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Physical Installation Standards for Small Installations

Physical standards for small installations address such "common sense" items as routine housekeeping, which should apply to any good equipment installation. One item in this category would be physical access to equipment rooms.

We’ve heard many stories about how allowing unauthorized users into equipment rooms has wreaked havoc with users of technical systems. One story involves a drywall contractor doing a job for a company on a weekend. After completing the drywall job, the contractor used the connecting blocks on the telecommunication equipment located in the janitor’s closet to clean the drywall mud off the trowels. The result was an extended outage the following morning, after the drywall contractor was long gone. I heard about another experience from a professional I met at a seminar. She came in one evening to help clear up a problem, her young son in tow, and afterward was talking with her boss in the computer room. As the two adults chatted, neither noticed that the "off" switch for the main UPS was situated about two feet from the floor, right at eye level for the four-year-old. I’ll let your imagination fill in the rest of this story.

How many small telecommunications installations does your company have inside or co-located with the janitor’s closet? Surprisingly, this setup is prevalent within companies, and a cause for concern when unauthorized or uneducated people have access to technical equipment. As a rule, equipment should be installed in a location other than a janitor’s or custodial closet, and it should be secured and locked to prevent access to anyone other than authorized persons.

A second issue to consider in basic physical standards is housekeeping. A no-smoking policy should be strongly encouraged within the equipment room, for example.

Other considerations should include standards for fire extinguishers of the appropriate type(s), and posting of instructions for use of the extinguishers. Reasonable precautions should be taken to ensure that the temperature of the room conforms to manufacturer’s specifications for the equipment, and that the room doesn’t get unduly hot or cold. Also, power to the unit within the equipment room should conform to manufacturer’s specifications, in terms of spikes, sags, brownouts, blackouts, and type of power.

The general condition of the room should also be evaluated, in terms of whether the room is too damp or too dusty.

It’s generally relatively easy to devise a set of standards for non–mission-critical equipment in small installations. Your standard should say something like this:

The company bought this equipment, the shareholders paid for this equipment, and it’s our responsibility not to let the equipment be stolen, broken, wet, or otherwise incapacitated.

In reality, except for the possible exception of a maintenance contract, little needs to be done to protect non–mission-critical small installations, unless the equipment supports a truly mission-critical function. As a general rule, equipment for large installations has a tendency to be mission-critical because it supports many more users—thus making a failure more costly to the organization. This issue is discussed next.

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