KT Connections Blog

7 Ways To Cool Your Server Room

Server Room

When people think of their data being at risk, it’s natural to focus primarily on hackers and cyberattacks, as they are top of mind these days. There is hardly a day that goes by in which a large organization isn’t in the news because of a data breach. We offer a host of security services to help protect your business from such intrusions. Further, we have a range of data recovery solutions to get your business up and running in no time, should the unthinkable occur.

However, while there is considerable attention paid to data breaches, there is data which suggests that at least 30% of your data loss will be due to environmental factors affecting your server room. Factors such as high temperatures, static electricity, and even humidity can wreak havoc with your servers. In other words, the common elements you rarely think about, if left unchecked in your server room, can have a devastating effect on your business’ survival.

In 2013, Microsoft’s email services Hotmail and Outlook were offline for nearly 16 hours. A routine firmware update to their servers failed to install correctly. This failure caused an unexpected and rapid increase in server temperatures which was high enough to trigger their safety protocols, shutting down the services to prevent them from being damaged by the heat. The result of which was a massive loss of access to email services for millions of people.

Think about that for a second: Microsoft is one of the most - if not the most - significant software and hardware vendors in the world, and they lost their services for 16 hours because their servers got too hot and shut down. One more thing to consider is that Microsoft has the resources to toss at any problem they have, doing whatever is necessary to get up and running. However, the average SMB doesn’t have that type of brawn. Instead, they have to be smarter and more nimble on their feet. Don’t hope for the best, plan for the worst and ensure your business’ future. In this case, providing your server room has been designed with best practices in mind.

The industry standard for the recommended temperature range for a server room is between 64.4ºF and 80.6ºF. Don't forget about humidity, which can cause its range of issues to your equipment. The relative humidity of your server room should be between 45-50%. Take a moment to check your server room temperature, and if the temperature is regularly above the mid-80ºs (you do have a record of this information, don’t you?), you need to begin temperature remediation steps now. Constant exposure to high temperatures can shorten the lifespan of your equipment or even cause it to fail instantly. If it can happen to Microsoft, you know it can happen to you.

Here are some best practices to control the temperature of your server room, if you find it is operating in the higher temperature range.

  1. Ensure your server racks receive good airflow from your cooling systems. It’s not enough to plop an AC unit in a window and think that’s efficient temperature control. Not only do you need to keep your server room cool, but you also have to make sure the air flows or you may end up with hot spots, which increase the risk of stress due to temperature.
  2. Design your server room to take advantage of cold and hot aisles. Don’t just randomly place equipment in there. There’s some science to properly installing server racks, which involve understanding how temperatures affect air flow. Simply put, don’t push the hot air from one server into the air inlet of another one
  3. Take advantage of blanking panels to control the flow of hot and cold air. If you have unused and empty spaces in your rack, there is a strong possibility that hot air will flow into those spaces, preventing cool air from flowing property. A blanking panel will block the area, allowing the cooler air to flow better.
  4. Install cooling equipment designed for server applications. Yes, it’s tempting to go to your local home improvement center and grab a discounted residential AC unit. However take note of the old saying, “the right tool for the right job.” Residential AC units are not designed for the rigors of a server room which needs cooling 24/7, 365 days a year. Furthermore, residential AC units don’t remove moisture or humidity. These can lead to an increase in static electricity or condensation, both of which can cause your servers to fail, if not suddenly, then certainly prematurely. 
  5. Make your server room self-sufficient. Isolate your server room from the rest of your infrastructure as much as possible. Usually, this entails having a separate HVAC for it, as well as a closed and if possible, locked physical door to keep its environment from being contaminated by items such as dust or heat which can happen if the door is continually being opened and closed.
  6. Keep your server room ‘pure’. The only thing in your server room should be your server and networking equipment. Nothing else. Once you start using your server room as a storage closet, or occasional workspace, you severely compromise its ability to protect your server, the data it contains and ultimately your business. It’s this simple: the more elements you place in your server room, the higher is the risk of a disaster by misadventure.
  7. Invest in a 24/7 monitoring solution. The ugly truth is that things happen, and things go wrong. Microsoft’s routine firmware upgrade is a prime example. Another one of the countless possible scenarios could be the failure of your AC, caused by a small leak or power blip. However, if your servers are still going full blast, it won’t take long before they are damaged (perhaps permanently) due to heat after everyone leaves for the weekend. With a monitoring solution in place, someone could be alerted and resolve the issue before everyone arrives back at the office on Monday to a nasty surprise.

This is why a monitoring solution must be considered an integral part of any server room to the point in which the server shouldn’t be turned on, unless the monitoring system is in place. A well designed and implemented monitoring system allows your team to maintain control of the server’s environment. By having control of the server room environment, your team is better positioned to ensure stability, longevity, and most importantly, the security of your business’ data.

If you’re unsure how to implement these best server room practices or want more information, we can help you. KT Connections, with our managed it services, provides a wide range of solutions to assist and support your business. If you’re unsure about which service is right for you, don’t hesitate to contact us at 888-891-4201.

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