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Why Data Center Training is Like Herding Cats

August 11, 2017

Why Data Center Training is Like Herding Cats

If you know anything about cats, then you know that felines have a mind of their own. They are impossible to train and work according to their own plan. Developing a data center training plan can be a lot like herding cats; each data center professional is looking to develop skills from the training and wants to achieve different objectives, and to keep the data center humming you are going to need a variety of trained experts working together.

Choose Your Specialty

It’s well known that data center certification can mean a significant salary increase for IT professionals. The more credentials you have, the more valuable you are. However, there are many different types of data center certifications. Platform-specific certifications, such as Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert (CCIE) and VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) are very specialized as well as highly paid. Other types of certifications from industry groups also carry higher paychecks. For example, being Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) pays a mean of $119,227 per year, a Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) earns $118,348 per year, and a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) earns a mean of $110,603 per year. There are similar certifications for systems design, systems auditing, and project management.

Training needs will vary with each data center environment. In addition to hardware-specific training, there are other considerations. Does the data center use virtualization? Does it use software-defined networking? Is cloud data security a consideration? How is the data center handling provisioning, policy management, backup, and other operations? Each aspect of the data center has its own unique set of training requirements, which means there’s plenty of specialized training to go around.

Data Center Training That Delivers Universal Value

In order to herd the IT cats in the direction that delivers maximum value to the organization, start with a training initiative that promotes operational efficiency. In addition to training for specific systems and protocols, there also are areas of training that can improve overall operating efficiency:

1. Environmental health and safety – Safety training is something every data center employee needs, not only because it can prevent injuries on the job, but also because it prevents expensive outages and equipment damage. Electrical safety, for example, is the biggest source of data center injuries and equipment failures.

2. Personnel management – When herding cats the cats forget that they are part of the herd. Employees need to know how their expertise and job functions affect overall operations, including other members of the team. Data center operations is only as efficient as its weakest link so data center personnel management training pays off.

3. Emergency response – Every member of the data center team needs to drill in dealing with emergencies. Everyone needs to learn the emergency protocols for a system failure, electrical failure, disaster recovery, and other emergencies to ensure that both equipment and data are safe.

4. Maintenance – Preventive maintenance should be a shared training initiative. Everyone should know how to conduct routine maintenance, how to address routine problems, and make sure that the right parts are in stock and resources are on hand.

5. Documentation – Maintaining accurate records and documenting protocols and procedures is essential. Every member of the team should know where the documentation is kept and how to update manuals and documents to keep them current, including document tracking and version control.

6. Infrastructure management – Monitoring operations, cooling, power, and infrastructure components also is a shared responsibility. Everyone should know the basics of infrastructure management to identify and correct routine issues.

7. Performance management – There are going to be key performance indicators (KPIs) that demonstrate when the data center is operating at peak efficiency. All data center employees need to be trained to monitor KPIs and be able to recognize when they call out of range or need attention.

Identifying New Practice Areas for Training

New data center technologies require new types of training. For example, new skills and job titles are being created specific to cloud computing and virtualization. For many of these specializations, certifications are starting to catch up but data centers need to implement training today to keep up with new demands.

Some data centers are compensating for lack of training by deploying smart hardware that can take over many of the routine tasks such as bulk configuration. While automation can assume many of these routine tasks, data center employees still need to understand how to manage the automation technology.

Even without certification, manufacturers, software providers, distributors, and resellers can be invaluable training resources. Distributors and resellers have to stay current with the latest data center trends so they can support their customers with the right hardware and software. Training is part of the package.

The best approach is to create a balanced training program that meets the needs of the data center and gives the cats a common direction. Be sure to cover basic data center operations and protocols, but also give the IT team a chance to shine with their own areas of specialization, including opportunities for certification. Resellers also should be prepared to offer training in the latest data center strategies that make the most of new hardware and software. If you sell it, you have to be able to support it, and if you need help developing the right training program, distributors like Ingram Micro will be on hand to help.