Server Rack Configuration

Proper server rack configuration is key for every business as it provides the technological backbone. There are many options for racks, rack components, and the way they are configured. In this blog post, I will discuss the various options and best practices.

Server rack options?  There are a few options to choose from such as a 2 post rack, 4 post rack and rack enclosures.  2 post server racks are ideal for light equipment (E.g. patch panels, switches and firewalls.) They may also be used for heavier equipment when optional accessories are added such as Trays or conversion kits.  Keep in mind, most of those 2 post rack systems can only support up to 1000lbs. 2 post racks are also cheaper than 4 post rack systems.  4 post racks cost more money but can support more equipment.  The average 4 post rack system can support up to 3000lbs. You have the option of getting bare bone server rack which comes with no options and built in cable management or a 4 post rack enclosure which generally comes with features such as secure access and built in cable management.  2 post and 4 post racks also come in a variety of sizes such as 6U and up to 55U.  Most common rack size used in most small/medium sized business are 42U (6 ½ ft.) and 3.5 ft. deep (4 post.)

What kind of rack should my business use? This all depends on several items; Business size / amount of equipment; Future expansion – you always want to plan for future growth; Available real estate – Server room size may not allow for certain racks; Environment – Do you have a secure server room? Does you need rack enclosure with a lock because your business does not have a server room?  Remember, unauthorized access can cause damage to any business; Money – yes, in the end it comes down to how much money you may have available.  So why, why all this need for server racks? Two simple reasons, organization and equipment security.

What is a U? A U is a rack unit – A rack mounted size described as a number in U. Most server racks have 1U markings along the posts to make mounting hardware easier/efficient.

How should the server rack be installed.. You should always examine the environment where the server rack will be placed.  Find the cold/hot spots in the room and place the front of the rack facing the cold area to provide maximum cooling for your hardware. Ensure you also have enough space around the rack to conduct any service and don’t forget about doors/access panels that swing open. All server racks should be secured in some way. For 2 post rack systems, they should be bolted to the ground with a top ladder support heading out to the rear wall.  4 post rack systems can also be bolted to the ground but also come with screw out feet. Lastly, remember to ground your rack to an electrical panel or busbar.  This task should be handled by an electrician.

How should I install my rack mounted hardware?  This task can sometimes be confusing as there can be many devices to mount. Easiest solution is planning!  Inventory your equipment and determine the space needed.  I also recommend using Visio’s rack diagram as you can get a virtual view of your rack. Before you begin mounting big devices such as servers, you’ll want to mount any cable management options and power distribution units. When the time comes to mounting main devices, I follow one rule, heaviest items on the bottom.  No one wants to pick up 50lbs UPS and mount it to the top or even the middle. Example of mounted devices from the bottom up: UPS, Servers, Video/input, switches, patch panels.

What management options can I get with a server rack?  Some basic options include server rails, which allow you to pull out servers without having to completely remove them. Server rack trays/shelves can also be used for none rack mount compatible devices such as server towers. A must have in all server racks are cable management ducts. These can be installed on the side of racks or in between switches and patch panels. They provide a clean look and make management easier. 2 post server racks can also be fitted with 2 post rack adapters that allow full rack mount spec or 4 post systems to be mounted.

That’s all I have for now, hope this has helped those reading.