Designating an area to house on-premises servers and IT equipment can seem unnecessary for a small business. It can take hours to plan-out a server room setup or server closet, and you might not have that sort of time. Plus, creating a small server room would require some sort of IT expertise, right?
Believe it or not, this process can be made much more simple and efficient with just a bit of fundamental knowledge. Here are the steps you can take to make sure you’re on the right path.
Understand your small server room design
Taking the time to prepare for and understand the technological needs of your small business is a crucial first step in implementing a server room or closet. When planning, you must consider important factors to fulfill these needs, including spacing, location, and types of IT equipment.
Spacing is the first factor to consider, and this includes spacing between equipment and spacing of the work environment. Equipment that is bulked together can lead to overheating, disorganization, and other issues. You also want to consider where your technology or servers are compared to workers and how accessible this equipment should be.
Location is the second important component in your server room design. Will your equipment remain within the office? Will it be designated to a closet or separate room? As you consider these questions, the type of technology your business uses is important in finding a solution.
Both the type of equipment and how much equipment your business uses will help you design your small server room setup. Multiple servers and/or AV equipment can overheat quite easily, and should usually be in a separate room with plenty of space. Smaller network equipment such as routers, switches, or even patch panels typically requires less space.
Ditch the stacking for rack-mount equipment
A huge mistake that small businesses make when incorporating technology is stacking equipment. Stacking equipment makes organizing almost impossible as well as it clutters the work area. This can also damage the technology by trapping heat and dust and adds weight to other equipment. There is a simple solution, however.
By rack-mounting your equipment, you can organize it much easier and free up tons of space in your work environment. Rack-mounting also allows you to optimize cooling and airflow, so your technology runs much more efficiently and effectively. There are rails, shelves, and mounts of all different sizes available that can mount just about any technology you have.
Find the best small business server rack
When it comes to organizing your equipment and freeing up space, a server rack is the way to go. By placing shelves and rails in your server rack, you can mount and organize pretty much anything from servers to network and AV equipment. A server rack allows you to expand on the amount of equipment you have depending on the needs of your business without sacrificing space. It also prevents you from stacking equipment.
Server racks come in several different convenient forms depending on what your business requires. Some racks are enclosed for added physical protection and others are open-frame for a more accessible design. You can find 4-post racks, which might be best for larger equipment, or 2-post racks, which tend to work best with network equipment. If a full-on server rack is too much, there are wall mount racks that can house single servers or a small amount of equipment as well.
Server racks also come in different sizes. The height of a rack is determined by rack units, otherwise known as an RU or U-space, where 1 U-space equals 1.75 inches. If you are planning on expanding in the future, your business would want a taller rack, such as 30U or larger. You also want to consider the depth of the rack. The typical server rack depth is around 19 inches but can be more. If you need more or less space, however, several racks come with adjustable rear brackets or you can purchase a separate adjustable mounting kit.
How to cool your small server room
By taking cooling precautions, the equipment in your server closet will never overheat and the working environment stays comfortable. There are plenty of terrible stories of people working in environments that get upwards of 90 degrees simply because of a lack of airflow management. Your small business doesn’t want to be another one of these stories.
A good first step you can take to make your server room setup cool is purchasing an AC unit. To keep your server rack equipment cool, you will need to take advantage of server rack cooling strategies. Adding fans to your rack, or purchasing a rack with fans is very important. If there are spaces in your server rack, adding blanking panels also help to manage airflow. Finally, if you are planning on incorporating multiple server racks, setting up a hot aisle, cold aisle design is very important.
Don’t neglect cable management
An easily overlooked step in planning for a server room is managing cables. Messy, tangled cables makes it hard to keep track of where certain cables go and can damage the cables. To prevent this problem, bundling cables is a great idea. You can use zip ties or hook-and-loop straps to accomplish this. Using a vertical cable manager or horizontal cable manager allows you to place and secure cables where you want them. Even simpler than these other steps is labeling cables. By labeling cables or color-coding them, you know exactly where they go, and this takes seconds to do. Check out our guide on cable management if you need some help.
Label and organize… then label and organize some more
Why stop at cables? Go ahead and label and organize all of your equipment and technology. This is especially important for small businesses because it further prevents requiring an IT expert. You can label equipment with the name of the equipment, installation and replacement instructions, and cleaning procedures. This allows your business to continue operating efficiently even with hardware changes or cleaning.
Providing power to your server room
Perhaps the most overlooked yet one of the most important parts of planning for your server room setup is how you will provide power to your technology. First, you want to make sure that your server room provides enough power to support your equipment. This is a two-step process of finding out the power capacity of your server room, then using a power consumption calculator. When it comes to finding out the power capacity, you especially need to know the voltage and amperage of your circuits. As a final helpful tip, try to have multiple circuits connect to multiple different breaker panels, if possible. That way, if one circuit goes down, your equipment is supported by the other panel and continues to function. This allows your server room to run much more efficiently and decreases the risk of downtime.
Planning for and implementing a small server room or closet for your small business can only make your situation better. While it will take some time and requires at least some costs, it is entirely worth it. In fact, the amount of time it takes to plan and the amount of money you will spend far outweighs the time it takes to replace, clean, and work on hardware as well as the cost of maintaining and replacing equipment. Plus, by designating an area to house your equipment and by using a server rack, you have room for any potential expansion of your business. Future-proofing your data center by following these steps will help you avoid a lot of problems down the road. Planning for a server room is planning for the success of your small business.