Today, we’re continuing our GratITude Series, highlighting the hard-working members of our data center and IT teams in essential roles powering a connected world. Their dedication enables our thousands of global customers to successfully operate their businesses in good times and in times of immense challenge. None of us could do what we do without them, and here we’ll share their stories.
Agility and adaptability have been the name of the game for data center operators when it comes to keeping up business as usual during the pandemic. As restrictions start to lift in the U.S. and a semblance of normalcy returns, we’d be remiss in not recognizing the hard work of INAP’s dedicated data center ops teams to keep our customers online while staying safe and healthy. Policies were put in place to keep both staff and customers safe, but when an unknowingly COVID-19 positive customer entered INAP’s flagship Phoenix data center, a dedicated supervisor stepped up to keep his team safe from exposure. Read on to learn how INAP handled the situation to keep our data center and customers operating at peak performance.
Data Center Operations Supervisor Lawrence Welsch joined INAP three years ago, just as the company was opening our flagship Phoenix data center. He began his work life as a cable technician at just 11 years old, when he began helping his dad in the field. At 20, he became a foreman at an install company that worked on builds for companies like Walmart and Staples. Welsch made his way to INAP after spending 13 years working for Acuative, a third-party Sysco vendor.
Welsch brought those years of experience to the Phoenix data center. On a typical day, he covers various aspects of data center operations, everything from shipping and receiving t
o cleaning. When he arrives on site, Welsch runs a pass down with his team, ensuring everything is in order and checking in on the work orders submitted by customers.
Much of his time is spent quoting jobs and building out drawings for potential customer space, working with customers off-site at INAP’s remote areas throughout the market and working with INAP’s vendors for the site. And, as with most jobs, he spends time answering a lot of emails.
There’s no end to the work, especially to keep customers online and performing at the highest level. But throughout the pandemic, and especially for a 24 hour+ period in January 2020, the workday was anything but typical.
Setting strong COVID-19 policies to keep staff and visitors safe in the data center was not a cut and dry process. In the initial weeks of the pandemic, the news on the virus and the local regulations around it continued to shift. INAP management worked with any incoming regulations and adapted and tweaked policies as needed with the input of the teams on the ground in the data centers.
“We had a good amount of support from upper management,” said Welsch. “They worked with us to try to eliminate potential threats from entering the facility and put out notifications accordingly.”
INAP locked down all biometric readers and disabled them, beefing up security for a visual and a verbal login to prevent the virus from being spread via touch. There was a mask mandate and the number of people coming to visit the site was limited. The INAP team onsite helped prevent unnecessary customer visits, but small groups of visitors were allowed on site for essential work.
Even with the strictest policies in place, an unknowingly positive customer came to work in the data center, exposing on site staff members to the virus. The news of this exposure came in the middle of Welsch’s shift.
“We made sure that anyone who was near this employee got sent home,” Welsch recalls. “We locked down the facility and I cleaned it head to toe myself. Security went through and cleaned all the areas that might’ve been potentially infected outside of the containment zone. We even called up an in-house cleaning company to come in and do a sterilization spray throughout the facility.”
Welsch then called his wife to bring him an overnight bag and a blow-up mattress. He ended up staying onsite for about 29 hours straight to ensure his team did not have to come in and risk exposure. “The longer the wait, the better,” he said.
These actions eliminated much of the threat. The unexposed team members stayed secure in the bullpen, or office, where they could monitor the building’s systems and answer phone calls and emails as needed.
Welsch never ended up contracting the COVID-19.
This isn’t the first time that Welsch has gone above and beyond in his role at INAP.
“He continually steps up to work additional hours outside of his normal schedule to cover extra shifts, including weekends where we have to have an engineer on site 24/7,” said Greg Cash, Senior Director, Data Center Operations. “This is a 24/7 market and when we have a limited amount of data center engineers available for shift coverage, his willingness to go above and beyond is incredible.”
Cash notes that Welsch covers the Phoenix market for all the other partner locations INAP supports Welsch has also consistently supported one of INAP’s largest customers and has been instrumental in helping the site stay in compliance.
“Lawrence has become a real go-to and has shown that he takes his site supervisor role very seriously and cares about the facility and the staff,” said Cash. “He puts in the extra hours and leads by example.”
It’s because of hardworking and dedicated team members like Lawrence Welsch that INAP can ensure our customers’ needs are met and exceeded. We could not succeed without employees who are willing to go above and beyond to allow our customers to meet their goals and continue to innovate, even in unusual and challenging times.