September 8, 2010

Data Center Tour Part 2: Meet the Staff


Hostway Team

By Gail Seymour

A large data center might be staffed with dozens of people, each responsible for different aspects of its operation. Here is a sample of the kinds of people you might find in the data center, what they do and what qualifications they need to have for their job.

  • Sales Consultants
    The complexity of the sales consultants’ job in the data center can be seen in the variety of job titles they might have, from solutions architect to pre-sales consultants to business development or accounts managers. They might also specialize in Windows or Linux environments, or concentrate on specific software solutions such as SQL. A sound technical knowledge of the data center and its technologies is vital, but even more important is the ability to listen to customers, ask pertinent questions and match available solutions to their needs. They may have both technical and sales accreditation.
  • Customer Service
    Whether it’s IT help desk personnel delivering support to the customer over the phone, customer service engineers who liaise with clients and install collocated machines to their specifications, or licensing or business continuity specialists who help larger businesses address the more specific issues of software licensing and disaster recovery planning, after sales staff need both a deep technical knowledge in their area of expertise and the ability to translate that knowledge into layman’s terms. Their customer service qualifications will often be backed by product specific qualifications such as Microsoft’s or Cisco’s.
  • Hardware Engineers
    Mechanical and electrical engineers will need electrical engineering qualifications and a sound working knowledge of the operating systems and software in use in the data center, as they will be responsible for installation and maintenance of hardware. Other engineers may specialize in cabling, storage and backup, system design or operation, in which case their qualifications will reflect their intricate knowledge of one aspect of data center management. For example HVAC engineers may need plumbing qualifications if the cooling system in place includes liquid cooling.
  • Software Administration
    From database administrators to capacity analysts and infrastructure specialists and security architects, the data center relies on a range of software specialists to ensure maximum hardware utilization. Qualifications may range from Microsoft Certification or other product specific diplomas to general degrees and in various aspects of software use or development. For example a security specialist might have qualified as a Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP).
  • Security
    Staff responsible for the physical security of the data center may have qualifications related to their positions, and need to be aware of local laws and ordinances. They will also have had background checks, and have had training specific to the data center procedures and policies.
  • Management
    Much like any other medium to large organization, the data center may have several tiers of management, from sales and customer service managers, through operations managers to the data center manager. At each level, additional skills will be required. Managers may have business or management qualifications, or have gained on the job experience and moved up through the ranks of data center staff.

Wherever you work in a data center, however, there is a discernible subset of skills and abilities that are important. You must develop strong general computing skills, which may be complemented with specialized knowledge. You must also be adaptable, and prepared to keep up to date with new developments as they occur. Most importantly, you need to be able to identify and solve problems as part of a team, which will inevitably include people whose knowledge and vocabulary differ widely from your own, so you must be a good communicator.

Read the complete series:
Data Center Tour Part 1: Introduction
Data Center Tour Part 2: Meet the Staff
Data Center Tour Part 3: Physical Security
Data Center Tour Part 4: Redundancy
Data Center Tour Part 5: Servers

About the Author

Gail Seymour has been a website designer for more than 10 years. During that time she has won three design awards and has provided the content and copy for dozens of Web sites and more than 50,000 Web pages.

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