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How do I buy a Server Rack if it is for a first time?

Posted on 2008-10-07
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-11-09
Thanks in advance!!

How do I select,buy a Server Rack if it is a first time purchase?What mistakes should I avoid and what things/particulars should I consider before the buying process?

Currently, there are 2 tower servers of HP Proliant models, 2 switches and with future possible upgrade of a rack mount server?

and why are some server racks are expensive?

Question by:hallhill

Accepted Solution

sstone55423 earned 1400 total points
ID: 22658050
Server racks are expensive when new.  APC makes a really good server rack.  If you shop for one, you want to make sure that it is  a four poster, and not a two post data rack.  The data rack are okay for switches, but not for servers.  Also, a good tip is that since server racks are so heavy, they are hard to get rid of.  That means that local companies that want to get rid of racks will give them away for cheap (or free) if you will take them.  Craigslist might be a good source for that.  Or maybe ebay, but search for people local to where you are.  
If you buy a new rack, consider how you will do power.  Often you want (in U.S.) 220 or 208v from the wall to a UPS at the base of the rack.  Then you have a PDU (power distribution unit) that runs along one, or both sides to give places to plug your servers in.  PDU's can provide 120V or 220V.  my apologies if you are nt in the U.S. and have different power requirements.  The same pricipal applies though.  With a small operation, one UPS running from one dedicated circuit (isolated ground) on the wall can work.  For a larger operation, two racks, with a UPS in each rack, and then each rack having two PDU's along the sides, with one PDU on one UPS, and one PDU on the other UPS (crossing between racks) and then servers with fault tolerant power supplies one plugged into one PDU (to one UPS -- to one circuit) and the other power supply into the other PDU (and other UPS -- other circuit).
Another factor, other than power for your racks, it so consider heat flow and HVAC.  Rack mounted servers are designed for fresh cold air coming in the front, air flow through the servers, and exhaust of hot rising air out the back.  Making sure that your ceiling tiles have a return air, or ventilation tile behind the rack(s) is important.
LVL 27

Assisted Solution

pseudocyber earned 600 total points
ID: 22658165
Hi Hallhill,

Sstone has a lot of good advice.

We have about 100 8' Cabinets with 48" depth.  Like anything in life, there are good things and bad things - and you usually get what you pay for.  Of course, you can find someone's hand me downs for cheap, but just make sure you're not picking up their problems for cheap - we threw away all of our old cabinets and went with a standardized cabinet - so we threw away some real crap, and some really nice cabinets from Compaq/HP.

Ok, so you want  a couple of things - Sstone mentioned cooling front to back.  Correct - so consider - don't get solid doors which block airflow.  Look at screeed doors.  If you're getting one cabinet, you need 2 sides.  But if you put them side to side, then you only really need sides on the ends - this saves money.

Power - as Sstone mentioned, two Power Distribution Units.  In our data center, we have 2 huge UPS' covering the entire room - so each PDU is on a different UPS, different circuits.  So, a dual power can plug in - one to each pdu and theoretically stay up if we lose a power panel/ups.  We just started purchasing some nice APC PDU's which are networkable - we can monitor load on the circuits, power off individual connections, etc.

Cable management is important - when you start filling up the cabinet, the cables can get wild.  You want to always keep your cables neat so look for good cable management.

Whether you put in some management capability in your cabinet is up to you - some people like the pull out screens that flip up with a keyboard/rollerball so you can stand there and manage computers - some people don't like that.  Consider a KVM to run your servers - so you can sit at your desk and access their console connections if you need to.

It sounds like you're a small shop - but consider growth.  

Hope this helps,

LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 22662830
If this is for a small server room, you may not need the expense of a four-post rack.

Consider a two-post relay rack design.  They usually come with threaded holes, so be careful during installation.  Aluminum will strip, making the hole useless without filling, drilling, and re-tapping.  That costs almost as much as a new post.

A two-post relay rack will cost between $120-200.  You will need center-mount shelved for your tower servers.
LVL 44

Expert Comment

ID: 22665024
> That means that local companies that want to get rid of racks will give them
> away for cheap (or free) if you will take them.  Craigslist might be a good source
> for that.  Or maybe ebay, but search for people local to where you are.

Also check the websites of local colleges for announcements of their surplus equipment sales. Usually it's first-come, first-served, so get there early. The last one I went to there were two 6' tall four-post cabinets with doors front and back for $20 each. I almost bought them just to resell, but wan't looking forward to unloading them from the truck by myself, and having them take up space in my garage until I got rid of them (I already have a 12U relay rack in a closet that works great for what I need), so just settled for the office furniture and file cabinet I went there to get in the first place.

Author Comment

ID: 22673997

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