Managing Your Computing Environment – CompTIA A+ 220-801: 5.2

It’s important to maintain a good working environment for yourself and your computing equipment. In this video, you’ll learn about material safety data sheets, temperature and humidity control, surge suppressing, using a UPS, airflow, and cleaning your computer.
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If you’re someone that works with the latest technology, you’ve got the fastest computer and the best printer, you know that it’s only going to be that way for a certain amount of time. Because tomorrow there will be a faster computer and there will be a better printer. And of course over time, we have to think about how we’re going to dispose of all of these pieces of technology.

In the United States we’ll refer to a document called the Material Safety Data Sheet. You may see this abbreviated as MSDS. This is a document that’s going to tell you everything you need to know, not only about the safety of using this equipment, but also how to properly dispose of it.

This process in the United States is managed by the Department of Labor, specifically the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is called OSHA. You can find information about the Material Safety Data Sheets and that process at and simply search for MSDS.

You can see why this disposal process is so important. Look at all of these different pieces of technology and these different chemicals and components we work with. All of them have different methods for disposal. There might be batteries that we work with, or laser jet toner, or solvents that we’re using to help troubleshoot and clean these devices that we are using. All of these have different methods and you’ll need to refer to the MSDS to see exactly the proper method you should be using to dispose of that particular device or that particular component.

Of course, this is not something that’s specific to the United States. We have to think about proper disposal wherever we might be in the world. So different countries might have different versions of these safety data sheets. Make sure you check with the government in your particular country to see exactly who manages this process and where you can get the versions of the MSDS or simply a safety data sheet for the devices you happen to own.

You can see why the MSDS becomes then so important. So as you are in your organization and you have a lot of computers and a lot of batteries and toner cartridges and inkjet cartridges, you’re going to need to know exactly what to do with those. So if you’re ever questioning anything about the disposal of these particular components, simply refer back to the website of the manufacturer or refer back to the documentation that came with these devices. You’ll certainly find inside of those, your Material Safety Data Sheet.

When we think about the environments that our computing devices are in, one thing we always have to keep in mind is the temperature. These computers and the servers that we use put off a lot of heat. So you have to make sure that you’re cooling the environment so that you don’t overheat any of those particular devices. Make sure that your cooling systems are in place and check the manufacturer’s documentation to be sure that the environment that you’re in is at exactly the right temperature.

Our electrical devices are also pretty sensitive to humidity. We don’t want the humidity to be very high. And if the humidity gets very low, we have the potential for a lot of electrostatic discharge. So you want to find some middle ground for the humidity, usually a 50% is a good place to start. But check the manufacturer’s documentation to see exactly what they recommend for the humidity in the room when you’re keeping these computers, these servers, and the other devices running optimally.

The ventilation of our computers is also a pretty big environmental concern. I will sometimes find a small or medium-sized office that needed somewhere to put a server, a UPS. They needed somewhere to put their networking equipment. So they simply found a closet and put everything inside of it.

We’re not talking about a closet designed for data center or computing equipment. We mean a closet. So there’s no ventilation inside whatsoever. There’s no the cooling of any of those systems. And unfortunately, you open the door and it’s nothing but heat inside of that closet.

Obviously, that’s not the optimal environment for batteries inside of a UPS, or your computing components, or your networking equipment. Check your manufacturer’s documentation for the temperature ranges that are appropriate for those devices and make sure those areas are well ventilated.

The power going into our computing systems is incredibly important. And we want to be sure that we have the cleanest power going into our PCs. You want to be sure that you have a surge suppressor that’s able to take a lot of the spikes and the surges coming over those electrical systems and even them out so that your computer is not subject to those. If you have a heating or cooling system or other devices that are directly plugged into power, then you know that there can be surges that occur. These power surge suppressors are going to help a lot to clean and level out those surges that you might happen to get.

If you do receive power spikes, these surge suppressors are very good at preventing those spikes from getting to your computer. They’ll simply take that excess power and divert it directly to the electrical ground.

Before power ever gets to the power supply of your computer, your surge suppressor is also going to filter out any line noise. That filtering capability is generally measured in decibels. You may see this abbreviated as Db. The higher the Db, the better filtering capability of the surge suppressor. So as you’re looking at the different specifications when you’re trying to buy exactly the right surge suppressor, you may want to make sure that the filtering capability is as high a Db as possible.

Units of energy is measured in joules. And if you’re concerned about the amount of surge that a particular surge suppressor is going to be able to handle, you’ll want to see what the specifications are for those joule ratings. 200 joules is usually a pretty good surge suppressor. 400 is better. And then anything over 600 is going to be able to handle a much higher level of surge coming through that connection.

The different computing devices that we use may require a different amount of amperage. We need to look at how much your computer might use. Maybe you have a laser printer, maybe there’s an inkjet printer, some type of external storage device, all of those combined together are going to use a certain number of amps. So as you are specifying the type of surge suppressor you’re going to need, make sure you get one that will be able to handle the load that you’re going to apply to it.

Underwriters Laboratory has a set of standards that they apply to surge suppressors. That is the UL 1449 standards. And there is a voltage let-through rating that tells you exactly how much voltage might be let through a surge suppressor.

There are ratings there for 500, 400, 330 volts. And of course you want to be sure that you find a surge suppressor that is going to suppress as much as possible. So the lower amount of let-through voltage that you can find, the better that surge suppressor is going to be.

If you suffer from a lot of power outages, you might want to look into something like a UPS. That stands for Uninterruptable Power Supply. That way if you happen to lose power from your main power source, the batteries inside of the UPS will make sure that all of your equipment continues to run. So this will protect you if you have brownouts or blackouts or any situation where the power is not going to be at the proper voltage for your equipment.

You’ll generally run into three different kinds of UPS. One is the standby UPS. This is one that is always using the power from your primary power source, unless that disappears. There’s always batteries inside of the UPS that are standing by and waiting for any type of outage. And there is an outage, your UPS will switch over to battery power.

There’s usually some type of delay associated with that. Even though it’s very short, you’ll sometimes find equipment that can’t handle the time involved for the switch over from the primary power source to the backup batteries.

Because of that, you’ll often find line-interactive UPSs. This is not a standby UPS. But it is able to slowly move over to battery power if the line begins losing power, browning out, or having any type of problem. That way the impact to your end-user equipment isn’t quite as dramatic from shifting from an online state over to the batteries.

If you’re running in a data center or you’re using some equipment that’s very sensitive to power changes, then you might want to invest in an on-line UPS. This is a UPS that’s providing power from both the power source and the battery simultaneously. That way when there is an outage on the main power line, you don’t have a delay switching over to those batteries. They are immediately available to you. And your devices have no idea that anything changed with its power source.

There’s many different options for enhanced capabilities of UPSs. Yours might have the capability for instance of an automatic shut down, where you connect the UPS directly to your computer systems via a serial connection or a USB connection. And if you lose primary power and the batteries get low, that UPS can tell your computers to shut down so that you don’t lose any data. There might also be differences in the capacity of the batteries or the number of outlets on the UPS itself. You have to look at the specifications for each model and make sure that you’re getting a UPS that fits perfectly for the applications you have.

Not only is power important to our computers, but the air is important as well. We want to be sure that we are able to keep the computer as cool as possible and that we have a very good air flow going through our computer systems. If we have any problem getting air into our computers or out of our computers, then that computer will very rapidly overheat.

Another concern you might have is the quality of the air that’s going into your computer. This usually isn’t a problem if you’re in a typical office environment. But if you’re working on something like a manufacturing floor, you have to be very careful about contaminants that might be in the air or smoke that might be able to get into your computer. In those cases, you may want to use additional filters on your computer or protective cases or just make sure that you’re constantly maintaining that computer to keep it running at peak efficiency.

If you need to clean outside or inside of your computer or printer, you want to use a detergent that is very neutral. You don’t want to use anything with ammonia inside of it. You want to be very careful about avoiding things like isopropyl alcohol or anything that is a solvent from going on the outside or inside of those devices. The plastics and the components that are inside of our computers and printers aren’t designed to withstand those solvents. Generally, a damp cloth does everything you need to be able to clean the outside and the inside of these devices.

Although it may seem that a vacuum cleaner would be a good choice for cleaning out the inside of a computer or the inside of a printer, it may not be the best course of action. That’s because as you are sucking up all of that dust, it is creating static electricity on those plastic nozzles that you’re using. And you could potentially touch a device inside of your computer and discharge that static electricity. If you must use a vacuum, make sure that is a vacuum that is designed to be used inside of computer systems.

Using compressed air in a can might be good for small jobs. But you want to be sure that you’re getting a type of compressed air that is safe for the environment. And you want to be sure that you’re not just blowing dust around, that you actually are removing that dust from the device.