Monitor Server Room Temperature with TempDefender IT

You know how vital it is to monitor your server room temp or data center temp. If the temperature rises too far, you can suffer gear damage and service downtime. Installing a device to monitor your room temp is one of the most powerful investments you can make to protect your valuable IT infrastructure. You'll sleep better at night knowing that you will be alerted if the temperature rises too high.

Since you're reading this article, you've already given yourself a big advantage over other people with server rooms. Many network professionals fail to recognize the importance of monitoring room temp. They simply trust that "the AC units are reliable" or "we really don't have that many servers". Experience is a cruel teacher, and these people are simply rolling the dice until they face the big expense of servers overheating.

Temperature Sensor Diagram
In this diagram, an HVAC (air conditioning) failure occurred without knowledge of the network staff. No server room temperature monitor was in place to detect and report the high temperature. Equipment damage and data loss will result in expenses that could have purchased 1000s of monitoring devices.

This is bad because it's entirely preventable. Room temp sensing and reporting devices are not at all costly when you consider the value they provide. They're also quite simple, most likely consisting of a small (but reliable) monitoring box that will report alarms in a few simple (but customizable) ways.

Industry Best Practices for Monitoring Server Room Temperature.

Let's review some industry best practices for room temp monitoring. If everyone followed this advice, servers would encounter less thermal shutdowns and related service outages.

First, any room temp monitor should use analog temp sensors, not discrete sensors. This allows the device to monitor and report the actual temp at all times, not just whether the temperature is "above" or "below" a preset level.

Second, any device to monitor your server room temp must allow you to set temperature levels that denote the upper and lower limits of = temperature. Even better are monitoring devices that support a lot of upper and lower limits (major and minor for both upper and lower, for example).

Room temp monitors for IT environments commonly have a different sensor connection method than temp monitors for industrial telecom. Although, both styles can function well in either environments. IT room temp monitoring devices may use a "daisy-chain" for their sensors. Commonly known as either "1-wire" or "D-wire", this is good when a lot of sensors must be located at various distances from the monitoring device in several clusters. A single wire connects the first sensor in the chain to the room temp monitoring device. Then other wires can simply connect the second sensor to the first, the third to the second, and so on. One big advantage of these daisy-chained sensors is that power is also provided over the single wire.

TempDefender: Protector of the Server Room.

To monitor temps within the server room from a single device, the TempDefender IT is recommended. The TempDefender is a small, rack mountable RTU that can handle up to 16 analog sensors reporting on all of the factors in your server room. Sensors for the TempDefender may be daisy-chained together, so you don't have to run a mess of cabling back to the TempDefender. You can also string sensors up to 600 feet away from the TempDefender IT RTU. This allows you to run sensors to the most extreme spots in your server room from a centrally located device without worrying about the connection strength.

Industrial room temp monitors more commonly support analog sensors in a standard "star" topology. Each sensor is directly joined back the central device for data logging and transmission. This can be a pro or a con depending on the physical layout of your room where temp must be monitored. If you do choose the setup, regardless of your industry, it's highly recommended that you select a room temp monitor that supplies power (typically +12v DC is required for standard temperature sensors) directly to a sensor. Otherwise you'll most likely need to use bulky wall transformers to power what are otherwise quite compact temp sensors.

It's also very important that your room temp tracking scheme including log logging and trending capability. The software features really take your temp monitoring to the next level. It's one thing to know that the temperature is high right now, and that is 1000 times better than knowing nothing at all. But if you're able to view the room temp values as a line graph in recent log, you can diagnose cyclical or growing problems.

For example, if the climate in your area is becoming a warm summer, you might notice that the line graph is rising. This kind of trend could prompt you to install extra HVAC units, turn up the ones you have, or otherwise respond to the temp threat. You might also notice a daily cycle in your room temp. It's easy to know that the hottest times of the day might tie in with the hottest temp in your server room or data closet.

The TempDefender IT: Your First Line of Defense Against Preventable Computer Room Outages.

The TempDefender IT is a good example of a room temp monitoring device. It supports up to 16 daisy-chainable temperature and/or humidity sensors. The internal firmware supports 4 user-configurable temp thresholds (2 upper and 2 lower). The chassis size is small at 1 rack unit high and a narrow width.

Daisy-chainable sensors (known as "D-Wire sensors") are joined to the four digital ports on the TempDefender's back panel. This allows a joining of the two architectures described above. Up to four D-Wire sensors may be joined directly to the TempDefender. Others can be daisy-chained to those first four in any way as long as the total limit of 16 sensors is not crossed. This means that it's possible to daisy-chain 16 temp sensors from a single TempDefender port in one long chain, or you can spread the sensors more evenly across the four available ports. This design supports max flexibility for monitoring room temp.

You can receive high/low room temp alerts via email or text message (and this will be the ideal alert type for many smaller companies). The TempDefender is also "future proofed" because it can send SNMP traps to an SNMP manager. Most medium and large IT installations include a software and/or hardware SNMP manager. Its job is to track and respond to the real-time status of their gear and related conditions, especially server room temp.

The TempDefender also has 8 discrete (also known as "digital" or "contact closure") inputs for monitoring your gear. This can be used for general gear monitoring, but it's also very useful in a room temp monitoring system to monitor your HVAC status. Using several of these 8 inputs you can determine whether each HVAC unit is running (rather than trying to make a guess based on temperature rising). With this sort of backup monitoring, you'll be able to address an temperature rise immediately after the AC systems fail. The alternative being to wait for the temperature to rise to the top of your temperature range. This buys you extra time to handle the problem. In a room temp crisis, time is everything.

How DPS Telecom Clients in Various Industries Monitor Their Room Temps.

Over the years, DPS Telecom has gained quite a few real-world stories of room temp monitoring scenarios. DPS clients have discovered that monitoring room temp is one the most effective protections against gear failure caused by conditions (rather than intrusion, routine hardware failure, etc. which are also monitored by the same device that monitors temperature).

As I've described, data centers are good places to deploy temp monitors. Servers and other network hardware produce a lot of heat whenever they are running (typically 7x24x365). To push your uptime up toward 100%, you must monitor temperature 100% of the time.

DPS Equipment Monitors AC Units

One client approached DPS after having trouble stemming from unmonitored room temp. His AC units had been failing to operate as desired during the previous quarter of the year. Although he was not sure of the cause, this didn't matter much. The threatening temperature conditions, unchecked by a climate control system, were causing failures. In fact, at the time this client came to DPS, he had yet another incident within just the last week. He needed a room temp monitoring device that would call or send a text (SMS) to his mobile phone at any time that a runaway temp was detected in the server room.

DPS Telecom Equipment in Extreme Conditions

Some DPS clients in arctic climates also find that using NetGuardian RTUs to monitor for frigid room temps can be just as effective as monitoring for heat. The biting chill of arctic conditions can, in fact, be just as damaging to your site gear as heat can.

DPS Gear in the Telecom Industry

DPS also conducted a deployment with a telecom company to issue room temp alert alerts from unmanned locations via a single T1 line. A NetGuardian uses just one DS0. This means that a large number of these alarm remotes may send alarms to an alarm aggregation console like T/Mon with only one T1 available.

Keep Temperatures in Range with DPS Equipment

But it's not just big telecom firms that monitor room temps. Another DPS client in the eastern United States used a POTS-based RTU that would simply call the "on-call" technician whenever temperature rose too high. Although only a pair of techs were databased into the system (via the NetGuardian's built-in web interface), more than half a dozen call recipients may be configured into NetGuardians with voice dialing capability.

Video: TempDefender G2 Hardware

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