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How to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Server Rooms

How to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Server Rooms
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By Susan Hoffman
Contributor, In Cyber Defense

Servers are the lifeblood of organizations. They handle a company’s incoming and outgoing emails, intranets, websites, software applications, databases and e-commerce processing, as well as access to the public Web.

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Within a company, servers are commonly kept in a designated room – usually a small room or closet – with controlled access to protect them from unauthorized users. However, servers are in constant operation, which can cause them to overheat and become damaged.

In some cases, the damage is severe enough to warrant repair or replacement. As a result, a company’s normal operations are interrupted until the server is fixed.

Jakob Como of Plummer Slade, Inc. notes that “For every 10-degree increase a server room experiences, the life of that equipment is cut in half.” As a result, it is wise to take precautions to regulate temperatures inside server rooms and ensure that they are as energy-efficient as possible.

Protecting Server Rooms

Como has several tips for regulating internal conditions in server rooms. For example, Como cautions against leaving windows open around servers, which can cause humidity levels in the room to change. Other tips include:

  • Making sure servers are kept on cooling racks to provide proper air flow
  • Installing an air conditioner in the server room to provide cool air
  • Adding temperature and moisture sensors to sound an alarm when temperatures or humidity reach a dangerous level for servers
  • Installing a ceiling fan to increase air flow in the server room

Improving the Energy Efficiency of Server Rooms

Fixing energy efficiency problems in server rooms can be equally useful and potentially cost-effective by lowering a company’s utility bills. For instance, server consolidation can reduce energy costs. Energy Star says that by “consolidating multiple, independent servers to a single physical server, those servers can operate more efficiently and reduce energy costs by 10% to 40%.”

Additional recommendations from Energy Star involve:

  • Decommissioning comatose servers
  • Consolidating lightly used servers
  • Having a professional analysis of air flow throughout a server room to detect where problems are occurring
  • Installing panels to decrease server inlet air temperatures and increase the temperature of air returning to the room’s air conditioner
  • Using a hot aisle/cold aisle layout for server racks to reduce the mixing of hot exhaust air with cooling air
  • Installing flexible strip curtains or using rigid enclosures to prevent exhaust air and cooling air from mixing
  • Organizing cables into neat bundles to prevent them from restricting air flow

More and more organizations seek to become “green” by collecting recyclable materials, going paperless whenever possible and switching off equipment when it is not in use. Properly protecting servers and ensuring that server rooms are as energy-efficient as possible are useful steps in helping an organization to reduce its carbon footprint.

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