As an active Network Administrator I have several bad habits.  The first is that I play with computers in my spare time.  The second, is that I have too many computers.  Five years ago when I purchased my home, a friend gave me a 1/2 height server rack.  I mounted by home server on a shelf and ‘It began’.

By ‘It Began’ I mean the expansion of my home computer requirements.  Over the past five years, I have added a variety of new systems to my home network, including phone servers, alarm systems, etc…  My 1/2 rack is perfectly suited to hole these systems and my home stereo system as well.  The functionality was nice, it securely holds my computers, although .  However, it doesn’t look all the great.  This isn’t a huge concern for me, but I would always like it to look better.

Recently a friend of mine gave me a full height, enclosed server cabinet.  The cabinet comes with locking doors, side walls, exhaust fans, side doors and in reasonably good shape.  The price was right, and certainly would add a certain cache to my home office.   The server cabinet didn’t come with any shelves, or rails.  The cabinet will be rather heavy when full which could cause a problem in a home environment.  There are a few small issues to overcome, but for me, the advantages significantly outweigh the work.

The advantages:

  • The ability to lock up my servers, will prevent accidental shutdown by my young son, who loves glowing blue buttons.
  • The cabinet will clean up the look of my office.
  • The cabinet will cut down on the fan noise in the room caused by the servers.
  • Unused space is used for supplies and extra parts.
  • The cabinet offers flexibility, in that I will be able to easily move it thanks to the wheels I installed.
  • Cable management is contained inside the cabinet.
The Disadvantages:
  • I have to install a KVM monitor switch, so that I have monitor and keyboard access to all the computers.
  • The cabinet will take up more floor space than my 1/2 rack.
  • More to follow as I install the cabinet.

 

The was some light damage, but nothing that could not be repaired and I have a few other issues:

  • Exhaust fans are broken and need to rewired.
  • One of the door locks are broken.
  • One of the side door locks was loose.
  • There are rack rails but no shelves.
  • Weight will be an issue.

My first step was to strip down the cabinet, and remove all the doors.  Then I spent a few minutes wiping down all the metal, rails, doors, etc… to get all the dust and grime off.  Quickly, I rewired the exhaust fans to function properly.  I will certainly not be using them because they are REALLY REALLY LOUD!!!  In the data centers / server environment nobody cares about noise.  The entire discussion is about power, cooling and server density.  As a result, high-speed, hi volume fans are used in everything.  The wall of noise is horrible and I hate working in this environment.  For my home office, this is clearly an issue but I am not planning on racking the server cabinet from bottom to top with computers.  So, I am sure I won’t need the fans, but I might as well fix them while I have the cabinet broken down.

The door lock issues were both solved quickly.  For a keyed lock, I adjusted the angle of the lock catch to hold the door closed more securely.  Now the doors are held nice and close to the cabinet.  The shelves are a different matter.  To purchase shelves for a computer cabinet it stupidly expensive.  For a home office, it is just not worth the cost.  To that end, I built four shelves for my server rack.  The ‘rails’ are made from 1 x 3 inch birth, and the shelves themselves are made from 1/2 plywood.  Both items were sanded down and painted black.  For less than the cost of one shelf, I built four.  The shelves do take up more room than metal shelves, but server density is a  non-issue.   Additionally, I am not planning on mounting 300 lbs of server, so 1/2 inch plywood is more than strong enough.  I supposed the last issue is durability, but this is not a high traffic cabinet so I don’t anticipate pulling servers very often.

The final issue is the weight and portability.  I decided to add wheels to the bottom of the cabinet which allow me to move it in the event I need to work on it.  To mount the wheels, I cut a sheet of plywood for the bottom of the cabinet, and mounted the wheels and plywood to the cabinet using bolts.  The plywood is again painted black to match the cabinet.  This created yet another storage shelf, and improved my comfort level with the wheels.  I will update this post with photos soon.

I am certainly not saying that you need to get a server cabinet for your home office.  However, if you are a network admin or web developer, and you get offered one for zero cost it can be very cool and hard to say ‘no’ to the gift..

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