Jack Bedell-Pearce, CEO at 4D Data Centres
Following the arrival of COVID-19 in 2020, an array of sectors came together to combat the pandemic’s effects on business. As a result of the uncertainty, many companies were forced to adapt quickly in order to maintain business continuity and protect their staff and customers.
As far back as February 2020, UK data centre operators were collaborating with one another on how best to tackle the pandemic that lay ahead. They did this through weekly conference calls, the sharing of critical information and learning from the bigger operators who had facilities located in China and Italy, both of which were hit hard by the initial outbreak.
Operators were also able to share ideas on how to keep their data centres running in the face of widespread lockdown. The UK Government joined the calls to understand how the pandemic was affecting data centres and whether there were any underlying risks to digital Britain staying online. Operators subsequently provided regular updates to both DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) and each other.
Another area of collaboration was with industry bodies to get data centres listed as critical infrastructure, which proved crucial in helping the industry keep ‘the lights on’. This was a remarkable achievement during the height of the UK’s first lockdown. One of the key results of this classification was to ensure critical workers could indeed come to work on site and that children of critical workers could go to school in a similar vein. The recognition of the sector has allowed it to continue to power the nation, as demand for infrastructure services continues to grow and many office workers have worked remotely for much of the past 18 months. This wasn’t restricted to the UK either, as data centres across Denmark, Germany, France and Norway made similar classifications.
With the benefit of hindsight, what the past year has taught us is that collaboration is a powerful tool during a crisis, even amongst competitors. We take for granted now restrictions like social distancing and national lockdowns, but 18 months ago this caused a lot of uncertainty and new challenges for all businesses. Combined with supply chain issues that came about as a result of Brexit, it’s no understatement to say that successfully navigating the past year whilst keeping everyone online has been a huge achievement for the data centre sector.
Data centres as a conduit for remote working
Despite the pandemic’s impact on multiple sectors, businesses specialising in IT, ISP, SaaS, cloud and data centres have instead continued to operate smoothly thanks to heightened demand for their services. This trend can be explained as a result of the abrupt but necessary shift towards home and remote working.
The pandemic has shown employees can be productive when working remotely, and for many companies, business continuity plans have not been affected by the workforce’s migration to working from home. The reduced need for office space is however causing a problem for businesses that now want to downsize but don’t know where to put their servers, especially those that have been previously set up in an in-house server room.
IT support companies and MSPs (Managed Service Providers) have worked for a long time with data centres in an effort to provide their end-clients with resilient IT and excellent business continuity. This message is even more relevant today as companies look to marry the cost savings of an office downsize with the continuity of just ‘lifting and shifting’ their servers to a data centre.
Collaboration isn’t always visible
It’s worth acknowledging that collaboration isn’t a straightforward process – if anything, it is an ongoing and long-term investment and definitely not a one-way street.
Successful collaboration is often bred from strong relationships based on mutual trust, transparency and comprehensive knowledge sharing. Only by nurturing these valuable contacts will businesses successfully leverage their network and make it their most valuable resource. But what about the collaboration that isn’t always seen?
As modern-day connectivity hubs, data centres are at the epicentre of an extensive operation and are at the forefront of promoting and facilitating partnerships between numerous businesses on a global scale. Though many businesses keep the location of their servers under wraps, collaborating in a different way has seen companies come out of the pandemic with much closer customer and supplier relationships, which will put them in good stead for the future.
Collaboration across the data centre sector has proved to be vital for its survival in the pandemic and to ensure that it has been able to constantly meet the demands that the unprecedented last 18 months have presented. By collaborating both internally and with external bodies such as the national government, the sector has been able to weather the storm, ensuring that many have been able to adapt to the new norms, particularly within the workplace presented by the pandemic. The sector must continue to use collaboration as a means to keep adapting to a changing environment and respond to the lasting impact of the pandemic.