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Optimizing data center performance is like trying to hit a small, fast-moving target. Even with technology in place meant to stabilize conditions (i.e. computer room air conditioning units, power distribution units, data center infrastructure management), there are simply too many ever-changing variables that may impact environmental quality.

To address this quandary, many facility operators will deploy monitoring solutions that can identify possible sources of disruption sooner rather than later. And assuming they adhere to the following set of best practices for these deployments, they should be able to hit even their most elusive target: maximized return on investment.

1. Achieve granular temperature monitoring

It's not enough to use a few wall-mounted thermometers scattered throughout a facility. Monitoring needs to be granular enough that operators know the moment an internal fan on a single server malfunctions. This requires strategically placed temperature sensors at specific cabinets and racks that can identify subtle changes. In addition to catching temperature fluctuations early, this will help operators map both hot and cold air within their facility.

2. Have redundant automatic alerts in place

If a tree falls, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If the "tree" in this case is a leak detection cable at the base of equipment, and the "sound" is an SNMP and/or email alert notifying critical staff of a water leak, you better hope so. Regardless of what happens, you will hear that tree when it falls, when user defined thresholds have been set and alarms are sent over the network to alert you of unfavorable environmental conditions.

3. Focus on relative humidity

"Relative humidity is far more important than absolute humidity. "

To get humidity levels just right, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) stresses the importance of relative humidity in the data center. Absolute humidity is a quantitative measure of the amount of water in the air, while relative humidity calculates the amount of moisture that the air can hold before it becomes a problem. Warmer air can sustain more water molecules than cooler air, which means that absolute humidity can be higher in warmer zones of the facility than in cool spots. As such, relative humidity is far more important than absolute humidity.

4. Use local and remote power monitoring

This one is especially applicable to colocation managers. Power monitoring at both the power distribution unit and at the central point of control will not only help to ensure that electrical loads stay balanced, but it will also provide an easy and accurate method for facility managers to bill clients based on their total energy consumption. The best power monitoring solution should give you billing-grade accuracy within 1 percent of total power consumed, according to Data Center Knowledge contributor Jon Trout.

5. Remember physical security

According to Social-Engineer, cybercriminals have been known to pose as maintenance workers to get into facilities, at which point they can cause all the damage they want. To preclude this problem, install dry contact sensors near doors to off-limit spaces. No one will access that space without you knowing about it – just as it should be.

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