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Back to the Basics: Environmental and Power Infrastructure 

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Most people in business take for granted that when they turn on their information systems, things just work. It is important to understand that this investment in business support needs to be protected. Before Dolce Vita contracts with a client one of our first tasks is to send the client a brief questionnaire which asks a few important questions about the client. We then meet onsite with the client and review their existing infrastructure. What we find varies, but we often see infrastructure issues which are a root cause of reliability problems. We’ll discuss a few of the most important here. 

Environmental Issues 

Temperature and Humidity – it may not be obvious but servers and computer hardware including routers, switches, printers, perform best and last the longest if they are operated in conditions which are between 60-75 degF and humidity which is in the 30-60% range. In other words, if it is uncomfortable for users it will be harmful to the hardware. And it is important to note that these temperature ranges are 24/7…so offices which adjust their thermostats to 80 degF during nights and weekends can expect to see much lower equipment lifespans. Assume that if the office is 80 degF overnight, that workstations will have internal temps of 110 degF+. Higher temps lead to warping and circuit damage over time. Low humidities of less than 15-20% will lead to static discharge, so server rooms need to have their humidity controlled. 

It is also reasonable to ensure that all workstations, servers, and battery backups are supported off the floor at least 1-2 inches. If a hot water heater or even a toilet fill line leak over a weekend, having all electrical components above damp carpet will avoid numerous issues, even outside of safety considerations. Servers and their battery backups should always be in appropriate racks with electrical and network cabling off the floor and properly secured. 

Power 

We take for granted that power will be available…however one of the significant infrastructure issues we see is related to improper protection from dirty power. Dirty power entails not only surges but “brown-outs” in which circuit amperage drops below standards. This is damaging to electronic components over time. 

Servers – any servers should be connected to rack-mounted battery backup which is capable of performing an automated shutdown of servers in the event a power outage is long enough to deplete battery power to a specified point. 

Workstations and all networking equipment – any workstations, switches, routers, wireless access points should be connected to the battery side of battery backups. We commonly find that users connect their workstations to surge-only outlets on their battery backup unit, or that they connect floor heaters, fans, printers to their battery backups. This will overload the battery backup and will cause damage to components. 

Printers – Laser printers will typically have problems if they are connected to a battery backup. In most cases they should be connected to an appropriate surge suppressor. 

It is never a good idea to “daisy-chain” battery backups or surge protectors. Appropriate practice is to ensure that electrical systems are sized appropriately, with appropriate breaker capacities and appropriate numbers of circuits. 

Networking 

Another “feature” which we periodically see when doing a site survey for a new account is a creative effort to supply a number of network ports from a single network cable. This is periodically seen in older offices which refuse to appropriately upgrade infrastructure in order support growth. It is seen in situations where a single cable feeds to a particular user work area. And found stuffed behind or next to a desk or a chair is a small network switch which feeds to three other workstations, two printers, and a wireless access point. And of course the small switch is not connected to a battery backup. 

This situation creates problems because each time the small switch sees a power fluctuation it resets the connections for all devices connected to it thereby briefly dropping the network connection. In addition the small switch can create major network issues due to its limited ability to properly handle network traffic in a larger environment. 

We recommend for new offices that they build in additional cable plant which tries to account for potential growth as well as additional devices such as printers, scanners, and wireless systems. It costs roughly 25% as much to install cabling during new construction or renovations as it does to later disrupt users, move furniture, etc. Why not do it now instead of save a few bucks now and pay four times as much in 2-5 years? 

If you are planning a relocation, new construction, or renovation call Dolce Vita today at 404-822-7912. We will assist with planning your infrastructure and can make your IT more reliable, more cost effective, and more profitable for your business.

 

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