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5 factors for choosing the right data center lift

5 Factors for Choosing the Right Data Center Lift

Employees in data centers of any size require mechanical assistance when moving heavy items. According to Occupational Health and Safety Magazine, lifting any load greater than 51 pounds (23 kg) by hand, can easily turn into an “unsafe lift.”

“If the load to be lifted does not meet [exact] criteria, then it is an unsafe lift, and modifications must be made. Modifications would include lightening the load, getting help, or using a mechanical lifting device. There is always a way to turn an unsafe lift into a safer lift.”

Adding a properly designed server handling lift to your data center operations simplifies server maintenance and data center moves.

Warehouse lifts are designed to move boxes and items on pallets in wide, spacious passageways, with little regard for how precisely they hold and handle their payload. In fact, lift tines and warehouse lift platforms can sag under load, by several inches, because their purpose is not precise, level positioning for tasks like rack installs.

Furthermore, because their job is lifting boxes and pallets in a warehouse environment, it is generally acceptable for them to employ hydraulics or open systems replete with pinch points. However, that is a major no-no in clean room data centers where the use of clumsy, inappropriately designed warehouse lifts creates new challenges and dangers.

A lift designed specifically for data centers navigates much more effectively in tight server room aisles. Its rigid structure keeps the equipment aligned for installs, and it provides support for servers into the cabinet. It allows your staff to migrate, refresh, and maintain servers and other IT equipment with a facility-compliant tool. It should minimize risk of injury, and damage to expensive equipment and structures.

Doing a quick Google search for a server handling lift produces a lot of results, some of which may be confusing or misleading. Many of those search results will include general material lifts, and some may even be advertised for use in the data center. The question is, “Do any of these lifts meet the important functions and standards needed to eliminate manual handling of IT equipment in data center environments?”

When choosing an Assisted Lifting Device for your data center, be sure to select a properly spec’d unit and solution that will best fit your operational needs. Take into consideration:

  1. If the device enables you to remove all manual aspects of server handling from your daily operations
  2. Frequency of server moves (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.)
  3. Maximum present or future load size (e.g., heaviest server, multiple servers, switch, etc.)
  4. High and low reach requirements
  5. Required safety regulations and certification compliance

1. Can the Server Handling Lift Carry Out the Essential Functions that Eliminate Manual Handling?

When making your purchase decision, remember that in order to be useful as a server handling lift, the machine you select must be able to perform all of the following essential functions – transport, position, and install/remove – within the confines of your data center environment. Traditional material lifts or any lift that cannot safely carry out these activities should not be considered. Whether it’s navigating narrow server room aisles, positioning servers with the necessary finesse, or supporting the equipment during an install, most can do one or two of these functions, but not all three.

You need an Assisted Lifting Device designed to transport equipment around any data center, where expensive, unprotected equipment and tight aisles between server racks limit turning radius and maneuverability. Its wheel size and a low center of gravity must enable it to travel smoothly and safely over raised floors, ramps, channel raceways, elevator car sills, and rough surfaces such as perforated tiles or grates and concrete expansion joints.

Your lift must respect low ceilings in cold and hot containment units, door openings, elevator entrances, drop ceilings, and overhead cable trays, lighting, conduits, and ducts. It should be able to position servers while not interfering with all these obstacles or at least not damaging them.

2. How Often Do You Move Servers?

For infrequent migrations with only a couple of servers at a time, a manual data center lift that meets the criteria stated above, provides data center managers with a viable alternative to the dangerous work of lifting equipment by hand. It will also satisfies strict safety department requirements and eliminates the sometimes overlooked risks of the job.

However, for most reasonably sized data centers, a motorized lift is an even better option. From simple server refreshes to migrating entire racks and many servers at a time, a motorized lift is always a more efficient and easier-to-use tool to keep IT staff happy and focused on the brainwork.

The aggregate total migration weight and number of tasks handled daily, weekly, or monthly add up, in terms of muscle strain. Avoiding that requires a motorized data center lifting device. It should include a heavy-duty motor, deep-cycle battery, and safety lock-outs to handle the equipment and keep your IT staff on-task and not in pain.

3. How Much Does Your Heavy Equipment Weigh?

Server weights vary from tens to hundreds of pounds, and during big moves you may find your staff migrating several servers at a time. That’s when you want a heavy-duty lift with a large capacity. Your maximum anticipated load size plays an important role in deciding which server handling lift best fits your data center needs.

If you have one component weighing 500 pounds (226 kg) or more, for example, you need a lift rated at or above that weight. Likewise, if you plan on taking advantage of the efficiency of moving several lighter servers at the same time, for a rapid install, their aggregate weight could easily exceed a few hundred pounds. In that case you’ll also want a data center lift rated to carry at least that amount of weight. Choose a lift with a carrying capacity greater than your highest anticipated weight, whether moving one piece at a time or moving several in a single trip.

4. Server Handling Lifts Must Safely Transport Loads from the Floor, Upward through to the Top Cabinet Positions

Data center managers should choose a device with enough reach to assist installs at the lowest and highest points of their cabinets. Because data center “real estate” is at such a premium with sky-high operational and cooling costs, achieving a high server density is critical. Empty slots at the top or bottom of your rack is something you can’t afford, especially if it’s not by design, but because your chosen lift tool can’t do the job.

When servers are delivered to your facility, your IT techs need the right tools to get them unpacked, off the floor or pallet, and into their working position in the server cabinet. Unpacking heavy IT equipment by hand, can require two or more people bending down to floor level, and you may be forced to destroy some or all of the packaging to successfully get the equipment out.

5. A Server Handling Lift Must Meet In-House, Federal, State, and/or Local Regulations

Wherever you’ll be using your server handling lift, federal, state, and local regulations may require that your it meets safety and quality standards. Be sure to choose a lift that meets the requirements  of your internal safety standards as well as those of the jurisdictions covering your facility. The EU, for example, requires that every piece of equipment be CE certified. In the United States, many companies or jurisdictions require commercial FCC compliance to avoid electromagnetic emissions and interference with surrounding equipment.

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As you compare server handling lifts, the importance of choosing one that is capable of carrying out the three essential functions of a data center lift cannot be overstated. You will find yourself doing a lot more dangerous manual handling of heavy equipment than you bargained for if your lift can’t properly assist you in transporting servers around the data center, positioning them where they need to be, and providing access and support when installing/removing them to and from cabinets. The lift you select must be able to carry out these functions effectively and efficiently –  without putting your staff or your data center equipment at risk.

Finally, it must be capable of operating correctly in the unique configuration of your data center environment, yet still have the strength, reach, endurance, and stability to handle heavy equipment faster, better, and safer than you can do by hand.

Moving Servers: 3 Essential Functions of a Data Center Lift

You’ve heard of the “rule of three’s.” In Latin, omne trium perfectum,roughly translated, means “everything that comes in threes is perfect.” We agree.

At ServerLIFT, we think constantly about moving servers in data centers. OK, so we’re a bit obsessive. But what are the fundamental functions required to move heavy data center hardware?

What we discovered is that, in fact, there are only “3 essential functions” that any data center lifting device needs to do in order to be useful in any data center:

  1. Transport
  2. Position
  3. Install/Remove

Sure, there are plenty of nice features and benefits that a lift can have, but without these three, the rest doesn’t really matter.

Data Center Heavy Lifting and the Rule of Threes

The migration and manual handling of data center equipment continues to be the “dirty little secret” that plagues and distracts us from the real work of operating a data center. But an assisted lifting device (ALD) takes the physical lifting out of data center equipment migration. Our clients share data proving that using these devices not only mitigates risk of injury when lifting heavy equipment, but also increases the speed of server deployment.

Here are the criteria to meet the rule of threes in data center hardware migration.

Transport

Servers don’t just show up by themselves in the right rack in the right aisle. Transporting IT equipment around the data center facility, from dock to rack, is a critical activity of daily operations.

  1. You need a server handling lift that can move heavy equipment throughout the data center, from the loading dock to the racks. That means through standard doors, over ramps, and into passenger elevators.
  2. Your server handling lift should fit an aisle as narrow at 48” without having to do a 360 to position equipment.
  3. It should roll easily over floor obstructions such as grated tiles, door thresholds, or cord protectors; some lifts fall short of this requirement and may necessitate a completely smooth service area before undertaking a migration.

Position

Positioning and aligning servers and switches in a multitude of environments and configurations can mean the difference between assisted server handling and going back to the dangerous and inefficient method of manual lifting.

  1. Once you’ve navigated your way to the rack, you must be able to move the data center equipment to the right height – even to the top of a non-standard rack (48U, 52U, or even 58U high), the very bottom of a rack, or even to the floor.
  2. The equipment must be aligned side to side so that it’s level with connection points or rails during installation into, or during removal from, the rack.
  3. If you are dealing with servers that attach to the rack using drop-in or slotted rails, you must be able to support the angle of the equipment during install or removal.

Install

What good would it be to go through the effort of procuring an ALD unless it fully assists in making the process of installing and removing equipment to and from the rack as easy as possible?

  1. You must be able to safely move equipment into and out of the rack and support it in place while you use two hands to secure it to the rails or posts.
  2. Effective moves require full access to the mounting and connection points work freely on the server from the front or sides.
  3. When installing or removing equipment, the lift must not budge, even if you are pushing a server weighing hundreds of pounds from the platform to the rack or vice versa. Lifts that don’t meet this requirement and move around while transferring servers (on or off platforms) can create as much danger as not using an ALD at all.

ServerLIFT is the Only ALD to Meet the Rule of Threes

Of course, we have to point out that ServerLIFT is the only Assisted Lifting Device (ALD) for data centers on the market today that anyone can use to perform all three of these crucial functions for any piece of equipment, in any rack, in any data center, anywhere on the planet.

With ServerLIFT, you have the opportunity to go from the box or pallet into the rack (or vice versa) in at least half the time. Not to mention that adopters of ServerLIFT solutions boast a reported 100% safety record. That’s zero operator injuries and zero equipment damage.

data centers, IoT, connectivity, capacity management, workflows

Growth of IoT Threatens Data Center Efficiency, Including Moving Servers

data centers, IoT, connectivity, capacity management, workflows This year we’ve noticed a trend in data centers; infrastructure management is struggling to keep up with the demand for connectivity. A lot of this can be blamed on the growth from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and the data they capture. The growth of IoT threatens data center efficiency.

As data center managers are being tasked to handle bigger data loads, do you really think they have time to assemble a team of three or four employees to physically move data center equipment? It’s the last thing a data center manager should have to worry about.

Gartner predicts that over half of all the new business processes on the market by 2020 will be IoT-centric. This will challenge data center managers to handle the wealth of additional information these sensors capture and bring to the enterprise. Data center managers will also increasingly be called upon to extend their responsibilities around security, as more IoT devices will mean additional threat vectors that must be mitigated.

IoT and Capacity Management

The Internet of Things connects remote sensors that provide a steady data stream. This data can be harnessed and integrated into existing enterprise processes. The IoT is now everywhere — and it’s changing how hospitals monitor discharged patients, how cities respond to traffic patterns, and even how police monitor and respond to gunshots. In the data center, IoT devices are being used to monitor energy efficiency, server room temperature, humidity, and more.

But all this data will increasingly push data center managers to deliver on the scalability promised by our digital architectures. Proactively managing capacity is job one for data center managers tasked with responding to the demands of the IoT.

If Gartner’s crystal ball is correct, data centers will soon be struggling with the volume and velocity of data flooding in from the roughly 26 billion IoT devices in use by 2020. From a hardware perspective, this will require additional capacity, faster upgrades, and perhaps even the deployment of distributed mini data centers designed to aggregate more data, more quickly.

How quickly you can deploy, consolidate, and deconfigure data center equipment will have a big impact on how you respond to these demands.

Streamlining Data Center Workflows

With data centers evolving and their capacity expanding, the last task the forward-thinking data center manager needs to worry about is the physical migration of hardware. Yet we’ve found that the lifting and maneuvering of servers into racks in the data center is one of those processes that is rarely evaluated for its effectiveness and safety.

As the demands for data center managers increase, server relocation, replacement, and installation will increasingly require planning and implementation time that you simply do not have. As pressures increase to expand data centers to handle IoT data, speed-to-launch will become increasingly important. Utilizing an assisted lifting device (ALD) cuts the physical migration of data center equipment in half — or more.

It’s clear that the data center of the future will discard cumbersome processes. Assisted lifting devices (ALDs) are part of the growing family of data center infrastructure technologies designed to deploy technology with the speed and efficiency demanded by the IoT.