Server Rack Buying Guide: Everything You Need To Know


Choosing the right server rack is essential for your business’s success. However, selecting a rack can be overwhelming if you’re not sure where to start. To ensure that you make the best decision possible, this comprehensive guide will help you differentiate the types of server racks, better understand rack size and weight, and know key factors to consider for your business. 

What is a Server Rack? 

Designed to secure and organize IT equipment, server racks are crucial for data center environments and small IT closets. Technical equipment can range from servers, routers, switches, hubs, cables, and more. Rack measurements are also standardized so that your IT equipment is compatible with standard racks. Measurements include the width of the rails, horizontal and vertical spacing of mounting holes, equipment size, and more. 

Most rack equipment is typically 19” wide and follows a standard set by the Electronics Industry Alliance (EIA). EIA-310 is a specification for the “standard rack”, which standardizes key features of 19″ racks. This includes features such as the rack unit (RU), vertical hole spacing, horizontal hole spacing, rack opening and front panel width. Overall, a server rack makes it possible to securely hold multiple pieces of equipment in one area. 

The Different Types of Server Racks

Depending on your business, there are a variety of racks that you can select from. Whether you need a rack for your home, office or data center, you can select from the following racks: open frame rack, enclosed rack, wall mount rack, 2 post rack, colocation rack, and portable rack. So what’s the purpose of each rack type? 

Open Frame Rack

For companies that want to keep their network equipment in one area without breaking their budget, open frame server racks are a cost effective option that provides an easy solution to control and monitor rack-mount equipment. Open frame racks don’t have sides or doors, allowing for easy access to your IT equipment. These racks will have two or four vertical mounting rails, also called “posts”. 2-post racks typically require less available depth than 4-post racks, but they also support less weight. 

Additionally, open frame racks are ideal for network wiring closet and distribution frame applications that have high-density cabling. This is because they provide accessibility and open space for cable management. 

4-Post Rack
4-Post, Open Frame Rack

Enclosed Rack

Compared to open frame racks, enclosed racks reduce the risk of data loss and prevent rack-mounted equipment from being tampered with. This is crucial if you’re storing equipment that holds valuable information. Rack enclosures are lockable, have front/back openings, and serve as a second level of protection. 

With an enclosed rack, your network systems and cables are safe inside the enclosure. By securing your equipment, you can reduce the risk of downtime and achieve maximum uptime by keeping a strong barrier between your IT equipment and external damage. 

Enclosed Rack
Enclosed Rack

Wall Mount Rack

If you have limited office or home space, wall mount racks are an affordable solution for optimizing your workspace and keeping your network equipment off the floor. Wall mount racks are for network equipment such as switches, patch panels, or vertically mounted servers. You can either select an open frame or cabinet style wall mount, which are both easy to install compared to other rack options. 

Vertical Wall Mount Rack - Open
Vertical Wall Mount Rack


2 Post Rack

2-Post racks (telco rack or relay rack) are ideal for light-weight IT equipment such as patch panels and switches. This rack type features two vertical upright support beams.

Equipment such as full servers, routers, and monitors will require a greater weight capacity than what is available in 2-post racks. In some cases, a 2-post rack is bolted into the floor for more stability. Compared to 4-post racks, they are less expensive, smaller in size, and are generally made from aluminum. 

2 Post Rack

Colocation Rack

Colocation rack cabinets are designed to provide a secure, self-contained means for 2-4 tenants to share a single rack enclosure. They are primarily used by businesses that rely on data center colocation services for hosting and maintaining their IT equipment. 

Without losing security, this rack type features a flexible modular concept with either 2, 3, or 4 compartment server cabinets. You can rent a colocation rack as as partial, full, or multiples. 

Colocation Rack
Colocation Rack

Portable Rack

Portable server racks have a wide range of use cases and are purchased by both institutions and enthusiasts. Some are beneficial for moving equipment from room to room, while others can withstand long distance travel and implications.

Overall, portable racks are ideal for home offices or small workspaces. Any operation that doesn’t need a full sized rack can benefit from using portable racks.

Shock isolated transport server rack case
Transport Case Rack

Understanding Server Rack Sizes

There are 4 features to consider when choosing your server rack size:  height, depth, width, and type. 

Server Rack Height

When determining the height, you need to understand how many rack units the server rack is. A rack unit is a standard EIA term for measuring the overall height in a server rack. One rack unit (1U) occupies 1.75″ (44.45 mm) of vertical space. 

When calculating rack units, it’s important to know that these units are considered maximum dimensions for rack mount equipment. In some cases, the equipment dimensions may be smaller than the specified RU. For example, the rack height for a server system is 1U. However, the actual height measurement is 1.69”. If the height does not exceed 1.75”, then the server is ultimately 1U. 

Rack U Spacing
Rack U Spacing

Overall, 42U is the standard rack height because it is tall enough to support all necessary IT equipment while small enough to fit through standard door openings in buildings. 

Server Rack Depth

Server rack depth is distance between the front rail to the back rail of the rack. Rack depths can range from a few inches to 50 inches or more.  A 29” rack depth, which is standard for open frame racks, is compatible with servers from Dell, HP, IBM/Lenovo, and Cisco. 

Any depth greater than 29” can house larger equipment or provide extra space for cable management and other additional accessories. Even if you have a high depth rack, server rack rails with adjustable mounting depths can help a shorter server fit perfectly. 

Server Rack Width

As for server rack width, the common standard rack width is 19”. Most rack-mounted equipment, especially servers, have a mounting width of 19” measured from one hole to another. This means that a server rack must be 19” across in order to fit your equipment.

There are many racks that come with an exterior width of 24”, which works well in the data center industry because of the standard 48” floor panel. Data center floor panels are typically 24” x 24”. As a result, a standard rack depth of 48” and a width of 24” makes it much easier to match up your racks with your available floor space. Even more so, a rack with a 24” depth will  keep things simple because it takes up exactly one panel.

Server Rack Type: 2 Post Rack or 4 Post Rack

2 post racks have mounting depth limitations and are ideal for lighter technology or accessories that require less depth. They are suitable for switches, patch panels, routers, and telecommunication equipment. 

Despite the mounting depth and weight limitations, 2 post racks can be as tall as a standard data center rack. 2-post half-racks are around 24U and full-sized racks are around 45U in height. With a caster kit, a 2-post can easily switch to a 4-post as well. Compared to 2 post racks, 4 post racks are sturdier and support heavier equipment due to rails and shelves connecting on all four posts. 

Understanding Server Rack Weight

When managing a server room or data center, knowing the weight capacity of your server racks is crucial. However, it’s not just about the total weight of your rack. You also need to consider the difference between static and dynamic load weight. By selecting the correct load capacity for your equipment, you can prevent equipment damage and collapse.

Server Rack Load Capacity

A server rack’s load rating refers to the maximum weight or load that a rack or cabinet can support. The server rack load ratings are specified by the manufacturer, ensuring the structural integrity and stability of the rack. This means that racks with higher load ratings will be able to handle heavier loads in comparison to racks with lower ratings. 

Server racks come with a static or dynamic load rating. By selecting the right load capacity for your equipment, you can prevent equipment damage, reduced system performance, and potential safety hazards. 

Static Load 

Static load weight refers to the maximum weight that a server rack holds when the equipment is stationary and not moved. It represents the weight-bearing capacity under non-moving and stable conditions. 

This load capacity type includes the weight of the equipment itself, along with any additional weight from rack accessories or cables. Compared to dynamic load, static load capacity is typically higher because equipment tends to exert more stress on a structure when in motion.

Dynamic Load

Dynamic load weight refers to the maximum weight that a server rack holds when the equipment is moving on casters. This includes situations with equipment installation, removal, or repositioning within the structure. 

This weight load also includes the weight of the equipment itself, as well as any additional weight from accessories or cables. Since dynamic loads can cause additional stress and strain on the structure due to motion or vibration involved, the capacity is typically lower than the static load capacity.

How Do You Choose the Right Server Rack? 

Before selecting a server rack, there are 5 key factors to consider for your business: rack requirements, size and space constraints of your environment, cooling requirements, data protection, and scalability. 

Specific Rack Requirements 

For starters, it’s important to determine specific rack requirements. This means the size and weight of your equipment, the amount of rack space you need, and any special features or accessories you might need. By assessing your needs in advance, you can select a rack that will meet all of your requirements.

Size and Space Constraints 

Second, you need to consider size and space constraints of your environment for easy accessibility and maintenance. You need to measure the available space of the server rack placement. This ensures that it will accommodate the rack’s dimensions. This includes any height restrictions or clearance requirements that may be present. 

Rack Cooling and Ventilation 

Third, server racks are designed to help manage airflow and keep the temperature at operating specifications. Servers have intakes and exhausts, which brings cool air in from one side and hot air out of the other. Because servers can generate a significant amount of heat, they can overheat without proper cooling. This means that you should look into server racks that have built-in cooling features. For better control of your airflow, you can also utilize cooling accessories such as rack fans, filler panels, or blanking panels. 

2U Filler Panel
Filler Panel

Additionally, it’s important to consider the airflow of your server room to ensure that your rack allows for proper airflow to keep your equipment cool. By evaluating your cooling and ventilation needs, it will help prevent equipment damage and ensure the optimal performance of your servers.

Security and Control

Fourth, it’s crucial to assess security and access control features because servers contain sensitive and valuable data. Racks with lockable doors or panels will protect your equipment from unwanted access. 

It’s also important to evaluate the physical location of your server room and ensure that it will have proper security measures in place, such as having surveillance cameras and restricted access. 


Lastly, when choosing a server rack for your business, you should consider future expansion and scalability. As your business grows, your server or equipment needs could increase. If it increases, then you need to select a rack that can accommodate additional equipment.  This means that adding more servers to a rack or upgrading your equipment can impact the future expansion of your IT infrastructure.

Furthermore, you should make sure the server rack will have sufficient power outlets and ventilation to support future growth. By planning for future expansion and scalability, you can save yourself time from having to upgrade or replace your server rack. 

RackSolutions Server Racks and Cabinets 

Our server racks are compatible with all leading OEM servers and equipment, such as Dell, HP and IBM/Lenovo. Whether you need a single server rack or multiple, we provide a variety of server racks, cabinets, and rack accessories that are ready to order. If you have any questions about our server racks and cabinets, feel free to contact us for more information. With our high-quality, in house manufacturing, you can be confident that you are buying the best equipment possible!


FAQs: Server Racks

How much U space do I need in a server rack?

You need to be familiar with how much U space your equipment will take up in order to save money while making sure everything fits. If you end up with too much open space, you might need blanking panels to keep airflow contained. 

What do 4 Post racks support?

4 Post racks (open or enclosed) are the standard for full servers. They support heavy equipment, go up to 70U in height, and fit most IT equipment. If you need extra security, expandability or a high weight capacity, these racks are the best option.

What are the most important rack accessories for server racks? 

From rails and shelves to cage nuts and KVM mounts, there are many options to help you improve your setup. Rack accessories include: rack hardware, drawers and boxes, KVM and monitor mounts, rack airflow and cooling, blanking panels, converters and adapters, cable management, power strips, and PDUs. 

Server Rack Buying Guide: Everything You Need To Know
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Server Rack Buying Guide: Everything You Need To Know
Choosing the right server rack is essential for your business’s success. However, selecting a rack is be overwhelming if you’re not sure where to start. To ensure that you make the best decision possible, this comprehensive guide will help you differentiate the types of server racks, better understand rack size and weight, and know key factors to consider for your business.
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