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FAQ: What Is a Data Center Lift?

Q: What is a data center lift?

A: A data center lift is a machine that is used to lift and install servers and other IT equipment inside data centers. It differs from any other material-handling lift because it is purpose-built to function within any data center environment, including movement through narrow (3ft. or less) aisles, traveling up ramps, over grated flooring, under overhead enclosures, and lifting and supporting servers from the bottom to the top of any height rack or cabinet. It allows a single operator to safely perform the tasks required when handling servers. 

Q: How much should a data center lift cost?

A: Because server equipment is sensitive and not easily replaced, data center lifts should cost more than a run-of-the-mill material-handling lift. A data center lift should meet the same levels of safety, quality, and reliability the data centers using them demand for themselves—even if that means they cost more than a warehouse lift. A properly spec’d and complete solution for most data centers would include the lift itself, applicable functional attachments, and recurring maintenance or an extended warranty. Such a solution should cost between eight and fifteen thousand dollars (USD) on average, depending on the use case. 

Q: What must a data center lift do?

A: A data center lift should function effectively within any data center environment, and lift and support servers from the bottom to the top of any height rack or cabinet. It should allow a single operator to safely perform the tasks required when handling servers. It must perform the following functions sufficiently to be considered a proper data center lift, purpose-built for the following specific needs.

  • Transportation:
      • Fit through standard-size doors and elevators
      • Clear floor obstructions including ramps and cables
  • Positioning:
      • Reach all rack positions, from the floor to the top of a 58U rack
      • Keep servers level and aligned with rack posts
      • Align and tilt servers for movement in and out of slotted rails
  • Installation/Removal:
      • Lock securely in place
      • Allow operator access to servers from all sides/at all heights
      • Stabilize independently for placing servers in racks

Q: How can a ServerLIFT device assist with equipment transportation, positioning, installation, and removal? 

A: We’ve listed the pivotal features of our ServerLIFT devices below to illustrate how we meet each criteria.

ServerLIFT-brand transportation features:

  • When they are not extended, each lift measures under 6.5 ft. tall (197 cm), perfect for standard entryways/elevators.
  • Each lift has large wheels for traversing floor obstructions easily and can navigate over ADA ramps.
  • ServerLIFT side-loading models can insert or remove servers on both sides of an aisle without turning.
  • Swivel handles offer easy movement and stability brakes lock the machines in place when loading or unloading servers.

ServerLIFT-brand positioning features:

  • SmartTILT™ technology allows for platform angle micro-leveling with 2-degree range. 
  • All lift models reach up to a minimum of 8.16 feet (248.9 cm).

ServerLIFT-brand installation/removal features:

The FE-3X™ Extended Shelf nearly doubles the reach of our front-loading data center lift.

Q: How many different brands of data center lifts are there? 

A: There are clear differences in engineering, safety, and performance between ServerLIFT and other devices that are marketed for data center use. We’ve compiled independent testing results and a breakdown of all performance claims here and here for your reference

Q: Can a warehouse or material-handling lift be used to handle servers?

A: Can a warehouse lift be used in server handling? To some degree—but not completely. Should it ever be the first choice for IT equipment usage? Absolutely not. Material lifts are built for warehouse environments, not for data center functions. 

The three biggest issues with using such a device are: 1) They don’t brake and provide stability for transferring servers on/off their platforms, 2) They provide no support for the server into the rack/or cabinet, leaving the operator to support the server in midair by hand in order to install it, and 3) They often have hydraulic mechanisms. Hydraulic fluid can leak and should never be used in a data center.

Our side-by-side comparison illustrates all the key differences between a ServerLIFT data center lift and a generic warehouse/material lift.  

Q: Where and how are data center lifts used?

A: Data center lifts are helpful in any situation, short-term or ongoing, where people are required to physically handle servers and other rack-mounted IT equipment. Those operations include:

  • Data Centers
  • Edge and Cloud Data Center Facilities
  • Server/IT Equipment Manufacturers
  • Systems Integrators
  • Data Research Labs
  • Managed Service Providers

Q: Who is ServerLIFT? 

A: Based in Phoenix, AZ, ServerLIFT creates tools and solutions for the safe and proper handling of IT equipment. We manufacture and sell data center lifts around the world, the most popular being the SL-500X Electric Lift.  Learn more about our lifts here.

Still have questions about our data center lifts and how we can best serve you? Contact us here.

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