emergencies and teaching students how to respond appropriately.
  • Written material. Appropriate for independent learning that does not require a live demonstration or any hands-on learning.

Testing and Record Keeping:  Testing ensures students read, understand, and retain training.  Just like there are multiple training formats, there are multiple testing formats.  You may have students perform a demonstration to test competency, go through drills, take a formal written test, or answer questions in an informal manner.  Keeping records of course completion and passing scores is important.  Test records provide proof of course completion and may also be needed for future audits.

Training minimizes risk by making sure staff read, understand and retain mission-critical policies, processes, procedures.  Data center training should be required for everyone entering the data center and tailored for each role from physical security staff, data center technicians, facilities management, to IT personnel.  Effective training starts with safety as top priority followed by data center uptime as the next highest priority.  Choose the training format that seems most effective per training content and be sure to include the curriculum, syllabus and the instructor’s content.  Test students using an appropriate format per subject matter and keep records of course completion and passing test scores.   Creating a data center training program that includes these components will reduce human error and maximize your data center’s uptime.


Be sure to check back here soon for the next installment on Tips From A Data Center Manager.