Heat and Technology Don’t Mix

Years ago, we told you the story of a client who had a pipe burst that flooded their server. In case you needed a reminder, servers and water don’t mix (which is always a good reminder to make sure your disaster recovery planning is up-to-date). With record heat waves hitting most of us at some point, you need to watch out because heat doesn’t mix well with heat, either. What happens if your tech gets too hot and how do you keep things cool?

While there are more expensive industrial devices that can survive high temperatures and harsh environments, most tech equipment prefers to be a consistently colder, climate-controlled environment. When your server, for example, starts running hot, it will throttle its processor performance to try to keep things cooler. If it gets too hot, it will go into thermal shutdown and stop working entirely (not ideal if you rely on that server to do your job). Network switches, firewalls and other equipment may also shut down if it gets too warm. Or if they don’t have thermal protection inside the device, they may not shut down and may run until damage is done permanently to the hardware of the device.

Long story short, cooler equipment is happier equipment.

So what can you do to keep things cool?

Get the right room-specific AC unit. This is probably the most important item here for the long-term health of your equipment. If you’re designing and building an office space with server room from scratch, it’s easy to plan for a climate-controlled server room (and you should plan for it, with that room on a different zone as the rest of your system). Most of us, however, are trying to keep already-existing rooms cool. The size of the room and the amount of equipment in your server rack or shelf will help determine what kind of equipment you’ll need. For our office, because our room is small and we’re moving more of our stuff to the cloud, a portable air-conditioner unit works for our needs. They make industrial strength portable units as well air conditioning systems that mount in your server rack, but regardless of what you end up using, you’ll likely want to talk to an HVAC professional to make sure it’s installed right and is rated for the space and the commercial and industrial use that you’re going to be putting it through (as most units you buy at the department store or online are generally not built to be running 24/7). Once it’s all installed, you’ll want to make sure the room doesn’t get any warmer than approximately 75F-degrees, so adjust accordingly for your needs.

Make sure your AC comes back on after a power-outage: Some air conditioning units won’t come back on after a power outage. Make sure whatever system or unit you are using is setup to automatically come back on after a power outage, otherwise things are going to get warm very quickly.

Make sure your equipment is clean and well-ventilated: Whenever possible, your server room should strictly be for electronic equipment. That way you’re not having to try to cool down something that doesn’t needs to be cooled. You’ll also want to make sure you don’t have extra dust bunnies clogging up the ventilation on your computers and servers. Get some compressed air or an electric air duster to occasionally blow out your equipment and make sure they don’t have dust clogging up their ability to breathe properly.

Turn Off the Lights: Lights are emitters of heat, especially if they are incandescent bulbs. Keep the lights off whenever possible to not only lower your power-bill but to keep things slightly cooler.

Use Cooling Fans: If you need to move warm air away from your network equipment, some basic box fans or pedestal fans will help. You’ll need to make sure you have someplace for that hot air to go, so this would work best if you have a room or area you can push the hot air to.

Cooling in the Rack Itself: If you have a server rack holding your equipment, you’ll want to keep the hot air venting out of the back of the equipment from coming back into the front and then getting sucked back into the systems. You can do this with things like blanking panels to close off the gaps and cooling fans to mount to the top of some rack systems to move away hot air. That way, the air getting sucked into the front of the server is as cool as possible.

Stay cool this summer!

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