SFF Computer: What it is and Why it’s Important

Server rackOne of the most incredible things about technology in general, and computer equipment specifically, is how every year it is becoming not only more powerful, but also much smaller. The computing power found in a common smartwatch, for example, is greater than all the equipment used to send the first man to the moon! Because of these types of advancements, technology companies are placing desktop computers, servers, and other equipment in smaller cases to help save room and energy.

What does SFF mean?

The common term for these smaller cases is ‘Small Form Factor’ or SFF for short. Any computer designed specifically to minimize the amount of space that is taken up is typically seen as an SFF. Major computer manufacturers like Dell release similar computers in a variety of sizes so users get exactly what they need. Understanding the specific advantages, disadvantages, and requirements of SFFs is essential for all companies that use them.

Advantages of SFF Computer

Small form factor cases bring many advantages to the users, including the following:

  • Take Up Less Room – The most noticeable advantage is that it takes up far less physical space than traditional cases.
  • Decreased Power Consumption – Most SFF equipment uses fewer fans, and lower power hardware so it operates more efficiently.
  • Lighter Weight – Lightweight computer equipment is easier to work with, move to new locations, and more.
  • Easier Mounting – Many people mount SFF computers to keep them safely out of the way. Due to their design, they can mount easily under desks, behind monitors or TVs, in server racks, and much more.

Disadvantages of SFF Computer

While the smaller size certainly brings many benefits with it, there are also some downsides to be aware of:

  • Replacing Components – The smaller design can make it more difficult for technicians to work on should a component go bad.
  • Limited Upgrades – SFF cases can only fit the hardware that the manufacturer installs. When performing upgrades it is necessary to ensure the new items will fit in the smaller case.
  • Not for All Equipment – While it is certainly possible to house massively powerful hardware into small spaces, there are limits to this. The high-end PCs, and most powerful servers, will need additional room.
  • Cooling – The heat from an SFF computer needs to be quickly and safely eliminated or it can build up fast. This is why proper cooling fans in the case are necessary, and any cooling in the data center, server rack, or other location is critical.

Mounting Small Form Factor Servers

All-In-One Wall Mount for Dell Optiplex-SFF PC
Wall Mount for Dell Optiplex SFF

Due to their smaller size, it can be easy to knock over this type of computer, which causes damage. Because of this, most people will choose to mount this type of computer so it is protected from accidental damage. Due to the popularity of small form factor equipment, there are many mounting options that will make it possible to keep these computers in almost any area.

  • SFF & Monitor Desktop Mounting – Mounting a monitor and SFF computer together will essentially turn it into an ‘all in one’ style computer, which is safe and convenient.
  • Wall Mounts – Placing a SFF computer up on a wall, or on the side of a desk, is a great way to keep it safe and secure, while also out of the way. This is also popular when using a computer as an entertainment center for TVs.
  • Rack Shelves – Small form factor servers are often housed in data centers. Typically, one will find them on in-rack shelves for protection and so they will benefit from the efficient temperature control.
  • Server Racks – This is perfect when multiple SFF computers are in use. Server racks can house various and large amounts of computer equipment and servers.

Using Small Form Factor Equipment

If you want to take advantage of the many benefits of SFF equipment it is important that you plan where it will go, and how to protect it. Whether you operate a large data center, a small office, or even just a home, using the right mounting and the right computer will help ensure a great overall experience for years to come.

SFF Computer: What it is and Why it's Important - RackSolutions
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SFF Computer: What it is and Why it's Important - RackSolutions
An SFF computer, or small form factor, is a computer designed specifically to take up a minimal amount of space, but still achieve high functionality.
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