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How to reduce your business energy costs with effective server room management

Published by Jason Koffler on 09 February 2017

Year after year businesses are seeing their energy bills rise. The realities are there are very little signs of it ever abating (if it ever has!). The scale of increase is often impossible to accurately predict, particularly shorter term, and with so many unknowns involved and influencing the energy prices, little wonder that many are turning to a holistic approach to their energy management. So, from a business perspective what does this actually mean?

Energy costs scarily form a significant proportion of operating costs, so the task is to reduce energy provision expenditure without compromising on the work processes. The obvious route is to review every aspect of the business that is potentially sapping energy. During this exercise one of the largest culprits is likely to be the server room with its constant energy demands for power, air conditioning and lighting. Yet as one of the most crucial components of a business nowadays, our reliance on everything a server room delivers and supports means business uptime here cannot be compromised. Granted we may not have the ability to influence the cost of energy, but there are things that can be addressed if we are armed with the beauty of insight and knowledge, so businesses don’t feel completely helpless.
Even those who believe they are happy with their current energy supply, usage and back-up support, will have areas that can be refined. Some won’t necessarily know if their server room is operating as efficiently as it can be. So, where does server room management step in to address these areas?

Every tiny aspect must be explored. Sounds tedious? Maybe, but without this detailed approach little will be gained. Everything needs to be reviewed; from the system and product maintenance, the all-important and critical uninterruptable power supply (UPS), facility services and IT network performance. Even more important is actually acting upon the insights gleaned. The journey to addressing business energy costs in the server room environment takes us through several key stages:

• Planning – detailed site surveys should be used to carefully consider the business needs, inspect the assets and how this information translates into the server room design, while also reviewing potential service contracts and warranties expectations

• Design – use the knowledge identified in the survey to design an effective server room being mindful of the nature of the space, the extent of cooling required, the latest closed circuit cooling efficiency updates (so the climate is controlled with the utmost precision to give reliability and energy efficiency), the level of environmental monitoring needed, the best method of fire suppression…and the list goes on!

• Operations – once installed ensuring there is an on-going effective server room management process, including consistent, repeatable processes such as manufacturer recommended maintenance inspections, all of which should be constantly focused on achieving and maintaining the ultimate in energy efficiency

• Monitoring – with the on-going pressures being placed on the server room, it is imperative to ensure continuous business uptime, ideally creating 24×7 performance supported by full 365 days a year technical support and remote monitoring

• Analysis – in addition this monitoring will also be delivering data insights, which if properly interpreted will ensure the server room infrastructure is performing at the optimum level and if not then identify potential areas where hardware or facilities repair and upgrade is required

While the initial site surveys and design ensure all relevant information and system characteristics are gathered and implemented, it is the latter aspects that offer the greatest longer term impact on reducing business energy costs. Granted server room design can be future-proofed to an extent at the outset, but the variables involved much longer term means it is likely to be the on-going management, monitoring and analysis that will deliver the greatest reduction in energy costs over the server room lifetime.
Practical server room management to control energy consumption is about adopting a holistic approach using a combination of tactics. Including; market analysis of current energy supply, combined with site surveys to determine inefficiencies (and potentially efficiencies!), while adopting a turnkey approach for any installation changes required, so the headache is taken away. However, it does not stop there; proper maintenance and monitoring of the server room infrastructure and its UPS, particularly by trained service technicians will instil a companywide preventative maintenance attitude, rather than the generally more expensive reactive approach in the event of a malfunction, energy failure or disaster.

Ultimately, effective server room and energy management must be an integral and essential part of a company’s overall strategy. It needs to encompass critical decisions on energy investments, while avoiding energy risks. Complete transparency about the total cost of ownership (TCO) of equipment will help to maximise operating efficiencies and deliver lower energy usage and therefore lower running costs. The very nature of today’s world means the likelihood is that energy management and efficiency issues will continue to proliferate as power demands increase and change. This is why it is so important that businesses continue and in fact increase their focus on server room management and its impact on energy consumption.