Monitoring temperature and other environmental factors is critical for many different kinds of systems, particularly IT systems, where specific temperature and humidity ranges are essential to both hardware functionality and product reliability. The wrong environmental conditions can have a dramatic effect on the performance and reliability of mission critical hardware and software driven devices.
The need to monitor environmental conditions remotely and automatically has continued to increase as today’s infrastructures continue to branch out. The need for on-site supervision of system components is no longer necessary in the majority of instances; and new, advanced environmental solutions have made it easier than ever to remotely monitor with confidence. Products designed for seamless integration with network system devices, and products that have alarm inputs (contact closure), help integrate various IT devices, security products, or network appliances for enterprise-level environmental monitoring. Remote and automatic monitoring has also become easier with the availability of unified application programming interfaces (API) that allow software components to communicate with each other.
Monitoring systems can automatically notify system administrators of an alarm condition when values do not meet user-defined levels.
Environmental monitoring systems help system operators maintain user-defined conditions such as temperature, airflow, and humidity levels, as well as fan failures and power line changes. They can also help network administrators to more effectively manage their systems with detailed management reports that track environmental trends over time. In the event of a sudden disruption, such as an HVAC outage, environmental monitoring systems can also automatically notify system administrators of an alarm condition via email, TCP/IP messaging, or tunneled alarm relays when values do not meet user-defined levels. In addition, software systems interface with these sensors to provide advanced logging, recording, and video integration for networked systems. Environmental monitoring solutions can also feature sensor probes that are easily affixed in critical equipment locations. These units incorporate USB ports that allow the probes to be placed far from the base units.
As the need for environmental monitoring systems continues to generate discussion across industry forums, so has the selection of systems to choose from. Just like any purchase, you get what you pay for, and although the performance and reliability of any system is not exclusively contingent on price, the cheapest alternatives often fall short of their claims. With that in mind, here are some factors to consider when buying a temperature and humidity monitoring system:
1. Self-contained systems ensure easier implementation and help maintain continuous communications. An environmental monitoring system with a built-in server ensures the delivery of continuous information from probes in the system and the base unit itself which is also subject to environmental conditions. Such systems should be easy to use with no additional requirement for client software or Active X components. Systems with built-in servers should be compatible with major Web browsers and operating systems including Linux and Apple, and should not require any custom software or interfaces for implementation.
2. Choose a system that also monitors itself. An environmental monitoring system should also be environmentally hardened and self-monitoring. Its features should include bi-directional RS232-485 communications, pop-up alerts, alarm notifications, logging, polling, and network management with interactive searches.
3. Systems should be resilient. Systems must be tolerant of power loss, and programming should be maintained and reloaded automatically in the event of a power or communication loss.
4. Environmental probes should be easy to position. Smaller sized probes can be easily located for monitoring individual devices within a rack or overall rack conditions. Probe connections should use standard USB cable and be able to extend up to 200 feet using standard cables.
5. Installation and application flexibility. Environmental monitoring systems should provide seamless third party product integration, for example, by using an API. Products with contact closure outputs should be able to be integrated into the network.
6. Cost effectiveness. Monitoring sensors and systems should be affordable and provide maximum value and dependability.
There is too much at stake to skimp on equipment and systems to monitor temperature and other environmental factors in IT systems or other applications. Choosing feature-rich equipment that provides the greatest installation and application flexibility will provide the fastest ROI, and will ensure continued and dependable functioning of critical systems for years to come.
Jim McLaughlin is Vice President of Product Development with American Fibertek Inc. www.americanfibertek.com
This article appeared in the March 2013 issue of Controlled Environments.