What is a Rack Server?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Rack servers are computers that are designed to function as servers and are configured for installation in a central framework that is known as a rack. Sometimes referred to as a rack-mounted server, this computer fits neatly into a slot in the rack and functions to coordinate all local and remote sharing that is conducted throughout the facility. Both small large businesses make use of rack-mounted servers, especially if there is a need to provide remote access to a private network.

Racks of servers.
Racks of servers.

While similar to a tower server in function, these two types of servers are different is construction. The tower server is more of a cabinet that stands alone, and tends to be taller. The rack server, by contrast, allows access to the servers by opening enclosures found on at least two sides of the rack. It may also take up less space than a tower server, although this is not always the case.

Computers connected to a server.
Computers connected to a server.

One of the advantages of rack mounting is that several servers can be placed into the bays or slots of the rack. This makes it easy to connect the computers to other network components. Doing so not only makes it possible to maintain a primary server, but to also establish a secondary server that will drive the network in the event of an emergency. With larger companies, a series of servers may service different parts of the network, while allowing the connected servers to exchange data on an as needed basis.

In a basic rack server setup, the server is held in place with the use of simple screws found in the bays of the rack. This safety measure is helpful in making sure that a computer does not slip out of place and land on the floor. Along with securing the servers in place, the open configuration of the rack also provides for the easy flow of cool air from systems that help to keep the servers and other network components at a constant temperature.

Because of its relatively small design, the rack is also designed to take up less floor space. This means that, even if a utility closet has to be turned into the new home for the servers, there are racks that will fit into the space with ease. As long as there is some way to keep the small area cool, the server can function with nothing more than routine maintenance and care.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments

SkyWhisperer

@nony - If you want you can build your own computer racks using strong 2 by 4 wooden beams. A friend of mine did this in his garage (he runs a website business on the side) and it’s as secure as anything I’ve ever seen commercially.

Just make sure you fasten the screws in tight and that you provide plenty of reinforcements for the base of the rack.

miriam98

@nony - If you buy a rack server you should become familiar with the units of measurements used to describe the server and rack heights. Otherwise you may buy a computer that won’t fit in your rack.

Basically they use “U” measurements, where 1 U = 1.75 inches. So when you do your research you’ll find a 1U rack server or a 2U rack server. Just take each number and multiply by 1.75 to get the respective height.

When you shop for the server itself, make sure it fits in those dimensions. The server product label will state its unit measurement. Most professional rack systems are a little over 6 feet tall, and this approximates to 42U.

nony

If you need a rack server for home use, you can find some cheap but sturdy models online that come in under a few hundred dollars. Of course if you paid $100 for the computer itself you may not think that is cheap; however most servers tend to cost a little more than typical desktops, so I think the math does work out well. You can usually get deals from the computer supply stores online.

Charred

We have two small server rack setups in small business. As each computer in the network must have a name, some time ago the network administrator gave the first server the name “Beast” and the second was called “Goliath.” Our admin has a vivid imagination.

Nonetheless the servers are both stored securely in their racks, and Goliath is more the backup than anything else. We also have several fans running in the room where the servers are stored to keep them from overheating. They basically run 24-7.

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