Server Rack Shelf Buying Guide: Everything You Need To Know


Looking to optimize your business’s server rack setup? To ensure that you select the right shelf, this comprehensive guide will help you understand what a rack shelf is, how to differentiate the types of shelves, and key factors to consider for your business. 

What is a Server Rack Shelf? 

Designed to hold and store IT equipment, a rack shelf mounts directly inside a 19” server rack among all of the other rack mounted equipment. These rack shelves can be mounted into server racks, AV racks, or network racks. 

Rack shelves are used to store servers, desktop PCs, monitors, tools, switches, and other tools or equipment that is not usually rack mountable. Not only does it provide additional storage for equipment, but it also keeps your rack space organized, making servicing equipment much easier.

The Different Types of Rack Shelves 

Additionally, rack shelves are designed for the server rack or equipment that you are using, so you can select a shelf that will best fit your needs. Whether you need a bunch of computers in a single shelf, or just a place to keep a keyboard in your rack, you will find variants that are perfect for your deployment. Before selecting a rack shelf, you need to understand the difference between the different types and their uses. 

Fixed Shelves 

For starters, fixed shelves are firmly locked into place, preventing accidental damages from movement that occurs inside the rack. These shelves are ideal for equipment that will be physically examined, moved, or modified every so often. Also, a fixed shelf typically has a higher weight capacity at a lower price than a sliding shelf. 

1U 108 Fixed Shelf 24in Depth
1U 108 Fixed Shelf 24in Depth

Sliding Shelves 

Sliding shelves are used to service your equipment by sliding your shelf in and out of a rack. It allows you to easily run new cables, troubleshoot issues, and prevent dust from accumulating. For companies regularly work with their servers on a weekly or monthly basis, these sliding shelves provide easy access for individuals that need to examine, modify, or fix the hardware. As a result, this makes maintenance and upgrades quicker and more efficient. 

However, sliding shelves are more expensive than fixed shelves. Based on how many servers and shelves that you plan on installing, the difference in cost could be substantial.

1U 115 Sliding Equipment Shelf 27in Depth
1U 115 Sliding Equipment Shelf 27in Depth

2 Post Shelves 

2 post rack shelves are also known as cantilever shelves or relay rack shelves. These rack shelves mount on 2 post server racks and are ideal for storing lightweight equipment. Example of the equipment ranges from routers, switches, controllers, and non-rackable equipment. There are instances where people will buy a 4 post shelf because they have a 4 post rack. 

In reality, 2 post shelves can actually be mounted in most 4 post racks. Buying the right amount of 2 post shelves for your 4 post rack reduces load on your rack, increases equipment’s exposure to air, saves money and uses less resources. 

Just keep in mind that you will want to check if your rack has two mounting points on each upright. Typically, 4 post rack mounting equipment only has a single point of attachment per post, while 2 post racks mostly have two points of attachment. If your rack has two points of attachment, then most 2 post shelves will be compatible.

2U 2Post Cantilever Rack Shelf 13in Depth
2U 2Post Cantilever Rack Shelf 13in Depth


HyperShelves are specifically for enterprise deployments in data center environments to decrease deployment time and improve efficiency. It increases shelf density, decreases deployment times, and achieves a massive amount of computing power in limited space. Essentially, it allows you to mount as many small form factor (SFF) PCs while running at full load. You will be able to easily extend the shelf out of the rack for in-rack serviceability and replacement of the devices. 

Our high density shelves feature built-in cable management, integrated airflow for optimal cooling and thermal efficiency, and supports more equipment per U space. The PC mounting shelves optimize space and airflow for a lower installation cost per device and easier in-rack serviceability. To learn more about our Hypershelves and what they are used for, check out our guide here

5U HyperShelf for 6 Apple Mac Studio
5U HyperShelf for 6 Apple Mac Studio

How To Select a Server Rack Shelf 

Whether managing a data center or network closet, it is important to select a rack shelf based on your current and future needs. Rack shelves come in different sizes and configurations to serve a wide variety of needs. 

Determining how many servers and shelves you are installing and how often the equipment requires servicing will help you decide whether a fixed or sliding shelf is ideal for your setup. Key factors to consider when making your decision include: server size and configuration, accessibility, weight capacity, and available rack space.

Server Size and Configuration 

First, you need to determine the size and configuration of your rackmount equipment. It will ensure that the shelves you select will accommodate them. This also means knowing the mountable width, depth and height of your equipment. Once you know those measurements, your equipment needs to be compatible with the mounting height, width, and depth size of your server rack. To read more about server rack sizes, check out our Server Rack Buying Guide


Second, it is important to consider how often you will access your servers or rackmount equipment for maintenance or upgrades. If you plan to frequently access your equipment, then a sliding shelf is a convenient choice since it allows for easy removal. 

Weight Capacity 

Third, you need to check the weight capacity of the rackmount equipment. This will ensure that they support the weight of your equipment. If you have larger equipment, then a heavy duty shelf will be more beneficial for heavier weight capacities. 

If you have heavy duty equipment that requires a sliding rack shelf, then you should consider using our 2U Extreme Heavy Duty Sliding Shelf. Featuring a weight capacity of 500 lbs, this rack shelf is ideal for non-rack-mountable equipment, large tower servers, and heavy switches. 

Rack Space 

Fourth, you need to evaluate the available rack space. If there is not enough space, then you should select a shelf that allows for compact equipment positioning. 

Which Rack Shelf Do You Need? 

For reference, here are examples of the best shelves for each type of equipment or use case:

Do You Need Additional Accessories? 

When purchasing a rack shelf for your computer or networking equipment, additional accessories help to keep your rack organized and safe. Here are some additional accessories that may be helpful: 

  • Anti-Slip Mats – Putting an anti-slip mat down onto your rack shelf keeps the equipment in place while working on it or before installation.
Anti-Slip Mat
Anti-Slip Mat
  • Cable Straps – Cable straps effectively bring multiple cables together for improved organization. This is done just after the cables come out of the equipment before they go into the cable paths of the rack itself.
VELCRO® Brand Cinch Strap 5-Pack
VELCRO® Brand Cinch Strap 5-Pack
  • Transport Straps – Having straps to secure network equipment on carts or vehicles during transportation helps to avoid accidental damage.
Transport Straps
Transport Straps

RackSolutions Specs and Rack Compatibility  

To learn more about the specific server specifications for your server, our compatibility guides provide information on compatible mounting equipment. Each server guide includes direct links to mounting products that are compatible with your servers and information about dimensional limitations. 

With these guides, it provides the recommended 4 post shelves or 2 post shelves for a specific server. Additional mounting products include slide rails, universal rails, standard EIA 19 inch racks, cable management, adapters, and a universal rack-to-tower conversion kit. 

RackSolutions Compatibility Guides
RackSolutions Compatibility Guides

Do You Need a Custom Rack Shelf? 

RackSolutions is ready to create custom products for your specific needs. We can design solutions and immediately send out prototypes. If you need a custom rack shelf, then we can make it happen. Contact us today and we’ll be ready to discuss with you! 


FAQs: Server Rack Shelf

What are the weight requirements? 

Before selecting a rack shelf, you need to consider the weight of the equipment that you plan on storing in your server rack. Rack shelves have a maximum weight limit, so you need to select a shelf that is capable of supporting all your equipment. 

If you select a shelf that does not meet the weight requirements of your equipment, this results in equipment damage. To avoid any accidental damages, you need to the accurate weight capacity of each piece of equipment.

How to decide between a fixed shelf or sliding shelf? 

Key questions you should ask yourself when deciding between a fixed shelf or sliding shelf are:

  • How often will I need to access cables in the back of the shelf? 
  • How often will I need to remove equipment or perform maintenance? 
  • Will a sliding feature allow me to easily access the equipment?
  • How important is ease of use to me? 
  • What is the weight capacity of my equipment? 

Can rails serve as an alternative for rack shelves? 

If your equipment does not have a proprietary mounting solution and it will be left in one place for a while, then a rack shelf is typically the best solution. However, there is another other cost-effective option such as Universal Rack Rails, which are essentially shelves with L shaped hinges that support equipment from both sides. With rails, it uses less material compared to shelves and allows you to simply slide equipment off.

You will be able to install these rails no matter what width of your rack is since the two brackets do not need to connect. Additionally, Reducer Brackets can be utilized to mount smaller equipment like patch panels or switches.

Server Rack Shelf Buying Guide: Everything You Need To Know
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Server Rack Shelf Buying Guide: Everything You Need To Know
Designed to hold and store IT equipment, a rack shelf is mounted directly inside a 19” server rack among all of the other rack mounted equipment. These rack shelves can be mounted into server racks, AV racks, or network racks. Not only does it provide additional storage for equipment, but it also keeps your rack space organized, making servicing equipment much easier.
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