The how-to guide to server room air conditioning
Tuesday, May 28th 2013

Temperature monitoring is one of the most crucial components for ensuring optimal server function in a data center. Without comprehensive temperature control and contingency systems, enterprises risk compromising their servers, which can slow productivity, cease operations, drain resources and even cause them to lose vital information. Maintaining the right temperature in a server room is essential, and can be a source of anxiety for many businesses. Air conditioning done right can help a company keep their servers secure and reduce waste related to unoptimized systems and power-related downtime. Being better informed about aspects of data center cooling will lead to smarter, more cost-effective business decisions.

What to look for in a server room A/C solution
The placement of the air conditioning units within the server room can hugely impact the level at which A/C must run in order to maintain an optimal temperature. Overheating servers present a serious problem for environmental management, potentially leading to melting server parts and even fires, and this worry can make enterprise management teams over-cautious. The tendency to keep A/C on full-blast into the data center keeps servers from overheating, but it can also needlessly waste resources. Air conditioning units are usually placed in the floor or ceiling, funneling air to be absorbed by the servers from below or above.

Controlling airflow in the room is important to maximize the funneled air from the A/C. Improving air circulation with strategic server placement and airtight doors can maximize the efficacy of the air in the room and keep temperatures from rising as it moves through the room. Tracking ventilation around the room can also minimize the amount of air the A/C has to pump. The placement of server racks and rows can also have a significant effect on airflow containment, according to TechTarget.

What to do about redundancy
Effective data center monitoring responds to the issues associated with redundancy, namely regarding the need for backup systems and automated contingency plans in the event of a power outage or technical issue in the main machinery. When it comes to something as crucial to basic data center functionality as air conditioning, not having a backup system in place is like playing with fire - literally. Concerns about power usage effectiveness will accompany any new system installation, but there are cost-conscious ways to implement protection. A portable A/C unit, powered by a separate source from the mainframe system, is a valuable contingency asset for maintaining optimal temperatures.

What to do if A/C fails
The first thing to know about A/C failure is that a remote monitor is crucial to making personnel aware of a problem immediately. A server monitoring solution like ITWatchDogs' PSTN Auto-Dialer can deliver alerts to employees even if the rest of the room has lost power. Remote IT solutions can also be automated to shut down the servers in the event of a complete power outage. In this case, it's better to shut down servers and risk downtime and customer dissatisfaction than to lose data entirely to a melting server.