Keeping an Eye on Edge Computing Data Centers – from Home

IT professional working from home and remotely managing edge computing sites

We’re living in a challenging time that is testing the mettle of disaster recovery and business continuity plans around the globe. Practically overnight, many people shifted to working from home and among them are IT professionals and facility managers responsible for monitoring dispersed IT infrastructure including edge computing facilities.

What’s key in managing edge computing sites while working from home are robust digital technologies that enable remote monitoring and management across the IT infrastructure as well as a solid work-from-home plan. A major reason business continuity plans played out so well when they were suddenly thrust into work-from-home mode is because so many IT and facility employees were already set up to access a remote IT management platform. Let’s examine in more detail a real situation that happened in our own organization.

Web-based approach for edge computing management

Schneider Electric, has seven Connected Services Hubs (CSHs) around the globe from which it monitors centralized and edge data centers for customers. With four hubs in Europe, and one each in India, Japan and the United States (with a network operations center [NOC] in the Philippines), the sites provide 24×7 monitoring of customer infrastructure. The goal is for them  to detect, diagnose and repair any faults without having to send a technician to the customer location.

The monitoring service, which covers everything from edge computing facilities in retail stores to large data centers, has become even more important as a result of the pandemic. That’s because physical access to many of these buildings is severely limited, making the monitoring service the only “eyes” that can see the facilities.

Fortunately, all of the monitoring services are web-based, and representatives use softphones in their day-to-day work. With web-based applications, as long as a user has internet connectivity, they can log in from wherever they may be – including from home. That’s an important consideration in terms of application availability.

The way the crisis unfolded provided sufficient warning to conduct a soft launch of a work-from-home initiative to test remote service capabilities. As soon as the UK announced restrictions, the home-based agents were activated, and all went smoothly.

It was much the same story elsewhere in Europe and in the United States, which has had the bulk of its support agents working from home for about 10 years. That was also a situation borne out of necessity after multiple snow storms forced some employees to remain in the office for 3-4 days at a time on occasion. Additionally, the NOC in the Philippines was prone to flooding as the result of typhoons, so for the last several years agents have been set up to work from home.

Government requirements present challenges

Location matters with respect to disaster recovery and business continuity planning, and India presents another interesting case.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in India prohibits the routing of IP calls to laptops or mobile devices, which threatened to put a damper on any work-at-home plans. IP-based calls require special approval from the DoT, which it eventually granted on a couple of conditions: all calls had to use wired internet links and static IP addresses.

Not one of the Schneider Electric CSH agents had a wired IP connection to their home. All had a wireless dongle that enabled them to use their cell phones as a hot spot, but that connection was not reliable or fast enough. Reliable power was another issue, as India experiences frequent brownouts and blackouts.

So, the CSH staff in India quickly contacted the human resources director and IT team and assembled a package of services and equipment to outfit each representative, including:

  • A cash advance to pay for wired broadband internet and static IP connection, with the wireless dongle available to provide a backup connection
  • An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) with 4-to-5 hours of backup power runtime
  • A laptop
  • An additional monitor to enable working on two applications simultaneously.

Help Ensure Business Continuity and Operational Resiliency

By the time India went into lockdown on March 24, all the representatives were set up to work from home. Since then, they’ve been able to function as if they were in the office.

That was a good thing because in mid-March the CSH team in India started getting emails from anxious customers who were concerned about their own facilities as they, too, would soon have to abandon them and work from home. To calm their fears, the team started an email campaign to inform customers that the CSH was still functional 24×7, along with custom reports on the health of each customer’s facilities.

Even after the pandemic is behind us, employees working from home are almost certainly going to be a fact of life for many organizations. The CSH experience shows that it can work – and work well, making it a crucial part of future disaster recovery and business continuity planning. During this pandemic, it provided the flexibility needed to ensure CSH teams around the globe could still monitor hundreds of edge and centralized data center locations just as well as if they were in a NOC – a service that proved even more valuable than normal given many customers couldn’t be on site themselves.

To learn more about improving business continuity and operational resiliency, access our webinar, “Maximizing Business and Operational Resilience.” Also, explore how our Connected Services Hub can help you and your organization.

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