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5 Reasons To Not Use A Server Room For Storage

This is written not for the IT peeps who know what I am talking about, but for those who think stacking boxes and junk and old paper files in the same room containing sensitive data equipment that runs your day to day operations, is OK.

It’s not.


If you’ve ever been in a room filled with servers, battery backups, and other lonely IT equipment you quickly realize that there is a slight bit of air circulation going on. It turns out, there are fans and venting holes to keep the equipment cool while operating. Who knew, right? In addition to the equipment fans, there may be cooling and ventilation systems built into the room as well. These systems also provide airflow and movement throughout the room.

Needless to say there are several small tornadoes being created in the environment at all times.

Ideal situation:

In a “clean” environment the air would maintain a certain temperature and humidity and would be clean of any contaminants, barring what comes through the front door during normal in and out by the underpaid IT folks who toil day to day to keep your infrastructure up and running, making you fat stacks of cash.

What actually happens:

Servers and computer equipment only take up a portion of the room and someone gets a great idea. “Hey, let’s put this crap we don’t want in our way into the closet with the computer thingies, no one goes in there!”

And so sits the archives, paper files, folders, office supplies and other “just put it in there” jetsam that accumulates in the IT rooms of business and education.

The effect on equipment:

What is not seen, is the effect this type of storage can have on critical infrastructure and the ideal environment that should be created, or at least strive for to maintain healthy IT equipment.

Paper and cardboard corrode over time and let off small particles sometimes too small to see and sometimes big enough to stop a fan. Overheating of IT equipment has the most impact on the likelihood of the equipment to last its normal life, which should be in the 7 – 10 year range. A bad environment can cut that in half or more depending on how often the room and equipment are cleaned.

One other factor to consider is the impact, if there is less room in the… room, there is less airflow to the equipment that needs it. If half the room is taken up by storage, airflow is restricted.

Traffic in and out of a room is one of the biggest ways dust and other particles enter a “clean environment”, the more that door is opened, the more stuff gets sucked in.

The 5 Reasons:

  1. Air flow in the room is restricted by unnecessary junk
  2. Certain materials can deteriorate over time and add unhealthy particles to the air
  3. More traffic in and out of the room adds to the air borne particles
  4. The possibility of a water or fire loss in the sever room, more junk equals more damage
  5. IT security – those who don’t belong in the server room, don’t belong in the server room…

How to fix it:

Put locks on the server room in order to keep those who might use it as storage to make a different choice.

Get everything out of the room with the exception of the IT equipment itself. Racks, servers, battery backups, switches and routers can stay. Everything else not related or not a permanent fixture should be stored elsewhere in the building. Even boxes and plastic that IT equipment may have come in need to be stored elsewhere. A good practice would be to open those boxes in a room other than the IT room to avoid particles flying off the cardboard (I know it’s small, but it adds up over time).

Get the room cleaned by someone that has experience with critical infrastructure. You are not going to want Two Guys & A Mop for this, just make sure they have experience with this type of equipment cleaning.

It might be a good idea to have a scheduled maintenance cleaning (at least yearly depending on traffic in and out of the room) put in place to make sure the environment is maintaining a healthy balance of temperature, humidity and minimal dust. Invest in sticky mats at the entrance to rooms to minimize foot dust getting introduced into the air.

Sounds like a pain in the butt? It can be, especially after a loss such as fire or flood. I have been dealing with this type of situation on a daily basis for 15 years. I have seen my share of IT catastrophes. I cry a little inside each time I come across one.

You can mitigate some of the damage before it occurs.  Need help? We do that.