Data centers, an essential service during a national pandemic

On March 23, 2020, the Québec government released a list of essential services during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data centers can be found under the “maintenance and operation of strategic infrastructure”.

First, it should be noted that the CRTC has not declared, to date, that telecommunications are an essential service. That said, in 2016, the CRTC declared that high-speed Internet should be considered an essential service for all Canadians. We therefore see in it an attempt and an interest to align current technological realities with a notion of “essential services”, with or without a pandemic.

What about other areas of the world?

The United States of America have given an essential character to data centers because of their critical infrastructures for the country while asking them to continue their operations. In the same way, the City of San Francisco has reiterated this essential character in its quarantine directive, the “shelter-in-place order”, imposed on the entire municipality on March 16, 2020. For its part, the United Kingdom has published a guide for its population which describes the services which must be provided during the COVID-19 period. Data centers and telecommunication providers are asked to continue operating.

A leadership role

Data centers and telecommunications providers must ensure the sustainability of their networks during a period of heavy traffic. Currently, the vast majority of Quebecers are teleworking. As well, online medical consultations have grown, as have online shopping orders and grocery shopping.

The daily operations of data centers and their availability to their customers are therefore essential for the survival of the digital infrastructure that supports all aspects of our lives. At this time, data center operators must increase their efforts to ensure optimal maintenance of the facilities and thus be able to support to their telecommunication customers.

What are the measures that must be implemented by data center operators during this particular period?

First, operators must ensure compliance with the hygiene measures requested by the authorities and implement a policy of social distancing for people who must report to the scene. Operators should notify their clientele of this exceptional request and visits which should be subject to compelling business reasons.

Finally, non-urgent upgrades should be postponed. These interventions usually require several parties and the receipt of equipment.

This uncertain global time will reinstate and confirm the importance of data centers and telecommunications providers in our lives. Both personally and professionally.

By Audrey Robitaille