Server room monitoring

'Spook provides peace of mind in that we can monitor all aspects of our server room in real time and review trends to identify areas that we can proactively address. We can rely on OmniWatch to immediately make us aware of any issues 24x7.'

P&O Ferrymasters

European providers of tailor-made transportation and logistics services.

What is a server room?

A server room (also known as a computer room) is normally a smaller room built within a larger premises to house computing facilities that provide the IT to a business.

There are often constraints associated with providing infrastructure to a server room as it usually relies on a subset of utilities and communications available to the business as a whole.

Spook's experience of monitoring server rooms

Sometimes a server room can be considered as a mini data centre. Although Spook has customers that have new build server rooms, the majority are located in what are known as legacy server rooms. These are rooms that have been designed to house computer equipment and have evolved over the years.

The server room is usually secure due to the nature of housing expensive computer equipment to provide business critical services to employees and customers.

Server Room environmental monitoring

The three most common areas for Spook customers to monitor when it comes to the environment of a server room are temperature, power (which can range from power provision by the utility provider to the room and straddling the UPS to power being consumed at power strip level) and water ingress.

1. Temperature monitoring

Installing temperature sensors within the server room is key to ensuring timely alerts are sent to key IT staff if the temperature gets too high. Strategically positioning sensors can often give a better understanding of where the problem may be.

For example an alert from a temperature probe adjacent to an Air Conditioning (AC) unit output vent indicates a particular AC unit failure.

By installing individual temperature probes within a room gives a good overall picture of the ongoing efficiency of air cooling within the area. By studying the trend data of an AC's vented air could be useful for identifying a regularly failing AC unit, or simply identifying when the AC is becoming less efficient and a maintenance visit is required. In more drastic scenarios providing evidence for an AC replacement or upgrade can be invaluablewhen having to justify costs to management.

Temperature probes positioned within specific critical IT racks can identify hot spots in awkward to see areas. By studying the trend data of each temperature sensor can assist with future equipment positioning in order to place less stress in highly populated racks.

ClassTemperature (°C)Humidity (%)Max dew point (°C)
A115 to 30-12°C DP & 8% RH to 17°C DP and 80% RH17
A210 to 35-12°C DP & 8% RH to 21°C DP and 80% RH21
A35 to 40-12°C DP & 8% RH to 24°C DP and 85% RH24
A45 to 45-12°C DP & 8% RH to 24°C DP and 90% RH24
B5 to 358°C to 28°C DP & 80% RH28
C5 to 40-8°C to 28°C DP & 80% RH28

ASHRAE issued its first thermal guidelines for data centres in 2004 and recommended temperatures be maintained between 20 and 25°C. They have since stated the ideal range is between 5 to 45°C due to a shift in importance from reliability and uptime to a more energy saving and green approach in equipment.

It is entirely dependent on the rating of equipment as to which of the ASHRE guidelines are adhered. Older and lower rated equipment should always be considered the baseline for any targets as aiming for the higher temperature allowance for new equipment risks damage to the older devices.

Read more about temperature monitoring

3. Water monitoring

By nature of its design, a server room houses a lot of electrical equipment in a confined space. We all know water and electricity do not mix. Installing water sensors to detect water ingress from air conditioning units and flooding from other areas of the building, not necessarily IT related is vital.

There are many points within a business that require pressurised water provision. Toilet and shower blocks, water drinking points, kitchens and water pipework all present risks of water ingress.

In these times of climate change and unusual weather patterns means it only takes an unexpected down pour or water flooding from blocked guttering to cause big problems. Leaks can often go undetected until it's too late. Many Spook customers have installed water detection probes in areas not necessarily related to IT in order to be alerted to potential flooding risks.

Read more about water monitoring

2. Power monitoring

PDU monitoring

It goes without saying that monitoring power in a server room is hugely important. When power drops unexpectedly, perhaps due to a circuit breaker tripping or a failing IT rack power distribution unit (PDU monitoring) then staff need to be aware immediately.

By monitoring power, whether it is by knowing if simply power is present or by monitoring the power metrics from metering or via intelligent PDU's customers are able to stay on top of such things as power outages, electricity usage and load phase balancing.

This can be achieved from a general server room mains incoming level down to individual IT rack, even down to the individual outlets of a PDU.

Read more about PDU monitoring

UPS monitoring

Most server rooms have Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS monitoring) either floor-standing or IT rack mounted. Most UPS systems typically have network cards installed which means they can be monitoring via the Local Area Network (LAN) using Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP).

By installing a UPS on the network means valuable ‘live' power metric data can be presented and measured too.

Read more about UPS monitoring

Generator monitoring

Companies fortunate enough to have onsite backup generators can often also monitor these to ensure a complete power picture is available (generator monitoring).

By measuring key power metrics and monitoring equipment status levels means early warnings to power related issues are a known quantity to the IT department.

Typical conditions monitored on a generator include low fuel, generator running and general fault.

Read more about generator monitoring

By measuring key power metrics and monitoring equipment status levels means early warnings to power related issues are a known quantity to the IT department.

By monitoring certain power metrics such as power load presents valuable information which is helpful in the future planning of an IT room. Being alerted to any fluctuations in power provision is also key and if these went unnoticed they could easily cause bigger problems for busy IT staff.

4. Humidity & Dew Point monitoring

Although often overlooked, humidity and dew-point are key conditions to monitor.

Many server rooms do not have humidifiers, therefore studying trend data and being alerted when humidity and dew point levels are not within acceptable limits can ensure the efficient running of critical IT equipment and in some cases, prolong its life.