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I live in Minnesota, and I have an unheated, detached garage. I would like to place an "offsite" data backup device (possibly a NAS) in the garage, which I should be easily able to connect to the wireless network in the house (in case of fire, burgling, etc).

My biggest concern is the cold in the winter; I understand most computer equipment has a published operating range down to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and I expect it to be, at times, up to 60-70 degrees colder than that during the winter. I'm slightly concerned with the heat in the summer, though days where the temperature in such a garage would be too hot for a computer would be few. I'm also somewhat concerned about the physical security of the equipment.

I'm interested in building or buying some sort of a modest-sized, climate-controlled enclosure in which I could put a computer and/or NAS, that would ideally provide:

  • a safe operating temperature for the equipment, but in an energy efficient way (keep the temperature just warm enough and/or just cool enough to not put undo stress on the enclosed gear)
  • ventilation for the equipment; I'm not completely certain, but I don't think a sealed / airtight enclosure would be good for a computer-like thing
  • some degree of physical security for the enclosed equipment (in case of garage break-in)
  • not interfere with the wireless network unduly (it does need to attach to the network to serve its function)

I've googled a bit, but I haven't found anything along these lines either for sale or as a hobbiest project. Maybe it's out there and I haven't stumbled upon the right search terms.

Can anyone offer advice / suggestions on some sort of enclosure that fits the bill?

Thanks!

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In MN, the summer humidity is likely an issue as well. Have you considered off-siting it either via a service ala Carbonite, or via co-location? –  DA01 Dec 5 '11 at 14:57
    
True off-siting is always an option, but I'm wanting to keep backed up / sync'd hundreds of gigabytes to a few terabytes of data (a media library + whatever), and further offsite than my LAN is going to be way more expensive in terms of bandwidth and co-lo costs. –  Matt Anderson Dec 5 '11 at 15:24

3 Answers 3

First off, as long as the temps stay in range, I don't think you'll have a problem with an 'air-tight' container. The only reason computer equipment needs airflow is because it's dumping heat into that air. As long as you have a little bit of air, and can keep it at an acceptable temp, low airflow won't be a problem. You can't go zero airflow because the equipment in question isn't built to heatsink to it's case.

Off had the first thing that occurs to me is a 'garage fridge'(something like this: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001B2P2G8/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=3788940351&ref=pd_sl_6z7wf02xh3_b)

The thing includes a heater system to keep it's refrigerated section from freezing in cold temps.

That's really more than you need though, because it's going to try to keep stuff cold when you really only need it to keep stuff room temp. It's going for a much narrower temp range than you'll care about.

If I were going to try this, I'd get an old fridge (doesn't have to work), and build my own controls (some kind of micro-controller) - I'd cut some kind of vents with controllable louvers and fans into the top and side. And some kind of heating system (really small space header? dunno). I'd add in a temp sensor, and turn the heater on when things get too cold, and the fans on (with louvers open) when things get too hot. If the temp gets out of range, cut power to the device in question.

If you want it to deal with hot days as well, then get a fridge that WORKS, and put the chillers it into the mix as well - if things get hot enough that the fans aren't doing it, cut them, close the louvers and hit the chillers.

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There are any number of companies selling HVAC Cabinets, such as this one - many of these are secured to high level and can be bolted to the floor.

Some even have full fire suppressant kits fitted, if you require that level of protection.

I'm not sure what your price expectations are, but I think if your data is valuable, this will be the way to do it, rather than create something which may fail.

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Good to know about, and "HVAC" just entered my google search term vocabulary on this topic. But I've discussed adding an insulated "closet" (conventional, 2x4s / insulation / sheetrock, etc) and my quote on that was considerably less than the linked-to HVAC server racks. I'm thinking about deploying a single pro-sumer NAS device or the like out there, probably not a rack's worth of server equipment. Thanks for the suggestion though. –  Matt Anderson Feb 15 '12 at 15:23

I'm looking at doing the same thing...putting a file server in my detached garage. If the computer is always running, there should be no problems at all. Cold, dry air is actually the optimal environment for computers. In my case, one potential problem is during the spring warm-up. If I leave the door open too long, the warm (wet) springtime air gets into the shop and condenses on the colder concrete, tools, etc. That could be a show-stopper, but I'm guessing that the warmer components in a running computer will prevent condensation. If you're not comfortable with this, I would take the other poster's advice about using an old fridge, with a few modifications.

I would get a used dorm-style fridge (working) and build a PC inside of it. Mount the motherboard, power supply and drives to the inside walls, away from the cold (and sometimes frosty) 'freezer' area. Drill a hole in the side of the thing and run spare power, USB, and monitor cords to the outside and then caulk around them. Then I would set the fridge's thermostat to the warmest setting and fire it up. This would keep it air-tight (dry) and temperature controlled (~50°F) all year-round. The only down side would be the cost of running the fridge and the metal shell might not be good for the wireless signal. A WiFi USB dongle outside of the fridge would solve this.

I would think this would be much easier than the fan, louvers, heater, and micro-controller mentioned above.

UPDATE: After a quick Google check, it turns out that doing this will cause the fridge's compressor to run much more than it was designed to, resulting in a short life. Too Bad.

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