Long hours and lots of cleaning: Here's how CoreSite, which powers data centers for the likes of Microsoft and Verizon, has kept operations running during the coronavirus crisis


Chris Lettiere CoreSite

  • CoreSite powers data centers for clients like Microsoft Azure, GitHub, Comcast, Verizon, the MLB Network, and Rubrik and offers hybrid cloud services for Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, too. 
  • During the coronavirus pandemic, it has moved its non-essential employees to remote work while keeping essential data center operations employees on-site to manage security, equipment, and installations. 
  • CoreSite has added more safety protocols, such as cleaning equipment multiple times a day, putting hand sanitizer stations throughout the building, requiring masks, and enforcing social distancing.
  • The surge in traffic has also meant that all its employees are working extra hours. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As the coronavirus spread around the globe, American tech employees moved their work to their own homes. But while much of the tech world has been working remotely, the data center company CoreSite has had essential employees maintaining its sites 24/7.

CoreSite powers data centers for clients like Microsoft Azure, GitHub, Comcast, Verizon, the MLB Network, and Rubrik, allowing them to keep their applications running, and also offers hybrid cloud services from Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud.

The company has dealt with a surge in traffic, as the remote-work reality has meant that enterprises are using more cloud, says Juan Font, CoreSite’s senior vice president of general management.

“It put more strain for our data center operations team,” Font told Business Insider. “Thankfully, we’re staffed 24/7.”

Some data center management work can be done at home, so those CoreSite employees that can work remote have been doing so. But there are also jobs that require being on-site, like security, managing electrical and mechanical equipment, and installations.

CoreSite added safety measures to ensure that employees can work safely, including keeping buildings about a third full at any given time.  

“We plan ahead,” Font said. “We toughen our fuel. We have a protocol that we follow.”

For employees working on-site, it “feels like business as usual,” Font adds. 

 Here’s what working at a data center site looks like during the coronavirus pandemic:

Data center operations workers are considered essential

CoreSite, which has a market cap of about $4.6 billion, operates 23 data centers throughout the US, with one of its newest sites in Fairfax, Virginia, which is close to Washington, DC. 

Employees have been permitted to keep working on-site despite shelter-in-place mandates because data center operations workers are considered essential, per the Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines on “critical infrastructure” sectors.

Miguel Ramos, Senior Data Center Manager

Data center operations fall under the information technology sector, but the centers themselves also host key infrastructure that supports other critical sectors, like financial services and health care.

Throughout CoreSite’s buildings there are cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer stations. Staff are required to sanitize as soon as they enter the building and remain six feet apart from each other at all times, while wearing masks. There can only be ten to 15 managers on-site at once and a cleaning team wipes down all the equipment multiple times a day.

“It becomes pretty challenging,” Chris Lettiere, director of data center operations at CoreSite, told Business Insider. “They’re always so used to working so close together. Data centers are set up for that. Where we used to be concentrated in one to two offices, now we have to scatter.”

CoreSite is facing a 55% increase in support tickets

In normal times, potential and existing customers would frequently come to one of CoreSite’s data centers to meet with sales teams and project managers. Unsurprisingly, the company has tried to cut back on customer visits, and has reduced the number by 30% during the pandemic. 

Instead of touring the site in person, customers can watch a video tour hosted by a sales engineer. 

CoreSite Advisory

When guests, like customers or contractors, do visit, they must wear masks and fill out a questionnaire on their travel history and if they’ve been in contact with anyone with COVID-19. They also must practice social distancing on site. 

Meanwhile, there’s also been a 55% increase in support tickets filed. 

“Reliance on our team has skyrocketed,” CoreSite’s Lettiere said.

When customers file support tickets through CoreSite’s portal, on-site employees will be automatically alerted if there are any issues within the actual data center. 

“Everybody’s working extra hours now — there’s no way around it — whether on-site or support from home,” Lettiere said. “The increase in demand is definitely an increase in labor and effort on the field.”

CoreSite did not respond to a question about its overtime polices for employees working extra hours.

CoreSite has long been prepared for different kinds of disasters

Beyond the current coronavirus crisis, CoreSite is prepared for many other types of disasters, too. The data center buildings are designed to sustain hurricanes and high winds and they’re carefully constructed away from fault lines or flood zones. 

For example, Virginia has faced its share of hurricanes, and outages can be common during those storms. So, CoreSite has prepared backup generators to keep operations running. 

“The premise underlying our facility is we host mission critical applications,” Font said. “We have to be up all the time.” 

While the data center sites have never closed down during the pandemic, CoreSite plans to reopen its offices later this month to non-essential employees according local government guidelines. It has already started physical customer tours on an appointment basis.

As states start loosening restrictions and allowing workers to go back into offices, Font says that CoreSite will encourage non-essential employees who do not work in data center operations to only come to the office twice a week — or less — to ensure that there is never more than 30% capacity. It will also conduct safety training for everyone who does want to come in. 

“We’re encouraging people to do it from home,” Font said. “If you don’t need to be in the office for a particular reason, then don’t be.”

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