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Tips for Avoiding Server Room Spaghetti (and Other Messes)

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The server room is the most sacred 100 square feet of a company’s IT environment. But because Cat5 cables tangle inexplicably whenever in close proximity, or because sensitive electronics do not mix well with traditional clean-up methods, server rooms can get kind of gnarly. If you are not on top of things, this happens quite readily:

tangle

Or this dusty disaster:

dusty heatsink

Obviously these are server room situations to avoid. Keeping a server room organized, clean and tidy requires delicate care and a soft touch. Here are some best practices for maintaining cleanliness in your IT inner sanctuary.

A Clean Server Room Starts With Cable Management

Do not let the spaghetti effect overtake your server racks. Proper cable management starts with the right gear and a few simple practices.

  • Measure your cables. Using cables more than the inappropriate length looks awful and is wasteful. Measure off the right length and use a cable crimper for cutting.
  • Test, and eliminate cables that do not pass. Network testing devices are necessary tools for troubleshooting cabling issues.  Specialists swear by Fluke Networks, but there are budget options available.
  • Bunch like cables with ties. Avoid bunching power and network cables together, as power lines cause interference. Velcro cable ties cost a bit more than plastic ties, but are easier to reuse.
  • Color code and label. Aside from looking nice, having an organized color scheme will save maintenance time down the road. Use different colors cables to connect workstations, VoIP, printers, and other devices to your servers. For labeling, you have options; heat-shrink tube labels fit around the cable heads. Plastic label ties are less expensive.
  • Use vertical cable management panels. Most newer server racks have mounts for vertical cable management ducts.       

Eliminating Server Room Dust

For reaching the server room dust that a dry feather duster cannot, compressed gas canisters are an old standby for blowing it out. That might work fine for a few computers, but for a larger scale environment like a server room, the DataVac Electric duster might be worth checking out.  It has a 500-watt motor designed for blasting dust off fans and crevices. It will pay for itself. It is the same as buying nine canisters of compressed gas. Think of it that way.

If you introduce any sort of AC vacuum device to your server environment, it is good practice to use an extension cord and plug it into an outlet outside the server room. The science behind this might be superstitious. But still, why disturb the equilibrium of a server environment if you do not need to?

Should You Deal With the Server Room Floor Yourself?

Water is the worst nemesis of a room full of expensive, sensitive electronic equipment. Many companies will not allow custodial services to mop their server room, as is not uncommon for IT to enforce a no-liquids policy. Others might let custodial services clean the server room but require that an IT tech is there to oversee the clean-up.

If cost is no object, some companies hire specialty server room cleaning services. Others send the intern in with a toothbrush. This is a judgment call.

Common sense dictates that using a lightly dampened mop or a Swiffer to clean the tile floors of a server room is the safest bet. Feeling fancy? Put down some anti-static floor wax for added protection and shine.

One final word about water in a server room is to be mindful of where you place electronic gear in relation to air conditioning units, which commonly drip water.

Hopefully this direction gives you some inspiration to fuel a server room spring cleaning. Please share your server room organization and cleaning tips in the comments section.

Images by Leif K Brooks and Bruno Girin, taken from Flickr Creative Commons
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Tips for Avoiding Server Room Spaghetti (and Other Messes)
Article Name
Tips for Avoiding Server Room Spaghetti (and Other Messes)
Description
Keeping a server room organized, clean and tidy requires delicate care and a soft touch. Here are some best practices for maintaining cleanliness in your IT inner sanctuary.
Author
Adam Lovinus

Adam Lovinus

A tech writer and Raspberry Pi enthusiast from Orange County, California.

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