Rfi Interference

RFI Interference in Data Centers: Problems and Solutions

15th February 2024 | 4 Views

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Data centers are the lifeblood of all modern businesses, be they operate online or offline. Every business generates and needs to process a lot of data for ongoing improvement in both their sales and operational processes. Further, a lot of tax and regulatory matters are also now handled online and thus companies need to operate on public or private clouds which need to be hardened and protected against malicious activities and incidental events.

One big concern for any data center is RFI radio frequency interference. Equipment in a data center can be vulnerable to a number of sources of RF noise and interference. If proper protection is not taken, RFI interference can create different problems ranging from communication slowdowns to data corruption or loss and even complete equipment failure. 

Common Sources causing RFI in Data Centers

There are a number of sources which can cause radio frequency interference in data centers. The most common cause is power lines and electrical connections, especially the high tension connections coming from the utility companies. Fluctuations and disturbances in the power supply, as well as the presence of harmonics in electrical systems, can lead to RFI in data center environments. Similarly, there are a number of cases where different electronic equipment with the data centers can cause RFI radio frequency interference.

These can either be end user wireless communication devices like  Wi-Fi routers, mobile phones, and Bluetooth devices, and even pagers and wireless communication radio sets which are being used on the data center premises by the staff. The other can be older data center equipment like servers, routers and other networking devices where RF shielding may have degraded or not be present in the first place. Apart from this, other external sources can also cause RFI interference. This includes TV broadcasts in the area as well as radio stations. Military or civilian radar systems active around the data centers can also cause radio frequency related problems. 

Common Problems caused by RFI in Data Centers

Errant radio frequency can cause a number of problems in the data centers. These can be anywhere from slowdown of data flows to massive data corruption, device failure and in extreme cases even large scale information security breaches. Generally the problems will manifest in the form of impact on data transmission. Users will encounter a lot of communication errors as well as slowdowns in any uploading or downloading of data. If things are not controlled. 

RFI interference can cause malfunctions in servers and data storage drives. This may manifest in terms of overheating in devices as well as servers randomly shutting down. Hard disk storage is much more at risk of data loss from RF, because of electromagnetic effects, though modern solid state drives may also be impacted. Over time this may lead to frequent failure of expensive equipment. Even data in transit can get corrupted. 

Management of RF Interference in Data Centers

Different measures and steps can be taken to manage the flow and impact of RF interference in a data center. First of all, all the electric lines in the data center must be laid in a well planned manner and must be shielded as well as grounded properly. Electric current that is flowing in ways that it is not supposed to, is going to amplify problems and thus needs to be kept in check. Cables should have ferrite cores.

The equipment should be mounted on stands and frames which have undergone conductive coating with physical vapor deposition. Protective shields and inserts can be a good way to block RFI radio frequency interference. These are simple and cheap to deploy, they do not cost too much and need no special preparation to install or uninstall as well. Frequency planning is a very important thing as well as ensuring staff’s usage of end user wireless communication in the vicinity of main server farms. 

John Scott



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