Server racks without network connection and other unbelievable cases from the real world – worst practices in IT infrastructure management

By: Matthias Gromann 

In many companies, IT infrastructure managers believe that their IT systems are in great shape: properly documented, secure, and up to date. But appearances are deceptive. During implementation projects it is not uncommon for us to come across inconsistencies, errors, or gaps in existing IT documentations. This is not surprising, because if an inadequate tool is used, it is difficult if not impossible to ensure high quality documentation. In addition, in many companies, documentation is not integrated into daily processes. This is because IT managers find it difficult and time-consuming so push it to the bottom of the priority list. 

But the lack of an overall view of the IT infrastructure can have serious consequences. During one implementation project, for example, we encountered an IT manager who was surprised by the high power consumption of the air conditioning system – a short time later, the data center was even on fire. We also frequently discover server racks with numerous cables but without any network connection at all.  

Professional IT documentation is not only a lifesaver in the event of errors and failures, it also protects companies from unnecessary investments caused by a lack of knowledge. Moreover, it helps to avoid the kind of emergencies that can quickly jeopardize a company’s existence. This is illustrated by the following two examples, which we have encountered in different real-world companies. 

Server under load but without connection 

Racks with many flashing servers and switches indicate activity and high computing power. What the server is called and what tasks it is currently performing, however, are rarely known by observers. 

This was also the case for a company in the automotive industry. In the course of implementing FNT Command, we helped the company to completely map its data center. During the process, we came across a packed server rack with network cables coming out of it, but they were not connected to anything. There was a vague recollection that the rack had been installed five years ago, but there was no documentation. 

The damage: €5,000 per year in electricity costs for pointless idling. On top of that, there are costs for occupying the rack and the load on the air conditioning system. To compensate for the missing computing power, other hardware was probably procured, which again increased costs. 

Our experience shows that orphaned servers are not uncommon. However, without complete and accurate documentation, it is difficult to identify them and shut them down. 

Expensive equipment forgotten in the basement 

Most companies have documented their IT, but this documentation is often outdated and does not reflect the current state. This is especially true for devices that are rarely in use. These are often put away without being documented, or they break down and are disposed of. In these cases, looking at the records is of little help as the documentation is incomplete. 

This is something we observed during an implementation project at a large company. In order to record all devices and cable connections, we entered every room, even those that did not seem relevant for the purpose of documentation. At this company, we found a plotter printer worth €25,000 in such a room, which had been missing for a long time. 

If the location of such equipment is not recorded, employees can waste significant amounts of time looking for it – often unsuccessfully. The search results in non-productive time that does not show up in any statistics and causes a lot of stress. In the worst case, a new device is even purchased. 

Conclusion: no transparency without IT documentation 

These two examples show that the lack of accurate documentation of the IT infrastructure can have serious consequences. For this reason, it makes sense to completely record the entire equipment  and to rely on professional partners such as FNT to do so. They know where to look and where the IT bodies are usually buried. This ensures that all buildings, rooms, and devices are documented and that the greatest possible benefit can be derived from the documentation. 

Recommended reading: 

We have many more unbelievable and eye-opening examples that illustrate the consequences of failure to properly document IT. We have compiled them in the white paper Cable Salad as a 3-Course Meal: Worst Practices from the Real World of IT Infrastructure Management. These real-life examples show what can go wrong in IT infrastructure management and – more importantly – how you can do it better. Download now!