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We've got 20 servers that we need to remove from a datacentre that we haven't physically visited in about 5 years (I've never been there, it was from before my time). We've had to go through complete re-induction, security checks and had to re-apply for all our security passes again because it's been so long since we were there that they had changed security software and we weren't present in the new software.

I totally understand that - it's just good practice and makes me happy that our servers are in a controlled environment. But what I don't understand is that the datacentre security are stating that we're not allowed to remove more than 2 servers at a time (i.e. per night).

Being rank-and-file security guards, I got the line "They're just our instructions, we can't deviate" and I respect that, but I can't get any answers as to why.

This means that a one-night job has now turned into a 2-week job, which is exceptionally frustrating. Our current co-lo datacentre permits us fully un-restricted access, we don't even need to book, we can just show up and sign in.

Has anyone had experiences like this with datacentres before? Is limiting the movement of servers in/out of the datacentre normal practice?

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I haven't experienced that and it certainly seems strange. Why on earth (rhetorical) would they restrict a customers ability to move their own equipment? Anyone higher up the chain that can give you answers? – joeqwerty Jul 4 '11 at 22:17
@joe - we're working on it. It's a very large datacentre so I'm not holding my breath on getting answers. It has crossed our mind that these security guards are just on a power trip though. (also, there's a reason we switched to a smaller datacentre for future projects, and this just confirms that we made the right decision) – Mark Henderson Jul 4 '11 at 22:21
It just seems so arbitrary. I wonder if it has more to do with maintaining control of and minimizing any potential disruption to the datacanter as a whole than it is of restricting your access to your own equipment. – joeqwerty Jul 4 '11 at 22:24
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I wouldn't call it "normal", but it's not unknown for DCs to have all sorts of insane policies like this. From your description, the policy is only about removing servers, which makes it sound like an underhanded attempt to prevent you moving to a competitor, rather than any serious sort of security. (I'll bet their rationale is "well, if you're stealing them, the real owners will find out and stop you before you can clear the place out", but that is, of course, ridiculous -- how much better is it that their security allowed people to steal two of your servers, presumably the most valuable ones, rather than the lot?)

If you've got an account manager or any sort of "higher-up" contact, you definitely want to get onto them and start making all sorts of unpleasant noises. If that doesn't work, I'd make two plans -- one for having to do it in pieces over 2 weeks, and another that covers you being able to move them quicker.

You may be able to get more servers out by just asking the guards nicely (perhaps one particular guard isn't so hidebound), by bullshi^Wbeing thrifty with the truth ("what? no, I haven't taken any servers out tonight, that was last night"), doing it before/after shift change, putting N servers in one shipping box, or taking them out via the loading dock.

Finally, if all that doesn't work, I'd try taking more than two servers out at a time anyway and watch them try to stop me. It's your equipment, after all; what are they going to do, call the cops to report a theft? Crash-tackle you in the lobby in front of the security cameras? The cops are going to laugh in their faces, and they don't have a lot of other options. This doesn't work quite so well if you're planning on remaining a customer in some way, but I'd be getting the hell out entirely of a facility with stupid rules like that anyway.

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yeah, the minimising of theft is the line we got from the guy sitting behind the desk. We're a very small customer in terms of their datacentre so I'm not expecting any flexibility from them. It's Global Switch as well, which I find even stranger because they're massive. – Mark Henderson Jul 4 '11 at 22:34
Hahaha, that's hilarious. I've dealt with GS too, and was thinking "damn that sounds like something GS would do". I didn't check your profile to see that yes, the chances are you're dealing with GS... They're muppets. Plain and simple. It's easy, though -- just take them all out via the loading dock in one hit. They'll never know the difference. – womble Jul 4 '11 at 23:46
btw, nice to see you back Womble. I noticed you dissapeared for a while :) – Mark Henderson Jul 5 '11 at 3:37
Boredom is a wonderful catalyst for change, and my top 10 ranking was at risk. – womble Jul 5 '11 at 4:10

I've seen crazy rules like that before. Usually you can talk to an account manager or some sort of higher up that can talk to security and inform them of an exception. While I wouldn't expect them to bend over backwards for you, I would expect them to act professionally and let you move your equipment out at once.

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"I would expect them to act professionally"... I wouldn't, they're a data centre. We used to refer to Global Switch, Sydney (the facility Mark's trying to get out of) as "Mos Eisley". – womble Jul 5 '11 at 4:14
Damn, that sucks. Ours here in the states are at least a little better. The Account teams and on site staff are usually pretty understanding about moving from one CoLo to another. Once we moved 4 racks in 6 hours out. They even opened the loading dock door so we could wheel everything out that way. They had us pre-do all the paperwork, so move out was quick, and downtime was minimal. – mrdenny Jul 6 '11 at 1:51

It could be to reduce the demands on the datacenter staff. For instance, you aren't taking up a half or full day of someone's time who is making sure you don't do something that violates the security or such. They obviously don't mind that when you are moving stuff in, because that is future profit.

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I may be a bit late, but....

Yes, this can happen. The best thing you can so is review your contract to see what is stated about removing property from the premises. If you discover that this is not in accordance with your agreement, you may be able to get into contact with someone who actually has some form of jurisdiction when it comes to this issue and can maybe help you out. Security is definitely NOT where the buck stops! :D

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