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479817It’s not uncommon for small businesses to begin operation by stacking server hardware and network appliances on a desk or shelf. Though such a deployment is inexpensive, the pile of equipment invariably expands into an unmanageable mess with the growth of the company. Exposed equipment is also completely open to physical tampering and is a ticking time bomb for accidents such as coffee spills, dust or even workers tripping over wires.

However, rack-mount equipment is designed specifically to properly house this type of hardware. While these tend to be pricier than their non-rack mount equivalents, it’s arguable that being easier to manage far exceeds the cost premium. In addition, shelves and drawers designed for mounting onto the server rack are widely available; these let racks work with non-rack mount appliances as necessary.

Setting up a server rack is more than just twisting a few screws to secure the equipment into place. Proper cable management can’t be overstated, as just about every piece of equipment in the rack is linked with Ethernet cables. Intra-cabinet wiring aside, it makes sense to terminate cable runs for Ethernet LAN points for desktop computers, IP cameras and other network appliances at the rack.

Finally, don’t skimp on labeling and documenting your setup, even for relatively simple deployments. What may be obvious to the employer setting it up could be missed by a new IT staffer or a vendor contracted to work on certain aspects of the system. Time savings aside, proper labeling reduces the likelihood of catastrophic mistakes such as a mission-critical system getting unplugged or restarted without adequate warning.

The simplest way to properly label your infrastructure? Purchase a label printer from a hardware shop. Servers and network appliances should be labeled with unique descriptive names and their IP addresses. Ditto for other equipment such as keyboard, video and mouse switches, NAS appliances, routers, data backup devices and redundant hardware.

Detailed notes describing important procedures relating to your on-premises hardware should be printed out and attached to the server cabinet with tape or refrigerator magnets. These notes should contain important operating instructions relating to networking, data backup or shutting down (or starting up) the equipment in the event of a power outage.

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