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A guide to an easier experience in the server room.

A guide to an easier experience in the server room.

If you’ve ever had a job in the IT field, it’s inevitable that you’ll have come across a server room that looks similar to this (and if you haven’t; I don’t believe you’re in IT).

We've all seen a server room that looks like this!

We’ve all seen a server room that looks like this!

This sort of mess can impact things severely in a disaster recovery situation. Imagine trying to troubleshoot a network issue where one of these Ethernet cables is faulty – Needle? Hay stack?

The panic on a System Administrators face could be as chaotic as the pile of cables above!

Below we’ve outlined some key areas to look at within your server room (no matter how large or small) that will improve Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO).

Spatial awareness – be sure to allow for enough space in your server room.

It’s not uncommon for the server room to be the smallest space possible – because you know the server doesn’t take up too much room.

While that’s a bit of tongue in cheek – it’s generally the case that the server room is the smallest, unusable nook in the office. The layout of the server room should mean there is enough access space to get in between the various racks and devices. There is nothing worse than trying to figure out an issue within the server room while also being a part time furniture removalist so you can get around the back and check physical connections, etc.

Also look up! Take advantage of vertical space by introducing a U rack that takes up some of the vertical space which sometimes could go unused. This will mean that the actual floor space can be minimalized while still maximizing the effectiveness of the space as well.

Isolate your server room to avoid noise complaints from the neighbors!

It’s not unrealistic (depending on the business) to have a number of machines and other devices contained within the server room. These are going to generate a certain amount of noise (fans, etc.) that aren’t too bad when it’s only one system.

What if there are a few production machines and some testing servers in the same area then it sometimes generate a fair amount of noise.

The server room is ideally located in secluded area away from workstations and general meeting areas company employees meet. You won’t have complaints because there is a fighter jet taking off.

Temperature Control – It’s gonna get hot in here!

As with the noise situation mentioned above; electronic devices (especially servers) can give off a large amount of heat. While the server racks should have some form of heat dissipation installed – the general air temperature of the server room can also contribute to overheating.

While most buildings contain a central air conditioning unit – it’s usually on a timer to run during core business hours. The server room should have a separate air conditioner installed to manage the room temperature when no one is there physically.

Even better; look at purchasing a temperature monitor that can alert via e-mail and sms messages.  If the temperature drops or increases then you’ll know immediately. I’ve personally been in a situation where the air conditioner had a fault; causing the server room to become a sauna (and cause a lot of hardware damage from overheating).

No food or drink in the server room

How many times have you seen someone spill a drink, or slop sauce from their food everywhere?

It’s well known that electronic devices don’t co-operate well with liquid spilt all over them. Not only will this cause an avoidable interruption to services – it’ll also usually mean replacing hardware (can be expensive too).

Enforce a no food or drink policy to cut out the possibility of an outage because Bruce couldn’t hold his coffee because it was too hot!

Food + drink + server room = eventual disaster!

Cable Management – it’s a tough job; but someone has to do it.

Since the server room is the heart and brain of the entire IT infrastructure; cables can be looked at as the veins and arteries. Every device these days has some form of physical cable or connection that’s required (even tablets, laptops and mobile phones need a cable to charge them).

It doesn’t take much to make a mess of the cabling as time goes by. Another ethernet cable plugged in for a new NAS device, or a new network port in the CEO’s office is patched through to the server room.

Try and keep order by using cable ties (which aren’t expensive). Also group the various cables which are related to each other together.

Your future self will thank you. Especially when trying to figure out which cable goes where in the middle of a crisis.

Labeling and documentation – there is no server room GPS; so we need a map to navigate.

As they say, no job is finished until the paper work is done! The same goes for any server room. All physical devices should have a label that contains its network details (unique descriptive name and IP address).

You can even go as far to label important network cables.

Along with this; clear documentation should be located:

– in soft form on the network. – a printed copy in a folder or stuck on the main server rack in the server room.

This documentation should include backup strategy, network configuration/network map and shut down procedures. This will help any external vendor or MSP find their way around easily; and should also avoid any unintentional disruption to critical systems and devices.

If you follow these steps; you’ll have a well run server room which is a great place to have to spend time!

Follow the steps in this article and you'll have an awesome experience in your server room.

Got a good example of cable porn? Maybe something that resembles a pack of possums got into the server room and chewed everything up? Add it to the comments section for everyone to enjoy!

#devops #server #bestpractice #systemadministrator #businesscontinuity

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