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Creative Ways to Keep Your Server Room Cool

Greg Mooney| August 04 2017

| IT insights

server-room-cool-1.jpgNo need heavy-jacket temperatures, but you also shouldn’t start sweating the moment you enter!

Cool server rooms play a key role in extending the life of your servers and other devices that enable to you run your business. Cool temperatures also help you avoid system downtime as over-heated hardware can sometimes cause systems to crash.


According to Dataroom.com, for every 18° above 70° Fahrenheit, electronics reliability is reduced by 50%. 68° to 70° is the ideal range, but anywhere from 64° to 74° with relative humidity between 45-50% is acceptable.

Before You Build Your Server Room

If you’re just about to build or move your server infrastructure to a new room, you can take some proactive measures to create an environment that’s conducive to low temperatures.

• As you design the room, create an open, clean and ventilated space that enables you to keep it as dust-free as possible.

• Inadequate ventilation and accumulating dust can cause overheating and failure, so make sure there’s plenty of room for your devices to breathe. Creating space between devices also makes for easier dusting.

• The design should also include proper environmental controls and cooling accessories. Give the room its own separate air conditioning system and make sure there’s adequate air flow—with dedicated intake and return vents so air enters and leaves the room efficiently. A built-in server room air conditioner is ideal.

• Another helpful tip is to create cold and hot aisles—placing racks so that servers push the same type of air towards each aisle. This typically means placing the fronts of the racks to face each other so they draw cold air from the cold aisle, and placing the rear sides of the racks to face one another—expelling the hot air into the hot aisle.

• If you have just one or no server rack at all, the same concept can be applied. Plan the direction of your inlet and exhaust airflows according to the sides of the room responsible for the incoming cool air vents and the hot air return vents. The main thing to avoid is pushing hot air from one server into the cold air inlet of another.

• Also install heat and humidity monitors to identify if any issues are developing. Keep in mind that you may lose power or the AC unit at night, during a weekend, or on a holiday. Be sure to have some sort of remote monitoring and alert capability with someone on stand-by to respond quickly.

You can also facilitate cooling by installing raised floors, self-cooling cabinetry and in-row cooling, which is targeted cooling directed at the servers. These units can be installed on the floor or suspended from overhead to position them close to the servers.

The more ventilation and cooling you provide, the less likely servers will overheat!

Read: Dated IT Infrastructure? Six Warning Signs You've Been Missing

After You Build Your Data Center

For those working with a server room that’s already built, consider which of the suggestions listed above you might still be able to implement if you have not done so already. The current design and space you are working with may eliminate a couple of the options, but you may be able to apply some tweaks to improve air flow and temperature.

To find out how well you are currently keeping the room cool, use an independent device to measure the ambient server room temperature and compare that to what the temperature control is set at. (Don’t go by the temperature on your thermostat!)

If the temperature control is set to something different than your independent test—by more than two degrees—this could mean the temperature control system is not receiving enough airflow, or the return flow is not taking enough air out to control the climate effectively.

In situations where you find the server room is suddenly hot, a quick action you can take immediately is to remove a few ceiling tiles to syphon the heat off the top of your servers. If you don’t have ceiling tiles, or if removing them creates a fire code violation, proactively consider adding a vent above your doorway.

Another quick action step is install a portable air conditioner to work alongside your facility’s HVAC system to cool air directly coming from your servers. Be sure to use a commercial-grade AC unit designed to run 24/7 that also removes moisture from the air. Improper humidity levels can lead to increased static electricity or condensation on equipment.

You can also install blanking panels anywhere you don’t have servers in your rack. Without blanking panels, cooler air travels into the spaces where the servers aren’t placed rather than to the top of your server rack—where the heat rises and where problems will occur first. By placing blanking panels in the rack, the cool air travels to the top of the rack—which is where the hottest air resides—rather than into and behind the rack.

Another best practice is to seal the space as much as possible. That means no windows or extra doors, no missing tiles, no gaps under the door, and no cracks where air can escape.

An Alternate Cooling Approach

A cooling strategy that takes a different approach and some time to implement but could be well worth the effort is to move some or perhaps all of your servers to the cloud. The cloud delivers many IT benefits, but fewer servers also means less heat, and you save on power consumption. By moving to the cloud, you also transfer the cool room responsibility to a third-party service provider—who specializes in keeping data center temperatures low and running 24/7.

For those who choose to keep their servers on premises, if you still find your server room running too hot after applying these measures, you likely need to consult with an HVAC specialist. Check to find a specialist with actual server room HVAC experience. They present a different set of challenges than the rest of the office building.

Maintaining a cool server room may be a hard sell in terms of getting the necessary funding. But if you focus on the cost of hardware downtime that hot temperatures can cause, you will more than justify the expense. You will also have peace of mind knowing your data center won't go up in flames.

Topics: IT insights

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THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY Greg Mooney

Greg is a technologist and data geek with over 10 years in tech. He has worked in a variety of industries as an IT manager and software tester. Greg is an avid writer on everything IT related, from cyber security to troubleshooting.

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