You are an expert in the data center industry, and your peers are experts as well. Collectively you represent an invaluable and considerable body of knowledge, practical experience and professional expertise. But the data center is constantly evolving, so despite this wealth of knowledge, experts can still find themselves in uncharted waters facing new and unforeseen issues, and wondering where to turn for timely information.

Your peers are the answer.

You have knowledge and information that your peers don't, and vice versa. With the proliferation of online forums, you only have to fire up your computer for professional support and ideas about how to implement new strategies, how to troubleshoot new software, how to keep your server racks cool, how to clean your cabling, how to use wireless technology and the list goes on and on. The information is out there; it's just a matter of knowing where to look and who to ask.

How do you find others who face the same IT management challenges? Resources are available through a variety of channels. First, never underestimate the power of the Internet, where up-to-date data center discussion boards abound. At www.datacentertalk.com, topics are divided into specific categories including news; articles and resources; disaster recovery; servers; development, building systems and operations; routers and switches; bandwidth providers; VoIP; wireless; and cooling. The feedback is extremely current and some of the e-mail threads have more than one hundred comments.

Tek-Tips forums for computer professionals (http://www.tek-tips.com/) lists discussions about software, hardware, data and voice, and desktop systems -- all categorized by vendors' products that you are using in your facility. Another site, www.hostingdiscussion.com, has a data center discussion section and ASHRAE's Web site has a discussion forum on standards. Oracle and The Data Center Journal also have forums for technology and facilities issues. Finally, AFCOM's member discussion board (www.afcom.com) is just one of the association's peer-to-peer networking opportunities.

While the Internet is a convenient place to locate individuals in your field for advice, face-to-face interaction is vital to building long-lasting professional relationships. It is important to attend industry conferences to meet and share ideas with your colleagues. At AFCOM's annual spring Data Center World and fall Data Center Information Exchange conferences, the Vision2Vision networking program provides a venue to establish lasting contacts for peer exchange.

The Vision2Vision program boasts open forum sessions with topics including data center facilities and information technology. Moderators lead discussions about these areas of interest and more. The sessions allow ample time for participants to share practical solutions that they are currently implementing in their data centers. As part of the Vision2Vision program, attendees also have the opportunity to attend a special luncheon to meet with peers to discuss the hottest topics in the data center.

Yet another way to stay connected is through AFCOM's local chapter program. Regional chapters meet regularly to discuss cutting-edge topics pre-determined by the members. The meeting venue rotates, making it possible for companies to show off their own facilities and giving peers the opportunity to ask questions and see how operations may be managed differently. Through the local chapter program, members learn about new technology, management practices and operational issues, among other topics - because of the connections they make, they tend to save money and time. Ultimately, the program makes their jobs easier.

Established chapters may be found throughout the U.S. To find out more about this program, visit www.afcom.com.

Although vendors can provide amazing services and new technologies, your fellow end users are also an imperative resource that should not be underutilized. Take advantage of the opportunities you have to meet with your peers and begin to make connections that will last throughout your professional careers.


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