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Copyright CRC November 2008

WELSH HOSPITAL CALLS IN CRC CONSULTANT...

The ITC Department and Computer Room at The Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil is currently situated within a Portacabin, in a courtyard, inside the hospital grounds. What was first seen as a short term stop-gap was fast becoming a permanent reality for staff. Challenged by maintaining sufficient cooling from the air-conditioning system during summer months plus unreliable power, ICT staff needed to resolve this growing concern. As a result, CRC was called in to consult on the suitability of the current room, its layout, power supply and air conditioning.

Accordingly, an experienced CRC consultant carried out a detailed site survey and audit - a Current Status Survey - to thoroughly assess the situation and present best solution recommendations to the ICT Managers.

 

CRC Findings

A clear need to increase the level of redundancy was apparent due to a number of single points of failure. The UPS was supplied from a single 160A TPN supply however no secondary supply was available. Although the UPS was backed by a generator, it was unclear whether the air conditioning system was supported too. Staff also reported that a joint in the supply cable had recently failed causing a cut in supply to the computer room.

The UPS itself posed a risk as the UPS had only one string of batteries. As a result just one faulty battery would potentially take the whole system down. It was noted that the UPS Room air conditioning had no redundancy.

CRC found that the existing arrangement in the Server Room, with seven `split’ air conditioning units, was correctly sized for the load and that the room temperature was satisfactorily controlled. However, because of the nature of the Portacabin with its flat roof and limited insulation, radiated heat into the room was rendering the current air conditioning system ineffective in summertime. Furthermore, there was limited air circulation which resulted in `hot spots’.

The Portacabin presented many real risks to the critical function of the ICT Department servers and comms equipment. The flat roof with its potential leakage problems could have disastrous effects. Though Portacabin floors are relatively robust, they are not designed to take the loading of multiple server racks. Floor collapse therefore presented an additional risk. In addition, by nature the construction of the cabin is far less robust and offers limited protection from break-ins either via the door or by cutting through the thin walls. Windows in a server room also present extra security issues. Finally, and importantly, the construction and height of the building would prohibit best practice standards from being implemented.

 

CRC Recommendations

As the Prince Charles Hospital relies so heavily on the critical operations supplied by its ICT Department, CRC strongly suggested that the re-location of their existing facility be investigated further. The limitations of the current room represented a high level of risk together with environmental issues that would be difficult to overcome successfully.

In addition, CRC recommended that ICT staff consider moving from their current `Tier 1’ UPS configuration to a `Tier 3’ solution to eliminate points of failure and ensure full UPS redundancy for all critical ICT operations.

CRC also recognised that short term solutions would need to be considered. For immediate attention, our consultant recommended that single points of failure be eliminated to increase the level of redundancy and, that as a minimum requirement ,`Tier 2’ protection would be advantageous. Within the computer room it was recommended that each rack is dual fed, each being supplied from an `A’ and `B’ source, hence offering full redundancy. By implementing these modifications the system would then be supported by an electrical infrastructure that was significantly more resilient than the present situation.

 

Outcome

Re-development of the former morgue adjacent to the Portacabin is now underway and will allow for a fully secure, highly effective room to be constructed within the space and eradicate the problems faced. Any radiated heat issues previously identified will be entirely eliminated and, due to sufficient height within the new space, raised access flooring can be installed allowing for down-flow air conditioning units to be fitted.

The ICT team at The Prince Charles Hospital are currently implementing the recommended interim measures while budgetary approval is being sought for a `Tier 3’ solution.

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