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I once had a job offer from a company that wanted my workstation to be in the AC controlled, noisy server room with no natural light. I'm not sure what their motivation was. Possibly it made sense to them for me to be close to the servers, or possibly they wanted to save the desk space for other employees.

I turned down the job (for many reasons, including the working environment).

Is this a common practice? Do you work in your LAN room? How do you cope?

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closed as off topic by Sam Feb 6 '12 at 13:24

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20 Answers

up vote 46 down vote accepted

Do you work in your server room?

Generally no, although in some companies with only 2-3 servers, yes - my office was the server room.

Is this a common practice?

For small companies and technology startups, yes - space is an issue.

How do you cope?

I make a business case against it, security, cost, etc. If that doesn't work, I bring a sound level meter and the OSHA guidelines, and show them that they are providing an unsafe work environment. This would require them to perform monitoring and sound control, supply affected employees with proper equipment for such a working environment, hold occasional training on sound exposure, etc, etc, etc. The cost would be much greater to support than providing a work area outside the server room.

At what point do you suffer hearing loss?

If you can't hold a conversation at a normal level in the server room (about 60db) then it's likely too loud to work in for 8 hours a day. Extended exposure to high sound levels leads to hearing loss, and the employer would be liable for this if they did not proactively follow the OSHA guidelines.

Of course, by that time you've already lost something valuable, so it's in your best interest to protect yourself by demanding an appropriate working environment.

-Adam

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About 12 years ago I employed four people to work inside our data center, they all left within a year. I simply hadn't considered their working environment and would never expect people to have to do that again. To me if an employer asked that I'd take that as an alarm that they don't value their staff and that you'd be likely to see other disrespectful policies if you worked there.

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When we were a small company with one rack, yes - but we knew it was temporary. At some point, the noise grew to an annoying level, and we moved the admin team elsewhere and remodeled our server room properly.

I couldn't imagine being in there today. Carrying on a phone conversation when I'm changing out hardware is nearly impossible due to the background noise.

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I work in my server room. We have 14 servers, plus a phone-switch, 2 barracudas and other equipment. The level of noise is too much. Every half-hour to hour I have to get out of the room for a good ten minutes. We are working towards virtualizing most of the servers, but still no one should have to work in the "server room"

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Come on! This is not good for mental and physical health. Ask your boss for a proper office! –  SamK Jul 26 '11 at 15:19
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I think for very small operations it may be common, however once you get above 2 or 3 servers, it's not practical or advisable at all.

We only have a single cabinet and a rack of switches, yet the noise is too great to work comfortably, and the temperature is too cool for office work. However, we are right beside the server room, and the door has a 3x3 window to give a quick look at status lights.

I don't really see any advantage of being close to the servers, as everything should be monitored by software with automatic notification in the event of problems.

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I agree with the above comments, and would be concerned that a possible employer was too short on funds to set up a proper server room, or they just don't care. If you are not already there and bring up OSHA, I think most employers would just not hire you.

Working in a loud, noise filled room sucks - I've had to do it as a consultant and you take every chance to move outside the room.

Now .. if you were being paid BIG bucks to do a job that required it - say working in a CoLo where you had to be servicing customer racks all day, it might be worth it. But I'd get a good pair of noise canceling headphones if possible..

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Noise-cancelling headphones are definitely worth it, even if you only need to be in the room for a few hours. I worked at a desk just outside a server room (hundreds of machines) door -- I sometimes wore the headphones just sitting at my desk. Save your hearing. –  Zac Thompson May 12 '09 at 18:33
    
Actually, some NC headphones make the problem worse, as they work by phase shifting the ambient noise back at you, so in some circumstances, you can still get hearing damage. –  Tom O'Connor Apr 6 '10 at 10:45
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Years ago, we used to have to spend several hours a day working in the "machine room" with the mainframes and mini's loading and unloading tapes and waging war with the line printers.

When those line printers got cranking they were really deafening!

But I don't remember it being unbearable and we retreated to the tape store for a cup-a-tea and read of the newspaper when we got tired of the noise.

Being in the server room during the summer had it's advantages with the A/C!

Nowadays I would not be happy to stay in one of our server rooms for more than 30 mins. Servers are much noisier now, and more densely packed in.

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I highly recommend the following hi-tech earplugs sold on Amazon: Etymotic Research ER20. The 3 chambered silicon rubber plugs don't muffle sound like foam ear plugs and they don't look obvious, yet they reduce overall noise by about 20db. You can still hear yourself talk. Hearos makes the same style and a smaller size for women as well as the standard and large size.

The constant droning sound from server rack fans can cause intermittent ringing over time.

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Some SA types like to "work" in the server room because it keeps them out of sight. It's bad for the employee and usually bad for the company.

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In a startup I've worked in "the server room", but it was actually a regular room in a regular office. And as it was start-up, servers where big-towers, not 19" rack.

Friend of mine was working in a server room like you describe. Because of temperature changes between server room and the rest of the office, and air in server rooms is kept extremely dry, he had chronic sore throat, and he would get infected by flu very often

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I work at a company where the "Computer Room" that was basically a mainframe and dumb terminals back in the day, has become a server room with 10 server racks, ups system, air conditioner, Mainframe, 7 monitors, 10 console pcs (some used as servers themselves) all inside a room that has no windows and just two doors. I am noticing and even my family are noticing the effects of my hearing difficulty, as I am under 30 and this is not hereditary in my family. I am asking the company to perform a sound test inside the "computer room" to determine if we should be provided hearing protection as stated by OSHA...

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I have never heard anything so absurd! Seriously? Wow... it boggles my mind.

No way, that would not be acceptable on any level in the world that I know even in a one-person startup, but, work environment guidelines differ from nation to nation I suppose.

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You'd be fined by the goverment in Norway for doing something like this, its considered to be a unacceptable working enviroment.

I wouldnt force my technicians to have their office in a sewer pipe if I ran a sewer company.

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I used to work in a local school as a technician, it was the hub for all the surrounding area, so the amount of hardware in there had grown exponentially since the original server room was built. I definitely began to suffer from temporary hearing loss after a full day working in there - it would be about 4 hours before my hearing came back to normal.

Eventually I contacted the schools health and safety officer, and an external consultancy came in to perform tests and the room was not only deemed unsafe for work but was classed as a confined space due to the amount of equipment in there. So this summer the entire server room is being moved to another location on site.

I would just bear it by listening to music during my work day with headphones. It somewhat dampened the noise and give me some entertainment while I was at it.

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It was for us when I started, but then we moved a few summers ago. We are a university support area for a particular school. Hence, old building and new servers == sharing the space. I just developed a habit for wearing my coat everywhere.

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In college I had a job where I worked in the server room. It was VERY loud as it was one of those huge old Compaq servers with like 10 old drives. I don't think it is standard practice at all, though I have heard of other people (usually college intern types) in the same situation.

Another company I worked at put like 6 consultants in the server area, in what came to be known as the "Software Developer Overflow Area". There were crammed in at one folding table-type desk that had servers stuffed underneath it.

So basically, unless you're a consultant or a college student, probably not something you should have to put up with. :)

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I had to temporarily while new offices were being built. That was back when our server count was much smaller and we had big servers with big quiet fan. Even than it was very irritating and hard to work. Nowadays with the insanely loud 1u servers, I can't imagine anyone doing it for more than a couple days!

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I did for the first year at my current job. At the time, there were ~4 servers, which doesn't seem like a lot, but because the room was so small it was incredibly noisy and hot. There is absolutly no way I could work in that same room now, as we have ~12 servers, the room is half the size it was originally, and the heat unberable long-term (for humans).

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Once in a while when getting new servers ready we have them running in the office. They're not even in my office, but I regret every time that they're not in the server room for the install if they end up running for more than the 30 minutes the kickstart and basic sanity tests take.

If it's louder than a laptop it's a waste of money to have the noise in the same space as your employees.

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How do you figure it's a waste of money? –  John Gardeniers Aug 17 '10 at 2:28
    
While office space and hardware is expensive, people are much much more expensive. For us people are something like 90% of the budget; so losing 10% productivity because it's too noisy to think is a small disaster. –  Ask Bjørn Hansen Sep 27 '10 at 10:57
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I'm personally working in my server room. 3 HP Tower ML-Serie + 2 smalls server for VPN, routing and things like that. Worst, I'm working in a school and my Office/server room had a computer lab on one side and a student class in my back with not very sound isolated wall, so is very noisy and impossible to concentrate most of the time.

I must take a break every hours to stay productive, and when students are noisy is even worse.

At least I got a window A/C...

But I agree when you said, that:

  • Constant heavy server sound doesn't help to the concentration and make people tired faster
  • The organization of the office is crucial
  • Day/natural light is very suitable (at least I got a big window at my desk...)

I hope to have my own office away from server soon... I'm talking about it with my boss.

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