As we explained in a related post, many IT managers recount stories of downtime in their distributed server rooms and remote wiring closets caused by unexpected but rather routine events. When analyzing these stories, a common thread emerges: lack of information that leads to human error, which causes the downtime.

Consider these statistics:

  • IDC estimates there are 2.9 million server rooms and wiring closets in the United States alone.
  • More than 70% of reported data center outages are directly attributed to human error, according to the Uptime Institute.
You can design a monitoring system to provide the information you need to avoid costly downtime. For a system whose primary role is to limit the occurrence of human error in remote server rooms, consider these four key components: video surveillance, sensors, intelligent rack outlets, and monitoring and automation software.

Video surveillance and sensors

Scalable monitoring and automation systems can collect, organize and distribute critical alerts and surveillance videos. By monitoring power, cooling, the backs and fronts of racks, and the environment, these systems can generate instant fault notification, enable quick assessment of the situation, and provide resolution of critical infrastructure events that can adversely affect IT system availability.

Video surveillance systems can be tied to motion sensors such that whenever motion is detected, it triggers the camera to pan the area and sends the video to an authorized administrator, who can quickly rectify situations such as contractors shrink-wrapping live servers.

A camera management system typically allows for tracking of facilities personnel, vendors, security personnel, custodians and other visitors who come into the server room or remote wiring closet. An administrator may opt to remotely log into the system and observe the actions of anyone who is in the room. Some systems can be equipped with speakers so that the administrator can deliver instructions or provide warnings to the visitor.

Intelligent rack outlets

Intelligent rack outlets, also known as rack-mounted PDUs, are long thin strips of electrical outlets mounted to the inside back of a rack. The devices allow users to remotely recycle power to locked-up equipment and configure the sequence in which power is turned on or off for each outlet, to predetermine which piece of equipment is turned on first so other equipment dependent on that unit will function properly.

The monitoring system prevents overloads by measuring actual consumption through the intelligent rack outlets, giving administrators the information they need to make decisions about where to place new equipment.

Monitoring and automation software

A management and automation system provides administrators with a wealth of data that will reduce downtime cause by human error, including:
  • Alarming and notification when thresholds are exceeded, via email, text message, phone call or whatever method the user chooses.
  • Equipment status checks for everything from servers to batteries. Remember that the failure of a single battery can result in the loss of the critical load. The cost of replacing one or two batteries is minimal compared to experiencing a failure that causes the closet or server to crash.
  • Reporting analytics: Data gathered by a monitoring system can be converted into customized reports for the IT administrator to review. Such reports can alert administrators to situations such as temperature fluctuations, who has been at which rack for how long, and how much load is on a particular UPS.
  • Mass configuration: Administrators can issue mass change orders for all devices profiled into the central monitoring and automation system, such as locking 50 rack doors at once – perhaps to protect them from overzealous cleaning people.
  • Control: Detailed monitoring and automation system data helps give administrators the information they need to take control when problems arise. For example, a system can map the power path and physical system relationships and dependencies, to help identify the source of a problem. A system may also illustrate the consequence of a particular device failure on rack-based equipment, to help identify critical business impact.
More control over the environment, more alerting, and more historical data can help to foster an environment of less stress – and less downtime. Learn more by downloading the APC by Schneider Electric white paper, “How Monitoring Systems Reduce Human Error in Distributed Server Rooms and Remote Wiring Closets.”