To understand Environmental Physical Control, we need to understand how your HVAC system affects your computing environment. HVAC stands for three words: Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. Your HVAC system controls various environmental factors that must be monitored to ensure that your computing equipment operates effectively.

Temperature: Between 21 and 23 degrees Celsius (70 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit) is the general optimal temperature range for computing equipment to operate.

Humidity: The best relative humidity for computer equipment operation is from 45% to 55% because an environment too humid can cause corrosion.  On the other hand, environments too dry can cause static damage. A static charge of above 20,000 volts is potentially harmful to a system.

Pressurization and Ventiliation: Positive pressurization and ventilation must be maintained in order to keep contaminants from entering the facility. Airborne particulates should be kept at appropriate levels since dust and other contaminants can impact computer hardware operation.

According to Keranen E. (2006), dust particles can contain moisture, organic material such as carbon and various minerals, and/or various chemicals. All of these can affect the reliability and life span of computing equipment.

Integrated circuits (ICs) can suffer from overheating due to the insulating effect of dust as well as suffer from electrical shorts caused by dust across their contacts. The most susceptible ICs are those having a metal lid acting as a heatsink cooling surface. To prevent overheating and failure, this metal surface and heatsink need to be essentially dust-free. Dust acts like an insulating blanket, preventing proper convection cooling.” 1— E. Keranen (2006) Effects of dust on Computer Electronics and Mitigating Approaches.

In addition to dust, an excess concentration of certain gasses such as ammonia can speed up corrosion inside the electronic components of the system, leading to malfunction.

Some devices such as printers should be located outside of the computing facility. A printer’s toner could generate carbon particles, which are moisture absorbent and combustible, threatening the computing equipment’s security.

Of course, non-smoking policies should be enforced within critical computing facilities in order to reduce fire hazards as well as minimize the pollutants related to smoking.

1 Keranen E. (2006) Effects of dust on Computer Electronics and Mitigating Approaches. [Internet]. Computer Dust Solutions, Available from.
[Accessed 17 March 2008].

Tags: Environmental Controls, Environmental Physical Controls, Pollution