Stand inside your server room or your networking closet. Is it hot and stuffy? Computer equipment produces a lot of heat. In fact, a major factor in a server’s stability is its ability to keep its internal components at a reasonable temperature. If your server room feels hot, your servers will be struggling to cool their internal components.
Why Should a Server Room Be Cold?
While we follow server room best practices, one of the recurring questions we often receive when we install or evaluate an existing install is why a server room should be cold. It makes sense, investing in the infrastructure to regulate the climate of one particular space can be costly.
Some other common questions we sometimes get:
- Why should we invest in dedicated environmental control or specialized air conditioners and not just something from the local home improvement store?
- Do I have to keep it at 68 degrees?
- Why can’t we save money on electricity and keep the server room at 80 degrees?
- Why can’t we just put a fan in the window?
Where Does This Heat Come From?
Heat is a side effect of the electricity your computer uses. You’ve probably noticed that most computers have air vents and fans that spin while they are in use. You’ve probably also noticed that your laptop starts to get warm after you’ve been using it for a while. There are metal heat sinks and fans inside your computer to draw heat away from the sensitive components and push it out of the casing. Room temperature air gets pulled into one set of vents, and hot air is pushed out another. This heats up the air in the room.
Here Are Four Reasons Why Your Server Room Should Be Cold
1. Heat Reduces the Lifespan of Your Equipment
There are studies that suggest that even minor increases in temperature can reduce a hard drive’s life by up to two years. In fact, heat over time can weaken the components of the motherboard, CPU, and other elements of your server - leading to premature failure. One way to think about the heat in your server is the difference between your server working at 75% vs 100% capacity 24/7 due to the additional stress caused by heat. It’s not surprising a constantly overheated server fails.
2. Heat Reduces Performance
When hard drives and other components are affected by heat, the result can be slower response times and write errors, ultimately contributing to a loss of data and overall stability. While this may not necessarily transform into the type of ‘downtime’ usually associated with a server shutting down or components failing, it is certainly a reduction in productivity. Hard drive instability can lead to an increase in customer frustration when there’s a lag in system performance and can lead to bigger issues down the road.
3. Operating Cost Increases Due to Heat
One thing to consider is that if your equipment fails due to heat, you will need to not only replace the damaged hardware but also to recover and install the data which was on the drive. You will also need to budget the time and cost of the IT technicians, HVAC teams, and any other professionals needed to get you back up and running.
Additionally, due to this downtime, you may have to reassure your customer base that you are still capable of providing the service you have promised them. The loss of productivity due to downtime is a tangible cost, just as real as the cost associated with the replacement of damaged equipment and one that shouldn’t be underestimated.
4. Heat Can Be Dangerous
Overheating equipment can lead to more than just damage; components can critically fail and cause more widespread damage throughout the device itself, or even increase the risk of fire.
Can A Server Room Be Too Cold?
How cold is too cold? One thing to consider is that if your server room is too cold, you increase the risk of condensation and static electricity - all of which can damage your servers. Installing air conditioners without a plan or monitoring equipment and ventilation may do more harm than good. Effective server maintenance requires finding the correct temperature for your individual environment and developing a plan to maintain that temperature. Server room maintenance should never be an out-of-the-box solution.
Unfortunately, this eliminates most air conditioners you would find at your local home improvement store. They aren’t designed to be run 24/7, so in a server room environment, you may find yourself replacing these AC units in as little as a year. Further, these residential units bring with them issues of water, humidity, and power fluctuations - all of which can be deadly to your servers.
Your Plan to Keep Your Server Room Cold Should...
Ensure Your Server Racks Receive Good Airflow from Your Cooling Systems
Servers generate heat in different directions. By controlling your airflow, you are better able to direct hot air away from your servers. Good airflow management allows you to reduce the amount of overall cooling needed, saving you money on the cost of air conditioning.
Keep Your Server Room a Server Room and Not a ‘Storage’ Room
Effective temperature control requires you to keep your server room’s door closed. If you use your server room as a storage closet or additional work station, you increase the number of times your door is opened and closed, creating unstable temperatures. In addition, you also increase the risk of accidents due to human error, which can occur as more people enter and leave the server room. Physical security is critical to maintaining the safety and security of your server room.
Require a 24/7 Monitoring Solution
You can do everything right, but Murphy’s Law still rules and things still break, often when you’re least prepared. However, you don’t have to be in the dark. Desktop Monitoring and management takes a proactive stance against common hardware ailments, and can effectively prolong the life cycle of your organization’s technology systems and maximize ROI.
24/7 monitoring can let you know when your server needs your attention. Proactive monitoring will notify you when issues that affect the stability of your server room appear. This goes beyond heat - water, power fluctuations, and static electricity build-up can also be dangerous to your servers. Effective monitoring will inform you of any issue which you should be concerned about and allow you the time to investigate and evaluate the situation before it escalates into something more critical. Of course, if you have a question or concern, our 24/7 help desk is available to provide real-time expertise and is just a phone call away.
If you’re unsure how to implement these best server room practices or want more information, we can help you. Dresner Group, 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 (410) 531-6727.