Server room cooling is important if you want to make sure that your equipment, and more importantly data, isn't damaged or lost due to heat failure. For smaller server rooms, it's often one of the commonly overlooked tasks in the IT department because people tend to think of "temperature control" as a facility manager task. That's an argument for another post!
Let's get down to business and cover a few guidelines for avoiding costly heat-related server failure and offer some quick tricks to keep the server room cooling costs down.
One of the important considerations when planning the cooling setup is how effectively a room can dissipate heat even without the use of cooling equipment. Here, space plays a big role: a larger room will be able to keep servers cool easier since there is more room for air to circulate in.
But as Drew Robb points out, the growing rise in high capacity servers that often generate a lot of heat make this ideal setup difficult to maintain. Plus, there is also the undesirable trend of many offices trying to make the server room as small as possible to save up on valuable office space, which can cause even more problems. So just because you can cram all the server equipment into a small room, doesn't mean you should.
Takeaway: A smaller server room is not always better!
To solve the dilemma of small rooms with lots of heat, layout plays a key role. In particular, you need to have adequate spacing between the servers to let air pass through. Server racks are often used to help consolidate equipment and manage hardware. Also note that you should limit the number of servers in a single room.
Takeaway: Equipment placement within the room matters!
Cooling on a Budget
Server room cooling is known to be notoriously expensive, considering the cost of the special equipment you have to buy for that purpose. While dedicated computer room or server air conditioners are pricey, you can try some simple server room cooling strategies before committing to purchasing a dedicated air conditioner.
Rather than cooling the entire room, try cooling only the specific area where the equipment is concentrated.
Takeaway: Cooling a server room does not have to be all or nothing. Take small, incremental steps to reach your cooling goal.
A major trend for many companies these days is to make server rooms more eco-friendly in addition to energy efficient. These two goals can be at odds with one another because eco-friendly solutions tend to cost more on the front end to purchase and implement but promise savings of resources and money in the long run. As Michelle Foster points out:
“Some of the best ways of making a server room more eco-friendly consequently focus on reducing risk, and finding alternative ways to power and organize spaces.”
Here, one major means of making data centers more eco-friendly is to use alternative power sources for the cooling systems themselves. By keeping cooling systems off the grid, companies are able to reduce their power costs. On the other hand, there are also a lot of new servers that are more energy efficient, hence requiring less cooling.
Takeaway: Eco-friendly cooling strategies are often not cost friendly! Do a complete cost/benefit analysis.
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