IT lessons learned: Managing your house like your data center

Technologies that manage your home are now part of the consumer market, so you can bring lessons from the data center into your 'smart' house.

Mobile devices, tablets, laptops  and many other technologies fall into the consumer space, but now we need to start to include your house. With the introduction of many advanced home automation technologies, you can manage your home from a technology perspective.

The smart home has been a novelty since X10 was developed in 1975 by Pico Electronics. In the mid 2000s, home automation became more than a novelty due to custom installers and the beginning of standardized protocols such as Zwave. Since 2012, the home automation market has grown exponentially with the advent of faster computers, mobile devices and manufacturers introducing more technology in home systems such as appliances, HVAC and security systems. This trend is often included in the discussion of the Internet of Things.

Use lessons learned from the IT world in your home.

Now that home automation is taking over the consumer market, there are lessons you have learned in your IT career that can be applied to your home systems. When you architect a data center, you account for the security of the systems and facilities, power and cooling needs, monitoring of all systems and integration of multiple systems. These same principals need to be applied to home automation build outs; use lessons learned from the IT world in your home.

For a solid home automation system, there are a ton of choices out there from Control4, Crestron, Homeseer, Mi Casa and many more. All these vendors have pros and cons, but what is the same across the board is how you handle many aspects of the house.

Managing home security, power like the data center

For example, dealing with security of any automation system needs to be similar to a data center. The system you choose needs to be locked down to stop any threats. Just like a data center is the central point of management for multiple systems, the automation system is the brain of your house. This means that access needs to be controlled and restricted through concepts such as password management, firewalling your system (through a router most likely) and anti-virus protection. Since the majority of these automation systems run on some form of operating system such as Microsoft Windows or Linux, they are susceptible to being infected and hacked.

Another major lesson learned from the data center is how to handle power and cooling. If the door locks are electronically controlled, HVAC systems tied to the Internet and security systems will be independent of an online provider -- these systems are more reliant on a solid power solution. If the house loses power, you can lose all security systems, have no control of your HVAC and possibly even not be able to unlock your door unless you have the key handy. A solid power setup could include a whole home uninterruptible power supply (UPS) or even a smaller UPS solution that allows your automation systems to stay up and running through most issues.

You also need to monitor these technologies. Luckily, the majority of home automation tools have the ability to monitor them internally and externally from the home. Through a mobile app, webpage or even the cloud, there are plenty of methods for home monitoring.

The final data center lesson that can be applied to a smart home architecture is to pay attention to the integration of all your technologies. In the market now, there are many forms of automation protocols including Zwave, Insteaon, X10 and more. Due to the variety of as many Wi-Fi-based devices, you need to ensure that all your appliances, multimedia electronics, lighting systems, security systems and HVAC systems can utilize protocols that will integrate with your home automation software. This is probably one of the most important upfront planning things you need to do. In fact, many IT admins don’t even plan as well in their data centers.

In the home, since there aren’t as strong standards as in the data center yet, research is the key to a successful deployment. Ensure you use what you have learned at work in your home technology deployments.


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