5 key factors for managing airflow in a server room

Any business with a server room has to balance the pressure to cut power and cooling costs with the need to keep IT equipment from overheating. In this guest post, data center expert Rob James explains how organizations can improve the airflow in their server rooms to control costs and keep equipment safe. 


It’s very important to stay on top of airflow in a server room – overheating can result in significant hardware damage, regardless of whether you have a moving or solid state hard drive in place. Similarly, condensation can lead to wet areas of a server room that can damage cabling or leak into racks and cabinets, and can lead to more serious problems with electrical fires. In this context, it’s important to think about some key areas for airflow management within a server room.

1. Space management

One of the keys to airflow in a server room is to be able to effectively manage your space. Work out how many server units can be placed together, and whether or not racks and cabinets can be organised in stacks or rows without restricting airflow. Organizations can also use cable management policies that allow them to properly shield and insulate cabling from heat surges, making it easier to run more cables through a confined space.

2. Cooling

There are many ways to improve your server room’s cooling system. The first thing to focus on is the environment and general temperature of a server room, which shouldn’t be below 10 degrees, or above 28 degrees. Over-cooling can cause just as many problems as overheating — it can lead to dryness and static, which can damage equipment. Cooling fans within server cabinets can help to reduce their internal temperatures, while fans placed alongside corridors of racks can help to maintain optimum temperatures.

3. Monitoring systems

You also want to be able to monitor an entire room through an environmental sensor – these can check for thermal shifts within a room, and can produce readings in terms of humidity and alert staff to any sudden changes in temperature. Often, these systems can be controlled remotely, meaning that any warnings can be dealt with even if no one can physically get into a server room.

4. Green data centers

Airflow innovations are also being made in green data centers, which are focused on producing the most sustainable methods for reducing heat and emissions. Some of the more recent efforts to improve airflow management include experiments with convection in Japan, and maintaining a constant airflow throughout a room. Google’s own data centers are also being designed with cooling towers to pump water into massive heat exchangers, which prevent energy from being built up around servers.

5. Cloud servers

Businesses also have the option of reducing the strain on their server rooms by exporting some of their storage to the cloud. These cloud servers can be a good way to back up data, while accessing virtual servers, desktops, and programs without actually having to worry about expanding your own space. Some businesses may want to split their server storage and power between on-site equipment and cloud computing services.

About the author: Rob James is a technophile spreading his love for data racks, rack solutions tools and network switches – everyone loves these right? He can be found blogging about the many aspects of technology and specializes in geekology.