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6 steps for setting up a small business server room

Paul Mah | Sept. 11, 2013
Are you worried about relying on a third-party online service provider to store your business data in light of NSA spying revelations? Learn how to set up your own server room for an on-premises deployment instead.

Managing Wires Isn't Glamorous, But It's 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.

The best way to properly manage all these cables is to use an RJ45 patch panel to terminate Ethernet cable runs. The typical patch panel installs in 1U of space and offers up to 24 ports. Using a patch panel does require some hands-on work - stripping a cable, punching it into the patch panel and using a wire tester tool to verify the connectivity. (If hiring a professional is in the budget, he or she can probably get everything installed in less than a day.)

In addition to a patch panel, always have a bag of cable ties handy to easily secure stray cables. Standard cable ties are "throwaway" cheap when purchased in bulk, though releasable ones that can be reused aren't that much more expensive.

Label Everything - and Keep It Simple
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 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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