Planning a server room in advance pays off with management efficiency as well as equipment longevity and protection.
It is where your connectivity to the outside world and your internal equipment meet. Where the cables that connect PCs, servers, printers, telephones, conference, wireless, security, and safety equipment all come together. You might call it a telecommunications room, data room, network room, server room, equipment room, or – if following BICSI guidelines – the telecommunications space. Whatever you call it, it deserves significant planning and attention.
A well-planned telecommunication space should provide the following benefits:
- dedicated space(s) for voice and data equipment;
- efficiency and sufficient workspace for troubleshooting and completing moves, adds or changes;
- adequate space and temperature to support equipment over its lifetime;
- easy adaptation for future growth requirements; and
- an additional layer of security for mission-critical equipment.
The quantity and location of telecommunication/server rooms that a business requires is based on the size of the building, the number of floors, and the type and quantity of equipment being installed and supported. The size of the area is based on function and floor space. If beginning from scratch, it is always best to involve an RCDD along with your architects and engineers in the initial planning phase of the building.
There are 5 primary considerations when planning the nucleus of your network:
- Cable Termination and Management
- Racks, Cabinets and Enclosures
- Power and Lighting
- Temperature Control
Cable Termination and Management
Equipment rooms should be laid out and planned in such a way that current needs are met and future requirements become a logical extension of the original room plan. The larger the installation, the more important it is to manage cables in an efficient and clean manner. In order to provide efficiency with moves, adds, and changes, horizontal ethernet cables should be terminated on patch panels. TSAChoice normally recommends choosing 24 or 48 ports, and with a minimum of 20% spare ports for growth or unexpected additions.
The addition of vertical and horizontal cable management equipment assists in routing cables to the correct location of the cabinet, rack or enclosure, while also providing additional protection. If cable is not managed properly, it can lead to transmission errors, performance issues, and sometimes complete failure.
Racks, Cabinets and Enclosures
Do you want your server room to be neat and organized or just a big mess? If you prefer the former, you will need a well-thought-out plan for housing your equipment and cable.
When planning for equipment mounting solutions, consider: the size and quantity of any servers; patch panels, switches, air flow; and any equipment which supports these items such as uninterruptable power supply (UPS), keyboards, monitors, and power strips.
There are solutions to fit any type of area (wall mount racks, floor racks, cabinets, and enclosures), and then there are multiple add-on options (including special shelving, doors, locks, cable management equipment). It can be a bit overwhelming, but you are basically picking and choosing in order to create a custom solution.
TSAChoice takes many items into consideration when planning; our normal go-to for planning a new equipment room is a 2- or 4-post open rack, equipped with a variety of accessories.
For safety purposes, there are requirements for installing these units within the space. BICSI has specific standards, but local authorities have jurisdiction (and the National Electric Code should also be considered). These standards dictate minimum clearances and unobstructed workspace.
Power and Lighting Considerations
There are many standards around planning for power in a new equipment room. Here are a few important items to remember:
- Telecommunication and data rooms should have a dedicated power panel.
- A minimum of two dedicated AC duplex outlets, each on its own branch circuit, is recommended. Voltage and Amperage of these outlets is based on equipment manufacturer requirements.
- When installing separate duplex or quadruplex outlets, they should be placed no more than 6′ apart.
- Power outlets should never be controlled by a wall switch in your data room. We are sure you see the problem here: someone sees a switch, doesn’t know what it is for, looks like it is in the wrong position, and all of a sudden the entire network shuts down. Oops!
When choosing lighting for your telecommunications space, industry standards as outlined by BICSI recommend a minimum of 50 foot-candles or 538 Lux at the point of cable terminations. To maximize lighting in the space, use a light colored paint on the walls and ceiling.
Because of the critical nature of telecommunication spaces, it is strongly recommended that backup power is available in the event of a power failure. An uninterruptable power supply (UPS) is a must. In order to determine the size needed for the UPS(s), it is necessary to know the power utilized for the equipment being supported and how long that equipment needs to remain active after a power loss. The amount of time required to keep equipment running is normally based on the type of business.
Most business verticals require just enough time to make sure they shut down equipment in a safe manner. Health facilities, such as hospitals, dialysis or cancer centers, on the other hand, may not have the option to allow servers and endpoints to go dark. For these solutions (in addition to a UPS) a longer-term solution, such as a generator and/or solar powered source may be required.
It cannot be stressed enough how important controlling the temperature and humidity is for your phone and data network equipment. Network equipment that does overheat may only require a simple reset process; alternatively, it could also cease operating completely or, if the equipment becomes too hot, start a fire.
NOTE: Cooling equipment should also be remembered when considering your power and backup/emergency power plan .
Check the manufacturer’s requirements for temperature and humidity and make a plan to keep the room within those specifications. Much of your planning is going to be determined by the size of the room, as well as the heat output of your equipment. The appropriate solution maybe an isolated temperature control, a special air unit, or, in the case of a large data center area, treating “hot spots.” Cooling particular hot spots requires focusing lower temperatures in certain areas of the room.
Most people, when they think about protecting their digital assets, consider only outside threats such as malware and viruses, but anyone walking into your building could be a possible threat to your network. That is why it is important, at a bare minimum, to have a door for the network room that remains locked, accessible only to those who need it. The problem with keys, we have found, is that people lose track of who has access vs. who doesn’t. Our recommendation is to use door access technology. This technology allows you to manage access from a web interface; you can see who has key control access to which locations, and who entered specific areas and when.
One last tip: The telecommunications space should be dedicated to housing the voice and network equipment only. This area should not contain janitorial supplies, inventory, sinks, water pipes or heaters. This room is critical to your business and possibly the most important space in your facility; don’t take chances by using it as a catch-all storage area.