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Is It Getting Hot in Here?

Cameras to keep an eye on the server room are nice, for example, but may not be worth the markup. If you can get an environmental sensor with an inexpensive webcam feature, go ahead. But be warned that you might not use it for anything other than showing off to your peers. So focus on temperature, notification and humidification as the most important factors.

Temperature hikes, after all, can be one of the most troubling scenarios. They may be caused by broken fans or AC failure. Prolonged elevated temperatures accelerate the semiconductor aging process and shorter their lifespan. Microprocessor-based temperature sensors in the server room alert you if the temperature drifts out of range. To save hours of hassle, avoid sensors that demand calibration to maintain the correctness of readings.

Humidity is also a vital factor to monitor. Too little and static can damage electrical components. Too much means your equipment can rust. Use a sensor to maintain a fine balance.

Once you have covered your bases with temperature, humidity and alerting, there are other factors to look into to make your physical environment more secure. Dry contact, for example, refers to the detection of broken surfaces when someone opens a door or breaks a window. Every time someone enters a secure area, you receive a trap or page. Inexpensive sensor packages are available that can add this feature for a small amount.

Airflow is another area that may cause you problems. A steady flow of air is necessary to dissipate heat. Placing airflow sensors in the air stream can spare you some heartbreak. Usually, they detect the early signs of problems — a fan has slowed down or an air filter is starting to clog. But sometimes that new storage array you just installed is the problem. You inadvertently stationed it in such a way that the server room airflow has been disrupted. All of a sudden, key equipment overheats and you wonder why. Airflow sensors save hours of fruitless effort trying to troubleshoot the problem.

When it comes to flooding, no sensor will hold at bay the Nile or the Colorado River. But in a less spectacular way, they can give you an early indication of water on the floor before it shorts out your gear.

Tool Tips

You have to factor three elements into the cost of environmental monitors: a base unit, probes, and network management connectivity and integration. Base units often contain one or more built-in sensors as well as ports for hooking up external probes.

There are several vendors to choose from. NetBotz Corp. (Austin, Texas) is the market leader and offers the most sophisticated range of products. Javica (Sanford, Maine) is a fast-rising competitor offering most of the features of NetBotz and excellent price-performance.

Article courtesy of Enterprise IT Planet

See All Articles by Drew Robb

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