Small businesses that have their own server rooms or closets can face cooling challenges especially during heatwaves. We’ll discuss some of these challenges and provide you some tips to overcome them.
Ideal ambient or room temperature
Contrary to what you may think, server rooms do not have to be chilly or cold to keep equipment in good working order. A server room that is at 20C (68F) is as good as a server room at 15C (59F). The most important part of server room cooling is to keep the air moving through the room and to have a method of air ingress and egress. Maintaining normal room temperature of 22C (72F) is perfectly suitable for a server room or server closet. Best of all, maintaining room temperature is much more cost effective than chilling the air.
Server and equipment positioning
We’ve seen many server rooms that will have a equipment on a desk in a corner. Perhaps the server is not on the desk, but on a shelf in the room. It may also be on the floor.
It is important for maintenance and airflow to ensure that you can access the server from the front and the back. A general rule to follow is that you should have enough room in front and behind the server to walk. This applies for servers on desks, or in racks. Pull the desk out from the wall 1m or 3 feet. Whether you actually can walk behind is another question due to cabling etc. However, a clean space behind the server will make maintenance so much easier.
TIP: servers and network equipment should not be on the floor. Equipment should be properly mounted in a cabinet. A broken sprinkler head often will flood an office and anything on the floor will be ruined.
Airflow in and out of the room should be sufficient to keep the server room at the same temperature as the rest of the building. Cooling the room past the ambient building temperature is expensive and often unnecessary.
A separate air conditioner is not required to do this, but can be used. A fan strategically located at the air ingress or egress vent often will be sufficient. Most air conditioners will have a temperature control and a fan mode.
Locate one room vent near the floor for cold air ingress. The the other vent should be near the ceiling for warm air egress. Doing this will create a chimney effect and can help passively move air through the room.
Airflow through equipment is done with fans inside the equipment. This is called active cooling. For the most efficient active cooling in your server’s fans should be in good working order and your server should be clean and free of dust. Ensure your server and equipment pulls fresh air in and exhausts warm air out. Do not arrange your equipment so the warm air exhaust is pulled in by equipment behind it.
You can do this by:
- Use the server room/closet for the servers and network equipment. It should not also be a storage area or workspace.
- If you have a dusty environment outside of the server room (ie warehouse or manufacturing area), purchase a fan or air conditioning unit that has a filter. Ensure you change or clean the filter regularly.
- Every 6 months power down your equipment and blow compressed air through it to clear the dust. Dust acts as an insulator and will raise the temperature of components and can lead to premature failure.
- Arrange your racks in rows so that fresh air is pulled in and exhaust blows out.
Server and network equipment have temperature sensors built in. Using SNMP and monitoring software like Nagios or Zabbix, you can monitor the temperature of the servers and generate alerts and potentially shut equipment down when the room or equipment temperature exceeds a safe level. This can indicate failure of HVAC in the building and will allow you to have reliable equipment for years to come.
Just as a safe shutdown is necessary when your power fails, a safe shutdown is also necessary when your HVAC unit fails.
Keep your server room for your server equipment. Building ambient temperature is perfectly suitable for operating equipment. Keep air moving through your server room. Keep your equipment clean and free of dust. Locate your equipment away from walls to ensure airflow is maintained.
I hope you found this article helpful. If you’ve got any questions or comments please leave them below, we’d love to hear from you.