back to article Dell publishes data centre cleaning guidance, suggests hiring pros to disinfect enterprise kit

Dell has developed guidance for cleaning its data centre products, on the off-chance you feel like giving them a once-over during these complicated times. The Register raised the prospect of data centre hygiene earlier this week when we pondered if it’s a great idea to walk into warm buildings that are full of fans and plenty …

  1. katrinab Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    IPA is on backorder until May at RS Components

    The Evening Standard recommended it for cleaning makeup brushes.

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Isopropyl Alcohol

      Just by the bye: for max.effectiveness as disinfectant, you have to dilute isopropanol -- the water acts as catalyst re membrane penetration. 75% is peak effectiveness, so pour out 1/4 and top up with distilled/deionised water.

      Having said that, you need to soak surfaces for about a minute to kill 50% of most coronaviruses, and alcohols evaporate much faster, so you could apply the rat's arse rule. Or bleach.

      Interestingly, dry handrubbing done properly works slightly better than using gels or disinfectantsoap (page 38, WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care), which matches rather a lot of researching showing that proper+lengthy handwashing beats magic potions + 3 seconds gesturing.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Isopropyl Alcohol

        The peak effectiveness of 70/30 IPA/water is for disinfecting surfaces of bacteria, since water is required to penetrate the cell membranes. For many viruses, neat IPA is an effective steriliser.

        Using acetone will do more than discolour equipment. It's okay on nylon, but will dissolve ABS and cause polycarbonate to crack.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Isopropyl Alcohol

          Since you are in the know, would you know if H2O2 works to kill the virus too? Alcohol is pretty much sold out everywhere here but H2O2 in low concentrations is still available.

          1. CountCadaver

            Re: Isopropyl Alcohol

            0.5% hydrogen peroxide solution or 0.2% sodium hypochlorite (aka bleach)

            1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

              Re: Isopropyl Alcohol

              See Table II in my link immediately below for effectiveness of all the usual suspects.

              Both of these are effective but sodium hypochlorite looks more so: 0.5% hydrogen peroxide kills 60% (log(4)) in 1 minute, whereas 0.2% bleach kills 60% in 30 seconds.

              Note that a common ingredient of disinfecting soaps, chlorhexidine digluconate, is NOT very effective.

        2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Isopropyl Alcohol

          Sorry, I was referring only to coronavirus effectiveness. Yes, 70% is best for bacteria and bacteria is the major problem in most hospitals so this is the standard formulation.

          Versus viruses, however, and specifically coronaviruses, 75% typically shows better effectiveness than 70%. I noticed it when plowing thru tables of research results. Eg, you'll notice here: {Journal of Hospital Infection: Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents}, that 75% is 20% more effective than both 70% and 100% vs coronaviruses : log(4) vs log(3.3).

          You'll also note from there that ethanol seriously dominates isopropyl alcohol. So maybe get the meths out of the fridge and use that instead.

          One problem with 100% is that a crust can form around/over the virus, protecting and leaving live virus underneath it.

          1. martinusher Silver badge

            Re: Isopropyl Alcohol

            >You'll also note from there that ethanol seriously dominates isopropyl alcohol.

            Methylated spirits is unknown in the US. Isopropyl alcohold -- rubbing alcohol -- is sold in both pharmacists and hardware stores, its used both as a linament and a cleaning agent.

    2. chuBb. Silver badge

      Try a vets or horse tack shop it's where I source my 99% iso from. Used on horses dunno what for but it's cheaper than rs and Farnell and can be bought in sizes 200ml to 5l for a few quid.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Try a vets or horse tack shop it's where I source my 99% iso from. Used on horses dunno what for

        People weight about 80kg, a horse will weigh something like 500kg. Therefore, for a horse to get the proper effect of booze, it needs to have around 6x the same amount. Most people having 3 pints can't afford 18 pints for the horse.

      2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        > Used on horses dunno what for

        Liniment. For their muscles. Used to be standard for humans, too; cf. "rubbing alcohol".

  2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

    Insta challenge!

    Can we get some sort of meme challengey thing where everyone posts videos of themselves licking a server?

    It works better if everyone's pretty -- I saw that on the internet.

    1. Giovani Tapini

      Re: Insta challenge!

      Some servers I've seen I wouldn't even touch...

  3. ColinPa

    For the bits inside that isopropyl alcohol does not reach

    Should I do a defrag?

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: For the bits inside that isopropyl alcohol does not reach

      Wave a lighter near the server after using the IPA?

  4. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Dang, if only we'd retained some telephone sanitisers for some top-up training.

  5. Mr Dogshit

    Just use Jeyes Fluid.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      After cleaning the server room I always wash my mouth out with Talisker, it's worked for years and I've never had any infections although I occasionally have a little headache the following day if I have to do a lot of cleaning.

  6. Persona Silver badge

    Alternatively .......

    Alternatively you could, as you should be doing, restrict access to your data centre to just the key people who critically need to go in there and rely on the fact that in 4 days any virus they have left lurking will have died.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge


      I'm kind of surprised that Dell needs to publish guidance on cleaning datacenter equipment. I was unawares that datacenters see a constant stream of public, visiting to witness the blinkenlichten.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Indeed

        It's possible cough droplets get sucked into it by the fans, I guess.

        Still, working on them for a while with gloves on should mitigate it enough I think. It doesn't seem to live for very long outside of the body.

        I'd be much more worried about datacenter door handles, shared cage keys, and those KMM trolleys people use there.

    2. Twanky

      Re: Alternatively .......

      Beat me to it...

      But perhaps The Management are concerned that the servers might get a virus - which they've been told would be a Bad Thing.

  7. batfink Silver badge

    How about...

    ...just using a pressure washer? That way the cleaner gets to stand at a metre or so's distance. Add some disinfectant to the water. What could possibly go wrong?

    Plus you'd only have to do it once...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about...

      With the added benefits it kills any computer virus running on the hardware too!

  8. whoseyourdaddy

    There was a time when most circuit boards were washed in de-ionized water to clean the yucky acidic soldering flux off (if it was the water-soluable type). Today's parts increases the risk water gets trapped under the chips and then the EPA finds you and starts banging on the doors.

    Dell's guidance is most likely aimed at: Do not apply liquid when things are turned on or connected to the mains.

    That mains-connected power supply was not designed to go snorkeling while plugged into the wall. Snorkel-ready supplies need bigger cooling fans.

    Server motherboards have a number of voltages ranging from 12V to 0.9V core voltages. Never shall the two meet on the same conductor or, a large percentage of your chips, including that $2K chip with the Intel logo will explode with a tiny "poink!" sound into the heatsink covering it.

    If this was a laptop you just poured a coffee into, that LED backlight runs off of up to 48V.

    Leave it to the professionals unless you're about to scrap it.

  9. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

    Data center disinfection

    Did their advice start with:

    1. Remove any Dell EMC kit

    If not, advice is worthless.

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