'Server rooms at Mantralaya were not well-maintained'

Five days after a major fire devastated four of its seven floors, work resumed in Mantralaya yesterday. And even as investigations into the blaze revealed that the fire first broke out in the server room at the Mantralaya, IT experts told MiD DAY that the likelihood of a fire starting in a properly equipped server room is extremely rare.

Server rooms in the building are in a deplorable state, with their tangled wires and cables providing fodder for the rodent population of the building

Monojit Sengupta, head of information security at a services company, said, “Fires are considered among the top 10 reasons for data loss, with electrical fires being the main reason for blazes in data centres. Most centres are equipped with a sprinkler system and have fire extinguishers.

Additionally, a fire-resistant coating is also added on server hardware and many places also have systems that reduce the oxygen in that area to retard the acceleration of combustion. Unfortunately, the sprinkler system in Mantralaya failed, and personnel there were unable to operate the fire extinguishers.”

He added that the likelihood of a short circuit in the server room causing a fire of the proportion seen at the Mantralaya was miniscule, provided the requisite fire detection and prevention systems were in place.

Computer expert and NASSCOM member Vijay Mukhi said, “A server room is a place where a certain sanctity and discipline has to be maintained. Generally, one should not store anything else in a server room.” Mukhi added that a data centre generally comprised of bare circuit boards, wires and hard disks. “Unlike computers at home, these lack a protective casing and everything is exposed. Hard disks in particular generate a lot of heat. This is why one has to make sure that the server room is made of materials that are fire and heat resistant.”

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan announced that IT body NASSCOM, along with foreign agencies would be set with the task of recovering the data lost from computer hard disks damaged in the fire.

What’s wrong here?
We showed expert Monojit Sengupta a few photographs of the server rooms. These are his observations:
>> Spaghetti cabling: Too many wires tangled with one another, is a nightmare
>> UPS is placed next to network appliances and the servers, which is dangerous
>> Regular mousetrap placed in the room shows the problem of pests
>> Newspapers inside a server room, which is a strict no-no as they can catch fire easily
>> Wooden furniture that can burn easily in the case of fire
>> Water seepage near the ceiling shows improper maintenance

Dos and Don’ts
1) No food items, liquids should be taken inside a server room
2) No tobacco items
3) Paper, wood, matchboxes and easily combustibles should be kept away
4) Fire extinguishers to be checked periodically
5) HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and AirCon) units to have power supply separate from the machines and other network devices
6) Periodical testing of fire alarm systems
7) Maintaining visitor logs and CCTV monitoring of all users inside the server room
8) Pest control
9) Structured cabling
10) Temperature and humidity control systems to be checked regularly
11) Fire drill exercises 

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