How to Disaster-Proof Your Server Room
Would you put a server room in Sauron’s Mount Doom? Probably not—that would be a fire hazard. But how safe is your server room really? It may not be located in Mordor, but you shouldn’t overlook threats such as fire, flooding, and fellbeasts. We offer several strategies to help you protect and disaster-proof your server room.
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Plenty of damage can happen to a building in an earthquake and you don’t need the added headache of replacing server equipment compounding your worries. Make sure your equipment can’t move around or fall over.
To that end, bolt your server racks or enclosures to the floors so they aren’t just freestanding. Having equipment rolling around on caster wheels isn’t ideal either, as they can move and bang equipment. Also consider attaching the tops of tall server racks to the ceiling to help prevent them from tipping over.
If you have an unlimited budget and want maximum protection, consider installing a seismic isolation floor. Even if the rest of the building goes to hell in a handbasket, your datacenter will remain online.
If there’s a list of items to ban in your server room, water should be on there. To keep your datacenter a dry zone, choose a room without water pipes behind the walls and ceiling. Water leaking through ceilings can be such a danger that some datacenters deploy “umbrellas” over server racks just to safeguard against it.
A preventative measure to ensure that water—if it does somehow get in your server room—doesn’t damage your equipment is to have it on a raised floor. If it isn’t on a raised floor, then avoid using carpet in your server room. Not only does it soak up water, it increases the risk of static electricity.
Your server room location also matters, as some places in your building might not be suitable. Generally, your server room should not be in your basement because of increased flooding risk. Finally, consider getting a water sensor that constantly monitors the server room and can alert you when there’s danger.
Fire protection can be tricky for a server room because water can damage electrical equipment just like fire. You need to ditch the sprinkler system as your first line of defense against fire your server room. Instead, your primary suppression system should be a gas or dry-chemical based.
In the past, Halon used to be the common choice for many industries, but its toxicity and environmental unfriendliness makes it a less-than-ideal choice. Instead, consider agents such as FM-200 or HFC 125 for your fire suppression needs, with water as a backup. Just be sure to have an emergency power shut off button in the room so when the water dumps, no electricity is flowing through the equipment.
Theft is another type of disaster that can result in massive damage—more than an earthquake in fact. Best practices to reduce risk of theft include keeping access to the server room under lock and key, eliminating external entry points, installing a surveillance system, and requiring biometric scanning for entry.
If you have any windows in your server room, you should cover them or otherwise prevent entry through them. You don’t want to spend a lot on limiting entry through the doors and have someone just break a window to get in.
Limit the chances of a complete power outage in your server room by deploying a backup power generator that can run your equipment indefinitely. A gas generator should suffice, as that can be constantly refilled. Until that generator comes online however, you’ll need an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to ensure power stays flowing. If you don’t have a backup generator, use the time that the UPS buys you to safely power down your server room equipment.