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Why SL-350X Data Center Lifts Aren’t The Worst Choice For Your DC

There are plenty of machines people adopt for handling IT equipment in data centers. But most of those products were designed to do totally different types of work than what’s required for expensive servers in high-tech data centers. People who have been injured lifting a heavy server or have damaged that server know how easy it is to make the wrong choice. And as veterans of the industry, we’ve heard every horror story.

Every colocation facility or DC operator is used to having to problem solve and be creative . . . sometimes they just have to make things work with the resources at hand. That’s the nature of the job. But implementing “OSHA-safe” methods and standards for moving servers and other equipment in your data center is no time to flex that creative muscle. 

No one should tinker with a solution that requires four sets of hands and a couple of sprained backs. Nor should they scoff at a budget proposal for a proper data center lift and then eat their words when someone gets seriously hurt. Which is why a ServerLIFT-brand data center lift is an essential, must-have tool for any data center facility. And, while we recommend the SL-500X Electric Data Center Lift (or one of our other motorized lifts) for most data center operations, the manual, hand-cranked SL-350X Data Center Lift is not the worst choice for your enterprise data center environment—by a long shot. Before we get into that, here are four options that do not pass muster within any facility.

Option #1: Doing It By Hand

manual server unloadCalling over another operator on shift to lift a hundred-pound server together seems like the simplest solution . . . until someone gets hurt or that server slips and falls. Work conditions that include repeated heavy lifting often leads to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). As the CDC says, this type of activity falls into the category of “routine lifting of heavy objects, daily exposure to whole body vibration, routine overhead work, work with the neck in chronic flexion position, or performing repetitive forceful tasks.”

It’s also worth noting that MSDs are the leading cause of injury in the American workplace and cost companies billions of dollars. The inherent risk in manual handling grew even greater after the onset of the pandemic and mandated social distancing. Now, lifting anything by hand, especially when it’s done with multiple people, carries multiple significant health liabilities.

Option #2: Lifting Machines Not Made For the Data Center

Male Patient Visiting Doctor's Office With Back AcheThey’re called material lifts, warehouse lifts, counterbalance lifts, pallet jacks, stackers, and forklifts, among other names. They don’t cost a lot of money and seem like the ideal next step up after manual lifting. Some are electrically powered. Others are hand-cranked. Many employ hydraulics.

Advertisements for these lifts include phrases such as “up to any challenge in your warehouse facility, or construction site,” and “for industrial, commercial, and institutional use.” They seem like they might be up to the task, but in reality they have no place in the data center. This is because they all lack the basic attributes for DC use:

  • Not rigid or stable enough to prevent their platforms from sagging under the weight of your heavier servers 
  • No braking system for holding the lift in place while removing or placing equipment onto the platform
  • No wide range of positioning available for operators who need to work at different angles
  • Small casters or wheels which won’t navigate over obstructions and may damage data center flooring
  • No movement of the platform to provide equipment support into the rack

Hydraulics can also leak over time, causing damage to data center facilities. These types of lifts simply do not meet requirements for safe operation and can also lead to pain and suffering for your staff.

Option #3: Data Center Lifts Without Matching Certifications and Standards

There are currently competing lifts on the market which present as appropriate for data centers but lack vital safety attributes. They introduce many dangerous pinch points for fingers and arms. They are not securely freestanding, so they tip over easily. They are too tall and too wide for data centers with standard doorways and aisles. Most importantly and most telling, you can’t rely on them not causing damage to your facilities or equipment as they lack any product safety certifications

Option #4: Continuing With the Status Quo (It’s the Way It’s Always Been Done!)

We’ve said it before but it remains true today; all of the “alternatives” listed above can work for a minute or for a single, isolated job—until they don’t. And in the meantime, you’re dealing with potential staffing shortages, long-term injury recovery, downtime and other frightening outcomes. It isn’t worth the risk, and it certainly isn’t worth the significant costs incurred. Especially when the data center industry is growing at such an unprecedented rate and servers and other IT equipment are getting heavier.

Obviously, the SL-350X Lift Is Not The Worst Option

buying guide for serverlifts

While any lift solves the lifting by hand issue, hand-cranked lifts introduce another physically demanding task to the equation. We only recommend it as an alternative option for very occasional and limited use. That is why our SL-350X model definitely isn’t the worst option for your data center, even though it is a hand-cranked unit. At least it was designed specifically for data centers. However, depending on the frequency of your moves, it also isn’t the very best tool that your people need and deserve.

This is particularly true if your team has to move servers, switches, and PDUs on a regular basis—or even many of them at one time such as during an annual refresh. Even for occasional use, a motorized lift is the superior choice and the safest option. It’s easier, nicer, and requires less physical exertion. For almost every situation, the SL-500X is the best option, because: 

  • It is our most popular model, with a capacity of up to 500 lbs (227 kgs.) Moves can be made by a single operator in minutes without the risk of injury or pulled muscles.
  • The SL-500FX Front-Loading Lift is unique in its support of IT infrastructure up to 20” (when used with the FE-3X attachment) deep into the rack. Maneuver with 3° of platform angle tilt adjustment.
  • If you ever need to lift equipment over 500 lbs and up to 1,000 lbs (454 kgs), you can’t beat our SL-1000X Super-Duty Lift. Its incredible versatility allows just one operator to lift, transport, install, and remove any equipment—even your heaviest—with the push of a button.  

We can help you to determine which lift fits your budget and your day-to-day needs. Contact the ServerLIFT team today.


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