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Monitoring Remote Equipment Closets

To paraphrase the late Rodney Dangerfield, equipment closets in branch offices get no respect. Companies with lots of branches, including retail stores and restaurant chains, too often tuck servers in a closet that’s also serving other purposes, like storage. In a situation like that, it’s easy to picture how the server could be damaged or perhaps even stolen.

We've written previously about how to ensure an equipment closet is properly ventilated, but in this post I want to delve into the need to properly monitor those remote closets.

And they do need monitoring. Many branch or retail locations are fairly small and there may not be room for a dedicated wiring closet. So companies wind up sticking a server in a storeroom, where it can suffer any number of indignities. Maybe someone jostles it while stashing boxes away or perhaps there’s a leak in the roof above. Chances are the room is not secured all the time so the server could even get tampered with, on purpose or by accident, or removed altogether.

If any of that happens, how will IT find out and what can it do about it? Probably IT will find out only when – and if – it realizes it's no longer getting data from the server. By then, of course, it’s too late.

What IT needs is a set of eyes and ears to watch its remote wiring closets and send an alert when something isn't right. Since you can't count on the coffee shop barista to do that, the alternative is a remote monitoring system for the wiring closets.

To fulfill that requirement, APC by Schneider Electric offers the Netbotz line of security and environmental monitoring products. The Netbotz device attaches to the wall in your remote wiring room and has a camera to watch what's going on. You can place sensors on the door so the system knows when a door opens. If it's a door that shouldn’t be open, you can configure the system to alert appropriate personnel. Back at headquarters, you’ll be able to "see" into the room, determine whether something is going on that shouldn’t be, and take appropriate steps.

What’s more, the system also monitors for a variety of environmental factors, including heat, humidity, even air flow and dew point – so you'll know if it's too hot or too wet. The Netbotz also has audio capabilities, so you can talk to someone who is in the remote closet, such as to walk them through a server troubleshooting operation.

To get a sense for how Netbotz operates, click the “Evaluate Now” link under the Netbotz Rack Monitor 550 on this page and you'll see an actual system in action. (Even though there’s not usually much "action.")

We hear all the time about the need to provide proper power and cooling in the data center – and that is certainly important. But think about all those remote sites where all kinds of work is going on that generates revenue for your organization. Those sites are important, too, and it’s time we give them the respect – and attention – that they deserve.

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