Preparation, communication and flexibility – how Vantage Data Centers is operating during the coronavirus pandemic.
There is no handbook or set of guidelines that an individual or company can follow to overcome what we’re currently dealing with. The ongoing coronavirus global pandemic is unprecedented – unlike anything the world has seen or had to face in more than a century.
And for many of us, it’s unclear where we are in flattening the curve. While some jurisdictions are flirting with reopening key businesses and getting people back to work, many experts anticipate that social distancing and sanitation guidelines will need to be in place for months – possibly until a vaccine is available. And one thing is for certain, no one looks forward to a potential second wave of COVID-19.
Despite no clear resolution to the pandemic, companies across numerous essential industries are continuing to provide key services. As an essential business, Vantage Data Centers is one of the companies that has stayed open to keep important IT capabilities and services working. And we have managed to continue operating in this difficult and challenging time because of a number of important factors and steps that the company already had in place prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.
We’d like to share three of the main factors – preparation, flexibility and communication – that have enabled us to continue operating without interruption in hopes that they can help other businesses do the same during this ongoing pandemic and during future emergencies. Let’s look at each of them separately and discuss the ways they’ve benefitted Vantage over the past few months.
Embracing a “Boy Scout-level” of preparation
There is a saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” If that saying is correct, Vantage has been very lucky during this global pandemic.
According to Chris Jackson, vice president of site operations at Vantage, “If you’re trying to create structure while the ship is sinking, you’re going to struggle. It’s essential that the structure be there, in advance, to ensure that you’re ready to react when disaster strikes.”
At Vantage, we built this structure by designing, documenting and implementing policies far in advance of COVID-19, and then by constantly working to refine and enhance them. As a data center provider with service level agreements and customer commitments for 100% uptime, having emergency response and contingency plans is part of our standard operating procedures. In addition, we have baked redundancy into our supply chain and worked to diversify our ecosystem of suppliers to ensure that Vantage’s supply chain can’t be easily disrupted during an emergency.
This is an important attribute despite the fact that Vantage is inherently well-insulated from supply chain issues due in large part to how we approach equipment maintenance, a process that was described by our chief operating officer, Chris Yetman:
“The people that maintain our facilities are doing the vast majority of the work. We replace pumps, motors, controllers and compressors when they fail. We even have consistent standards for UPS devices and send our employees to become factory-certified, authorized representatives that can repair that equipment. This allows us to repair our equipment, hands-on.”
This approach has helped to ensure that replacement equipment is on-hand and available if it’s needed. It has also helped to ensure that maintenance work can continue even if third-party technicians are unavailable or unable to travel due to the pandemic.
A culture of transparency
Communication is a part of our culture and a key component to what we consider operational excellence. Vantage has always been incredibly open with our customers, never leaving them questioning what’s happening, why it’s happening, if something isn’t working or what we’re doing to fix a problem.
This same approach to communication has been incredibly welcomed by our customers during the coronavirus pandemic, and immensely valuable for our business.
Early on, we began communicating with customers about the company’s plans for addressing the coronavirus outbreak. We reached out to discuss what steps were being taken to keep employees in the data center safe during the pandemic, and to field questions and requests from customers themselves. The result has been incredibly positive.
“It was important for us, early on, to engage with each individual customer since each has its own business, culture and dynamic,” said Heather Rogers, data center lease manager at Vantage. “While some customers had interesting requests for us, some had some very good ideas. We actually were able to take those and make them part of our process to enhance it . . . make it better and more resilient during this difficult time.”
Communication was also key with local governing officials.
As a data center provider with campuses in the United States, Canada and Europe, it’s essential that we work with the local governing officials to understand the position and guidance from each region. By working closely with these officials, the data center industry – as a whole – was able to ensure “essential business” status as jurisdictions were shutting down many companies and industries, ensuring that we could continue to operate and service our customers during the pandemic. This outreach and engagement was also key in ensuring that the data center supply chain remains intact, that employees can safely get to and from work, and that necessary services are available to the data center companies.
Open to change
Vantage recently acquired Etix Everywhere as part of a $2 billion European expansion, in addition to acquiring 4Degrees in Canada in early 2019. These acquisitions resulted in Vantage evolving from a U.S. data center provider to a global data center provider very quickly.
To ease this transition, we worked to become more decentralized while still embracing a “work in the office” culture. The processes we implemented and technologies we embraced to help with this transition have given us the ability to meet the shifting workplace requirements of a global pandemic.
With the coronavirus threatening to shut down many workplaces, we moved quickly to enable telework for nonessential employees. We took advantage of teleworking and video conferencing technologies implemented proactively across the company to ensure that individuals were just as effective in their homes as they were in the office.
Recognizing that some essential staff may need to self-quarantine because of potential exposure to COVID-19, we also put in place a policy that enables them to work from home and remain productive even in a quarantine environment. Vantage has even begun providing meals to essential staff working onsite to limit their exposure to the virus, keep them healthy and simultaneously showing our gratitude for their commitment, dedication and sacrifice.
This flexibility and ability to adapt to the shifting environment has made it possible to keep employees working and productive, even during a global pandemic.
We are truly facing unprecedented times and circumstances. While the coronavirus will continue to impact our lives for the foreseeable future, preparation, communication and flexibility have helped our company maintain operations and serve our customers. As we learn more and more from this situation, we’ll apply the knowledge gained to improve our policies and make ourselves even more prepared for the next emergency.
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