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RFID Adds Unnecessary Costs To SMB Server Room Temperature Monitoring

Sep 19, 2013

Small and MidSized Business may want to assess added cost of RFID for Environmental Monitoring

IT professionals in Small and MidSized Businesses (SMB) often turn to data center journals, periodicals and professionally-based social media sites for ideas on how to best manage their server rooms, telecom rooms and IT areas. These spaces are typically unused storage closets, windowless offices or partitioned off from larger rooms and they typically range from 100 to 250 square feet (approximately 10 to 25 square meters) of floor space. The HVAC control in these spaces is nonexistent in the case of storage closets (or is very minimal) since they are generally tied to the office or business’ overall heating and air conditioning units.  Therefore, these areas can be subject to overheating in summer months and particularly when cooling to the room is interrupted (when an AC unit fails or trips a circuit breaker for example). Things get hot fast, and IT personnel often have a short period of time to react before hardware shuts down or fails.

The buzzword that is making headlines in the data center press these days is DCIM, Data Center Infrastructure Management. Because the DCIM market is commanding a lot of media and analyst hype, IT professionals in SMBs wonder if they're missing something. And they may be. So what is DCIM, and why should it be important to SMB IT personnel?

DCIM is indeed a tool to manage data center infrastructure. The goal is to link inventory, asset management, asset capacity and utilization, space utilization, asset security, workflow and change management, power usage and network connectivity, cable management, environmental monitoring and more lately, the integration of analytics. Whew! Large data centers with deep budgets can afford to entertain the purchase of these systems, as they typically require significant scaling, planning, installation, training, staffing, monitoring and maintenance personnel. Many data centers already have other systems that fulfill many (if not all) of these functions. In the same breath of Building Management Systems (BMS), security systems, environmental (temperature, humidity, etc.) monitoring, DCIM’s promise is to consolidate information into one screen, dashboard or report that helps oversee and manage the data center better.


Google Data Center (Source)



 SMB Server and Telecom Room

SMB server rooms, telecom rooms and IT spaces are an entirely different matter. The control for the server room’s heating and cooling may be a wall thermostat (if you're lucky) and often nothing at all. Assets often range from a handful of computer, storage, switches and routers, plus other assorted electronics to a couple of handfuls of racks, in many cases not fully populated. These spaces need protection for overheating due to air conditioning failures. 

The simplest, lowest cost approach is a hard wired temperature sensor that plugs into an interface board or USB port for example. The challenge here is that many of the simplest devices rely on the user to add interface graphics, reporting, and manual alarm programming. Since small IT rooms are (in many cases) managed by the person in the organization with the best computer skills, the time and possibly the skills to do this may be at a premium. SMBs can rely on outside IT contractors for more involved work and programming a sensor would add a considerable cost. A USB device that integrates the sensor, reporting software and alerting capability would solve this issue nicely. These devices are often very low cost, around $100 or so, and are ready to plug in and run.

If there is concern about adding an external USB device to a server because the device is not functioning when the server shuts down for example, low cost WiFi devices are available. They are often able to support several sensors that simply plug into the appropriate slots. The temperature sensor’s interface is through the SMBs WiFi network and the device often comes with a full set of software to send alert SMS text or e-mail messages when user set temperature levels rise too high. Some suppliers provide an additional level of fault tolerant operation by collecting the data on a Cloud server and sending alert messages from there. With the Cloud service alert messages can be sent when the device does not report in for a fixed number of intervals letting IT professionals know there is a potential problem such as a power outage or that the network is down. Advanced Cloud services can include phone call alerts, especially useful during overnight hours when text messages and e-mails may be missed. Management reports can be downloaded for review or action when needed.

WiFi temperature monitor in server room sends email and SMS text alerts when things get hot

Several DCIM systems employ RFID temperature sensors among their suite of products. The RFID devices can be well suited for asset management. The devices are often active meaning they transmit the data to to a DCIM USB, Ethernet or WiFi gateway. The RFID wireless transmitter requires either AC power or batteries for operation. The gateway is often POE or AC powered and contains an RFID receiver or transceiver and in the case of WiFi network interfaces the appropriate WiFi transmitter. All of this adds cost, complexity, and in the case of battery operated devices, additional maintenance. Therefore the cost of the RFID solution is inherently higher, leading to higher prices for a task that can be accomplished with simpler, lower cost devices.

SMBs can often manage their inventory with spreadsheets and their asset utilization is not so nearly a concern as it is for data centers. Power usage and cable management are not significant concerns in most cases. DCIM systems are often not appropriate for SMB applications. Using Active RFID DCIM systems for temperature monitoring adds unneeded cost to the task of letting SMB IT personnel know their server rooms are getting hot. Simple, low cost USB and WiFi devices suit this need very well.

When considering environmental monitoring technology for SMB server rooms, IT professionals will want to compare the performance, cost, maintenance and ease of use of the myriad of devices on the market.  Buying “right sized” technology can help not only meet the current need and budget, but insure the installation is up and running quickly, providing the protection the business needs and a shorter ROI. For information about USB, WiFi, Cellular and Wireless sensors, one can visit Temperature@lert’s website at

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