Receiving your purchased goods can be as easy as signing for a small box at the door or as difficult as transporting fifty 85-pound 36x48x24-inch boxes upstairs in your undersized freight elevator, then arranging for the secure storage of that million dollars' worth of equipment. Receiving might seem like a simple job, but it's so critical to a business's daily operations that many larger companies have their own receiving departments to handle all the details.
One of the problems with larger shipments is accounting for everything that's been delivered. Lost or missing merchandise can cause massive headaches, and it's hard to blame the vendor or shipping agent if you didn't take the time to account for everything as it came in the door.
The easiest way to do this is to simply make a copy of your purchase order and check things off as they arrive. Remove the packing slips from the boxes and compare them to the purchase order, noting anything that is missing. Then examine the contents of the shipment and check off everything that was delivered. If there are any inconsistencies between your purchase order, the packing slip, and the shipment, call your vendor immediately to resolve the problem.
Verifying Multiple Shipments
Some orders are delivered in two or more shipments due to order size, warehouse location, or product availability. Coordinate the order verification by keeping every packing slip and examining every shipment so you know when you have received everything you paid for.
With larger orders, chances are you won't receive all of your equipment at the same time. You may get servers one day, tape drives the next, and cables two weeks later. While you're waiting for everything to arrive, you need a safe place to store the things you've already received. Network system components are expensive, business-critical equipment and goods, and can't be stowed away in hallways, empty offices, and closets. You should do your best to arrange for secure, temperature-controlled storage for your equipment while it's waiting to be deployed.
Your production data center or a small data center you maintain in your office building are great places to store your equipment. You have easy and frequent access to these areas, they're secure from curious hands and eyes, and your equipment won't be exposed to extreme temperature changes. Wherever you store your equipment, make sure the boxes don't impede access to high traffic areas or other equipment. You don't want the stored equipment to be shifted and shoved about frequently.
Keeping It Safe
The area you choose for storage of data center equipment should have a locking door, and you should know specifically who in your organization has access to the area. You and your organization have a lot of time, money, and effort invested in the equipment, andas system administratorit's your responsibility to ensure that it's secure.
Label All Boxes
Label any boxes that do not provide a list of what they contain. This practice is especially important for generic boxes containing multiple components. For example, a vendor might ship cables and adapters in the same unlabeled box to save on shipping costs, and it can be easy to lose this box in storage.
Most hardware manufacturers ship their equipment in trucks and trailers that are not climate-controlled. When the hardware arrives at your data center, it might be much hotter or colder than the temperature inside, and these dramatic temperature changes can lead to condensation forming on and within your hardware. In fact, when your servers are delivered into your building in the dead of winter, condensation forms almost immediately inside the hardware, which can seriously damage your equipment.
In addition, hardware that experiences large changes in ambient temperature can contract or expand slightly, in an action called thermal stress. Thermal stress is a leading cause of electronic component failure; it adversely affects precision mechanical hardware such as disk drives, tapes, and CD-ROM drives.
Thermal Stress in Everyday Operations
A more common form of thermal stress comes from the repeated powering on and off of computer hardware. If you turn your desktop workstation off every night and on again the next morning, you may be saving a small amount of electricity, but the repeated heating and cooling of the workstation components causes thermal stress and decreases the life of the components.
All hardware, when coming in from temperatures that differ from the temperature of your data center, should be allowed time to acclimate to its new environment before being powered on. Let the equipment sit in its final environment until its components reach room temperature and any condensation has had time to evaporate. It is best to leave equipment in its original packing during this time, in order to minimize sudden environmental changes. The amount of time required for this acclimation depends on the temperature differential between the two environments, but 12 hours is usually enough time for the adjustment.
Manufacturers are aware of the problems of condensation and thermal stress, but few of them provide documentation to help you deal with these issues. Sun actually provides an acclimation guide for disk drives, as summarized in Figure 3.1. The data should translate to other types of hardware as well.
Figure 3.1 This graph shows recommended acclimation times for a Sun disk drive versus temperature differential.