Do Your Municipal Data Center’s Environmental Control Systems Maintain Optimum Performance Levels?

A data center’s environment controls address cooling, ventilation, heating and humidity. Basically, anything that maintains the desired temperature and air flow of a data center can be considered part of the environmental control system.

To maintain the highest levels of performance, the data center environment must be strictly controlled and use the latest technologies. In addition, highly available redundant subsystems must back-up the primary control systems. Any gaps in the environmental infrastructure could lead to downtime.

Maintaining Proper Air Flow — The Prime Directive

An environmental control system maintains proper temperatures, preventing IT equipment’s hot exhaust from mixing with the cooled air. Separating different temperature airstreams can be accomplished in a number of ways. A simple strategy involves installing hot and cold aisles in your server room. By configuring cabinets so they face each other, you can eliminate one server’s hot air exhaust being sucked into the air intakes of another server. Cool air from the cooling system can also reach all server intakes more easily. In addition, you can contain hot and cold aisles by using physical barriers, such as panels and curtains.

Other techniques to maintain air flow include installing in-row cooling units. This cooling equipment would be in addition to the facility’s air conditioning system. Also, installing air flow systems below a server room’s raised floor can create efficient pathways for cold air.

The air flow strategy you deploy would depend on a number of factors. For example, what’s the heat tolerance of your installed servers? What temperature levels must you maintain to operate at peak performance levels? How is the overall cooling system performing?

The Critical Need for Monitoring and Testing

Not maintaining the proper temperature and air flow levels can cause major issues for your data center. First, you’ll likely experience reduced performance from your servers, or worse, equipment damage. Second, you’ll have to increase your cooling efforts by lowering temperatures, which will result in added cost.

Installing the proper environmental control and backup systems is only part of the solution. Effective monitoring systems and processes need to be part of your overall environment control program. If any monitored values deviate from the established norm, your system should activate alarms.

Like any other plan, you want to test it on a regular basis. Do alarms sound when an environmental control fails? Is your established process being followed to rectify the issue? Have you documented and distributed your plan to the required staff? Have you tested an evacuation plan?

Like all other aspects of a data center’s infrastructure, implementing and managing environmental controls is a complex undertaking. Because of this complexity, many organizations are migrating their data center operations to a third-party provider’s facility. Because managing a data center is their core business, experienced service providers often have an advantage when it comes to installing and managing environmental control systems.

Assess Your Local Government’s Data Center Risk

If you’d like to better understand your municipal government’s level of data center risk, take FairPoint Communications’ “Risk Assessment Questionnaire for Municipalities.” By answering nine multiple-choice questions, you’ll gain helpful insight into your municipality’s risk exposure – high-, medium- or low-risk.

FairPoint Communications’ data centers provide organizations with network connectivity and rack space in physically secure, reliable locations. Municipalities can use this space as primary or secondary data center sites. In addition, data center colocation space can also be employed as an essential part of a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy. FairPoint Communications’ data centers are strictly controlled environments with essential power, cooling, connectivity and physical security features.

For data center colocation services that address your municipal government’s requirements, call FairPoint Communications (1.866.984.4001) or visit

Vice President
Karen Romano is Vice President, Government and Education at FairPoint Communications, a leading provider of advanced communications technology in northern New England and 14 other states across the U.S.