Having information lost or stolen can hurt your business, but liquid data center leaks can do just as much damage. Here’s what to know about them.

Key takeaways:

  • Liquid leaks could do significant damage to your data center.
  • They could make your IT equipment unusable.
  • These leaks come from many different locations.
  • Installing a leak detection system reduces your risk.

Running a company is a lot of work, and protecting organizational data is a significant part of it. In the modern world, you must guard this sensitive information against hackers and breaches – particularly if you store customer and employee data on-site. Taking these extra steps may be frustrating, but doing so beats having to contact your customers to inform them of a data breach.

Information isn’t the only thing you have to worry about leaking, though, Water and refrigerant leaks could do physical damage to your data center. Your computers, servers, and other IT equipment aren’t waterproof, and even a tiny amount of liquid could ruin them.

These data center leaks often emanate from your cooling equipment, but pipes and other water-carrying infrastructure inside your commercial building could also be to blame. Here’s a look at what causes data center leaks, plus some information on how you can prevent them from occurring at your business.

Why data center leaks occur

A water leak in your data or server room can rapidly ruin your electronic equipment. You already know this, which is why you’d never dump water on your computer systems. Many underlying causes could lead to this leak, however, and you should be aware of all of them:

Your air conditioning system could be responsible for water in your data center. Many air conditioners use purified water, which runs through their pipes to cool the air. If one of these pipes cracks or breaks, water will start leaking. Depending on the leak’s location and where you position the cooling unit, you could end up with significant water damage in a short period. 

  • Your air conditioning unit also produces condensation, especially on hot days in the summer. This liquid can seep into your data center and do damage if it isn’t properly contained.
  • There are pipes running throughout your building, and any of them could break at any moment. Yes, that sounds dramatic, but sewer lines and water mains break all the time and always do significant damage. Pipe damage becomes less likely if your plumbing system receives regular maintenance and inspection from a certified plumber. 
  • A blocked sewer line could crack without much warning, though, and if the pipe happens to burst near your data center, it can do a lot of damage in a hurry.
  • Water-cooled server racks are often used in data centers to prevent equipment from overheating. However, water can drip from these units, leading to damage if you don’t notice the problem immediately. 
  • Sprinkler systems, groundwater, and weather-related flooding are other elements that can get your IT equipment wet and lead to data center leaks.

The list of things that could damage your data center is long. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the dangers and know how to mitigate them.

A look at refrigerant leaks

Companies that use a commercial refrigeration system to keep IT equipment cool should be aware of the risk of a refrigerant leak. Leaks generally occur in areas where temperature changes, vibration, and pressure are common – the exact environment in which these systems operate.

You need to perform regular maintenance on these systems. When you don’t, your commercial refrigeration system could leak from its valves, compressors, and pipe joints. Physical damage can also cause refrigerants to leak from the unit. Refrigerants will damage your equipment, much like water, but are usually far smaller than those involving water. This makes detection more challenging. Some aren’t noticed for months, although you can prevent that from occurring by investing in a leak detection system.

Refrigerants can also be toxic and flammable, which is why the EPA’s Section 608 rules regulate their use and equipment repair, including dealing with leaks in a timely fashion.

The benefits of a leak detection system

Because water and refrigerant leaks can do so much damage to your data center, investing in a leak detection system is highly advisable. These systems are nearly mandatory if your cooling system uses refrigerant, because you could incur fines for noncompliance if you end up with liquid data center leaks.

Beyond government regulations, a leak detection system is a good idea because it protects against water damage. You’re likely to experience significant deterioration to your equipment if you don’t notice the leak for days. A detection system will let you know early on, allowing you to take action. This could help you save your servers and computers, prevent business interruptions, and avoid the financial losses that would result if flooding forced you to close your offices for repairs. 

How leak detection systems work

Installing a leak detection system near your data center is relatively simple. These systems typically include sensors that attach to shut-off valves and a central hub. The sensor sounds an alarm that immediately notifies you of the problem when it comes into contact with moisture. Some will even automatically turn the water off.

Your electrician can hardwire these systems in strategic locations around your commercial building, including above, underneath, or within your data center and near cooling equipment. This will ensure that you’re aware of any physical data center leaks that form before they do significant damage. 

You likely have thousands of dollars worth of equipment in your computer room. A leak detection system is a relatively inexpensive way to ensure this gear is safe moving forward.

Trust Universal Electrical Services

Universal Electrical Services can provide all the support you require for your commercial data center. We’re a leading expert in renovating, building, and relocating data centers in South Florida. We also have experience adding power distribution units, replacing universal power supplies, and installing leak detection systems for businesses of all sizes.

Contact Universal Electrical Services today to learn more about how to minimize data center leaks in your commercial building.