Environmental monitoring in the server room is essential in safeguarding the security of all data processing operations. A server room assures that operations run smoothly and the income stream is uninterrupted. The failure of systems can spell headaches such as customer dissatisfaction, and are financially crippling. One of the main reasons for server room malfunction is heat.
Server rooms need a continuous stream of cool air to manage the temperatures generated by side-by-side server racks. Even a quick cooling malfunction can lead to excessive heat that could bring about system failure and data loss.
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What is a Server Room?
A server room is part of a data center or small business operations. It is used to store, power, and operate computer servers and their corresponding components. A server room also manages the operational and environmental parts and services needed to operate enterprise-class servers. It could carry from ten to a few hundred servers. They usually have the main CPU components but have no display or input device. It is centrally operated via a server administration system that is usually located inside the room itself.
Executing enterprise applications that need large computing capabilities.A few examples of these are banking software, search engines, or social networking applications. It is tasked to generate a constant supply of electrical power, backup power, and lighting, and air-conditioning.
For many years now, a lot of businesses have been very careful in managing the problem of server room cooling by fixing temperatures far below recommended levels. While the maximum prescribed temperature is 80.6℉, it is not unheard of for IT departments to cool server rooms to 68℉ or lower.
Extremely low server room temperatures are a problem for IT budgets that businesses can no longer afford to ignore. Managers try to reduce expenditures in a shaky economy, server room spending is now being looked at more than ever. This is why environmental monitoring is now at the forefront of all maintenance concerns.
Even worse, the global environmental consequences of server room cooling and power consumption have alarmed many enterprises now to adhere to Green IT initiatives.
Impact on Businesses of All Sizes
Server room cooling is a problem that all sizes of data-center businesses face. Industry giants such as Facebook, Google, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard are now utilizing something known as “free-cooling”. This means that they are moving their large data centers to locations where it is naturally cold to harness the outside frigidity to lower the temperature of the equipment.
Small to medium-sized enterprises also experiencing this dilemma. But unfortunately, they cannot afford to move their data centers into a new location. Operating and maintaining an existing data center is expensive enough. Moving to a new location may not be financially wise for small or medium enterprises.
More Than Just Temperature
Temperature is not the only problem to look out for in a server room. Humidity, flood, leaks, fire, and physical security can cause just as much damage to your setup. Maintaining operational efficacy and dependability needs constant vigilance. With the exacting standards set in place for IT businesses. Server room monitoring has now become more of a necessity than ever.
Five Reasons to Monitor Server Room Temperature
1. Protect Mission-Critical Equipment from Failure and Data Loss
Heat can be the main reason for the dismal performance, equipment malfunction, and data loss. If a server room air-conditioner messes up, the results could be catastrophic. Room temperature would rise to critical levels and data-essential equipment would start to malfunction. Oftentimes, this happens before anyone even notices that the temperature has gone up. Technological equipment has greater sensitivity to heat changes than human beings. By the time the issue is identified, it might be too late. This is one of the things to look out for in a proper environmental monitoring system.
2. Environmental Threats are Heightened After Hours
When an environmental factor is the cause of a mishap in a server room, it often goes unnoticed until the next day. In that period, there could already be enough damage to your systems to cause major issues. The delay is what makes this situation more dangerous. Your IT crew is only as good as the time it takes to notify them of a mishap.
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3. Rack Temperature Matter More than Room Temperatures
While monitoring the server room’s temperature is essential. What you should really be looking at is the temperature inside the racks. There is a significant difference between room and rack temperature. And this could spell the difference between efficient operations and an equipment mishap waiting to happen. The surest way to guarantee that your gear is operating at optimal temperature is to take a reading directly from within the rack itself. Considering sensors in your server room environmental monitoring system would be wise.
4. Ensure Air Distribution Doesn’t Create Hot Spots
Temperatures differ from rack to rack in a server room. The kind of equipment in each rack and how many pieces determine what the temperature will be from one rack to the other. This requires you to check the temperature in all racks in your server room. Pointing your IT staff in the right direction of the problem will allow them to focus their efforts on repairing the errant equipment.
5. Lower Cooling Expenses Without Lowering Reliability
The money spent on cooling a server room can take a huge chunk out of your IT department’s operational budget. To cool more effectively and more economically, server rooms must be allowed to run warmer than normal. A bigger temperature allowance calls for more monitoring. A viable monitoring solution guarantees that your equipment is operating at the desired condition all the time. This removes the costly need to over-compensate your cooling.
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Why Humidity is Just as Important
Reduced humidity raises the possibility of electrostatic discharge.ESD can destroy your gear quickly and completely. Not only is it expensive, but it can also translate to downtime. The frightening thing is that not all ESD events can be monitoredeasily, and they tend to happen gradually. They can easily escape human detection, making the chances of detecting them before they do too much damage virtually minimal. The problems can be sporadic and can take some time since equipment tends to fall apart slowly rather than immediately with ESD. This makes troubleshooting your gear a lot trickier.
Elevated humidity causes its own set of problems as well. Electronic equipment is made to operate within a designated humidity spectrum. So are disk drives that are prone to malfunction in high humidity, which results in data loss and downtime.
Activity Monitoring After Hours
Server rooms are usually left unmonitored after hours, sometimes even during working hours. Your IT staff is not only tasked to ensure the physical security of your server room but to monitor the effects of cooling if your doors are left open, or your lights are left on, or the dozens of other incidences that contribute to the inefficient cooling of the server room. Non-technical staff is often oblivious to the importance of these factors. Other workers in your location might accidentally damage your gear by leaving a door open or carelessly tampering with a thermostat. Using motion detectors and door contacts is a cheap and viable solution for effective server room monitoring. You will be quickly alerted if one or two of these common workplace mistakes are happening.
Four Problems Identified by Monitoring Sound Levels
1. Increased Fan Speed
Servers and other mission-critical gear commonlyutilize different speed fans that increase in speed as the temperature heightens. A noisier fan means a ventilation problem is present, or an equipment malfunction is imminent.
2. Loss of One or More Fans
Inversely, when things get too quiet, this could mean that one or more fans have quit operating. This could also spell trouble when it comes to cooling.
3. Activity in the Server Room
Along with door contacts and motion sensors, audio levels are also a good thing to watch out for in a server room. They can detect sounds that could imply the malfunction of any given piece of equipment.
4. Abnormal Events Outside of the Server Room
Factors that impact the server room do not always occur inside the server room. Extraneous noises may be caused by other activities in the other rooms. Someone could be renovating something, or even thunder can affect sound levels.
We have presented you with just a few ways to effectively start environmental monitoring within your server rooms. Along with the reasons why such actions are indispensable in the day-to-day operations of your data center. Putting these applications into effect will greatly decrease your risk of downtime and equipment failure. It will also guarantee operational efficiency and safety in your data center. We hope this article was both informative and helpful.
Case Study: AKCP Monitors The Lubbock 911 Call Centers
AKCP, the world's oldest and largest supplier of networked wired and wireless sensor solutions, has supplied a monitoring system for the Lubbock, Texas, 9-1-1 call centers.
The Lubbock Emergency Communication District is responsible for providing 24/7 call availability too all 9-1-1 call centers in the county. The data center, located at the Lubbock emergency communication district, receives all 9-1-1 calls. These are distributed to one of 9 public safety answering points throughout the county. The data center also serves as the connection for SMS to 9-1-1 services.