Weak Points in Data Center and POP Environmental Monitoring

In a previous posting on environmental threats, I discussed how temperature, humidity, and other factors can impact data centers, telecom switching sites, and other POP sites. I am going to continue that conversation with a look at some weak points in monitoring practices.

In a many businesses, three groups monitor environmental threats to data center and switching site equipment: network administrators or operations managers, security personnel, and maintenance employees. Ultimately, network administrators are responsible for protecting equipment. Often, particularly in a small or mid-sized business, monitoring of equipment may be performed by staff onsite or visiting equipment in remote locations. However, these monitoring practices may be putting critical business operations at risk.

  • Damage caused by the environment can be subtle, unseen, or attributed to other causes. Condensation, rust, and heat damage is usually hidden inside machines, out of human sight.
  • The frequency and quality of a site check may vary from person to person. Even if procedures and schedules are in place, adherence to those procedures and schedules may vary from person to person.
  • Environment threats occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But staff is not always in the equipment room or at the POP site, especially on nights and weekends.  Depending on staffing levels and schedules, environments can be unmonitored up to seventy percent of the time during an average week.
  • Without a log of changing conditions—temperature and humidity levels constantly increase and decrease—administrators and managers cannot identify problems caused by these changes. These problems can continue for days or months, while time and money is wasted investigating false causes and solutions.
  • As soon as you have people checking on equipment or performing maintenance, you can actually create problems where they hadn’t existed before. For example, boxes set in front of vents “temporarily” are not moved. While working, an individual adjusts the air conditioning or heat and forgets to reset when they leave. Or moved or bumped equipment changes airflow and causes hotspots.

An effective server environment monitoring system addresses the weaknesses in the current practice of having personnel monitor the environment.  And solutions will be the subject of an upcoming post.

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