The more you depend on technology, the more important it is that your systems stay up and running. Recently, in this column, I talked about safeguarding your data with a basic maintenance and backup routine, but what about protecting the equipment itself?

Keep the power on: Power outages, brownouts, and surges all do damage and shorten equipment life. Protect all stationary equipment with a good-quality UPS (uninterruptible power supply, and prevent accidental disconnects by retrofitting anything that can get in the way of the vacuum cleaner (or the office klutz) with lock-out plugs. Install whole-building surge protectors in your electrical panel, and if you're in an area where the power goes out a lot, consider an automatic generator (

Rack 'em up: For your network, standard 19-inch rack-mounted gear makes for a neat, easily secured, and easily relocated (when necessary) installation. But even tower-type servers and consumer-grade networking gear can be stored in a locking rack/cabinet by using bolt-in shelving and Velcro. A good source of used and reconditioned racks is DSI Enterprises (

Another alternative is to dedicate a coat closet to be your “network room” — but clear out anything flammable and put a lock on the door.

Keep it cool: Heat is the enemy. If you're too hot, so are your computers. Let field offices and work trucks cool down before turning on the gear, and keep network gear housed somewhere with its own ventilation and HVAC controls.

If it looks good, it will work well: One of my mentors in the mechanical trades used to tell me this all the time, and the same thing holds true for your technology setup. There's nothing worse than tearing everything apart only to find that a cable in your tangle of spaghetti came unplugged. Label everything, bundle your cabling with nylon and Velcro tie wraps to keep it organized and out of the way of controls, patch bays, indicator lights, and access panels. — Joe Stoddard is a technology/process consultant to the building industry. Reach him at