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How to pick a rack.
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This in-depth educational video shows step by step how to go about picking a rack for a certain application and type of equipment. In addition to detailing the reasons for choosing a wallmount-style rack instead of a floor-mount model, the video explains the benefits of both 4-post and 2-post racks, and the types of mounting holes typically found on each. The video tutorial also discusses common rack measurements and how to select a rack for a particular space, such as a cramped wiring closet or narrow corridor. Also covered: common rack accessories, including options for managing cable, as well as what you need to mount, secure, and ground equipment.
Picking a rack—in this Tips for Techs, we’ll show you how to go about it. But, first, a definition of what a rack is. It’s any freestanding frame that doesn’t have doors or sides. Compared to a cabinet, it offers easier access to mounted equipment and cabling, and it typically costs less. With its open design, it’s a good choice in areas where security isn’t a concern, or inside rooms with lockable doors.

The best place to start when picking a rack is to ask yourself: What are you going to put in it? This will help you determine if you need a wallmount or a floor-mount model and whether you need a 2-post or larger 4-post rack, as well as what level of cable management.

You have a number of options depending on the type of equipment you need to house. If you’re installing patch panels, a two-post rack with some cable management is the right choice. But if you have a mix of networking equipment, servers, and patch panels, then a 4-post rack makes more sense... more/see it nowbecause it provides more stable, 4-point mounting for deep equipment. For flexible mounting of both standard and extra-deep equipment, you can even get four-post racks with rails that are adjustable front to back.

Then there’s the matter of width. Most racks come in standard EIA mounting form with rails spaced at 19" to accommodate standard-size equipment. To rackmount smaller equipment that’s not 19" wide, you can just add rackmount adapter brackets or other hardware specially designed to mount them to the rails. Plus, for mounting older legacy equipment, there are 23" wide racks. Two-post racks typically have threaded holes for quick installation of patch panels, and 4-post racks usually have M6 square mounting holes for the most flexibility.

Now let’s discuss height. Vertical real estate in a rack is expressed in rack units with one rack unit abbreviated as 1U. Most freestanding racks come in a standard 45U height, which is 7 feet high, so they fit rooms with standard ceilings. But there are other height options—from smaller 2U-high wallmount models all the way up to 51U- and even 58U-high units. These tall racks, towering up to 9 feet overhead, allow for an extremely dense installation of equipment while saving you valuable floor space.

Of course, the wallmount-style racks save you floor space, too. These types of racks are very convenient for installing in cramped wiring closets or narrow hallways. Some even swing out for easy equipment installation and cable connections. Other low-profile racks enable you to flushmount equipment vertically against a wall to further reduce the amount of space they take up. Wallmount racks are typically designed to be installed on 16-inch-on-center studs or on backing boards, which are then attached to the wall.

Now that you have a rack chosen for your application, you need to select the appropriate accessories. The first, and most important, is cable management. Depending on your equipment density level, there are varying degrees of cable management. Consider using either a ladder rack or a cable tray. These systems are designed to manage and deliver cabling right to the location where it’s needed, all while being flexible enough to accommodate future upgrades and modifications.

Once you have your cabling to the rack, inexpensive hook-and-loop ties will work for basic cable management. For more advanced applications, consider vertical and horizontal cable managers that keep wiring hidden and protected in your rack.

Finally, for high-density applications, there are specially designed cable managers that handle large amounts of cables. These complete systems have oversized channels with molded fingers that guide wiring to mounted devices at precise increments while maintaining the proper bend radius for the cable. They also have covers that you can remove completely for faster cable installation. And while vertical managers are great for organizing cable runs top to bottom in a rack, horizontal managers are designed to guide cables and hold them precisely at the same level as mounted equipment. They’re also designed for easy front-to-back pass-through.

Another option is to purchase a rack with integrated cable management. These are ideal for medium-density applications where installation speed is key. They come with all the necessary cable management integrated right into the design.

Once you decide on cable management, consider other accessories for your rack. Do you need a shelf for non-rackmount equipment, such as a legacy server, a UPS, a keyboard, or a monitor? If you have a flat-screen monitor, consider upgrading to a rackmount panel that’s specifically designed to securely and safely hold a flat-panel monitor. This type of panel also enables you to properly manage monitor cables, so you don’t need to disturb patch panel wiring in the back. And for additional cooling needs, a rackmount fan tray can help solve a problem with a specific piece of equipment.

You might also want to enhance the appearance of your rack with filler panels, These can be vented and nonvented, and there are even tool-less filler panels that clip on without screws, making installation a snap.

Also, do you want to limit access to equipment controls and settings? Then consider adding a lockable security cover at the front.

Once you’ve chosen the accessories for your rack, don’t forget that the equipment to the rack and the rack itself need to be grounded. You should purchase grounding bars, which make quick work of grounding multiple pieces of equipment.

So, as you can see, you have a number of things to consider when choosing a rack. You may also have questions. If you do, just call our FREE Tech Support hotline at 877-877-2269 and you’ll be live with one of our techs in 20 seconds or less. We’ll answer your questions and guide you through the process of selecting a rack for your specific application. collapse
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