Keep your server room cool, the risks of excessive heat on your servers cannot be overstated. A business's data and communication is what keeps them organized and productive and their server rooms and data centers are the heartbeat that keeps it all humming. An improperly maintained climate or unattended temperature spike in a server room can result in loss of business due to downtime, lost productivity and loss of important data if equipment is damaged.This is all bad news.
If you think your situation is different, and your server room is small enough or cooled enough that you don’t need to think about monitoring and controlling the environmental temperature you may be in for a rude awakening. Large and small alike, high temperatures can bring any business to its knees, see these case studies about temperature related disasters from Mircosoft.
Additionally, data analyst Jed Scaramella at the International Data Corp. (IDC) has said “Smaller installations such as server closets and rooms register highest in terms of cooling issues,” and this is because they typically do not invest in proper cooling techniques and best practices.
We at Enviromon have made it our mission to help IT pros and business owners like yourself protect these critical assets from environmental disasters, so you can protect your bottom line. This is why we have put together this list of tips and best practices to help you keep your server rooms and closets cool. Along with our environmental monitoring systems, these tips should help you prevent avoidable disasters.
Most technology experts and companies (Enviromon included) will tell you that the optimal or recommended temperature range for a server room is between 64.4F and 80.6F and relative humidity should be between 45-50%. Check your server room temperature and if you notice that the ambient air temperature is regularly above the mid-80ºs (Fahrenheit) you may be at risk of damaging or shortening the lifespan of your equipment. This might not sound like that big of a deal, but if it is regularly over this recommended temperature eventually something is going to give, and most likely at the worst possible time.
If you are unsure how you can check and maintain these ranges, see our environmental monitoring systems which will monitor server room temperature continuously, and provide alerts if conditions go beyond set thresholds. Much better than a thermostat or thermometer on the wall, right?
[BONUS: See how our you can measure server room temperature and humidity here]
If you are noticing your server room or closet is getting too hot, or just not within the recommended levels, this list is for you. Here are some expert tips and suggestions you can try to get your server room temperatures under control.
1.) To start off, ensure that your server room (or closet) receives adequate airflow from AC and centralized air systems.
To do this you will want to check a few things. Firstly, make sure that the room has its own dedicated intake and return vents. This way when the doors are closed to the room, air from the AC is able to enter and leave efficiently.
Next you will want to independently measure the ambient temperature in the room and compare to what the temperature control is set at. If the temperature control is set to something different than your independant test, this could mean that it is not receiving enough airflow and/or return airflow is not taking enough out to control the climate effectively. Your room should be within only a degree or two difference, if any, from what temperature control is set at.
If either of these are not the case, you may want to consider contacting a local HVAC specialist to help determine the reasons why or consider renting or purchasing a portable HVAC unit (more about this in tip 4)
2.) Designing the server room layout with Cold and Hot aisles in mind.
This may not be news to some, but for those who are unaware or unsure; arranging hot and cold aisles is a method of placing server racks so that if there are multiple lines of server racks, you want to ensure that they are all pushing hot air in a different direction that the cold air intake. This typically means placing the fronts of the racks face each other and draw cold air from the cold aisle in and/or placing the the rear sides of the rows of racks face one another, expelling the hot air into the hot aisle.
This will really only apply to those with multiple server racks, but the same concept can be applied to smaller setups as well. Consider the ventilation of the room, and plan the direction of your inlet and exhaust airflow according to the sides of the room responsible for the incoming cool air vents and the hot air return vents.
Your solution will depend on the size of your room, and how many server racks occupy it and how air is circulated but the concept is simple. Don’t push hot air from one server, into the cold air inlet of another.
3.) Use Blanking panels in empty areas of your server racks to prevent cold air passing too quickly and hot air getting trapped.
Install blanking panels if there is unused spaces in your rack. Without blanking panels, hot air will become trapped in the empty spaces and minimize the effectiveness of the cool air coming in. For more information about blanking panels see this guide from Dell.
4.) Install server room specific cooling equipment in addition to facility HVAC systems.
Portable Air Conditions – Depending on the size of your server room there are several options available. In small to mid-sized rooms portable spot coolers working alongside your facilities HVAC system can provide the needed boost to cool air directly coming from your racks.
Although the price of residential AC units might seem appealing, do not take the cheap route when dealing with the critical assets of your business. Most residential AC units are not intended to run 24/7/365 which is needed for your servers. On top of that, they also will not remove moisture and humidity from the air which is another concern for server rooms because improper humidity levels can lead to increased static electricity or condensation on equipment.
If you're looking for a suggestion, AirPac provides a comprehensive range of portable AC units specifically for server rooms with options to rent or buy them outright and manufactured right in Virginia, USA. They also provide emergency portable air conditioners which can be rented in a time of need and their team is available 24/7 to help.
Precision Cooling and Containment – Larger rooms, and ones utilizing hot and cold aisle designs would be smart to look into containment of hot aisles so that hot air coming out of the server racks is trapped and funnelled directly into the AC unit to be cooled and sent back out. This prevents the hot air from circulating back into your server racks, which will greatly diminish the effectiveness of your cooling efforts.
5.) Seal your server room off from the rest of your facility.
Winters can be especially bad for overheating small server rooms. As the weather cools down, your facilities AC will inevitably be switched to heat. This can mean hot 76°(or more) air being pushed into your server room. Another best practice if you do not have control of the facility's temperature control is to seal the space where the equipment is stored. That means keeping the door closed at all times, no missing ceiling tiles, and filling in any gaps where air can escape. You will need a dedicated AC unit or precision cooling appliance but then you can prevent the facilities HVAC system from compromising the climate for your servers.
6.) Keep your server room for server and network equipment only.
There should be no reason to have anything but your critical server and networking equipment in your server room. Do not use it for storage of other materials, or a spare IT office. More things in the room mean more the AC unit will need to cool and push air around. For the most part, the room should be kept closed and locked as much as possible to maintain the proper environmental conditions.
7.) Replacing unnecessary heat emitting lights and equipment.
It sounds like a small detail, and many facilities already use fluorescent lights, but it is something to consider if you are using a repurposed room or closet for your server room, as there are chances that fluorescent tubes may not have installed in these rooms which had previous uses.
Incandescent light bulbs are not just inefficient at creating light with only 10% going to providing visible light; the other 90% goes mostly towards creating heat which can be between 150º to 250º Fahrenheit.
Additionally, if there are other computers or equipment that are not needed to be in the server room, these should be removed as well, as they will produce additional heat that needs to be removed.
8.) 24/7 Environmental monitoring systems to alert you when temperatures rise and risk your equipment.
All the best practices to cool your server room can still fail if the power goes out, or an AC unit stops working unexpectedly. Many times these issues will present themselves at the worst possible times, like weekends, holidays or after-hours when staff is not around to respond. We have seen these events happen time and time again, and the results are usually catastrophic.
Almost 98% of our customers come to us, only AFTER they have experienced these disasters and are now looking to prevent future losses.
Sometimes it happens when the power goes out and an AC unit stops, or does not automatically turn back on, while servers are connected to back-up power and continue running, other times temperature changes can be caused when the facility is in control of temperature. The end results are always the same; temperatures rise to dangerous levels, and it's not until someone hears that fans are spinning loudly or the servers have stopped working entirely that steps are taken to react. By this time, equipment is already being deteriorated, or worse.
The best way to get peace of mind and prevent these avoidable disasters is to make that small investment in monitoring your server environment BEFORE these issues happen.
Our environmental monitoring systems can send alerts via email, and SMS Text messages to the right people, before the temperature has risen to dangerous levels. See how you should set up environmental monitoring in your server room to get proper coverage.
In conclusion, or if you skipped to the end. Check to make sure your server room or network closet can maintain a temperature range between 64.4F and 80.6F with relative humidity between 45-50% and have proper airflow for cold inlet and hot air return. If your facility's HVAC is not enough to keep your equipment cool you should look into getting a portable or dedicated AC unit for your server room. Although if possible, upgrading your HVAC system is always a better more effective decision.
Most importantly, the only way to truly prevent temperature conditions from damaging your critical equipment is to monitor conditions using an environmental monitoring system that can alert you before temperatures get to dangerous levels. See how you should setup environmental monitoring in your server room to get proper coverage.
Contact us at Enviromon to discuss your server room situation and we will be able to provide you with the best recommendations to monitor your server room and prevent avoidable disasters like these.