Server Room Guide - Prevent Data Loss with the Proper Air Conditioning

cooling-applications-serversYour servers aren't the only thing you're paying heavily for in your office environment. For every dollar you spend on computing equipment and services, chances are that you probably spend another dollar for the power and cooling to keep that equipment running.

But even with all that money invested in keeping your server room properly cooled and ventilated, overheating remains (even in an otherwise well-cooled establishment) the number one cause of malfunction and data loss.

Though improvements in technology continually reduce the risk over overheating, it's not a gamble you should play with your company's valuable resources. Here's what you need to know about protecting your servers from system crashes, random reboots and poor performance due to overheating.

Why Traditional Systems Don't Work for Server Room Cooling

Most offices operate cooling systems, but server room cooling presents specific challenges that cannot always be met by traditional central air conditioning.

  1. Due to the heat put out by the server equipment, server rooms are regularly hotter than the rest of the building. Lowering the AC in the whole building to compensate for high server room temperatures is likely to freeze out your employees. It will also increase your expenses.
  2. Many facilities reduce or turn off central AC on evenings and weekends, when offices are not generally in use, in order to cut utility expenditures. But server rooms operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  3. Especially in small and medium-sized businesses, server rooms are often tucked away in utility closets or storage rooms that lack proper ventilation or insulation, or might not even be connected to the central system at all.
  4. Central air conditioners are large, complex systems that sometimes fail. While workers can tough it out in the heat (or be sent home in extreme situations), your data center needs to function 24/7, and shut downs can lead to substantial losses in business revenue - not to mention the potential of permanent damage to your systems.

Smart business owners will recognize the need to seek out reliable alternatives to keeping their server room cool and operational.

Why Businesses Should Choose a Portable Air Conditioner for Data Center Cooling

Portable air conditioners are the ideal, cost-efficient alternative for keeping your business' server room properly cooled and ventilated. These compact, self-contained units take up little space, and provide cooling in a range of capacities depending upon your specific needs.

Since server rooms are frequently located in interior rooms without ventilation or windows, portable AC units can provide necessary ventilation to remove excess heat from the room. An exhaust hose can be vented through a window, wall or drop ceiling with little installation, so that air flow remains ideal for your costly equipment.

serverroomsAside from pumping cold air into your server room, a portable air conditioner will help moderate the humidity. Computers are susceptible to both too much humidity (corrosion and rust) and to little humidity (static buildup), so maintaining a balanced server room humidity level of about 50% is crucial to protecting your equipment. Most portable ACs are equipped to monitor and maintain ideal levels of humidity.

And portable air conditioners are just that - portable. As your business grows, you may find yourself moving to new offices. Why invest in permanent systems that you can't take with you? A portable AC is an asset that will move with you.

Even if your current air conditioning setup is providing sufficient cooling for your server room, you should consider investing in a portable air conditioning unit as a backup. That way, if your central AC system should fail, your computer equipment won't suffer.

How to Choose the Right Portable AC for Your Server Room

As with any portable air conditioner, it's important to buy the right size unit in order to get the most efficient cooling. A full guide to choosing the right size portable AC for your room can be found here, but server rooms have special needs because of the extra heat load produced by the equipment. In order to choose the proper air conditioner, you will have to do some extra calculations. Air conditioning power is measured in BTUs (British Thermal units). The more powerful an air conditioner, the higher its BTU rating. In order to know how powerful a portable air conditioning unit you will need, you first need to add up the BTUs of all the heat sources in your server room:server1

  • Room area BTU = length (m) x width (m) x 337
  • Windows BTU = length (m) x width (m) x 870 (for southern windows) and length (m) x width (m) x 165 (for northern windows). Multiply by 1.5 if the windows have no blinds.
  • Occupant BTU = Number of usual occupants x 400
  • Lighting BTU = total wattage of the lighting in the room x 4.25
  • Equipment BTU = total wattage of the equipment in the room (including servers, nodes, switches, etc.) x 3.5
  • Total Heat Load BTU = Room Area BTU + Windows BTU + Occupant BTU + Lighting BTU + Equipment BTU

Now that you know the heat load for your server room, you can choose the exact unit you need to match your needs. Portable air conditioners come in a range of BTU capacities from 5,000 BTUs to 14,000 BTUs , which should be sufficient for all but the largest server room needs.

However, before you settle on a portable AC unit for your server room, make sure it has these necessary features:

  • Automatic restart - in case of a power outage, the air conditioner will restart automatically when the power comes back on.
  • Self-evaporative technology - instead of collecting water in a tank that needs to be emptied regularly, self-evaporative portable ACs are able to exhaust most or all of the water they remove from the air through the vent. This will save you the time and trouble of having to empty the tank.

One final note of caution - if you're going to install a portable air conditioner in your server room, it's a good idea to have two. That way, if one should fail, you have a backup unit ready to go.

See our complete selection of portable air conditioners here.

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