So You’ve Virtualized Your Server Room, Now What? Common Challenges Faced by SMBs and How to Solve Them

While server virtualisation has been available as a tool for companies to consolidate their IT footprint for many years, there has not been widespread adoption of the technology until relatively recently. However, many smaller companies are finding it difficult to know where to start when it comes to properly designing, maintaining and optimising their IT infrastructures when they adopt it. There is an abundance of information on how to achieve these goals for larger data centres, but very little guidance for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Proper guidance is even more critical for SMBs because they have fewer resources and experience to appropriately design and manage their IT infrastructure. Furthermore, an SMB’s IT infrastructure is not only its connection to data in the cloud, but also a critical part of business continuity and success.

This post will discuss common issues SMBs face as they strive to achieve energy efficiency and maximise operations in their wiring closets and server rooms, as well as suggest solutions and best practices for helping overcome these challenges.

Challenge 1: Protecting and organizing consolidated, virtualised servers and networking gear

SMBs that have virtualised all or part of their servers and processes have taken a key step to making their IT infrastructure more efficient, but post-virtualised physical equipment, while there is less of it, is even more critical than ever before and in need of protection. Furthermore, organising IT equipment in one place can lead to complications with availability.

Solution: SMBs can ensure critical servers operate in the right environmental conditions via rack enclosures properly designed for servers and networking environments. This type of enclosure features capabilities including cable management and power distribution, enabling better organisation, mitigating human error when troubleshooting, and helping to isolate hot and cold air streams.   SMBs should also maintain availability of on-site equipment by protecting it from power outages, physical, environmental and security threats with Power Distribution Units (PDU) and Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). Some types of PDUs enable customisable power control and active monitoring to restrict unauthorised use of individual outlets and avoid circuit overload. UPS systems provide runtime when utility power fails, keeping critical computing and connection equipment operational.

Challenge 2: Safely shutting down virtual servers

Virtual environments are becoming easier to implement and manage, but they still rely on critical power and cooling support from IT infrastructure that can be susceptible to power outages.

Solution: Ideally, any IT installation will use either a generator or extended battery packs with the UPSs to maximise runtime to ride out a prolonged blackout.   However, if neither solution is available, safe shutdown software and preconfigured equipment, such as UPS or PDU systems, can be extremely useful in protecting servers, applications, and data from corruption. Look for solutions with remote management capabilities and proactive notifications and warnings on power issues, outages, and battery life.

Challenge 3: Deploying IT and networking equipment outside of a dedicated IT space

Non-dedicated IT spaces, which many SMBs use for their IT equipment, can suffer from a lack of available space for new IT deployments.

Solution: Utilising enclosures designed specifically for deploying equipment in non-dedicated spaces can provide the same power, cooling and protection capabilities you would receive in a dedicated IT space. Fan-ventilated, sound-proofed enclosures with UPS systems and cable management provide critical power backup and remote monitoring capabilities while also ensuring a near and organised deployment that is easy to install and manage.

Challenge 4: Minimising the use of floor space

Securing equipment can be difficult when there is a lack of floor space, a challenge faced by many SMBs.

Solution: Wall-mounted solutions are ideal for IT environments where floor space is unavailable. Look for solutions that are designed to easily accommodate all types of equipment and arrive with reversible mounting rails, allowing for multiple mounting options. Enclosures that pivot off the wall provide easier equipment access for maintenance and installation. Ideally, a rack height of 13U will leave just enough space for the distributed equipment that keeps a building connected.

Challenge 5: Making the most of your space: installing IT equipment into tight spaces and expanding server room capacity

Smaller racks limit the amount and availability of equipment that can be installed in the network closet, while large equipment is cumbersome and inappropriate for tight corners and small closets, which are commonly found in SMB IT spaces.

Solution: Utilise flexible solutions that allow for quick scalability and are low in cost to help make the best use of space, no matter the shape or square footage. Slim, two-post racks and monitoring equipment allow for optimal organisation, eliminating the need to enter the cramped IT space. Vertical cable managers can also maintain organised cables to simplify cable routing and installation. Remote monitoring software provides a centralised view into the utilisation of current equipment for capacity planning as well as optimisation purposes.

Challenge 6: Optimising space in a consolidated server room

Consolidating equipment without redesigning or changing the IT space can increase unnecessary costs for power and cooling.

Solution: Deploying an easily-scalable server room architecture takes advantage of spaces already containing cooling capabilities. A simple, repeatable architecture for installations in 3 kVA increments can provide rack-level UPS power protection and enough outlets to accommodate a mix of servers and networking equipment.

Challenge 7: Controlling costs with small server rooms and network closets

Ensuring protection, appropriate cooling and availability of IT equipment can be expensive, especially for SMBs without a major budget to allot to network closets.

Solution: Rack solutions starting as low as $400 can manage equipment to allow for optimal cooling, and are easy to install. A four-post open frame rack can be a simple way to keep equipment organised and off the floor.

By following this practical, easy-to-understand guide, SMBs facing challenges associated with deploying IT equipment in smaller spaces can ensure improved efficiency, streamlined operations and increased equipment protection. In addition, reducing the risk of downtime will lead to a more profitable business and a better customer experience.