Protecting Your Server Room from Environmental Threats
While focused on protecting networks from security attacks and connectivity failures, administrators often inadvertently miss the subtle, ever-present danger of environmental threats. Pechant Telec Limited offers the best Datacenter environment monitoring solution in Kenya.
These threats include temperature, humidity, water leaks, intrusion, human error, vibration, and power outages. According to the Uptime Institute, 25% of all information downtime results from the interaction of computer hardware with its physical environment.
The environment can damage equipment, slow performance, and force hardware to shut down. The costs of environmental threats are:
- Replacement of damaged items
- Lower worker productivity due to downtime
- Lost revenues from unavailable server-based applications, such as e-commerce sites or customer service centers
- Additional administrative time and money to investigate and fix problems
The most common environment monitoring practice today is to have administrators, security officers, and facilities personnel observe areas and report any problems.
This practice has several weaknesses, such as:
- Not recognizing all threats
- Constantly changing environmental conditions
- Gaps in monitoring and responsibility
- Inability to track environmental changes Focusing on catastrophes, not daily threats that will eventually damage equipment
An environment monitoring system helps prevent the damages caused by environmental threats by monitoring critical conditions (such as temperature, humidity, and water leakage) that could destroy network components in a server room. It uses sensors to track environmental conditions around servers, workstations or data centers. When the system detects an abnormality, such as a temperature increase over the recommended limit, it sends an alert. Alerts can be flashing lights, buzzers, and messages via SNMP traps, email, and the system’s Web-based administrative interface.
After IT administrators receive the alert, they can investigate and resolve the issue. Many systems log environmental data, which administrators can use to investigate problems.
Excessive heat and rapid temperature changes also damage equipment. Rapid temperature increases can increase humidity, while rapid drops can cause water in humid air to condense on equipment. Together, heat and moisture accelerate the breakdown of materials used in microchips, motherboards, and hard drives, which is called premature aging. In worst cases, a machine won’t shut down when the temperature exceeds safe levels, and circuits are damaged.
When the temperature is between 68 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 24 degrees Celsius), the relative humidity (i.e., the amount of water in the air) should be between 40% and 50%.
A high humidity level can produce the following problems in the server room:
- Condensation – Condensation occurs when humidity levels are too high or when there is a rapid temperature drop. Water that condensates inside equipment causes rust, short circuits, or deposits of dirt and minerals that corrode equipment. Moisture absorbing circuit boards expand and contract with changes in relative humidity levels. Expansion and contraction of these boards can break microelectronic circuits and edge connectors. Finally, condensation increases heat levels. Deposits of dirt and minerals act like insulation that traps heat in equipment and prevents it from diffusing into the air.
- Fungus – Persistent humidity levels above 60% and elevated temperatures promote the growth of fungi. These contaminate the air with dirt and spores, which clog a machine’s airflow and promote heat retention and condensation. They also retain moisture and promote corrosion, which damage circuits and motherboards. Some fungi “eat” textile plastics (e.g., polyester) and PVCs, a phenomenon in which fungi breakdown the material used in these items. Most electronic equipment has some PVC materials, such as the PVC insulation used in cabling.
A persistent low humidity level can produce the following problems:
- ESD – Electrostatic discharge (ESD) occurs in dry environments because there is not enough water to neutralize the charge buildup. ESD intermittently interferes with hardware and can cause system damage or temporary malfunctions.
- Plastic Breakdown – Some plastics breakdown in low humidity environments, which is another form of premature aging.
Proper planning moves equipment away from water pipes that might burst, basements that might flood, or roofs that might leak. However, there are other water leaks that are more difficult to recognize and detect. Blocked ventilation systems can cause condensation if warm, moist air is not removed quickly. If vents are located above or behind machines, condensation can form small puddles that no one sees.
Administrators/personnel can unknowingly create environment problems in server rooms by:
- Adjusting the heat or air conditioning while working in the server room and forgetting to reset it when they leave
- Placing boxes in front of vents “temporarily” and forgetting to move them, which blocks airflow
- Moving equipment, which changes the room’s airflow and causes hotspots
- Bumping equipment, which changes the direction of vent baffles and causes the exhaust of one machine to blow at the intake of another machine
- Installing new equipment, unaware that it creates more heat than the old equipment Failing to put blank panels behind empty rack shelves, which inhibits air from flowing up.
Similarly, cleaning crews sometimes close doors that should be left open for ventilation, thus increasing the temperature and reducing airflow.
Intruders, such as disgruntled employees and industrial spies, often strike at the most critical yet vulnerable points: the physical devices that store and control access to data. The small and delicate nature of modern computing equipment makes it easy to damage or steal; hard drives are compact enough to carry out in a briefcase, backpack, coat pocket, or purse.
Too much movement loosens connections within the server housing unseating boards and chips. Vibration can also damage the hard drive disk, which rotates at extremely high speeds. Being bumped or moved can cause the platter, where the information is stored, and the head, which reads the information, to physically connect, causing scratches that permanently harm the disk drive.
Power outages, “brown outs,” and voltage dips and spikes represent big problems for computing equipment. A simple hiccup in power levels, let alone a lightning strike, can cause servers to fail. In best-case scenarios, this costs precious time before rebooting. In worst-case scenarios, circuitry is irreparably damaged and must be replaced.
Datacenter Environment Monitoring Solution
Pechant Telec offers different Datacenter Environment Monitoring Solution Systems. Each unit monitors critical environmental conditions (such as temperature, humidity, and water leakage) that could destroy network components in a server room. When a sensor exceeds a configurable threshold, the system will notify the selected administrators/staff via email, LEDs, alarm beacon, siren, web page, network management (SNMP), voice phone calls and SMS messages. The systems connect to an IP network, so they can be configured and monitored from any workstation with a Web browser.
If you are looking for the best environment monitoring system, you might have got the answer. Pechant Telec Limited has vast experience on this. Contact us for more information.