Why Should You Shield Your Data Center Against EMI?

EMI Shielding

Data centers are an ever growing part of the business world. They are responsible for housing almost the entire digital infrastructure of a company. On their zeal to build that perfect data center, engineers take so many aspects into account. However, the issues relating to electromagnetic interference (EMI) is often ignored when designing a data center. EMI, though invisible, can pose the most dreadful challenges to a facility, jeopardizing the health of servers that are housed in it. This article discusses the reasons why embracing proper EMI shielding is essential for the well-being of your data center.

How Data Centers Get Exposed to EMI

Regular data center equipment like high power lines, transformers, UPS, and high voltage switch gears generate and emit Electromagnetic frequencies in huge amount. Therefore, for all data centers, their own internal equipment sets are the greatest sources of electromagnetic radiation. The problem is, most of these sources remain hidden in the building — some are buried deep inside walls while some are installed behind doors that no one can access. Some data centers get exposed to EMI radiation because of their locations. For example, servers and network equipment are likely to be damaged more severely if data centers are located close to electrical railway tracks, airports, or telecommunication towers. Some everyday items like cellphones and fluorescent lights also produce EMI on a small scale. With sources for EMI remaining mostly undetected, unsuspecting owners do not take any measure whatsoever to protect these building from the onslaught of these harmful energy waves. But for any data center, the failure to curb EMI may prove to be counter-productive in the long run. An uncontrolled electromagnetic field (EMF) will have disastrous effects on all the hardware in your data center — servers, CRT screens, and cables. The consequence may vary from jittery monitor screens to inexplicable failures.

How EMI Affects Data Center Cables and Hardware

Located in close proximity to strong EMFs, data center cables get exposed to unwanted current and may experience a surge in voltage. This high-voltage current then creates the electrical ‘noise’ that, in turn, affects the voice and data applications that the cabling is designed to support. Because of the EMI, remote receivers also fail to detect data packets efficiently, resulting in packet re-transmissions, and ultimately network congestion. In the case of analog voice communication, EMI creates psophometric noise which results in a significant deterioration in the transmission quality.

Effects on Hardware

Low-frequency EMI can take a serious toll on the performance of data center hardware. It can be as bad as the complete wipe out of a hard disk.

EMF Attacks

EMF can be used to disable data centers. It is, in fact, the oldest trick of launching a debilitating assault on an important facility. Saboteurs often take this route because it allows them to paralyze a data center without entering the facility. There are three ways to attack data centers through EMI:

· Stealing of information from databases handled by servers kept at these centers — a task which can easily be accomplished by tapping telecommunication equipment like terminals that emit weak electromagnetic signals.

· Attacking a data center directly by making it exposed to high-power electromagnetic waves.

· Producing a crash by exposing a center to high-power electromagnetics (HPEM).

Given their vulnerability to electromagnetic radiation and malicious EMI attacks, investing in suitable electromagnetic interference shielding solutions has become imperative for data centers. Shielded data centers act as a counter measure against the EMI-induced performance and security problems. Therefore, engineers should treat it as the crucial first step while designing a new data center building. Integrating EMI solutions at the very design phase will save a lot of hassles later on.