Maximizing Server Uptime with Secure Environmental Monitoring

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Published: 25th October 2012
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As Internet commerce climbs in popularity, server uptime is essential to businesses. Uptime is a measurement of how long servers remain operational for users without crashing or requiring a reboot. The interactions between servers and their environment often pose a major risk to server availability. A crucial part of sustaining high availability lies in identifying and monitoring environmental threats, which enable prompt response to detected dangers before they escalate.

Rapid changes in temperature and humidity, encroachment of water, power outages, vibrations, human error and invasive intrusions are the most common environmental threats faced by businesses. Each of these threats can be monitored, but their effectiveness varies by the method used. Typical environmental monitoring tends to constitute personnel observing the physical environment and reporting problems. When employing manual observation, many issues based on human error can arise, such as gaps in monitoring, the inability to recognize threats, accidental oversights, etc.

For example, network administrators often rely on a single thermometer and subjective notions about "comfort" to control the temperature of server rooms and data centers. An individual may move equipment in a room without realizing its impact on the room's airflow, which could result in new hotspots. Increases in temperature can reduce the expected lifetime of hardware or cause a processor to throttle down its performance. Humidity that is too high or low may not be easily noticeable; low humidity in a warm server room may feel more comfortable to a human being, but can be extremely dangerous for servers due to a higher chance of electrostatic discharge. Power outages, “brown outs,” and voltage dips and spikes can cause downtime due to server hardware reboots or permanent circuitry damage, yet personnel may not have realized there was a power problem. An automated environmental monitoring system effectively addresses such weaknesses.

Through immediate detection and notification of threats, dedicated environmental monitoring systems prevent damage to server hardware and maintain necessary high uptime. Typical systems constantly monitor selected areas for environmental threats, which not only include ambient temperature and humidity but also inside the server rack – where early detection benefits are crucial. Other hazards, such as intrusions, are detected by door contact sensors, glass break detectors, tamper switches, and motion sensors. Smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and liquid water and chemical sensors identify the presence of unsafe events. Such features are usually standard in environmental monitoring systems.

Personnel are immediately notified if the system detects an abnormal condition, allowing execution of preventive actions before a problem occurs. Alerts are often sent over the internet, telephone, or cellular network. Since dispatching all available information to personnel is critical, still pictures or video footage during an alarm are also frequently transmitted. A clear view of the actual changes in the server room can be essential to taking the correct course of action.

While environmental monitoring systems can help to prevent environmental damage to servers, they may not be shielded from such attacks themselves. For example, some environmental monitoring systems on the market may be susceptible to these problems: if power fails in the building, the monitoring system may also lose power; or if the network goes out, it may not be able to report a failure. Therefore, high availability and stability are essential in environmental monitoring systems in order to maximize server uptime, which Network Technologies Inc (NTI) incorporates in its product line.

NTI ensures high server availability with its ENVIROMUX environment monitoring systems. The new ENVIROMUX-MINI-LXO operates on the Linux kernel, which has a proven history of availability, security, and the ability to support sophisticated network interfaces. The Linux firmware protects against network intrusions that target the monitoring system itself, thus preventing any remote sabotage. With a field-upgradeable system, the newest firmware can be easily obtained online and installed when new features, sensors, or security threats emerge, providing an instant edge for dynamic businesses.

The ENVIROMUX-MINI-LXO constantly monitors temperature, humidity, and five contact sensors with fully customizable settings. The digital inputs sensitive to contact closure can be used with devices to detect liquids, chemicals, smoke, carbon monoxide, door contacts, vibration, motion, glass breaks, AC power failures, and much more. The system can also ping up to sixteen network devices, such as, wireless access points, routers and network-based IP time clocks. In addition to sending reports and alarms through internet, telephone (via the ENVIROMUX-AVDS-LCP), and cellular networks (via the ENVIROMUX-3GU), the ENVIROMUX system also possesses the ability to monitor surveillance cameras and send pictures along with statuses. The ENVIROMUX-MINI-LXO features an output relay that can be triggered on pre-programmed conditions or manually by remote users, which can be used to unlock doors or even activate emergency systems. Compact and efficient with its Zero-RU mounting capability, the ENVIROMUX-MINI-LXO saves valuable rack space. Couple a USB 3G cellular modem with the internal backup battery, and total power and network outages can still be announced to off-site personnel who may have never known there was a problem otherwise, effectively resolving key weaknesses in environmental monitoring systems.

The ENVIROMUX-MINI-LXO can securely identify and report problems regardless of changes in its surroundings, enabling it to keep all monitored areas safe and provide maximized server uptime – the ideal preventive measure for businesses.

About Network Technologies Inc

Network Technologies Inc (NTI), established in 1984, is a leading manufacturer of high quality IT and A/V solutions. NTI products (extenders via CAT5, audio/video matrix switches, video splitters, KVM drawers, KVM switches, and environment monitoring systems) are designed, manufactured and tested at the company headquarters in Aurora, Ohio, and are backed by a two-year warranty on all parts and labor. NTI is dedicated to delivering solutions that are of exceptional quality, reliable performance and innovative technology. Visit us on the web at www.networktechinc.com.


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