A server room is an important area for many businesses (and even some homes) that is set up to house computer servers and other equipment. These rooms may have been originally designed specifically for this purpose, or they may have been created as the need for one came up. Either way, a good server room will provide an environment where computer equipment can safely operate in one location so that networking and other activities are made easier and more effective. Understanding the proper setup and configuration of a server room will help with creating and maintaining it effectively.
Size of a Server Room
In IT communities, most people consider a server room to be a relatively small area with anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred square feet. When a room gets significantly larger than that and begins to house computer equipment, it can become a data center. Technically speaking, however, a server room can be virtually any size.
Server rooms can also be just about any shape. In many situations, a server room likely served another purpose such as a storage area, print shop, or office space. Because of this, the room may be laid out in a non-standard way. The reason this is important is that it can impact the planning for managing the environment, including airflow and cooling.
Unique Design Aspects of a Server Room
When small businesses are growing and start to need computer servers and other equipment, it is not uncommon for a business to designate a specific area to place them. In most situations, this is a small, temporary, out of the way location that will really only be able to house a small amount of equipment. Keeping computer equipment operating properly is not the specific purpose of the design of these “computer closets.”
When a company designs or upgrades an area to a server room, it needs to have certain things set up. With a specific design, you can avoid problems that can come with a new server room. A server room must have some, or even all, of the following design aspects added in order to allow technical equipment to operate properly:
- Precise Environmental Control – A server room should have sensors throughout the area that measure both temperature and humidity. The environmental control systems should also be able to keep the entire room at the desired levels.
- Airflow Planning – Servers and other computer equipment generate a lot of heat. A good airflow plan helps to avoid ‘hot spots’ and eliminates heat from the area so it doesn’t cause damage.
- Fire Suppression System – If a fire occurs, you don’t want to have to spray a server room with water. The water would damage all the equipment, resulting in a huge disaster. There are quite a few options for this type of system including Inergen systems, Novec systems, and FM-200 systems. These are all designed to extinguish fires while keeping computer equipment safe.
- Cable Management Solutions – Server rooms can end up with miles of cables. Designing the room to allow cables to properly run through the ceiling, or under the floor, helps avoid huge messes.
- Redundant Power Sources – Having redundant power sources is important not only to ensure the equipment remains up and running at all times, but also to avoid power surges that could damage the servers and other items in the room.
- Physical Security – Server rooms house thousands, or even millions, of dollars worth of equipment. In addition, the stored data in these rooms can be invaluable. Having the necessary physical security in place to keep it safe is essential.
- DMARK Location – Server rooms typically have multiple data circuits coming in, often from multiple different telephone companies. Having one location (the DMARK point) where the telco’s responsibility ends and passes off to the business is important.
What Equipment Goes in a Server Room?
Once a server room is physically set-up and ready to go, it is time to start installing the actual equipment. Of course, each server room is going to have different things housed within it based on the needs of the company that is setting it up. The following are among the different things you’ll find in most server rooms today:
- Server Racks – Server racks are installed within a server room and used to house the physical equipment. These racks provide physical protection, improved temperature control, and many other benefits.
- Computer Servers – Of course, this room is going to house servers. These could be stand-alone servers, blade servers, or even equipment for virtual servers. Housing all of them properly is crucial to ensure they run correctly.
- Routers & Switches – Routers, switches, and other networking equipment are essential for sending, receiving, and routing the data that comes in and out of the server room.
- Network Cabling – Server rooms will often have multiple types of network cabling including CAT-5 and fiber optic cables.
- Cable Management Equipment – Starting from the server rack, and along the entire path that cables run, it is important to secure cables in place. Cable management equipment includes zip ties, installed eyelets, and a variety of other items to guide and protect cables.
Designing or retrofitting a room to operate as a server room is a major undertaking. When done properly, however, it will give your business a centralized location to keep a wide range of equipment safe. It also makes it easier to manage the physical computer equipment and software used to power your business.