Meanwhile, down at the data centre…


It’s been all action down at our brand new private data centre suite at Century Link, Goswell Road since its launch late last year. With work nearly complete on migrating customers to their new home, we caught up with our in-suite engineer Omar to find out what life has been like inside one of our key network hubs.


Omar, you’re a full-time presence in the data centre, talk us through what a typical day is like.

At the data centre, no two days are ever the same. You could go from working on cross-connects, which is cabling from our core cabinet to a new or existing customer, to provisioning a customer cabinet, which would be installing power, testing internet connectivity and making sure everything is setup correctly. It’s important to understand the unique nature of each customers setup, to know just how to handle any changes their network requires. That’s key to maintaining happy customers.

Who do you get to work with at the data centre?

Being the main engineer on-site at the data centre I usually work by myself. But what’s great about my role is that I get to work face-to face with our customers when they visit. I see them more than my own team some weeks! Outside of them I work remotely with our NOC (Network Operations Centre) team who are based in our London office. Plus, for more complex issues I’ll to work directly with the engineers at Century Link to get things done.


What do you enjoy most about working at the data centre?

The main thing I enjoy is helping our customers, cheesy I know! If I’m honest, there’s nothing that exciting about cabling. But when you get to solve a customer’s issue from start to finish you get a great feeling knowing that you’ve resolved something for them. There’s a real sense of satisfaction that comes with that. Plus I meet and see our customer regularly, so I know them and its genuinely nice to be able to help them.


Has there been a particular case that’s stood out where you’ve had to deal with a big challenge?

Some of the work we do is complex and it deals with business critical systems, so there really is no room for error. Recently, one of our customers migrated their infrastructure into the new suite. This was a large, critical project for them and in their industry they couldn’t not afford any down time or miscalculation that would mean missed deadlines. Our planning was comprehensive as the team and I evaluated all sorts of different options, and our pre-move testing was substantial. But it was all worthwhile when the whole migration went extremely well and the customer was very happy with how quickly we managed to complete the task. They had nothing but positive feedback for the whole Backbone team. It’s great to be a part of that.


Backbone recently created the ‘Overboard Award’ to highlight examples of amazing customer service and you were the first winner! Tell us how you went ‘Overboard’?

Winning the Overboard Award was for the work I had completed for a customer of ours. It was on a weekend and I was called to fix a core piece of equipment that had gone down. This customer was very precise on how they wanted the situation dealt with, I was able to apply this guidance on-site and kept the customer constantly updated as it was such a key part of their infrastructure.

The customer was really pleased with the results. They were impressed with how thorough the work was and that I was able to keep them in the communications loop as I was working on the issue. They fed that back to my Team Leader and all of a sudden, one of the Backbone Directors is congratulating me on a job well done and presenting me with an award and a bonus! It was a pretty good month!


How have the recent changes at the data centre effected your day to day work?

We have new systems and processes that have been put in place to help us improve the way that we work. We’ve introduced a new collaboration tool that helps me connect with the teams back in the office on project work that needs to be completed. It’s a good way to have everything logged and updated in real time so that nothing is ever missed. I feel that I am more productive as it allows me to breakdown my tasks day by day, week by week, and both myself and the team know what I’m doing each week, again, helping to keep track of the workload.

This has allowed us all to work more efficiently and helps us put realistic timescales against tasks and evaluate how well we’re doing. We’ve also further automated things such as power readings which has saves me time on previously manual tasks, allowing me to focus on more important work.


What impact have the new data centre suite and new customers had on you and the work you’re doing?

Over the past few months I’ve become a lot busier! All of the cabling and infrastructure in the suite had to be built from scratch which was a very large task involving a lot of overtime, weekend work and late nights. But that’s what you should expect doing this type of work. As we’re now coming to the end of the move, I can honestly say we haven’t had any negative feedback. If anything, we’ve had feedback to help us improve.

As we were creating a brand new suite, we got to ask our customers what improvements they would like to see in the space. It wasn’t about racks and servers, our customers wanted smaller plus 1’s that made their life easier when they were at the site. Tool-kits and supplies free to use. Comfortable seating and suite furniture like crash carts. Charging stations for their phones. We listened and then built these in. Our customers love the fact that this is a suite built for humans, not just for hardware!


Why is it important to have a full-time, in-suite presence at the data centre? 

The data centre is a hub of activity for our customers and for our own network. We use some incredibly powerful remote monitoring tools that can pro-actively manage risk, usage and issues for us. But combining that with a real, human presence gives the best of both worlds. I can take personal responsibility for any issue, and I can call on all the capabilities of our 24/7 service desk plus our NOC engineer team to back me up.

Our customers like the fact that they have access to a friendly face that they know, and that I’m personally taking care of their infrastructure. Sometimes I feel like a glorified security guard! But that’s part of what we offer, security around our customers key systems.