Server Room Cooling Hacks for Cash-Strapped SMBs

Sponsored By: Schneider Electric

When you’re working with a small server room and an even smaller budget, keeping the equipment cool is the least of your concerns. But overheated servers will struggle to function—for every 18 degrees F above 70 degrees F, electronics reliability is reduced by 50 percent according to the Uptime Institute. Heat also prematurely ages hardware, and, at worst, can cause it to shut down.

Fortunately, there are affordable solutions to help the server room chill out and give you and your IT team a cool breath of relief.

Air it out

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. One of the most inexpensive ways to control the server room’s temperature is to manage the airflow. But when you’re dealing with a closet cramped with equipment, poor ventilation is a given. You need to find ways to let hot air escape.

Try keeping the door open during business hours or just prop it open periodically throughout the day. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed to cool down the room. If that’s not feasible because of physical security concerns, consider removing a ceiling tile or two. Since heat rises, and this allows the warm air to move up and into your central HVAC system. If you don’t have ceiling tiles, consider adding a vent above the door for a similar effect. (In either case, consult with your building’s facility manager first.)

Add fans

If ventilation isn’t cutting it, it may be time to harness the power of oscillating fans. These inexpensive tools can help circulate air throughout the room, or, if placed outside the open door, direct cooler air into the room and toward the intake on the servers.

Directional fans can also be placed to provide targeted cooling to the server room’s hottest areas – typically behind the equipment where heat gets released.

Reduce cable clutter

Good cable management is an often overlooked way to lower server room temperature. A messy tangle of cables behind servers can trap heat, creating hot spots. Consider using cable rings, organizers, and other accessories to streamline your cable work.

Spread out your hardware

Stacking servers or clustering them together is a recipe for overheating. Distribute your equipment as evenly as possible to reduce density. If space allows you to arrange your racks in rows, make sure the fronts face each other so that the backs of one row of servers aren’t releasing heat toward the intakes of the adjacent row. Also consider using blanking panels, which cover the front of unused rack space to prevent heat from a server’s exhaust from reaching its intake.

Bring in a portable AC

If none of these measures are cooling your IT closet, it’s time to consider a portable server room air conditioner. These self-contained units require no installation and usually come on casters, making them easy to roll into place for spot- or emergency-cooling.

A good portable AC unit will include a ventilation system to extract heat through a drop ceiling or wall and a condensation tank to collect moisture as it dehumidifies the air. It should also include an automatic restart function to keep it running on nights and weekends when your building’s central AC is turned off and in the event of a power outage.

For those companies looking to let the professionals handle the data center hardware, APC by Schneider Electric provides cost-effective solutions, like Infrastruxure, which are specifically designed to help small business IT teams operate to their fullest potential despite their limited budgets.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Sponsored By: Schneider Electric