Environment Monitor Buyers Guide

The main purpose of all environment monitors is to give you visibility of the environmental conditions in your facility.  Environment monitors are available with widely differing capabilities. This guide will help explain the different capabilities and outline how the capabilities will be useful to you. A summary table matching the features to the specific make and model of monitor will be presented to save you time choosing the right model for you.

What is an environment monitor?

Environment Monitors collect environmental data from one or more sensors. The sensors are typically plugged into the environment monitor although some environment monitors are supplied with one or more sensors built-in. There is no single standard for sensor connectors so each manufactuer typically goes their own way and designs their own. This can make interoperability of sensors rather difficult. Generally speaking, you buy the sensors from the same brand as the environment monitor.

Environment monitors are available with widely differing capabilities. This section outlines the main features and provides a summary table matching the features to the specific make and model of monitor.

Integrated website

All network enabled environment monitors have an integrated website. The capabilities of the website tend to reflect the underlying features of the environment monitor.

Integrated websites are particularly helpful for managing remote locations. You can place the monitor anywhere on your network and still be able to access it as if it was in the same room.

Environment monitors with integrated websites also mean that you don’t need to install third party applications, you only need a standard web browser.

SNMP

Most networks of any size and age have lots and lots of equipment from many different manufacturers.

If each manufacturer implemented a proprietary management system, managing the network would quickly become a nightmare. Each manufacturer’s equipment would need its own management system. None of the different manufacturer’s management systems would talk to each other.

All told an expensive, inflexible mess.

To that end the manufacturers agreed to create a single management protocol called Simple Network Management Protocol or SNMP that they could all implement on their devices.

You would then only need a single SNMP based management system to manage your network. The management system would then be able to talk to all of the devices on a network from any compliant manufacturer.

What has SNMP got to do with environmental monitoring?

If you wish to create a point tool for your environment monitoring without any integration into your existing network management system then you don’t need to worry about SNMP.

However, if you wish to integrate your environmental monitoring efforts into your existing network management system then SNMP support is essential.

SNMP is a great integration and interoperability protocol.

SNMP enables your environmental monitoring devices to integrate into your existing network management system.

Your network management system can be anything from a Big 4 enterprise solution like HP OpenView or IBM Tivoli, mid market solution like Ipswitch What’s Up Gold, SNMPc and Solar Winds Orion or open source tools like Zenoss and Nagios.

All of the above mentioned tools use SNMP to fetch performance information. The systems then, to various levels of sophistication, log, trend and correlate the information.

Open Protocols set your Data Free

One of the sneakier tricks manufacturers sometimes try to pull is keeping your data proprietary.

That way, if you want to access your information you need to buy software that is available exclusively from the manufacturer. The software usually comes with a hefty price tag and usually doesn’t have the features you want.

Make sure that any environment monitoring equipment you buy has a set of publicly documented standard interfaces from which you can access your data.

The data needs to be in a format that can be converted into a form that can be easily manipulated, visualised and reported. Formats like Microsoft Excel, CSV and the like should be supported.

The ultimate interoperable protocol in network management is, of course, SNMP.

Environment Monitor Alerts

Network management systems typically have highly functional alert sub-systems. At the very least you should be able to create alarms that respond differently at different times of day.

During the working week when you have IT people on site, you will probably want a different set of actions than at night and weekends.

Many larger data centers have security people on site at all times. When problems crop up out of hours you are likely to wish to inform them of a problem so that they can then take appropriate steps, like ringing the duty IT person for instance. During the day it is unlikely you’d want the security people to be informed. It is more likely that an email or text to your IT staff would be more appropriate.

One of the problems with integrating your environment monitor with a network management system is that you are required to do the integration yourself. Data centers are dynamic places. Equipment is constantly being installed and decommissioned on a regular basis to cope with changing business requirements.

By monitoring your data center you can see how changes are affecting the environment your servers are operating within.

By spotting trends early, you can plan future infrastructure upgrades in good time, before the server room environment becomes a problem.

Some network management systems have plug-ins which greatly speed up the process. But where a plug-in is not available, you are likely to require an understanding of SNMP. Most SNMP devices do come with a MIB which does make integration much easier.

Logging Environmental Data

Most of you are motivated principally by a desire to be informed of extreme environmental events in your data center.

One area you shouldn’t forget about is logging your environmental data.

Fortunately, it is very easy to do. In fact, a system set up for performing alarms will give you the logging for free. Nor is the logging functionality restricted to a high end monitoring system, all of our solutions provide both alarming and logging.

Why is having a record of your environmental readings important?

Data centers are dynamic places. Equipment is constantly being installed and decommissioned on a regular basis to cope with changing business requirements.

By monitoring your data center you can see how changes are affecting the environment your servers are operating within.

By spotting trends early, you can plan future infrastructure upgrades in good time, before the server room environment becomes a problem.

Log Readings

Whilst the primary purpose of most environment monitors is to alert you to unusual environmental conditions, retaining a log of your environmental conditions can be very useful for future planning.

Once the data has been logged you can export the data from the environment monitor using CSV. You can then visualise the data using a tool such as Microsoft Excel or Open Office.

A number of environment monitors can log the environment data as well as graph the information in a highly accessible way. Whilst a data log is very useful, nothing beats a graph for quick and easy comprehension.

Graph

A number of environment monitors can log the environment data as well as graph the information in a highly accessible way. Whilst a data log is very useful, nothing beats a graph for quick and easy comprehension.

Server Shutdown

Whilst a number of environment monitors support sensor controlled relays, able to switch on and off a power supply to a device, few are able to safely shut down servers.

The main drawback of a sensor controlled relay when shutting down a non-abended server is that the server may not be in a state to safely shut down without data loss. By using a safe shutdown the server goes through its normal shutdown procedure that ensures that data is properly written to disk.

A relay can be very useful when a server abend has occurred. An abended server is unlikely to respond to a normal shutdown request.

What Problems do Environment Monitors Solve?

Companies invest in systems because they fulfill a valuable purpose. Here are some of the reasons companies invest in environment monitors.

Alert on Heat Emergency

Probably the biggest motivation for monitoring the data center environment is the anxiety many system administrators feel about heat emergencies. I'm sure you dread entering your data center after a pleasant weekend at home only to find your servers being slowly roasted.

Take the experience of Robert G. Brown at Duke University Dept. of Physics:

"To give you an idea of the magnitude of the problem, the ONE TIME our server room overheated for real, reaching 30-35°C for an extended period of time (many hours) ... [snip] some immediate and obviously due to immediate overheating, some a week later, two weeks later, four weeks later. ... When the overheating occurred I had 15 nodes racked that had run perfectly for a year, 3 blew during the event, 4 more failed over the next few months, 2 more failed after that."

The effect of a heat spike doesn't just do short term damage. The effects can still be felt months later with seemingly random component failures.

In order to detect a heat emergency you need to be actively monitoring your data center. The primary cause of heat emergencies is the operation of the air conditioner. If one or more air conditioners fail then the heat generated by the servers will not be removed from the data center. Data centers are sealed environments so when cold air is not introduced into the cold aisles and hot air is not expelled from the hot aisles, the servers will be recycling air that is already hot.

The quickest way to detect air conditioner failure is by monitoring the air conditioning system itself. However, if you can't monitor the air conditioning system directly, then monitoring the temperature is a good proxy.

Monitoring Air Conditioner Health

It is arguable that the air conditioner is the single most important piece of equipment in your data center. Without modern air conditioning systems the data center would not exist in its current form.

Air conditioning plays a central role in the successful operation of the data center, consequently, air conditioning systems require careful monitoring. Unfortunately, given the amount of heat generated by modern servers, you won't have very long to react to an air conditioner failure. So the earlier you are able to detect the failure the more time you will have to mitigate its effects.

The fastest way to detect air conditioning system failure is to monitor the unit's operational status dry contact point. The main benefit of using the operational status of the air conditioner is that you are informed immediately of system failure rather than waiting for the temperature to rise above your critical alert threshold.

Ensure you aren't wasting energy

Whilst a major concern with the data center environment is the air being too hot, equally you could be wasting money by running the data center too cold. ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers, in their booklet Thermal Guidelines for Data Processing Environments Fifth Edition (2021) has a series of suggestions for the recommended server room temperature.

If the temperature inside your data center is lower than the ASHRAE recommendation, then you may well be over cooling and consequently consuming more electricity than is absolutely necessary. Of course, you can only find out what the temperature is by actively monitoring the environment.

Find Hotspots

In (very) small server room environments, without hot/cold aisle configuration, the variability of air temperature is likely to be minimal. In more structured environments the temperature variability is likely to be much higher. In addition, the likelihood of hotspots developing is much higher too. A hotspot is a location where the air being fed into one or more devices is too hot.

One of the reasons to monitor the environment is to detect hotspots within the data center. Hotspots may be very localised and could only affect a few servers. Consequently they can be hard to locate. One tell tale sign may be one or more servers manifesting component failure. Hard disks are especially prone to heat issues. If you see patterns of component failure, that may be indicative of a hotspot. If you find servers are shutting themselves down for no apparent reason, you may find that the servers’ thermal shutdown is being invoked.

Hotspots are most likely to be created during data center re-organisations when equipment is re-arranged. It can be helpful to provide high sensor density monitoring immediately after the move to ensure that no hotspots have been created. When you have established that the move has not adversely affected the environment, move back to a more normal level of sensor density.

ISO 9001 Mandate

Many organisations have implemented the ISO 9001 family of standards in order to improve their product and service delivery. The operation of I.T. systems is of critical importance to product or service delivery in many organisations. It would be sensible to place the operation of the I.T. systems within the scope of the quality system.

ISO 9001 mandates that the performance of processes critical to your ability to implement a high quality product and service delivery should be specified, monitored and verified. Consequently, you need to specify in your policy document what acceptable environmental conditions for your data center. In addition, you need to maintain a continuous log of the environmental conditions so you can demonstrate that you have maintained the environment as per your specification in your policy document during a quality system audit.

Unfortunately, things don't stop at providing an auditable log. You also need to verify that the equipment measuring the environment is working as expected. Typically you will need to calibrate your measuring equipment every year to ensure that it is working within the levels of accuracy you have specified in your quality document. Calibration can usually be performed on site in order to minimise the downtime of your monitoring system.

Your calibration provider is usually certified by an accreditation body such as UKAS in the United Kingdom and NIST in the U.S.A.

What Sensors are Available?

There are two basic types of sensors: sensors and actuators. Sensors measure an environmental condition and the monitor reads the value periodically from the sensor. The environment monitor is then able to decide whether the sensor reading is within a reasonable range.

If an alarm state is entered then one or more actions can be performed by the environment monitor. The monitor can perform regular alarm functions like send an email and it can instigate an action using an actuator sensor.

Actuator sensors perform some kind of action in the real world. For instance, a sensor controlled relay can switch on the power to a device, or a dry contact sensor can trigger an alarm in a building management system.

Some sensors, like dry contact sensors, can be both a sensor and an actuator.

It can be confusing to figure out which sensors are required when purchasing an environmental monitoring system. A summary is presented at the end of this section to help you decide which environment monitors support the probes you wish to use.

Temperature

Temperature is by far the #1 concern for I.T. people when monitoring their data center environment.

Why is the temperature so important when computer manufacturers advertise wide operating temperature ranges in their technical specifications?

The temperature range specified for our main Dell server is 10° to 35°C (50° to 95°F). Given the wide operating temperature range, why can’t we run our server at a sizzling 34.9°C?

Server room temperature is of critical importance to the lifetime and reliability of electrical equipment. Higher temperatures reduce the lifetime and reliability of electrical equipment. So, we could run our server at 34.9°C but we should expect reduced reliability as a consequence.

Combined Temperature & Relative Humidity

Relative humidity is unlikely to be a major headache in more temperate climes, it is good to keep an eye on it to make sure that your air conditioning system is keeping the air humidity within reasonable bounds.

Very high humidity can cause a problem because under some conditions the water vapour in the air can condense on the electrical components inside your data center. Water and electronics don’t mix too well.

Low humidity can cause just as many problems as very high humidity. Very low humidity can cause static electricity to build up in electrical equipment. Static build up can damage electrical components.

Wetness

Water and I.T. equipment don’t mix well. Wetness sensors are most commonly deployed underneath the air conditioning system or underneath the raised floor area of your server room.

Wetness sensors are available in two basic types.

The first type uses a length of conductive rope. When the rope is wet it conducts an electric current more easily and so the sensor is able to detect when the conductive rope is wet. The main downside to using the rope type of wetness probe is that when the rope gets wet it can take awhile to dry out. Use in dirty environments can also inhibit the accurate operation of a wetness sensor.

The second type of wetness probe is a single point sensor where water is measured in a single location. The spot wetness sensor has an inlet where water is detected.

The single point wetness sensor or spot wetness sensor is best when combined with a collection tray to catch all of the water dropped into it and concentrate it into a single point. The sensor would then be placed at the point where the water concentrates. This type of wetness sensor is typically used beneath your air conditioning unit where the area to be covered is limited.

The rope based flood sensor is best used where a large area needs to be monitored such as underneath a raised floor for instance. It wouldn’t be ideal to place a large tray underneath a typical raised floor because of the large area to be covered.

Security

A security probe is able to detect the break of an electrical circuit held together by two weak magnets. A security probe is commonly used to alarm on the opening of a door, usually a cabinet door when it is expected that the door will remain closed. Security probes are often paired up with a camera. The opening of a server cabinet door often triggers a camera to take a photo of the unauthorised person. The image can then be emailed or recorded for later examination.

Power Presence

Most data centers have, at the very least, a backup power supply provided by a UPS. Larger data centers typically also have a fully redundant power supply backed by an off grid electricity generator.

UPS battery life is typically only an hour or two so your servers will be powered for a short time usually long enough that they can be shut down safely.

In addition, the air conditioning system won’t be supplied with power when the primary power fails due to their massive electricity drain. Consequently, the heat level in the data center is going rise quite quickly.

That’s where the power detector probe comes into its own. You can alarm when your primary power source fails giving you time to take action before the secondary power starts to fail.

The power presence alarm only detects the presence or absence of power. If you need to monitor the quality and/or quantity of the electricity, a power monitor probe is required.

Power Monitor

In these more energy conscious times knowing how much power your equipment is consuming is increasingly important. You can’t know that you’ve reduced power consumption unless you can measure it.

In addition, you can measure the quality of the power delivered by your energy supplier. Many types of equipment are very sensitive about the electricity feed into them.

Smoke Detector

Smoke and the likely cause, fire do not mix well with server rooms. You are going to want to know very quickly that you have a smoke problem in your server room. Connect a smoke detector to an environmetn monitor and you can be alerted to the presence of smoke in your server room the second it becomes a problem.

Motion Detector

Motion detector sensors are usually combined with a camera to provide basic security monitoring solution. Sensors use passive infrared to detect movement so they can be used in low light conditions.

When movement is detected the system will alert permitting you to specify one or more actions to be performed. The most common action is to take a picture using a camera and then email the image to an interested party.

Sensor Controlled Relay

The relay controls a single power supply. It is able to switch the power on or off or to cycle the power to a device.

The relay is generally used as a method to control a single device as part of an alarm action. Typically a sensor will enter an alarm state, like a temperature sensor exceeds a given threshold, and an alarm is triggered. The environment monitor will then switch on an appropriate piece of equipment.

Dry Contact

Dry contacts have been standard for many years in the alarm industry. More recently Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) and air conditioner manufacturers have used the dry contact to indicate alarm conditions. The dry contact is a binary indicator, it can only be in an on or off condition. In order to provide information on a number of alarm conditions a manufacturer will provide more than one dry contact port.

Dry contact probes can detect an alarm condition in a device and/or they can indicate an alarm to a device. Many building management systems can take dry contacts as input to their alerting systems. Environmental monitoring systems provide a great way to integrate between environmental monitoring systems and building management systems.

In the case of the AKCP products the dry contact probe can be used to detect an alarm condition or to indicate an alarm condition to a device.

Air Flow

Data centers rely on a constant stream of cold air being introduced into a data center and hot air being removed.

The air flow probe allows you to measure the speed of air flowing over the probe giving you a good indication as to how well the air conditioner is performing. Though the probe only indicates the speed of air flow. It will not tell you what the temperature of the air is. In order to measure both the air flow and the temperature you will require a temperature probe in addition to the air flow probe.

Camera

With the addition of a camera your environment monitor can become a convenient, integrated security solution for your data center when combined with security and movement probes.

Siren & Strobe

The siren & strobe provides a visual and/or audible alert, ideal for situations where it is imperative that an alarm is acted upon immediately. Plainly, a siren & strobe is best used in a staffed environment.

A common situation is for an environment monitor to monitor the temperature in a server room. When the temperature rises above an acceptable level, the Siren and/or strobe light is activated in a manned Network Operation Center (NOC) or other permanently manned area. The security personnel can then undertake whatever action is needed to mitigate the problem.

Summary

A table showing a summary of the various ranges of environment monitors and their support for the different types of sensors you can use to measure your environmental factors.

Sensor / Monitor Range AVTECH Room Alert AVTECH Room Alert PRO AKCP sensorProbe+ AKCP securityProbe
Temperature
Combined Temperature & Humidity
Wetness
Door Contact
Motion Detector
Power Presence
Power Monitor
Smoke Detector
Sensor Controlled Relay
Dry Contact
Air Flow
Camera
Siren / Strobe

Alerting Options

One of the major concerns driving the adoption of environment monitoring solutions in I.T. is the desire to be alerted when conditions in the server room become abnormal.

A number of alerting options exist, which you choose will largely depend upon your own particular circumstances.

E-mail

By far the most popular alerting method. Has the great advantage that many people can access their emails away from the office using their laptop or mobile phone.

SMS

Another popular alerting mechanism is the Short Message Service (SMS) available for most, if not all, mobile phones. Very popular with IT shops who have an “on duty” mobile phone.

The main disadvantage of SMS is the priority networks give to your messages. When the mobile network is busy SMS messages can take a while to get through to the recipient.

One problem with SMS alerting is that the data center can be hostile to mobile phone GSM signals.

Email to SMS gateways provide a good “zero installation” way to send SMS messages. The only prerequisite being that you must have access to a mail server. Many customers use email to SMS conversion services in situations where installing a dedicated SMS modem is impractical.

With the increased availability of email on mobile phones SMS is less important than it used to be.

If timely and guaranteed delivery of your alerts is a priority then an email integrated mobile phone, like BlackBerry, Android or iPhone, may well be worth considering.

Telephone

One way almost guaranteed to get you out of bed at 3am on a Sunday morning is the telephone. Phones intrude in a way that texts and emails rarely do.

There are two ways to alarm using the phone. One very easy, the other not so easy.

A little heard of technology rolled out recently by many telcos has been fixed line SMS. One little known fact is that you can use fixed line SMS to receive text messages using your regular phone (in the UK and most of Europe anyway, fixed line SMS hasn’t been implemented in the USA).

If you want to test the service, send a text message using your mobile phone to your home phone number. You will receive a call and hear a computerised voice reading out your text message.

The more difficult option involves installing software like VoiceGuide into your monitoring system.

VoiceGuide is a Windows based software tool for dialling your phone and talking to you. The software can be integrated with any application including Intellipool.

VoiceGuide requires your server to have a modem and access to a telephone line. A modest amount of integration work is required too.

SNMP Trap

All of the featured network enabled environment monitors include the ability to generate SNMP traps when environmental conditions go out of bounds you select.

The management system, when it receives the trap, then performs the steps required to inform you of the problem.

If you do not already have a network management system, I wouldn’t recommend using SNMP traps. Much simpler alerting mechanisms are available.

Siren & Strobe

The siren & strobe sensor provides a visual and/or audible alert, ideal for situations where it is imperative that an alarm is acted upon immediately. Plainly, a siren & strobe is best used in a staffed environment.

Sensor Controlled Relay

The sensor controlled relay probe allows you to control a single power supply. It is able to switch the power on or off or to cycle the power to a device.

Dry Contact

If you have an existing alarm system which takes as input one or more dry contact ports then an environment monitor supporting dry contact alarms would be able to trigger your existing alarm system.

Summary

A table summarising all of the different environment monitor ranges and which options you will have for alerting you when things go wrong.

Alert Option / Monitor Range AVTECH Room Alert AVTECH Room Alert PRO AKCP sensorProbe+ AKCP securityProbe
Email
SMS / Text
SNMP Trap
Siren & Strobe
Sensor Controlled Relay
Dry Contact

Why choose an environment monitor?

Environment monitors are designed for giving you visibility of the environment in your server room. An environment monitor really comes into its own if you require timely knowledge of changes to the environment that may harm the equipment in the server room. There are many different environmental threats to a server room ranging from water ingress, extreme high or low temperatures, very high or very low relative humidity to vibration etc.. All threats can be monitored by an environment monitor using attached sensors to detect the various threats.

Industry Specific Buyers Guides

Environment monitors can be complex products and their use can be very different in the various industries they are used within. Below are a series of industry specific buyers guides that will help you choose the right environment monitor for you and your industry.

Server Room Environment Monitor Buyers GuideServer Room Environment Monitor Buyers Guide
Server Room Environment Monitor Buyers Guide
Warehouse Environment Monitor Buyers GuideWarehouse Environment Monitor Buyers Guide
Warehouse Environment Monitor Buyers Guide
Facilities Management Environment Monitor Buyers GuideFacilities Management Environment Monitor Buyers Guide
Facilities Management Environment Monitor Buyers Guide
Hospital Environment Monitor Buyers GuideHospital Environment Monitor Buyers Guide
Hospital Environment Monitor Buyers Guide
Cold Storage Environment Monitor Buyers GuideCold Storage Environment Monitor Buyers Guide
Cold Storage Environment Monitor Buyers Guide

Choosing the right environment monitor

There are quite a number of environment monitors to choose from. Choosing the right one for you can seem daunting. The following section should help you choose the right environment monitor for you at the right price and with the right features you require.

AVTECH Software Room Alert Series

The AVTECH Room Alert series provides a full function range of environment monitoring options, for example humidity, flooding, smoke, power, room entry; and on some models  additional features such as relay out and signal tower.

The Room Alert 32E and 32S also include UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). The differing model numbers indicate the number of ports available and therefore the number of sensors you can attach.

AVTECH supply a range of different software solutions to help you get the most out of Room Alert. RoomAlert.com is their cloud offering giving a very easy to use solution to managing and monitoring your estate of Room Alert monitors. Room Alert Manager is AVTECH locally installed integration software giving you local control over your Room Alert monitors.

If you want further information about AVTECH Room Alert, please read the Room Alert Buyers Guide.

AVTECH Software Room Alert PRO Series

AVTECH Software have recently introduced the Room Alert PRO range of environment monitors featuring heightened levels of security over the Room Alert models. The Room Alert PRO range are denoted by having a 'S' in the product name, so Room Alert 3S, 12S, 12SR and 32S are all part of the PRO range.

AKCP sensorProbe+ Series

The AKCP sensorProbe+ range provides high quality, fully featured environment monitors with a vast range of probes. Each sensorProbe+ supports an optional built-in cellular modem for out-of-band communication and SMS alerting.

The sensorProbe2+ supports up to four external probes and the sensorProbeX is a very powerful, rack mountable environment monitor with many options over the number of external sensors as well as dry contact points.

The sensorProbe+ range are highly functional devices that are able to log and graph environmental readings as well as alarm when things go wrong. All sensors are auto-sensed by the environment monitor making the sensorProbe+ series very easy to use.

If you want further information about AKCP sensorProbe+ range, please read the AKCP sensorProbe+ Buyers Guide.

AKCP securityProbe Range

The AKCP securityProbe is a range of high quality, fully featured environment monitors with a vast range of sensors. The securityProbe supports up to five hundred external senors using extension units. The securityProbe range contains highly functional devices that are able to log and graph environmental readings as well as alarm when things go wrong. The securityProbe supports the addition of a dedicated GSM cellular modem for out of band communication and SMS and MMS alerting.

Some securityProbe models also supports up to four additional hi definition cameras so you gain visibility of who is accessing your data center. All sensors are auto-detected by the securityProbe monitor and use CAT5 cable so that you can easily extend using standard CAT5 cabling. The securityProbe-X20 and securityProbe-X60 models are also available with either 20 or 60 respectively extra dry contact ports.

If you want further information about AKCP securityProbe range, please read the AKCP securityProbe Buyers Guide.

Summary

A table showing the various features supported by the available ranges of environment monitors.

Feature / Monitor Range AVTECH Room Alert AVTECH Room Alert PRO AKCP sensorProbe+ AKCP securityProbe
Integrated Website
SNMP
Log data
Graph

Ethernet Environment Monitor

Ethernet based environment monitors add a huge amount of functionality as they are able to be first class citizens on your network. Given that the environment monitor is on your network it is able to send email alerts when things go wrong. In addition, you can interact with the environment monitor in your web browser giving you an easy way to find out the latest sensor reading and change the configuration.

Connect to your ethernet network

Ethernet environment monitors connect to your data network and you can then browse using a web browser. You can configure the ethernet environment monitor to use a static IP address or use DHCP to automatically assign a dynamic IP address on startup.

Alerts

Whilst it is very helpful to know what the environment currently is within your server room, it is very helpful to be informed when things go wrong. If you know you will be informed when environmental conditions go outside a pre-set range of values then you don't need to keep checking manufally yourself. Automated alerting can save you a lot of time and give you peace of mind that, if things go wrong, you will be informed in good time.

There are many different ways of informing you when things go wrong.

All networked environment monitors support email alerts. Email has been around for a long time but it is still a very useful way to let the right people know when things have gone wrong. You can simply email the on-duty email address or use something like PagerDuty for more sophisticated escalation procedures.

SMS text alerts are also very popular mechanisms for sending alerts. SMS text messages are necessarily much shorter than email messages can be.

In environments that are permanently manned, a siren & strobe can prove to be very effective in informing on-site staff that something has gone wrong. Many facilities have security personnel on site outside of office hours and they can inform whoever is on duty that something needs attention.

Sensors give you visibility

Environment monitors are able to detect and monitor a wide range of environmental conditions. Everything from temperature through smoke and airflow. The way the environment monitor is able to monitor the various environmental conditions is through using various differrent types of sensor.

Sensors can either be built into the environment monitor or they can be plugged into the environment monitor using a sensor cable and sensor connector. Each different manufacturer tends to use their own bespoke cable and connector to connect the sensor to their own environment monitor models.

AVTECH Software use either a RJ-11 connector for their digital sensors or a two wire speaker type cable for their switch sensors. AKCP on the other hand use RJ-45 connectors for all of their sensors.

Most environment monitors are able to detect what the sensor is when plugged in. This can save a lot of time, meaning that you can simply plug in a sensor and the environment monitor automatically detects what the sensor is able to measure and configures itself automatically.

Built-in vs external sensors

Some environment monitors are supplied with built-in sensors. The AVTECH Software Room Alert monitors are all supplied with built-in sensors. The lower and medium end monitors are supplied with built-in temperature sensors and the higher end with combined temperature & relative humidity and power presence. Other manufacturers like AKCP take a different approach. AKCP don't build in any sensors instead you need to plug-in external sensors to sense whatever environment conditions you wish to measure.

One of the problems with built-in sensors is that you may not be placing the environment monitor in the exact location where you wish to measure whatever the built-in sensors measure. In which case, you will need to plug-in an external sensor.

If you do wish to measure whatever the built-in sensor is measuring in the location where the environment monitor is located then you will likely have a very cost effective solution. You will save yourself the cost of an external sensor as well as one of sockets on the monitor you can use to measure something else.

Sensor types

There are two main types of sensors you can connect to your environment monitors.

The first is what most people likely think of when thinking about sensors. This type of sensor is called a digital sensor and reads a value and transmits it to the environment monitor. Temperature would be the most used sensor of this type. A temperature sensor reads a value within the measurement range of the sensor and the environment monitor then displays the current reading and may log the value for later retrieval.

The second tpe of sensor is either in an alert state or it is in a normal state. A dry contact is in one of two states. Whilst a dry contact sensor may well internally measure some environmental condition, it does not externalise the value for the environment monitor. Instead, it stays in a normal, non-alert state until such a time as it detects a value outside of the range it considers to be normal. For instance, a smoke sensor is either in a normal state ie it has not detected smoke or it is in an alarm state ie it has detected smoke.

Power over ethernet

Sometimes the location you wish to situate your environment monitor does not have a power socket available. Fortunately, a number of environment monitors support PoE or Power over Ethernet. Meaning you just need an ethernet socket with Power over Ethernet support and it can power your environment monitor without needing any further power supply. This can be very useful in locations that are very unlikely to have power sockets like in large warehouses.

Rack Environment Monitor

Most equipment in server rooms is installed within cabinets making it difficult to install equipment that does not fit into that form factor. Fortunately, many environment monitors are supplied with rack mount brackets so they can sit inside your cabinets along with all of your other equipment.

Wireless Environment Monitor

Not everywhere in your server room have the benefit of network access. For those locations that don't have access to your ethernet network, you can install Wi-Fi  based environment monitors. Wi-Fi environment monitors can be very useful outside of the server room too. 

Why an environment monitor through OPENXTRA?

OPENXTRA has been around for a long time. We have been supplying environment monitors to UK based businesses and around the world since 2003. In that time we've built up a huge amount of experience in finding solutions to our customers environmental monitoring needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Environment Monitor FAQ
Which environment monitors support a cellular modem?
All of the AKCP securityProbe monitors as well as the AKCP sensorProbe2+ and AKCP sensorProbeX+ can be fitted with an optional built-in cellular modem at order time. A built-in cellular modem cannot be...
What are encrypted SNMP traps?
When SNMP versions 1 and 2c were originally developed many years ago, SNMP did not include any ability to encrypt data contained within the SNMP datagrams or SNMP traps. Given that the data was never ...
What is the Heat Index?
The heat index is a measure of what the temperature feels like to a person experiencing the temperature in the shade with a light wind. The heat index takes into account the temperature and humidity levels...
What is Dew Point?
Dew point is the temperature to which air must be cooled to become saturated with water vapour. When further cooled, the airborne water vapour will condense to form liquid water. You must have a combined...
What is an environment monitor?
An environment monitor is a tool for monitoring environmental factors including logging the data over time and alerting when the data goes outside an expected range. Environment monitors come in many ...
What is a sensor?
Sensors are usually attached to an environment monitor in order for the environment monitor to log the data from the sensor. Each sensor type is designed to be capable of detecting a specific environmental...
What is Installation Verification Testing?
Installation verification testing is used to validate the environmental conditions that server room equipment is running within a cabinet. Moving existing equipment and installing new equipment can cause...
Categories: Environment Monitors Guides