Is Compliance for IT and Data Centres a Servant or Foe?

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Friday, October 25th, 2013
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The mere mention of compliance option scares people out of the building. But does it have to be an adversary or are there means for us to make compliance serve the interests of business?

Sustainability is often seen in the same light. Most people duck for cover and say, “I can’t afford it now but when things get better, we’ll get around to it.”

The problem is that sustainability is not an option – it’s a necessity. Not just because of climate change, carbon taxes or corporate responsibility – though these still apply – but for the simple fact that it can dramatically improve the corporate bottom line.

Sustainability in corporate operations can achieve bottom-line reductions of as much as 80 per cent in energy costs and 90 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions. Most CEOs, CFOs and CIOs believe sustainability upgrades to building or IT infrastructure and operations are a nice things to have, but not affordable as the ROIs could take between five and 10 years to be realised.

Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Some of the low hanging fruit can in fact yield ROIs of between three and 18 months while  the ROIs for major infrastructure upgrades can often be as brief as between one  to four years.

There are several pervasive compliance standards that relate to the world of IT and data centres including:

  • National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) Act (2007)
  • Energy Efficiency Opportunities (EEO) Act (2006)
  • National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS)
  • Energy Management Programs AS3598:2000
  • Environmental Management Systems ISO14001
  • Quality Management Standards ISO9001
  • EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres
  • New ISO to come in about 2 years (SC39) for IT Workload and Data centres

Are these compliance standards going to make us huddle in a corner and cry, or can we actually crack the whip and bring them to heel?

Phrased otherwise, how does the cost of such compliance relate to ROI? It would be entirely understandable if one were to sit on the sidelines, bogged down in compliance-related administrative work. I believe, however, that we should instead assume the mantle of leadership and compel the above standards to serve and further our own interests.

Indeed, we can make compliance work dramatically improve the corporate bottom-line, as well as yield excellent ROIs.

With this as a possibility, how can we increase our corporate bottom lines while becoming even better corporate citizens? There is such an abundance of conservatism within the industry that good ROIs often get left behind.

There are some excellent “recipes,” all of which are project dependent, and include a comprehensive level 3 audit to AS3598:2000 and the EU Code of Conduct for data centres where IT and computer rooms/data centres are involved.

The recommended solutions must be holistic, innovative, practical and cost effective. Where possible, find an organisation willing to take on full responsibility for the refurbishment/upgrade without sacrificing the ROI. Ideally, that organisation should stay on for at least 12 months after the project has been commissioned to ensure the numbers and ROIs are actually met.

NABERS (National Built Environment Rating System) has now established the first government sanctioned audit for data centres and IT workload in the world. At present, government tenants will not occupy office buildings unless they achieve a 4.5 star rating.

The same thing will happen with data centres in the not too distant future. Those who achieve 4.5 or more stars will lead the way with increased business, far lower operating costs and strong green credentials. Currently, the  SC39 standards committee is working on new ISO standards for IT and data centres, which are slated for global release in around two years time.

Early preparation will remove the need to catch up later, and will dramatically reduce capex, improve corporate responsibility, tick all the boxes, create opportunities to seize market share and ensure the above standards become the servants to business instead of adversaries.

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