Almost every reasonably-sized company from small to large will have dedicated space at their work site for their in-house data communications and networking equipment. This is usually a central location on-site called the “data center,” where the networking equipment, wiring, and servers are located. Traditionally, this equipment is mounted in tall upright freestanding metal data cabinets that provide cooling, cable management, and security to the equipment that’s in use. These data centers can have a vast number of data cabinets all managing the necessary networking equipment for the organization.
Depending upon the size of the company, not all the networking equipment may be located in the main data center. Often, some equipment needs to be remotely located throughout the buildings or across the campus. In these cases, using a full-sized data cabinet at these remote sites may not be best suited to the limited amount of equipment needed at that remote site or the remote location may not be able to house a full-sized data cabinet. This is where a smaller-sized wallmount cabinet may be a good fit.
A wallmount cabinet is similar to a full-sized cabinet, just much smaller by inspection. Although size is the most noticeable difference, there are some design differences that separate a full-sized cabinet from a wallmount cabinet.
Capacity, weight, and equipment access are the basic common factors to consider when selecting a wallmount cabinet.
Capacity is the amount of usable space inside the cabinet in which the user can mount equipment. Normally, a cabinet’s capacity is measured in “rack units” (commonly written as RUs). One RU is 1.75” in height. Manufacturers usually design rackmount equipment in whole number rack units. For example 1 RU (1.75”), 2 RU (3.50”), and so on. You will never see a rackmount item with the height of 1.5 RU. Having equipment with whole number rack unit heights keeps mounting of the equipment simple and easy. Common capacities for wallmount cabinets range from 6 or 8 RU all the way up to 20 RU for some larger wallmount cabinets. The capacity for wallmount cabinets is a lot less than full-sized data cabinets, which can have rackmount capacities between 42 and 45 RU. All rackmount equipment inside the cabinet is mounted on two vertical adjustable rails spaced on 19-inch centers. These rails can have either tapped screw holes or may use cage nuts.
Weight is another very important factor when selecting a wallmount cabinet. Since these cabinets normally mount to some type of wall, the installer needs to be aware of any weight restrictions on the cabinet. Mounting is normally done with heavy-duty fasteners or anchors typically spaced on 16-inch centers. Not all wallmount cabinets are made the same, so weight restrictions can greatly vary from 100 to 350 pounds or more, depending upon the cabinet. This is a very important factor, unlike full-sized cabinets that still have weight restrictions, but are more forgiving since they rest on the floor. Lastly, one important thing to remember when it comes to the weight requirement of a wallmount cabinet. The weight limitation of the cabinet includes the weight of the cabinet plus the equipment inside.
Equipment access points in a wallmount cabinet is another factor that needs to be considered. There are several ways that this can be achieved. With a full-sized data cabinet, this is usually not a problem since the user can freely walk around the cabinet. Full-sized data cabinets have normal front, rear, and even side panel access doors that make it easy to access equipment from all sides. For wallmount cabinets, this easy access is not always possible since wallmount cabinets are mounted to a vertical wall or surface.
All wallmount cabinets will have a front entry door to access the equipment inside. The front door can be made of either see-through Plexiglas or metal mesh for equipment venting. Usually, they will have some form of “keyed” locking security to keep unauthorized users out of the cabinet. Front doors typically can be removed and rotated, then re-installed so the door can open either from the left or right side. However, not all wallmount cabinets have this feature.
Rear entry access is a little different, depending upon the wallmount cabinet. Normally, wallmount cabinets will have a rear door, which is where the cabinet mounts to the wall. This will allow the cabinet to swing out from the back so the user has access to the back side of the equipment in the cabinet. The hinges on this rear door are heavy-duty by design since when the rear door is opened, these hinges must support the full weight of the cabinet and all of the equipment inside. This rear door usually has a security feature (such as a keyed lock) so unauthorized users cannot open it.
Some lower-cost economical wallmount cabinets may not have a rear hinge door to access equipment. These lower-cost cabinets simply have an open back side where the cabinet mounts directly to the wall. These typically are cabinets smaller in size that support lighter weight restrictions.
Other features of a wallmount cabinet. All wallmount cabinets have “knockout” access holes around the cabinet. These are round metal punches made in the sides of the cabinet where the user can remove the punch to allow cabling or conduit into the cabinet. Sizes of these round punches can range from 1 inch up to 3 inches in diameter.
Other additional features wallmount cabinets have are air vents located on the top, front, and/or sides of the cabinet to allow the equipment to cool. Also, smaller-sized fans can be mounted inside the cabinet as an option to direct air through or warm air out of the cabinet. These fans are rated in CFMs (Cubic Feet/Minute). A more efficient fan supports a higher number of CFMs and permits more air to flow through. Most wallmount cabinets will have multiple fan mounting locations on the cabinet to give the user airflow options.
In summary, choosing a wallmount cabinet isn’t all that much different from choosing a full-sized freestanding data cabinet. There are just some basic points (capacity, weight, and equipment access, along with knockouts for cable routing and air vents/fans for cooling) that you need to be aware of before selecting your wallmount cabinet for your application.
Steve Molek has 27 years’ experience in the cabling and connectivity data communication industry. He started his career as a Technical Support Representative and now works as a Project Engineer for Black Box. As a Product Engineer, his primary focus is evaluating and testing all new cabling and connectivity products for sale by Black Box and training our inside technical support and sales teams. Steve also works directly with our domestic and international OEM suppliers as well as several nationally recognized third-party testing labs. Steve holds a B.S. degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from California University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Waynesburg University.