Top 4 environmental threats to server function
Wednesday, May 22nd 2013

Servers aren't closed systems. Environment management is key to keeping servers running smoothly, but many external factors can compromise their functionality. Here are four common environmental aspects which can render server equipment vulnerable, with some insight on suitable protective measures.

1. Temperature & humidity

Fluctuations in computer room temperature and humidity can be detrimental to server functionality, and the wrong temperature can slow down servers or even keep them from working at all. Comprehensive temperature and humidity monitoring systems are necessary to track ambient temperature and moisture levels, as well as disparities within the servers. The average temperature of data centers should be between 68 and 71 degrees Fahrenheit, according to ITWatchDogs, while the average humidity should be about 50 percent, according to ASHRAE.

2. Water & Fire

Water's adverse effects on data centers can take many different forms. Plumbing problems, roof leaks and sprinkler malfunctions mean that water could attack servers from anywhere. Water detection sensors on the floor can act as remote monitors and sound the alarm if excess liquid gets in the room. Conversely, fire can also wreak havoc on data centers. An entire county in Michigan recently had to go offline entirely following a data center fire that destroyed all of the government body's IT capacity, according to Data Center Knowledge. Temperature monitoring can be used to make sure that servers aren't heating up to unsafe levels as a result of a blaze. Additionally, a dry-gas sprinkler can suppress fire without pouring water into the server room.

3. Unauthorized access

The important information housed in servers may be of interest to unauthorized persons. Comprehensive security measures can help keep external agents out. For example, in a recent Environmental Protection Agency self-evaluation guide concerning data center security, researchers uncovered several potential vulnerabilities. In response, they recommended that facilities managers update their lock system, restrict access and and strengthen wireless encryption. Omniscient video surveillance is also essential.

4. Power management

Power issues can have serious consequences for servers - loss of power through blackouts, brownouts, power surges and tripped breakers can result in missing data, lost resources, IT headaches and client mistrust, so it's imperative that power systems be overseen at all times. Additionally, power management transparency could be beneficial in the long run. The increase in data center energy consumption has started many discussions about use of resources, reported Data Center Knowledge. Monitoring energy consumption helps protect data center usage integrity. Remote monitoring solutions, like the one offered by ITWatchDogs, keep track of power and alert data center operators to any potential changes in power source or supply.