Saving in the Server Room

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Once in a blue moon, IT professionals will find they have to set up a server room from scratch. Since this situation doesn’t occur often, many of these professionals lack a working knowledge of how to do it. But it pays to do it right the first time.

“[Setting up a server room is] not the kind of thing that you do every day. You only do it when you move into a new location, and then you don’t do that very often,” said Paul Holstein, co-founder and COO of “So you’re relearning every time.”

Instead of just winging it, IT pros can follow a number of commonsensical tips to start out on the right foot, leading to less wasted time and more reliability in the future, Holstein said.

First, use the same manufacturer whenever possible. This will make maintenance and troubleshooting easier down the road, since you will only have to call one help desk. And if you’re worried about costs in these tough economic times, you don’t necessarily have to go with top brands such as Cisco and 3Com. You can opt for others such as Netgear or D-Link, Holstein said.

The other top considerations are space, air-conditioning and fire protection.

In terms of space, Holstein said many people dedicate a tiny closet off in the corner for their server rooms, which is a mistake. Instead, he suggested they make sure it’s centrally located, which will facilitate effective cabling.

“[Also], make it larger than you think you need,” Holstein said. “If you think you need two racks, make it large enough for three racks and two desks. And if it’s empty space, use that space for office storage so that you actually have the space.” This will give you room to grow as your company expand, he explained.

When it comes to air conditioning, it’s important that the server room has its own unit, as building units generally shut off at night, Holstein said. It’s also necessary to purchase a two-piece unit that includes an air compressor and handler. That’s because in many states, one-piece units are against code and two pieces will “save you money in the long run, it’ll last longer, [and] everything will run at the right temperature,” Holstein said.

Last but not least is fire proofing. “You have these one-hour fire-rated walls [in the server room], and then people just drill these huge holes in the wall for cable. You’ve got to fire-stop those holes,” Holstein said.

By following these few pieces of advice, you can build a safe and efficient server room while also saving money — something many companies are conscience of today.

“I think through the recession, [it’s important not to make] the big mistakes,” Holstein said. “For instance, by placing that server room in the right place, you’re going to save on cabling. By buying all of your equipment from one manufacturer, you’re going to save time and effort on tech support and downtime. And by doing it yourself, obviously, you’re going to save a lot of money over hiring a professional to come in and do it.”

– Mpolakowski,

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Meagan Polakowski


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