If Data Centers Are Understaffed, What Does That Mean For Security?

from the seems-like-a-problem dept

While I'm always a little skeptical of the numbers found in vendor surveys, it wouldn't be too surprising to learn that the recent findings that half of all data centers find themselves understaffed are at least close to accurate. About 16% of the total surveyed claimed that their data centers were "extremely understaffed," with another 34% saying they were just somewhat understaffed. Reasons for the understaffing included both the difficulty of finding qualified people for more technologically complex datacenters and general economic cutbacks -- neither of which are particularly surprising.

The bigger question is what impact this will have. Chronic understaffing in a data center could lead to serious security issues, increased downtime (decreased reliability) and certainly decreased responsiveness to problems. With many of the survey respondents also claiming they're hoping to decrease headcount even further, this could become a bigger issue going forward.

The report also claims that the survey's creators were "surprised" to find out that mid-market companies were more likely to experiment with new technologies, as compared to the big companies, but I don't find that surprising at all. Big companies are pretty resistant to change (especially if they have some big IT project that is "working.") Still, if those companies are finding their data centers regularly understaffed, it could create more difficulty in getting getting new projects successfully off the ground. So I'm curious how companies are dealing with these issues and trying to avoid problems with understaffed data centers, while still being able to try out new technologies and services.

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  • icon
    Brooks (profile), 22 Jan 2010 @ 6:16pm


    So let's survey managers in general. From fast food to accounting to manufacturing.

    What percentage of managers, do you think, will report being understaffed? Or not having a big enough budget?

    I'm shocked that only 50% reported being understaffed. Clearly, data centers are being managed by relatively inexperienced people. That's probably more of a concern than the self-reported "understaffed" numbers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2010 @ 1:48am

      Re: Um....

      When you have to resort to doing the jobs done by several other people in the past, then you are legitimately understaffed. Please, people. Read the linked articles before lambasting.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2010 @ 9:03pm

    Not a problem

    If your security and reliability are heavily dependent on datacenter staff you have a fundamental design problem.

    Your design should be such that you *can* run a datacenter with very little staff.

    And you should be able to switch datacenters in and out of operation as easily as you can nodes in a cluster.

    I know of one company that does this. And much of the world probably uses their datacenters every day, without thinking much about it.

    The way to do this is to hire smart network and systems engineers, a better grade of developer, great ops people, and management that supports them while staying the hell out of their way.

    If you're unable or unwilling to do that, take your datacenter and company down the drain quickly, so you can free up the resources for someone not as stupid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jimr (profile), 25 Jan 2010 @ 7:50am

    Our data center has a tradition of a very high turn over rate. They are always in the hirer mode... so right now they are up an extra few people. But right now I now several actively looking for other data center jobs.
    #1 reason is the people - they spend lots of time together and if they do not like their co-workers they look else where.
    #2 reason is Burn out - when short staffed they need to supply 24 hr coverage so they pull stupid shifts and crazy hours.

    It is not about money for most. They get paid well enough and due to over time and on-call hours they can make some really good money. If they get another job else where it is typically for about the same money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    another mike (profile), 25 Jan 2010 @ 3:36pm

    transformation by elimination

    Our office, a large government sector IT services provider, was able to transform our operations over the course of a hardware refresh cycle. A facility that was run by almost 200 people is now managed by a team of 3. All the base metal, the rack-mounted servers, the "pizza boxes", were all replaced by blade centers and SANs. All those blades are just running hypervisors, virtual machines. There isn't a real computer left in there.
    Now the 200-odd engineers and contractors that used to be in the room sitting at consoles configuring their projects just hand off a network diagram to the lab monkeys. They sit at their desks and instantiate the network then tell the engineer to point their browser at the lab proxy, which picks up the engy's smart card and hands over their virtual environment.
    The old system run by 200 people was woefully understaffed. Even this new system run by three people is understaffed but not by nearly as much as before.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    weneedhelp, 1 Feb 2010 @ 2:16pm

    "difficulty of finding qualified people" BULLSHIT!!!!! Utter utter bullshit. I know a dozen I can think of right away. Ive watched our IT staff get cut by 40% last year, a half assed attempt at rolling out HP Service Manager, which was sold as being a tool to cut IT staff to management. So now 2 guys are rolling out million dollar software. They are not qualified, and our experience is miserable. Not because there are not qualified people, they just dont want to spend the money. They tried to justify this as being part of the "bad economy" although our sales were some of the highest in the retail market. BS

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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