Tips for cleaning data-center gear in response to coronavirus

Dell has some suggestions on how to disinfect sensitive electronics

server room / data center
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People are washing their hands, countertops, and nearly everything else in an effort to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In a recent trip to the supermarket I found plenty of bread and milk, but the cleaning-aisle shelves were bare.

While it's easy to keep your desk clean, what about your data center? People go in and out and touch things all the time. Rubber gloves are an option, but they can be a nuisance when working with gear or touch screens.

Dell has come up with some guidance for cleaning its data center products. It's well timed, as data-center operators are tasked with implementing access and cleaning procedures in response to COVID-19.

It's a real issue. The two biggest data center and colocation providers, Equinix and Digital Reality Trust, are restricting visitors to their facilities for the time being. Since the hardware in colocation data center is owned by the clients, they have every right to visit the facility to perform maintenance or upgrades – but not for now.

Meanwhile, data-center staff have been declared essential and are exempt from California's "stay at home" order, so like grocery store and banking staff, data center workers can go to work.

Right off the bat, Dell acknowledges that its data center products "are not high touch products," and that data centers should have a clean room policy where people are required to sanitize their hands before they enter.

If your gear does need sterilization, Dell recommends engaging a professional cleaning company that specializes in sterilizing data center equipment. If that's not possible, then you can do it yourself as a last resort.

Start off with disposable rubber gloves, if you can find them. Because electronics and moisture don't mix very well, Dell recommends powering down the gear in advance of work. This is likely not feasible in many data center cases, so Dell recommends that cleaning be limited to external surfaces such as handles and other common touch points. Do not open cabinet and chassis doors or attempt to clean any internal components.

(You should see the clouds I send up with a can of compressed air on my PC's dusty fans, while it is running.)

Dell says to avoid cleaners with chlorine, such as bleach; peroxides; solvents such as acetone, paint thinner, benzene, methylene chloride or toluene; ammonia (for example, Windex); and ethyl alcohol.

"To clean external surfaces such as handles and cabinets, moisten a microfiber cloth with a final concentration of 70% isopropyl alcohol by volume. The cloth should be moist, but not dripping wet," the company said. Wipe everything down and make sure they are dried off, leaving no moisture behind.

All of this sounds like common sense but if there's one thing I've seen this past week, it's that sense isn't very common.

Stay safe, everyone.

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