Let’s talk about winter’s effect on data centers. As winter bears down upon us we take comfort that we are well prepared for its arrival. The car got a new dose of antifreeze, the heat pump got a pre-winter checkup, and the wife got a new wool coat. As cold weather approaches, rest assured we have done all we can to keep the pipes from bursting and the car from freezing up. We are ready. But can we say the same for our data centers?

It wouldn’t seem that there’s much preparation required to ensure our data center continues to function normally throughout the winter months, but that isn’t completely true. A data center can experience a number of issues as severe weather sets in, so keep a few things in mind.

Any climate control equipment, such as heating units that sit outdoors, can freeze and shut down leaving a data center much colder than intended. While most computer systems are not affected by running cold, condensation becomes a major concern when the temperature of the room is raised back to normal.

Another major concern is water. While most data centers are void of water pipes, the danger still exists that a water line near a data center may freeze and burst, giving water the opportunity to encroach upon the data center. As temperatures drop, drain lines may freeze which prevents water from escaping in the event of a broken pipe. Trust me… Flooding and data centers do not mix well.

As the air becomes colder and dryer, static electricity is another villain that can lead to data center problems. Electrostatic discharge (ESD) can damage computer equipment. Ensuring proper humidity in the data center can keep data center equipment running optimally and protect personnel from static jolts.

Finally, make sure your parking lots are cleared and salted so in the event of an unlikely problem in the data center, personnel can safely traverse the path to the door. Computer equipment is expensive, but can be replaced. Life cannot.

So, while you’re out buying your spouse a new scarf or your daughter a new pair of Uggs, think about what you might need to do to keep your data center safe and comfortable for the winter. Without taking sensible precautions, you might be out of a job and not be able to afford those Uggs.