Holding It All Together: Racks & Enclosures

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You put a lot of careful thought into the selection and purchase of your IT equipment. After all, these items are sometimes delicate, often pricey, and are often the center of your larger technology plan. But how much thought do you put into the selection and purchase of your racks and enclosures, those items that hold your important servers, CPUs, monitors, and other components? If your answer is "not much," then you may want to think again, as the selection of proper racks and enclosures can mean safe storage and convenience of use for your precious equipment, as well as improving your return on investment.


"These products are like tinker toys," says Mike Graham, head of institutional sales for Anthro Corp in Tualatin, Ore. He refers to the flexibility of multi-configurable racks that can be

customized to handle a variety of sizes of equipment through the use of sliding rails and a variety of holes on support pieces that allow for variable positioning of shelves. Because of this adaptability to environment and use, those contemplating a purchase will want to carefully consider how and where the rack will be used. Determine your preferred configuration in advance, and there is likely a system that can adapt to your needs now and in the future.

For example, stability is key in selecting a rack for server equipment. "Most servers are very large [and heavy]," says Graham, suggesting that users look for racks that can be bolted together as well as to the floor and ceiling to minimize the chance that the rack will shift. This will increase the stability of a rack holding a great deal of weight.

Location also is an important factor to consider before making a purchase. While racks used in an enclosure room may be left open in both front and back to allow for greater equipment coolness and accessibility, purchases for work areas may need to favor enclosures that are more aesthetically pleasing and help contain the noisy hum generated by IT equipment. If the enclosure will be used in an area where security is an issue, a lock may be essential.

Portability and ease of use may be deciding factors for racks intended to hold small equipment in the operating or emergency room. In these environments, a small-wheeled cart can become a mobile workstation that holds necessary IT equipment and follows the user to the job site.


If all racks and enclosures were destined for the server room or archive, then selecting the right one may be as simple as picking a configuration that best accommodates the equipment in question. However, many racks and enclosures include workstations and are destined for environments in which human beings work. This means that ergonomic issues are an important consideration.

"You find out quickly what [ergonomics] mean to your bottom line and to retention of people," says Greg Patrick, vice president of RedRick Technologies in London, Ontario. RedRick, which focuses on equipment and workstations for use in radiology departments and imaging suites, found a need for improved ergonomics that became more critical as more departments switched to picture archiving and communications systems and abandoned film. Suddenly, radiologists accustomed to sitting, standing, and reaching to change out films found themselves chairbound for eight hours a day or more.

No one likes to spend his or her day in an uncomfortable position, so ergonomics has an obvious direct impact on productivity and employee retention. To address these issues, Patrick recommends workstations with surfaces that adjust to accommodate both sitting and standing positions. He also advises "independent adjustment between the height of the monitor and [of] the keyboard" so that users can customize the station to their own comfort and need.

The healthcare environment, especially the image reading room, is different from many other work areas in the amount of equipment used, says Patrick. It is not unusual for each station to include three to five flat-panel monitors, and each of these should be mounted at an appropriate level for the user's eye, with the ability to move to accommodate differences in users' focal distance.

For those looking for rack, enclosure, and workstation solutions for their imaging department, Patrick cautions them to "remember that the filmless reading room has different requirements" from other work environments. He cites space, lighting, and sound issues for those using voice recognition