The invisible danger in the data centre

15 January 2020

It is likely that everything in your data centre is very much in order. The cables are neatly laid out, it is clean and your data centre is well protected against cyber attacks. But there is another enemy that might not come to mind so quickly and which can cause lots of problems: particles.

Controlled air flows do not prevent everything.

Many data centres already use controlled airflows to prevent unclean particles from contaminating the servers. But have you ever thought about the specks of dust that come in with your employees? Or the particles caused by defective equipment? This dust is barely visible or not at all and can only be recognised by trained people.

Which dust particles do you need to pay attention to?

When these particles accumulate in the server equipment, what occurs is a slowdown, overheating or even a malfunction. It is therefore important to regularly get rid of these particles. Which particles do you need to pay attention to? Below you will find the most important ones:


Many people suffer from hay fever in the spring and summer. This is due to pollen in the air. Among others, the hazel, the oak tree, the chestnut tree and grass are the culprits. This pollen not only irritates our airways; it is also to be found on our hair, on our clothing and on our skin. So there is a good chance that your employees bring in this pollen unawares.

Black Dust

Not only does danger come from the outside. Your own equipment can also produce harmful dust particles if it is not properly maintained. For example, if the drive belt of the air coolers is worn, then black soot is created, also known as black dust. This is iron oxide (FeO) and has a magnetic charge. If this substance is distributed over the data centre via the air flow, then that is devastating for the hard drives of the servers.

Zinc particles

Zinc particles are formed on galvanised metal objects. We often think that zinc is caused by rusting. That is not the case. It is just the reverse. The zinc layer that we apply as rust prevention creates compressive stress in the metal. This causes the metal to expand which in turn causes the zinc particles to form. These particles are conductive and can cause voltage disturbances in electrical equipment.

Skin, hair, dust, mud and clothing particles

These dust particles are usually very small and they are scarcely noticeable. They are often unknowingly brought in by people via clothing, shoes or, for example, the boxes of new materials. If these particles get into the air system and server equipment, then, for example, they can cause an airflow blockage or overheating. And that is disastrous for your equipment.

To Measure is to Know

So there are many different particles that can cause your servers to slow down or even crash due to overheating. Most of these particles cannot be seen with the naked eye. That’s why it’s difficult to determine what risks you are running in your data centre. Fortunately, there are ways to measure these particles.

Find out where you stand

If you are wondering how to look after the digital heart of your organisation, use our Risk Management Audit which has been especially developed for this purpose.

Request a Risk Management Audit