Servers and other IT equipment need optimal conditions to stay healthy. Here’s how to be a data center doctor.

Key Takeaways:

  • Data centers have five distinct environmental controls
  • Businesses must be aware of these controls to keep systems functioning and promote physical security
  • Failure to address problems that arise could lead to damaged equipment and compromised network security

Data centers would be better termed “nerve centers” for modern businesses. Electrical signals vital to the Body Commercial are constantly firing off to ensure essential systems keep functioning. Data centers are where organization and control are centralized, and…wait, did you hear a cough?

Listen. There it is again! Was that your data center? I think I heard a sneeze, too. You’d better get down there and see how the local environment is impacting its operational well-being. Oh, and take our five-step how-to guide with you for easy diagnosis and troubleshooting!

How to tackle dangerous temperatures

IT equipment is super sensitive to ambient warmth and the heat it independently generates. Data security depends in large part on keeping centers cool which involves:

  • Optimal unit placement for best possible airflow.
  • Maintaining each unit’s internal server fans.
  • Keeping your HVAC in top condition.
  • Creating hot/cold aisles that direct hot air away from the cold air intake. Designated return vents can draw hot air into your AC and cool it before sending it back into the data center.
  • Installing low heat emitting, energy efficient lights like CFLs or LCDs.
  • Sealing the room from heating systems that affect the rest of the building.

Multiple temperature sensors are another solution. This creates a thermal map of the data center and provides real-time data and alerts if things get toasty. Blanking panels (here are some examples) are another effective method of blocking warm air from affecting servers, and so is the right chiller system.

How to handle high and low humidity

Unmanaged humidity leads to two things: excessive dryness and moisture. Droplets and vapor can form, and everybody knows how electrical systems love water. Managing airflow also manages humidity, which in turn helps with issues like electrostatic discharge caused by dryness and corrosion caused by moisture.

Controlling humidity is a crucial data center environment requirement because it can also create mold. These tiny spores can cause short circuits and seriously harm data security. Mold can form on server fans, which worsens the problem significantly by blowing fungi around; a relative humidity of under 70% is recommended to avoid this. Installing wireless humidity sensors will help with humidity awareness.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) occasionally update their “Thermal Guidelines for Data Processing Environments,” with 2021 seeing the most recent recommendations. This data helps electrical teams discover the optimal percentage humidity range for individual data center environments by defining which of the five classes they fall into.

How to be electrically efficient

Humidity is linked to being electrically efficient because overly dry data centers run the risk of harmful electrostatic events. Even the most environmentally monitored centers are still prone to electrical surges, which can endanger network security, temporarily disabling systems or taking them entirely out of commission. Awareness of the several possible power surge scenarios goes a long way toward avoiding shocked equipment and scrambled data.

Taking the necessary steps to counter these outcomes is an essential data center environment requirement. We recommend installing surge protection devices, uninterruptible power supplies, and static electricity monitors to be more compliant with National Electrical Codes. Read our previous blog for more information on preparing for the worst and optimizing electrical efficiency.

How to foresee and fight fire damage

An enclosed space. Potentially massive heat buildup. Plastic casings and circuit boards, all petroleum based. You see where we’re going with this! Data centers can become literal hotspots without a good fire suppression system.

Dry pipe sprinklers should be part of this system and are filled with pressurized nitrogen or air instead of water. This design will administer water over a fire just like water-filled pipes, but with the advantage that dry pipes aren’t filled with water that’s constantly sitting above delicate data center equipment.

Other smart additions to your fire prevention and protection plan are:

  • Smoke detectors
  • Suppression water mist: A significant improvement on standard water sprinklers spraying large amounts of liquid everywhere. Mist suppressors use atomized water droplets diffused over a large area, using less water for maximum firefighting effect and minimal moisture damage to equipment. 
  • Suppression clean agents: Like a sprinkler but without the water, clean agents dispense inert gasses or chemicals which are non-conductive, non-toxic, and non-corrosive. They’re also a superior alternative to foam fire extinguishers and won’t leave any residue after evaporating.

Creating a safe server room and an overall safer commercial site doesn’t stop there. Here’s a fire preparation and prevention plan every business should have.

How to succeed with your data center security

Surveillance is a crucial aspect of network security and data security. Who’s getting into those server rooms, and what are they doing while there? High-quality IP cameras are a good way to know, but they won’t be of much use if they’re blinded by smoke, humidity, or overheating themselves. See how the previous steps tie in?

Access control on all data server doors is another essential step toward optimal physical security, and then more access controls should be attached to the server racks themselves. Industrial sabotage is still a thing, and it will be much harder for bad actors to cause harm to your data center and business functions if they can’t access them in the first place!

Still, the worst can still happen one way or another, which is why every data center should have a disaster recovery plan. The team at TechTarget has an excellent breakdown of what a plan should contain, plus a handy template to start drafting your own.

Contact Universal Electrical Services for data center solutions

The UES team brings decades of electrical experience to multiple industries throughout Florida. From full installations of electrical systems to emergency callouts, we’re here to help with data center environment requirements. Just contact us for a free quote!