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What Happens During a Data Center Audit

By: Tom Banta on April 23, 2019

Data centers undergo a wide variety of audits in any given year to assess their operational readiness, performance, and compliance standards. While some of these audits are performed by third parties, others are carried out internally as part of an effort to deliver the best services possible for colocation customers. When partnering with a facility, it’s always good to find out a bit about their data center audit standards.

Security Management and Access Control Audits

High levels of physical security are one of the major benefits of storing assets in a data center. Whether it’s concern over unauthorized access, human error, or malicious attack, many companies turn to data centers to protect their valuable data and IT infrastructure. By conducting regular audits of security management and access protocols, data centers can offer continued assurance that they’re doing everything in their power to keep the doors locked tightly.

Good data center audit standards focus on every aspect of physical security, evaluating the performance and status of video surveillance systems, biometric scanners, and perimeter sensors. They also check fire suppression systems and make sure that individual cabinets on the data floor is secure and sending out the appropriate notifications in the event of any problems. Periodic audits of access policies should be carried out as well, testing whether or not security personnel are following all authentication procedures and if access lists are up to date. A security audit also tests the readiness of security personnel and may incorporate additional screening and background checks of both data center employees and contractors who have access to the facility.

Power Efficiency Audits

Data centers consume massive amounts of energy to keep their computing and cooling systems operating. Collectively, data centers utilize about three percent of the world’s electricity, but much of that power is used by smaller, less efficient facilities that are plagued by poor design, inconsistent processes, and limited oversight. By conducting regular audits focused on energy efficiency, data centers can improve their IT operations, evaluate their power management software, and consume less energy while delivering better performance.

An energy audit evaluates how power is being utilized within the data center environment. It begins with energy usage trends to identify potential problem areas, then looks at environmental controls, lighting systems, and HVAC performance. Next, it evaluates whether space is being used efficiently within the facility. The audit can be used to calculate a power usage effectiveness (PUE) score by dividing the total amount of power used by the power requirements of IT equipment. Comprehensive power efficiency data center audit standards can establish baseline trends and benchmarks to evaluate the facility’s performance over time.

Infrastructure Audits

Data centers are complex environments with a broad range of customer assets and mission-critical hardware. Cabling, power supplies, and backup systems are all incredibly important to day-to-day IT operations in these facilities. The worst case scenario for any data center is to find out that backup power supply isn’t ready to kick on in the event of a power outage, but even a seemingly minor problem like a broken cable can seriously disrupt a customer’s business operations and cause them to seek another, more reliable, colocation provider.

Comprehensive infrastructure audits could take a number of forms (such as an asset audit that documents computing equipment or a design audit that looks at the data center’s physical design standards), but their primary focus is on evaluating the physical aspects of a data center. These data center audits examine cabling, identify what equipment is being used and where, and inspect all redundant systems to ensure that the facility is delivering the very best in terms of reliability and performance.

IT Operations Audits

Even if a data center has all the equipment and processes in place to deliver high-performance services, those resources will go to waste without an effective operations team in place to manage that infrastructure. Whether it’s remote hands teams functioning as an extension of a colocation customer’s IT department or data center personnel dedicated to maintaining the facility’s complicated infrastructure, the human element of data center operations is critically important.

Unfortunately, people sometimes make mistakes. Lack of readiness can contribute to the risk of human error, especially in an emergency situation. An IT operations data center audit can put data center personnel through the paces with drills and other evaluations to make sure that everyone knows how to handle any issue that might emerge in the future.

Compliance Audits

While data centers need to regularly audit their own facilities and processes, they also need to be ready for compliance audits. Conducted by a third-party auditor to assess a facility’s compliance with various legal requirements, these audits are incredibly important for data centers. Data centers must pass these audits to earn certificates and attestations of compliance for business-critical standards like ISO, SSAE 18, SOC 2 Type II, and HIPAA/HITECH. Without these certificates, data centers will struggle to compete for customers who need partners capable of meeting these requirements. Third parties tend to have high data center audit standards, ensuring that any facility that passes can provide the peace of mind customers are looking for when it comes to compliance.

Good data centers recognize that audits are an opportunity rather than something to be feared. Audits provide an accurate picture of how well a facility is performing and identify areas in need of improvement. Making a commitment to a comprehensive auditing regimen can help data centers provide better services that consistently meet customer needs.

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