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Microsoft employees slept in data centres during lockdown

Written by Tue 15 Jun 2021

The high demand for data centre services during the pandemic led to changes in Microsoft data centres, including overnight accommodation for key employees. 

Microsoft employees slept in data centres during the coronavirus pandemic to complete necessary on-site work, said an executive of the company. Kristen Roby Dimlow, Corporate Vice President for Total Reward, Performance and HRBI for Microsoft shared the story with analysts from Morgan Stanley this week.

“I heard amazing stories about people actually sleeping in data centres,” she said. This was not an option that was required by the company, but rather a choice that was offered to them. “In certain countries, there was a huge lockdown, and so we would have our own employees choose to sleep in the data centre because they were worried they’d get stuck at a roadblock trying to go home.”

At the height of the pandemic, many cities across the world were in lockdown, and employees were directed to work from home for their own safety. However, there are some jobs that just cannot be completed remotely and require on-site attention.

At Microsoft, some of these jobs required employees to work on-site, for example, at locations where the servers that supported Microsoft Teams and other online services are located. Employees were also on-site to manage public cloud infrastructure that supports customer applications through Microsoft Azure.

As more and more people were on lockdown they began to rely more heavily on online tools to manage their jobs, school, even social lives. Microsoft Teams usage increased by almost 300% in the first few months of the pandemic, from 20 million users in November 2019 to over 75 million by April.

With the increased usage of online services, it would have been a terrible time for a server outage.

Another executive of Microsoft shared the steps that the company took during the pandemic to keep data centre employees safe. Noelle Walsh, Corporate Vice President for Cloud and Innovation told CNBC earlier this year that the company supported work from home options, and even provided transportation to and from data centres and overnight hotel stays, according to employee preference.

Microsoft made these changes, while at the same time coping with increased demand and stress on its data centres. Ms Walsh noted, “We had to go to shift work, day and night, to get the work done within the same schedule.”

Written by Tue 15 Jun 2021

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