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IT Infrastructure and its impact on users

Posted by on in Systems Management
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How does IT infrastructure have an impact on SMB's? 

The fact is that most small and mid-sized businesses tend to wait until exceptionally painful problems occur to look into this.  Our experience has been that if IT infrastructure is correctly planned from the beginning with adequate investment, it reduces recurring problems and costs.  Here are some typical examples:

Physical Environment

Temperature / Humidity / Dust - Computers and electronics have a range of comfort which requires cool airflow (to prevent overheating), and moderate humidity levels (approximately 25%-40% humidity).  This electronics "comfort zone" is not all that different than a normal office environment. This means that small airless closets or rooms without controlled air conditioning will promote heat build-up and early equipment failure.  Enclosed small spaces with poor airflow tend to have wide and very sudden swings in temperature and humidity which result in electronics damage relatively quickly. 

  • Air-conditioning and good airflow are a requirement
  • During cold weather it is imperative to avoid having under-desk space heaters blowing on or being near workstations...feeding hot dry air into workstation air intakes promote static discharge and electronics damage as well as overheating
  • Avoid small spaces if possible
  • If expensive or sensitive equipment (ie. switches, firewalls, servers, computers) is in use ensure it is monitored with a network environment probe...the $400 or so may save many thousands of dollars as a result of equipment damage (see our managed services case histories for examples)
  • On at least a semi-annual basis, shut down workstations and use compressed air to clean out all fans and boards and to clean off cards
  • For environments where workstations must be in dusty or hot environments, it is worthwhile to consider the user of virtual desktops so that the user devices do not use fans and hard drives...it results in significant cost savings

Rack-mounting - in small- and mid-sized businesses with one or two servers it is common to see tower-type chassis which can rest on the floor like a workstation.  With our clients either large of small, we universally recommend rack-mounted servers.

  • rack-mounted chassis do NOT require tall 7 ft. racks, in smaller installations we use short 3-4 ft portable 4-post racks costing less than $500.  These can easily hold 2-4 servers.
  • this gets the equipment off the floor which minimizes the potential for water damage
  • in a rack of any type, we provide servers with faceplates (bezels) to prevent unintentional contact with power switches or drive bay latches - this alone can save thousands of dollars in recovery effort by preventing accidentally ejected drives
  • A rack-mounted server will have better-protected power cables and network cables
  • servicing rack-mounted equipment is easier and safer

 Physical Access - needless to say all servers and other core network equipment should be in secure areas.  Leaving these available to general access can lead to significant operating problems

  •  Using a changeable combination lock or electronic keypad ($200 and up) provides better and more flexible security than keyed locks for server rooms
  • Ensure only authorized users have access if possible
  • Using a server bezel (faceplate) protects server drives and power/reset buttons, especially in close quarters
  • Using an inexpensive network camera in the server room or other sensitive areas which can detect motion and log access can be helpful in deterring unwanted access to equipment

 

Power Environment

Power - All geographic areas are subject to power fluctuations.  Most business owners don't realize that these fluctuations are passed on to the processors of their unprotected IT equipment resulting in long-term damage and early equipment replacement.  Surge suppressors will NOT fulfill this purpose.

  • All servers, workstations, routers, cable/DSL modems, firewalls, switches, wireless access points need to be powered from battery backup
  • All switches, even small 4 or 5-port switches need UPS protection...otherwise power fluctuations still travel the network
  • Printers can normally be powered by a surge suppressor, but verify this from the manual. 
  • If multiple wireless access points are to be placed, ensure the core switch for the facility support power over Ethernet (PoE), and ensure the WAP's support PoE.  This ensures that the WAP's are powered from conditioned power (the switch), and it allows the facility to run without awkward power connections. 
  • Ensure that servers are powered by uninteruptible power supplies (UPS) which can perform remote shutdown of multiple.  Especially in the mid-continent it is not at all unusual for outages to far outlast battery backups.

 

Storage Infrastructure

 Storage Area Networks and Network Attached Storage

These should treated with the same care as any other server as these include processors, fans, and arrays of disk drives

  • Normally multiple power supplies are available
  • These are used to either fully or partially relieve servers of the stresses of storage of critical data (virtualized storage)
  • SANs and NAS are also used to host virtualization storage
  • Units such as DROBO (Data Robotics) and EMC devices are extremely tolerant of unclean shutdowns due to power loss.  However, most of these units can be configured to be automatically shutdown correctly by the power environment
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