Operations & Procedures, Planning & Strategy

COVID-19 roundtable (March 5, 2020): Uptime Institute members on alert, taking precautions

Kevin Heslin / March 6, 2020

UII Note 49 • Q1 2020

A well-attended roundtable meeting on March 5, 2020, pulled together at short notice, indicates the degree of seriousness with which the data center industry is treating the potential COVID-19 pandemic. A follow-up meeting can be expected in about a week.

For now, the organizations (approximately 20) represented at the COVID-19 roundtable are taking commonsense precautions to minimize the likelihood that they will experience adverse effects from COVID-19 in their facilities and can protect staff, while also preparing for worst-case scenarios. Mission-critical facilities face particular challenges because actions such as quarantines or the non-availability of key staff could affect their ability to continue operations.

Numerous organizations agreed that they were implementing or examining actions in the following areas:

  • Preparing the facility
  • Sanitizing the facility
  • Instructing staff to work from home
  • Implementing isolation, if necessary
  • Limiting travel
  • Controlling facility access

Policies and approaches differed from case to case. All organizations worried about the need for quarantine. One participant shared that a data center facility in South Korea had been quarantined. As a result, it engaged a specialized cleaning service.

Participants all were seeking new and current information. Resources include:

One participant said his organization evaluates intelligence and decides its activities in a daily senior leadership call. Others said that their disaster plans provide a blueprint for action, including thresholds for escalation.

Individual circumstances often suggest reasons for different levels of alarm/precaution. One firm is located near an area having confirmed cases. Another runs facilities that have treated patients.

Specific steps include:

Prepare the facility

  • Top-off fuel tanks
  • Obtain extra IT gear (racks, cables, etc.) as insurance against supply chain disruptions

Sanitize the facility

  • Increase attention to cleaning
  • Wipe down surfaces during rounds
  • Place hand sanitizers throughout the facility
  • Place signs reminding staff to clean areas
  • Follow CDC guidelines
  • Engage a third-party specialist cleaning firm
  • Ensure availability of personal protective equipment, including Tyvek suits

Instruct staff to work from home

  • Implement where appropriate and possible
  • Ensure you have the ability to control and monitor the site remotely
  • Stress-test virtual private networks (VPNs)
  • Upgrade VPNs and networks

Implement isolation, if necessary

  • Conduct fever checks
  • Stockpile noncontact thermometers
  • Enable voluntary isolation
  • Exercise an abundance of caution: assume any relevant symptom could be an indication of COVID-19 infection
  • Prepare to work in-place (stockpile essentials)

Limit travel

  • Restrict/ban unnecessary travel
  • Limit travel for all

Control facility access

  • Split crews, ensuring each can control the facility
  • Prohibit cross-site access
  • Postpone all non-critical work to limit the number of individuals having access to the facility

One point that was raised about postponing non-critical work: Some data center operators may be concerned that permitting a backlog of routine tasks may increase risk.


  • Confer with insurance companies on relevant items, such as cleaning requirements
  • Determine legal requirements

The participants agreed this is a rapidly changing situation, and Uptime will plan additional roundtable meetings – watch Inside Track and Uptime emails for announcements. Uptime Institute thanks Rhett Bailey of Truist for helping organize and pull together the meeting.

Uptime Institute has created an Intelligence Collection of all COVID-19 resources here. Inside Track members can follow the resource or sign up to receive alerts by clicking on the relevant links on the Collection’s landing page.

Related impacts on Uptime events

As a result of COVID-19 concerns, Uptime Institute has postponed its 2020 North American Spring Conference in Napa Valley, CA, and its upcoming Network meetings in Athens and Mexico City.