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Sentinel Monitoring System Keeps Server Room Temps in Check at the Greater New York Hospital Association

IT professionals face both cyber and physical challenges to keep data servers safe and constantly running. Remote monitoring systems can help fight half the battle. They are a cost-effective way to keep tabs on the physical environment and receive early warnings of rising temperature, humidity fluctuations, water leaks, power outages and other related factors that can impact a server room. These devices send notifications when sensor readings move into an undesirable range, enabling personnel to quickly address the problem.

David Rosenfeld is an early adopter of remote monitoring to keep an eye on physical conditions within a server room. Recently retired as vice president of IT at the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) for more than 30 years, David was introduced to Sensaphone monitoring devices by dealer and installer Charlie Baum of CAB Systems, LLC.

GNYHA is a trade association comprising nearly 280 member hospitals, health systems and continuing care facilities in the metropolitan New York area, throughout New York state, and in New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island. GNYHA has a staff of more than 70 people who work to bring together clinical and administrative personnel from member hospitals to share information on critical health care issues in a collaborative setting.

Monitoring GNYHA’s Server Room

David selected Sensaphone’s Sentinel™ system to monitor the temperature of the server room’s backup HVAC exhaust in the plenum and to turn on a fan if temperatures climb too high. The Sentinel system provides supervised 24/7 remote monitoring of up to 12 different status conditions. When any monitored condition goes beyond the set safe range, the Sentinel system alerts designated personnel via text, email or phone call.

To ensure thorough monitoring, temperature sensors capable of measuring temps from 0 °F to 120 °F (-17 °C to 49 °C) are located at various sites throughout the 30-by-20 foot room in order to gauge the heat near different servers, computers and racks. A temperature sensor is also placed in the ceiling space above the server room that functions as an HVAC conduit. When it gets too warm in that airs pace due to HVAC malfunction, an exhaust fan is activated by the Sentinel’s alarm relay connected to a contact-actuated 110 V multistrip.

“Before the automatic fan activation was available, personnel would have to travel back to the office during their off time to manually turn on the fans,” David explains. “Having this feature in addition to the temperature monitoring is a great convenience.”

Also installed in the GNYHA server room is a Temp Alert temperature switch, which monitors air temperature from 20 °F to 110 °F (6.7 °C to 43.3 °C), provides a local display reading, requires no power to operate and can connect multiple units in a series to a single Sensaphone input.

In addition, water detection sensors are placed outside of the server room under an HVAC unit and pump to alert personnel of leaks that could lead to air conditioning malfunction. Leak detection rope sensors can also be placed around the perimeter of a raised floor and under any water pipes running through a server room.

“Knowledge is power when it comes to the server room environment. When the temperature climbs, the IT team and facility management staff need to know ASAP to avert server shut down,” David says. “The Sentinel systems provides the information needed to quickly address the problem."

Upgrade to the Cloud

David began monitoring the GNYHA server room with the now-legacy Sensaphone 2000 auto dialer system that communicated through a landline phone. To benefit from the advantages of real-time monitoring, David and Charlie replaced the Sensaphone 2000 with the cloud-based Sentinel system.

“With the Sensaphone app, Sentinel users can easily access live readings and control settings and alerts right from their smartphone or tablet,” Charlie notes. “This functionality adds convenience and peace of mind.”

The Sentinel monitoring system continuously communicates a signal to the cloud to validate that it is online. If the communication link is interrupted by a power outage or human error, the system sends an alert to designated personnel indicating the connection is lost. Users are notified about the disruption through phone, text or email. All data collected during this time is stored in the device and later uploaded to the cloud when the connection is restored.

"The Sentinel is a supervised system—because it’s cloud based, it essentially monitors itself. On top of that, the device has a built-in battery backup that will last for hours in the event of a power failure,” David adds.

Data Logging for Predictive Maintenance

The IT team at GNYHA also uses the data logging function of the Sentinel system to track temperature trends over time. Reviewing the data helps to identify patterns that could indicate potential issues and prevent problems before they arise, such as power fluctuations or the beginning of an equipment malfunction.

Bottom Line–It Works

“What I like best about the Sentinel is that it works. It reliably monitors the temperature at various areas of the server room, immediately notifies personnel when the heat begins to climb, and automatically switches on the fans,” David says. “And smart phone access is very important when people are out in the field and away from the office.” 


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