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Is there any good info out there about fire safety with self-hosting?

Fire brigades tend to advise unplugging electrical equipment when you go to bed, so that nothing starts burning when you're asleep.

A server by its nature would never be unplugged, so this seems to be a possible fire risk?

(I know we all want privacy, but a fire in your home would not be a good price to pay for it.)

I was trying to poke around for info on this, but was difficult to find anything definitive.

For example, this thread on Reddit includes a response from someone who says they are a firefighter with IT experience:

reddit.com/r/selfhosted/commen

If what they say is accurate, it sounds like self-hosting makes more sense if you can put the server in a non-residential building like a shed, where lives won't be lost if the worst happens?

@homegrown you're asking some really interesting questions here :blobcatthinkingglare:

@homegrown If this is a concern, you could always consider a low powered device for self-hosting instead of a full-blown pc/server. Besides, we all go to bed at night with appliances plugged in, so it would be no more risky than that.

@lps

A low power device that catches fire is still not a great thing to have in a place that people sleep in? There are often house fires started by very small things like cigarettes etc.

It's unclear what the fire risk is for home servers? At least, I couldn't find any data about it?

I'm not criticising home hosting here, by the way! But I'd like to know what the risks are before recommending it to people on the website, which is why I started this thread.

@homegrown I understand, my point was simply that we plug in our cellphones, alarm clocks, appliances, and other electronics everyday without a consideration.

A low power device would be no more of a risk than any of those cases, likely much less.

@homegrown self-hosting doesn't necessarily mean "inside your house".

Anyway, if you run any sort of device at home you should take some safety precautions. Don't store flammables nearby, use properly assembled components, ideally mount it inside a well-ventilated cabinet, have a smoke alarm nearby, and use properly wired and protected electrical supply equipment.

Then it shouldn't be less safe than your fridge or your TV which you also leave plugged-in 24/7.

@fedops

By the way, side issue but what would you define "self-hosting" as? (genuine question!)

I used to think it covered anything where you owned your own instance, but was told it only covered servers that are under your physical control.

@homegrown my personal take is it's self-hosting if I am not using a service but providing the service myself. So email for example. I'm running my own SMTP and IMAP services on an operating system I administrate. Whether I'm using my own iron or a VPS doesn't matter for the mail service itself.

I know it's a less strict definition than some use where if you don't own the physical machine you're not self-hosting.

@homegrown there are lots of grey zones. What about running your server in a colo? Or renting an actual physical server in a data center somewhere? If we say "physical", does that include the network; if so how far? Is an out of band mgmt interface acceptable? Etc. pp.

The biggest problem I see with machines not on your own property is the possibility of someone gaining physical (or OOB) access to it and attacking the file system. That can be solved but is a hassle.

@fedops

That's what I thought, but I was told this was incorrect.

Oh well, I guess there's no agreed terms for these situations then.

@fedops @homegrown
I second this, it would be crazy to run every server I have out of my little townhouse, but I still consider every service that I run to be 'self hosted'.
Especially in the case of email, no matter what solution you run, it's... highly discouraged to be run from a residence, at least if you want to actually be able use it, and those are all considered 'self hosted' solutions.

@homegrown We all have our own level of risk tolerance, and to be honest I haven't read the fire brigade recommendations. That said it sounds to me like something is getting lost in the details here. I doubt that they're recommending unplugging *everything* every night, or people would have no refrigerators plugged in, no heating in the winter etc.

If you're concerned, maybe the way to minimize the risk would be to keep the server in a secured, non flammable container.

@Blort

They're basically saying unplug as much as you can, because each powered appliance adds to the risk. Obviously fridge etc cannot be unplugged.

I'm guessing the risk is tiny (or we would hear more about it) but I'm not an expert so just wondered if there was any info about this topic.

(Also, at least at our school we were taught in physics/electronics lesson that AC adaptors were a fire hazard if left on 24/7? This was a long time ago but it left me wondering...)

@homegrown @Blort I've built small server rooms for medium size businesses (24/7 healthcare facilities. where we have to comply to strict fire safety rules) and have run servers at home. Provided you use good power supplies, mains cabling and have suitable protective devices (UK has fuses in plug tops, in other countries you might want to dedicate a whole circuitbreaker to the power feed for the servers) the risk is negligible (and many circuit boards are made with flame resistant materials)

@homegrown @Blort A rule of thumb I have used over the years if any PSU/powerbrick or equipment is getting too hot to comfortably touch, then something is wrong and that piece of equipment should be switched off and decommissioned (or the PSU replaced). Also take care about airflow/ventilation in smaller spaces containing lots of equipment, and check that dust, pet hair or anything else is not blocking outlets for ventilation fans..

@vfrmedia @homegrown @Blort yeah that's the real advice there, not so much unplugging every night. Regular monitoring and maintenance of dust and heat.

Beyond that, just place it such that if there's a little fire it hits a smoke detector before it turns into a big fire. But again you have to ask what is flammable in the area? Generally not much.

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