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Whether you’re setting up an entire server room or just need a place to organize a bunch of routers and switches in the corner of your office or basement, you need to get one of the best server racks and enclosures for your gear to reduce the clutter in your life.
While it stands to reason that you’re going to want a good equipment rack in any proper server room, these racks and enclosures aren’t just for big enterprise networks anymore. Even if you just have a couple of routers or switches tucked away in a utility room or copy room, getting them into a proper enclosure can not only make everything more organized and presentable, but it will also help to ensure that you won’t have people tripping over them or fiddling with them.
Many enclosures also offer proper venting or even built-in fans to keep your equipment cool, and if you don’t have the luxury of a secure room for your servers or telecom equipment, you’ll want to look at getting an enclosure that includes physical security like a lock to protect your equipment not only from deliberate intruders but also well-meaning staff members who might be tempted to try and "fix" network problems themselves when you’re not around.
Here are the best network server racks and enclosures to keep your equipment organized and secure.
Great for Switches, Routers, and Network Appliances
Attachable Cable Mounts
Flexible Mounting Options
Not Ideal for Larger Servers
At 4.5 feet tall, the Navepoint 25U professional two-post IT open-frame server rack is an all-star floor standing rack. Capable of supporting standard-sized 19-inch mount equipment, the 25U weighs a mid-range 20.8 pounds. Featuring a total capacity of more than 900 pounds, the 25U is more than capable of handling lightweight, rack-mountable electronics, including routers, switches, telecom equipment, and even small servers. Fortunately, all the cables that result from 4.5 feet of floor-standing server space are managed well with attachable cable mounts that can easily organize and keep your network cables out of the way while servers are in use. It can be used with castors or bolted to the floor.
Adjustable rack depth
Supports most types of equipment
Moveable, but won’t fit through most doorways
If you’re looking for a solid full-sized rack, Navepoint has you covered here too, with this four-post 42U rack that’s capable of handling everything from telecom equipment and network switches and other appliances to full blade server assemblies. It supports all standard 19-inch rack mount equipment, with an adjustable rack depth from 17 inches to 32.5 inches, which will give you more than enough room for all of the standard Dell, HP, and IBM server sizes. The sturdy four-post design ensures that everything will stay in place, with an 881 pound weight capacity, and you can either floor-mount it in your server room or use the included four casters to keep it more mobile, although the 82-inch height means that you likely won’t be able to move it from room to room.
Locking Glass Door
Removable Side Panels
Good for shared wiring closets
Heavy and Bulky
Not for servers or network appliances
Weighing a hefty 71.2 pounds, the durable and solid Navepoint 12U deluxe IT server network rack is a great choice if you're looking for a wall-mounted option. Offering standard-sized 19-inch rack-mount equipment, the 12U offers a maximum rail depth of 13 inches with a total usable space measurement of 16 inches, front to back. The removable side panels allow IT administrators or anyone working on managing network servers to gain easy access before and after installation. The top and bottom offer open brackets for easy cable and wire access, while the locking glass door protects the equipment from physical intrusion. Additionally, the removable side panels offer both venting slots and dual built-in fans for maintaining equipment cooling.
"Unless you have a dedicated server room with physical security and controlled access you’ll want to keep your important network equipment in a cabinet or rack with a lock on the front. This will help to not only secure your routers, switches, and servers against deliberate hacking attempts, but can also keep well-meaning employees from poking around." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer
Easy to assemble
No cable management accessories
Not deep enough for full-size servers
Packaged with casters for easy movement and re-positioning, the Navepoint four-foot 22U open-frame, 19-inch network server rack is ideal for ever-changing IT environments. With a maximum depth of 23 inches, the 22U is already sized for traditional 19-inch mount equipment, and it supports a total weight capacity of 661 pounds, with an adjustable depth down from 10 to 16.75 inches, all on a server rack that’s 48 inches in height. Flat-packed for easy shipping, the included instructions help put together the 22U in under 30 minutes. Unfortunately, NavePoint doesn’t include any cable management accessories, but they can be easily purchased separately online.
Highly customizable design
Adjustable depth makes it capable of handling a wide variety of equipment
Easy to set up
Doesn't come with enough mounting hardware
Whether it's traditional servers, network-attached storage devices, or telecommunications equipment, the Startech 25U adjustable-depth open frame server rack cabinet is ready for the challenge. Capable of supporting up to 1,200 pounds of equipment, the Startech 25U offers a wide range of mounting depth adjustments all the way from 22 to 40 inches deep. The four-post rack is completely customizable depending on your needs, while optional accessories such as casters, levelling feet or cable management hooks are all included right in the box. The open nature of the Startech 25U does mean there's no security at the rack level, so it's best utilized in an already secure area. Ultimately, the Startech 25U not only offers great storage in a not-too-large package, but it's still within industry rack standards, so it'll fit most equipment.
Solid build quality
Open design for easy access
Easy wall mounting
No assembly instructions
Can't handle large servers
Ideal for rack-mounted equipment, the Startech 12U sideways wall-mount server rack offers easy access. Compatible with standard servers and UPS systems from brands such as Lenovo, Cisco and APC, Startech's 12U rack also offers mounting holes placed every 16 inches for dry-wall framework for added stability and durability. Post wall hanging, the 12U offers an open look at both the front and back of your equipment, so you can easily adjust network cables, view LED displays and access any necessary buttons. The steel frame ships with all the necessary equipment and can support up to 350 pounds of equipment when mounted to a wall. Oddly enough, the 12U doesn’t come with any assembly instructions, but user reviews advise they are unnecessary, and it shouldn't take more than 20 minutes to set up.
Perforated side panels allow for venting
Shallow rail depth
Not designed for servers
With a maximum load capacity of up to 200 pounds, the Tripp Lite 6U wall-mount server enclosure is a well-featured option. The heavy-duty steel frame can support 19-inch equipment with perforated door and side panels that allow maximum airflow. It's lock-friendly to prevent any unauthorized individuals from gaining access to network equipment, and the door can open left or right so it's adaptable for various room spacing. Additionally, the Tripp Lite 6U offers extra niceties such as top and bottom cable ports for maintaining cable organization, which can quickly get out of control depending on the how much equipment you have inside the 16.5-inch deep rack. Mounting is simple and can be done with optional casters for easy transportation or it's ready for wall-mounting right out of the box.
"Buying an enclosed rack may be necessary if you don’t have a dedicated server room and need to keep equipment secure in a common area, but unlike more open racks, you’ll need to take extra precautions to make sure that there’s enough ventilation to prevent your equipment from overheating inside." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer
Good for small spaces
Ideal for wiring closets
Doesn't include a full set of mounting hardware
With enough storage space for network/server hardware or telecom devices, the Startech 12U heavy-duty, open-frame server rack is ideal if you're tight on space. Capable of supporting up to 350 pounds on the rack, buyers can maximize the 12U’s compatibility with industry-standard EIA-310-D compliance. The two-post mounting solution means a small footprint, but it's still designed and manufactured to ensure stability. And you can place it almost anywhere. Shipping costs are reduced courtesy of a flat-packed box, which doesn’t have any impact on putting the rack together thanks to its tool-less design.
Compact, open-frame design
Hinged design allows easy access to rear panels
Great for wiring in shared storage spaces
Too shallow for some equipment
Requires purchase of additional mounting kits
If you’re looking for a super open-frame design, Startech's 8U RK819WALLO wall mount is a great option for maximum airflow. The open-frame design lends itself to helping maintain cooling temperatures, which can lead to a longer equipment lifespan without the need for excess fans. The hinged design allows for easy access to rear panels where you can begin mounting standard-sized 19-inch servers or network equipment (and continually reach them post-installation). Capable of supporting equipment up to a total of 140 pounds, the high-quality steel construction and four-post design offer peace of mind and security that your equipment is stable.
Extra height for smaller server rooms
Deep enough to support any equipment
1322 pound weight capacity
May require extra ceiling space for cooling
May need to be bolted down for stability
If a standard 42U rack just isn’t quite enough, then look no further than Navepoint’s 45U behemoth, which provides an extra three rack mount slots so you can cram all of your equipment into a single column and still leave enough room for proper cooling. With a 1,322 pound weight capacity and an adjustable rail depth of up to 40 inches, there’s basically nothing that this beast can’t handle, and the four-post open frame rack includes numbered mounting holes to make it easier to install your equipment (although you'll need to supply your own clip nuts as the holes aren't pre-threaded on this model). The open design makes it easy to access cabling and equipment, yet the posts are made of high quality cold rolled steel for ultimate durability. The only catch with this one is that it's so tall that you'll want to ensure you have enough clearance above it for air circulation, and depending on your server room layout and what you mount in it, you may need to bolt it down just to keep it from tipping over.
"A taller rack can be a great way to make the most of limited floor space in your server room, but you’re stacking a lot of equipment into it, you’ll want to make sure you still have adequate ventilation around it and enough extra ceiling space above to keep things cool. The advantage of taller racks, however, is that they also let you space out your equipment more easily." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer
The Navepoint 25U is a medium-sized rack that won't break the bank and is easy to install. If you don't have a secure room for your equipment, however, you'll want to check out the Navepoint 12U, which features a locking glass door to keep your equipment away from curious hands.
Jesse Hollington has over three decades of experience in information technology and networking, and has installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of network equipment from wireless access points and routers to server farms in large data centers for organizations ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies and government agencies.
If you have even a couple of network servers in your office a good rack can be indispensable in helping keep things organized, and it's important to remember that these aren't just for servers either; network switches and hubs, telecom equipment, and even uninterruptible power supplies can all be neatly organized into a rack or enclosure to keep them under control.
There are a wide variety of rack and enclosure styles available, from basic open concept two- and four-post systems to ones with locking doors and integrated cooling, and they come in all sizes too. What to pick will depend largely on your needs, but if you're not a seasoned IT professional you might find the options to be a bit intimidating. Fortunately, there are really only a few simple things you need to know.
You may think that network server racks are the kind of equipment that only large enterprise organizations need. After all, they bring to mind images of sprawling data centers, with endless rows of servers and other networking gear lined up like a robot army, and there's certainly no doubt that organizations with that kind of equipment need a way to keep it all properly and efficiently organized and managed.
However, even small businesses can benefit from a good server rack with its ability to keep your equipment well organized and uncluttered while also ensuring its safety and security. A good network server rack or enclosure will provide enough room for the equipment that you need while keeping both your gear and the accompanying cables out of harm's way, and they're not just for dedicated server rooms either; in fact, if you have your servers and network equipment in a shared space like a supply room or utility closet, a good server rack or enclosure can be even more important. We can't count the number of stories we've heard where a delivery person or office worker has brought down an entire company's network by tripping over a cable.
The first and most obvious thing you'll want to consider is how much you're going to want to put into your rack, not just now, but into the future.
Server racks are normally measured in "rack units," representing the standard sizes of rack-mountable equipment. Very thin "pizza-box" servers and network switches are usually one unit each, while larger servers and hard disk arrays could take up three units, five units, or more. These are expressed with a number followed by the letter "U" so a "42U" rack is capable of handling 42 rack units worth of equipment.
42U is the standard size server rack used by most larger organizations—it works out to around 6 feet in height—and is therefore the one that's most common. However it’s definitely possible to get racks and enclosures in slightly larger sizes—up to 45U—and much smaller sizes, going down to 6U for a really small unit that could be used in shared spaces like utility closets. Just keep in mind that you should not only plan for future expansion, but also leave a bit of room between some of your equipment for cooling purposes, especially if you're not putting it into a specially climate-controlled equipment room.
However, the "U" measurement only covers the height of the rack, and it's also important to consider how much depth you'll need based on what you're going to put into it. If it's only for network switches and telecom equipment, a shallow enclosure offering around 13 to 17 inches of depth will be just fine, but most actual server equipment runs deep — usually around 40 inches, and you'll usually need a four-post rack to offer the necessary support on the back end.
Note that the maximum depth of the rack doesn't really matter for most lighter equipment like network switches, since these normally only need to be supported by the front posts, and in fact racks with only two mounting posts are often used where only network switches and telecom devices need to be installed.
Lastly, rack width is pretty standard with almost all server and network equipment racks, coming in at 19 inches wide. Whether you're mounting larger servers or network switches, if they're rack-mountable they'll all come in the same width.
Many rack-mountable servers offer the option to be mounted using rails. In this configuration, a pair of standard rails are mounted to the actual rack, screwed in to all four posts, and then the server, which has the corresponding rails mounted on the sides, simply slides into the rack, just like a drawer going into a cabinet.
This provides some additional stability for the servers, as well as letting you mix and match servers of different depths, since the rails always run the full depth of the rack. Some professionals prefer to use rails for everything in their racks, including smaller and lighter network switches, but rails are usually only necessary for heavier equipment like servers.
Using rails also allows you to you easily access your servers for maintenance and upgrades simply by sliding them out like a drawer, which is especially important when you have more than two or three servers in a rack, since it's much more of a hassle to have to unmount a server completely when all you need to do is upgrade some RAM or change a hard drive.
Where you plan to install your rack will also have a lot of impact on what kind of rack you choose, and may in fact even limit your choices. You're not likely going to be picking up a full-sized 42U rack if you only have a cubbyhole available, and you may not want an open rack if you're installing it in an area that's more highly trafficked, like a photocopier room or supply room.
Most racks can also be secured to a wall or floor for added stability, which is something you may want to consider doing, especially with taller racks, but on the other hand if you have the space and relatively isolated area, there are also racks that offer support for wheels to allow you to move them around your server room when necessary.
In considering where your rack will be located, keep in mind that computer equipment generates a lot of heat, and the more you have, the hotter it gets. If you have a climate-controlled server room, then an open rack will usually be just fine, but since most small businesses can't afford to dedicate a whole room just for networking equipment, you'll probably need to give this a bit more thought.
Some enclosures designed for networking equipment like switches provide their own cooling fans which can definitely help, but even with this at your disposal you'll want to make sure that you install your rack or enclosure in a well-ventilated area, and if you're putting a lot of equipment into it, be sure to leave some space in between. For example, if you have 26 rack units worth of equipment to mount, considering buying a 42U rack to space things out and allow for better airflow.
It’s also possible to buy rack-mountable fans that normally fit into a 1U space to provide additional cooling support, but you’ll still need to leave space around these for airflow.
While large businesses can deal with physical security at the server room door, most smaller organizations don't have that luxury, and chances are that you'll be installing your servers and other network equipment in a location that other people will have access to.
Since good network security is highly dependent on limiting physical access to the actual servers and network switches, if your equipment is going to be in an area that's generally accessible to staff you may want to consider getting a closed rack that can be locked.
Also remember that physical security is often just as much about preventing mistakes by non-technical employees as it is at preventing attacks by malicious hackers. True story: We once visited a remote office where a well-meaning employee had turned off the server in an effort to save electricity because they never saw anybody actually using it.
While you'd think that a hole should be a pretty standard thing, there are at least three different types of screw holes that you'll find in modern server racks: threaded round holes, unthreaded round holes, and unthreaded square holes.
With many generic racks you'll have the choice of either threaded or unthreaded holes. While threaded holes may use a variety of different thread types, 12-24 is generally the most common. Threaded racks also usually have thicker posts since they need to support the threads without risking cross-threading.
As a rule, racks with threaded holes are great for network switches, audio equipment, telecom equipment, and other devices that don't use rails. You'll generally screw these in directly to your rack posts, and having a threaded hole will save you the trouble of messing with nuts to hold your screws in behind the posts.
However, if you're going to primarily be using rail-mounted equipment like network servers, you'll want to get a rack with unthreaded holes, as it's much easier to install rails in these types of racks. While you may still find some that have round unthreaded holes, these have generally been supplanted in recent years with square holes, which are much easier to install rails into.
Don't worry if you're mixing and matching rail-mounted and non-rail-mounted equipment in the same rack, however, as you can easily snap cage nuts into square rack holes in order to effectively convert them into threaded holes for your equipment that doesn't use rails. Alternatively, you could also just use rails for mounting everything if you want to avoid cage nuts altogether.
Not all racks are created equally in terms of what comes in the box, so you'll want to read the fine print. Some of the more inexpensive racks just give you threaded holes and expect you to come up with the mounting screws yourself.
Racks with unthreaded holes will usually include a collection of at least a few cage nuts, but you'll almost always have to purchase rails separately from the rack; depending on the vendors involved, you may get rails when buying a rack-mountable server, but this isn't always the case either.
The good news is that threaded racks use standard sized screws, so it's not too hard to find more screws should you need them down the road, but just make sure you know what you're getting with the rack itself so that you know what else you'll need in order to have everything ready to install once it arrives.
Navepoint is a midwestern U.S. company that’s become one of the leading third-party manufacturers of server racks and network device enclosures, along with related accessories, and its products run the gamut from gargantuan 45U extra-height four-post racks to smaller 12U lockable cabinets. Chances are that if there’s something you need for your server room, Navepoint offers it, and unlike OEM racks—that is, those sold by the big manufacturers like IBM, Dell, and HP—you’ll usually find Navepoint’s options more affordable, and of at least equal quality.
Startech is a well-known “jack-of-all-trades” Canadian company that’s been making a wealth of computer accessories since the mid-eighties, ranging from cables to docking stations, USB hubs, mounts, video adapters, and pretty much every other accessory you could imagine needing for your computer system. Naturally this includes server management hardware too, and while they don’t offer quite the same wealth of higher-end racks and enclosures, they offer some great affordable options for smaller businesses who aren’t looking to outfit a large dedicated server room.
In addition to the mounting gear that you’ll need to get your equipment into your rack, you’ll find that there are several other rack-mountable components that can be used to make for a smoother installation, and depending on your setup you’ll definitely want to consider at least some of these too.
Simple metal rack-mountable shelves are available from a variety of manufacturers that can be very handy for placing smaller pieces of equipment like wireless access points and hubs that can’t be mounted into a rack.
If you’re installing servers into a rack, you’ll also want to add a keyboard and a monitor, and while you can simply use a shelf for this if you have the space, there are also rack-mountable keyboard trays and even flatscreen LCD panels that can fold down into a 1U rack space when not in use.
If you’re looking to install more than a couple of servers, you’ll also want to consider adding a keyboard-video-mouse (KVM) switch into the mix so you can easily switch between controlling different servers without needing to juggle multiple keyboards and screens.
Other accessories you can add to your rack include lockable keyboard drawers and other equipment drawers that can fit into a 1U or 2U space, as well as rack-attachable patch panels and cable guides to keep all of the wires that are coming out of your equipment from turning into a tangled mess.
If you’ve been keeping your networking gear tucked away in a corner of your photocopier room and trying to pretend it’s not there, then it’s definitely time to get yourself a proper server rack, and there’s no need to be intimidated into thinking that racks are only for big companies with specialized server rooms, as there are a lot of simple, compact, and affordable options available to meet the needs of smaller businesses or even branch offices.
Even if you don’t have rack-mountable servers or network switches, a smaller enclosure with shelves can still provide a better way to keep everything organized and out of the way, but if your gear is capable of being rack-mounted, then you really should give it a proper home.