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Remote Server Closet Intelligence: The 5 Things That Matter Most

Posted by RFC

Given the way many decentralized IT systems function today, remote server closets are integral to the success of many large and small organizations. An unintended human error or unexpected event could result in a downtime event, costing you an entire day (or more) of business disruption. To mitigate this type of significant risk, you need to have continuous visibility of your remote IT environments across all of your distributed facilities, 24/7.

However, you can't be everywhere at the same time, and paying someone to be physically on-site around the clock is a waste of time and money. What you need is an all-in-one solution that can readily provide you with the information to successfully monitor your remote IT facilities.

Such a system would also need to provide deep intelligence and real-time alerts of any environmental changes to what you consider normal for each distributed IT facility. This solution would need to go beyond room temperature and provide pinpoint hotspot readings at the server level.

And what if there’s an area-wide power outage? How will you still see and secure these expensive assets? And since you sometimes need to be on the road, you need this real-time data and insights in the palm of your hand.

What factors should you be on the lookout for? What must-have remote IT monitoring capabilities can make your job easier and better protect the critical infrastructure that resides in unmanned, distributed locations?

Key Elements to Consider When Monitoring Remote Servers

Perform troubleshooting. Low angle of successful IT guy walking in server closet and gesturing

Though smaller in scale, your remote IT server closet needs the same level of attention and security as a large data center. These distributed IT closets are essential for maintaining uptime and managing day-to-day operations. For example, a local retail bank or store relies on real-time inventory or in-store purchases. If a server overheats and stops working, it could disrupt sales or place a heavier compute burden on other servers jeopardizing the lifespan of those units.

The best server monitoring solutions track several factors at once. From recognizing abnormal room humidity levels and equipment hotspots to ensuring battery backup during a power outage, there’s a lot to juggle. But a solution that keeps track of these four key areas can deliver complete visibility and contextual data to maintain the uptime and security of server closets.

1. Real-Time Intelligence

You might be responsible for just a handful of server closets, or hundreds of locations around the globe. In either case, real-time contextual insights will put you in the best position to deal with unexpected downtime. In order for you to quickly and effectively thwart or remediate a situation when not on-site, you need to know when something happened, what happened, and why it happened. Real-time intelligence is crucial to stop the bleeding.

2. Complete Clarity

Around the clock, real-time data is only as good as the information it provides. Your remote server closet monitoring solution should provide the full scope of what's going on behind unmanned doors. Having this information in hand helps you better communicate with your team or other professionals in a crisis.

An alert may tell you that servers are down—but without context, you’ll have no idea why. Now, the IT team must diagnose the problem before fixing it, leading to extended downtime. According to ITIC, a single hour of server downtime totals $300,000 or more for 91% of mid-sized and large enterprises!

For the best outcomes, consider monitoring solutions equipped with optical and thermal imaging in addition to live video feeds. These additional tools can help you pinpoint hotspots on the rack and monitor any unauthorized server closet access. Onboard sensors can also monitor air humidity and room temperature, two environmental hazards crucial to your server rack's health. Meanwhile, ambient light sensors can monitor lighting in your remote IT locations.

Optical and Thermal Imaging

Remote IT server racks run hot, so temperature control is essential to prevent overheating and fires. However, temperature control in the server closet itself shouldn't be confused with identifying hotspots on the rack. For example, the room temperature may remain standard, but assets can still overheat if a fan malfunctions. Ideally, your server monitoring solution can identify and alert you no matter how or where a temperature change occurs.

Motion and Access

Your remote IT server closet might not be the most secure room in the building. It may double as storage, or perhaps it's in a high-traffic corridor. Monitoring your distributed IT locations is crucial to protecting your assets from theft and human error. For example, someone may walk in and innocently unplug something they weren't supposed to touch.

Non-human motion can also affect your remote IT servers—depending on location, heavy wind, storms, or even earthquakes could knock something over and cause disruptions in your server closet. With location monitoring, you know how your assets are at all times.

3. Contextual Data

Some enterprise or off-the-shelf solutions allow you to monitor different environmental data points. Each sensor should feed into a centralized system data but typically as separate data points. The data should be visually stitched together for you so it tells an intuitive story.

Accurate data points that are synthesized for you into a cohesive, coherent narrative are crucial for IT teams to draw the right conclusions and do so quickly. When issues arise (Murphy’s Law would have IT go down at the oddest or most inconvenient times), you should not be spending your precious time trying to piece the story together so you can determine how to address a problem. That’s counterproductive. Contextual and visualized data should is necessary to make quick and informed decisions.

4. Sustainability

Sustainability isn't just reserved for large data centers. Small-scale remote IT intelligence solutions should also monitor motion, light, air quality, temperature, and humidity levels while providing real-time alerts when those factors fall outside of normal. Keeping the lights off unless needed, limiting access, controlling temps—managing for these kinds of factors can help to drive down costs and put you on the path to sustainability.

For example, The Big Easy—a casino in South Florida—experienced a nightmare scenario when a new multimillion-dollar water-chilling system went down. The IT Director wasn't immediately made aware that something was going on in the centralized MDF room. Anyone who’s ever been to South Florida knows how brutal the heat can be on people, let alone computers! It took the casino's IT department four hours to realize that something was wrong, so instead of having more time to perform a graceful shutdown of equipment, they were forced to simply yank power cords and execute thermal shutdowns to avoid overheating.

According to the IT director, they could've reduced and even prevented downtime and equipment damage had they known immediately. While casino operations were disrupted that day, thankfully no equipment was lost. But the incident likely took years off the lifespan of the impacted servers, switches, audio distribution equipment, and battery racks.

Proper temperature control both safeguards and extends the longevity of your equipment, preventing any unnecessary repairs and replacements in the future. ASHRAE recommends maintaining temperatures between 64°F and 80°F. Any hotter or colder can lead to system failure and equipment damage.

As for humidity, smart sensors can also track moisture levels in your server closet to provide further environmental insights. ASHRAE suggests humidity levels between 20% and 80%; while this is a broad range, you may find that you need to install a humidifier or dehumidifier to add or remove moisture into the air, respectively. Maintaining proper humidity is just as crucial as proper temperature.

5. Failure Tolerance

There's nothing you can do about natural disasters or rolling blackouts, but you can take precautions to protect your remote IT locations. Ideally, your remote server monitoring solution should be equipped to handle these “acts of God” when they strike.

Battery backups and long-term evolution (LTE) connectivity help maintain visibility over remote IT locations even after the power goes out. These systems lean on WiFi and Bluetooth technology to keep you connected with your IT assets. If you're experiencing connectivity issues, LTE connectivity keeps your servers and equipment in dialogue until the WiFi comes back online. Products like Sentry even offer a full 30 minutes of visibility without power or a network connection!

Sentry: The Smart Environment Monitoring Solution for Remote Servers and IT Spaces

server closet

Knowing there's a problem in your remote server closet is only half the battle—you also need to know what the problem is right away in order to resolve it quickly and minimize downtime. The sort of continuous real-time IT space monitoring is too time-consuming and costly to manage manually 24/7. So what are you to do?

The best solution is one that provides automatic insights around the clock but also has the wherewithal to only alert you in an emergency. Meet Sentry, RF Code’s newest monitoring solution that achieves just this balance.

Sentry operates as one unified console that monitors every environmental risk threatening your remote IT closets. Leveraging the latest innovative tools and technology, the Sentry system offers unparalleled visibility into all of your server locations.

Should anything change, Sentry provides real-time alerts—and tells you exactly why those changes occurred. For example, if Sentry detects motion and a shift in humidity, you can review the video feed to spot when someone walks in and opens a window.

From ambient measurements to location tracking to live-feed and thermal imaging, the system keeps its thumb on the pulse of your server closet 24/7. Are you ready to upgrade your system security? Reach out to RF Code to learn more about how Sentry can enhance your real-time situational awareness across all your organization’s remote server closets.