Data Center Lift Cost and the Hidden ROI

Anyone who has used a purpose-built server handling lift in data center operations immediately understands how it provides convenience and improvements in data center safety and efficiency.

However, when purchasing a purpose-built data center lift, it is easy to miss the hidden and ongoing cost savings. To get approval for an assisted lifting device, your IT staff will need to validate the lift’s return on investment (ROI).

Operational Savings

Our customers have told us that their data center lift has positively affected their bottom line in the following ways:

Fewer Staff Members per Install

Once the IT staff begins using a server handling lift, the data center starts saving money. Instead of allocating three or four employees to help lift and steady a large server for an installation, the data center can assign one tech to do it single-handedly. The other employees can focus on other critical tasks such as software development, customer service, or network configuration. Fewer people get pulled off their assigned duties, making everyone more productive.

Data centers can avoid overtaxing their employees with cross-over shifts because one tech and a server handling lift can do the job on demand, instead of waiting for a second pair of hands on a shift change. That allows managers to cover 24-hour days and maintain uptime with the right number of employees on a shift, rather than pulling folks from other areas or other shifts to help out (often at double-time pay).

Savings from Reduced Installation Time

A server handling tool in a data center improves server installation efficiency by 300%. Techs can remove, transport, position, and install servers in a fraction of the time it takes to do it manually. Data center leaders who empower their teams with equipment handling solutions generate savings in reduced labor costs all year long.

During large-scale migrations, the savings add up quickly. Imagine the time saved from faster installations combined with the ability to transport multiple servers simultaneously.

Savings from Improved Data Center Safety and Health

Equipment handling is streamlined through the use of server handling devices. Employee satisfaction, attendance, and retention go up significantly. Operators doing their jobs with the aid of a server handling lift feel supported by their employer because they were given the right tool for the job. Research at Google showed an amazing 37% increase in productivity when the company “invested more in employee support and employee satisfaction.” Economists from the University of Warwick demonstrated that “happiness made people around 12% more productive.”

Greater Savings from Avoiding Serious Accidents

A lift prevents expensive accidents. Staff injuries mean employee downtime. Equipment damage means hardware may have to be replaced and can be offline. The entire network and related services are at risk.

Serious injuries can result in an employee filing for Workman’s Compensation. Be prepared to dedicate a bunch of time to employee claims and remediation. Furthermore, insurance underwriters use a business’ claim history to determine its experience modification factor (e-mod), according to Workman’s Comp Essentials.

When a company reduces claims, it may receive a discount on its premiums.

One of ServerLIFT’s major customers, a large military contractor, understood the potential savings imparted by a lift after a work-related injury on their grounds resulted in a lawsuit. The cost of a data center lift – or even many such lifts – was minor compared to the cost of the lawsuit, related downtime, and the operational interference it caused.

When data center staff see the economic and personal benefits associated with a purpose-built equipment lift, they encourage each other to use the lift. The culture of safety and best practices spreads throughout the workplace, distinguishing these businesses from their peers and making operations more cost-effective.

Cost Savings of a Data Center Lift in Colocation Facilities

Colocation facilities can reap both the savings and added revenue benefits when they use assisted server handling lifts for their operations. Employees and your customers enjoy the convenience of using them.

Customers at a colocation facility want to get in and out with the least effort possible. Imagine the response to a nearby colo facility that opens its doors and is completely armed with server handling lifts for their users’ convenience and safety. This gives a major advantage to the colo facility with the data center lift when compared to the facility without one.

Purpose-built equipment lifts in the data center generate greater staff productivity and savings in labor. In a situation where customers come into contact with the lifts, it can easily result in a higher conversion of leads to customers. Once your customers use the device, the word will spread. That means more customers for your facility and higher-density use of space for the operation, which reduces fixed costs per dollar of revenue.

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Understanding and explaining the benefits of a server handling lift in the workplace goes far beyond its bullet-point list of features. It’s a worthwhile investment, not an expense. The downstream implications of a purpose-built data center lift acquisition include continually improving the convenience, safety, efficiency, and ROI for business procedures and operations.

data center relocation

Data Center Relocation Company vs. Do-It-Yourself Migration: Considerations and Hidden Pitfalls

If your data center has a major server relocation project coming up, it is likely to over-tax your staff and resources. Deployments consume many hours of paid professional time and expose your staff and equipment to avoidable risks.

As the data center’s manager or migration project lead, you have two options:

1. Bring in a Data Center Relocation Company
2. Do-It-Yourself (use your own staff)

Option 1: Using a Data Center Relocation Company

Stephanie Faris, on National Computer Warehouse Services’ blog, encourages data center managers to outsource server relocation projects. She gives three reasons:

1. Years of Experience

“Professionals from a server relocation company, unlike most data center staff, migrate data centers daily and may even execute several moves in a single day. That makes them experts on knowing what to expect,” explains Faris.

Data center relocation companies already have protocols developed for efficient migrations. For example, they know that they will have time to label components while the servers spin down.

2. Reduce Liability

Your data center’s insurance policy covers day-to-day routine ops, but does it cover the liability of an employee getting in an accident while moving one of your servers in his or her car? Professional data center relocation companies will have insurance to cover the risks of their deployment exercise from start to finish. Injuries reported on workers’ compensation claims cause an average of nine days away from work, says the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Data center relocation companies train their employees to avoid injuries.

3. Focus on Other Things

Most businesses have just enough staff to cover their data center needs. Your day-to-day operations can suffer if the people responsible for those operations are distracted by a data center move. Contracting a data center relocation company allows your staff to stay focused and free of prioritization conflicts. In this scenario, their involvement is typically limited to answering mover questions and giving them direction.

What Do Professional Data Center Moving Companies Do?

Professional data center moving companies organize, label, protect, and track everything they move so that the process proceeds smoothly from removal, transport, and installation. This requires extensive planning, packaging, labeling, and know-how.

Data Center Relocation Companies Label Everything

Shawn Simon, of the National Computer Warehouse Services, says,  “Labeling is one of the most important measures to keep time loss at a minimum. NCWS labels everything, and when labeling, be sure that the label is in a secure area that is easily identified when moving (and so it doesn’t fall off when being packaged).”

There’s no time to figure out what label goes to what attachment rail because a label fell off. Faris explained, “Often times with rails, for example, the client will opt to not have NCWS handle this aspect. We show up and there are 150 different rail sets or various makes and models thrown into a box. This will add considerable time and frustration to your staff at the destination.”

Just as professional server moving companies judiciously label all items for proper identification at their destination, they map out the layout of server cabinets and, within cabinets, the destination rack elevations for each component of the cabinet. Properly mapped and labelled racks and components ensure efficient repopulation.

Data Center Relocation Companies Protect Equipment

Data Center Relocation CompanyInsurance covers damaged or lost equipment, but losses affect premiums and waste valuable time and effort. Packaging and caution during the moving process takes less time than a trip down to the hardware store or IT shop.

IT equipment needs special protection from static, shock, physical vibrations, drops, physical blows, and moisture. Pros should know which items need specific types of protection and the best methods for achieving it.

In addition, professional data center movers understand the importance of checking warranties on IT equipment before moving it. Some equipment warranties may require specific conditions, such as relocation only by approved personnel or an advanced relocation notification. Pros should verify which pieces of equipment might have conditional warranties before pulling them from a server cabinet.

Verify Before Outsourcing

Not every data center relocation company has the equipment or training to do the job safely and efficiently, so choosing the right one matters. In fact, a lot of regular moving companies market themselves as having data center relocation-specific expertise, when they really don’t.

For example, they may not use purposefully designed server lifts, and they may improvise by pulling heavy equipment with pure muscle work or traditional rigging methods. Before you sign a contract, ask them for specifics about their data center moving experience. Find out what they do differently in a data center move and get multiple references to call.

If they do not have or rent server lifts, insist that they do or use yours as a loaner to avoid accidents with your equipment during depopulations and repopulations. They should be insured, but you don’t want an injury in your data center and you certainly don’t want to add “server replacement,” “data recovery,” or “insurance claim” to your to-do list. The lift will save them time on server removal and installation, reducing the risk of an accident on your watch.

Option 2: Using Your Own Data Center Staff to Migrate Servers

If you chose the first option, you need a solid plan for the transition. Keeping your customers happy means maximum uptime by minimizing the risk of outages. Your IT staff may be used to moving individual components occasionally, but they may not have the requisite experience to depopulate and migrate a room full of server racks

Migrating a data center is not the same as migrating many servers individually at different times. The former requires the right kind of planning, strength, stamina, and tools. Make sure to schedule plenty of time for planning, execution, and closing the migration project, and don’t overlook the following:

1. Make sure that your data center has enough server lifts
If your data center has a server lift, your daily operations probably already involve regular server migration. Your staff may already have experience with modest deployments.

They should already be using a lift that enables them to install/remove servers, position them, and transport  them — the three essential functions of a data center lift — on their own. But, how big is the data center? How quickly does it need to be depopulated? Will a server lift be needed at the new location before they finish using the one at the old location?

If by answering these questions you realize that the number of server lifts you have is great for day-to-day operations, but insufficient for this migration project, you might need to consider buying or temporarily renting additional server lifts. Arm your staff with enough assisted lifting devices to handle the weight of the equipment and the scale of the migration.

2. Be realistic about what they can handle

Your data center staff may already uninstall servers and disassemble racks, cabinets, cable trays, and even raised floors for routine maintenance. As long as a relocation does not require complex migration protocols outside their normal routine, you’ll know that they can successfully complete a move, with the right amount of planning and equipment.

3. Provide adequate safety training for your staff

Data Center Server InstallTrain your staff to enable them to efficiently and safely move heavy equipment with a server lift. Insist that they use the lift even when handling lightweight servers.

Without a lift, and especially under a time crunch, dealing with any rack-mounted equipment by hand is tricky and potentially very dangerous. Likewise train them on OSHA’s specifications for manual lifting, because they’ll likely move items other than IT equipment.

Have them use proper attire such as good work gloves; closed, hard-toed shoes; and no loose clothing. Insist on scheduled breaks for water, food, and rest to ensure that they don’t burn out and hurt themselves, the equipment, or others.

4. Employ professional movers for the facility transfer

Once the racks are depopulated, all your equipment is packaged up, and everything is ready to be moved to the new location, use professional movers. Even if you used your own staff to get to this point, they shouldn’t be asked to transport everything to the new facility. Movers are highly trained, insured, and experienced at rigging and moving from one location to the next. Let them do what they do best. Never subject your techs to work which they are not trained to do, nor are in proper physical condition to do that work safely.

Potential Pitfalls of Either Option

Security

Whether you plan your move yourself or with a data center relocation company, you must streamline your data center’s chain of custody and security protocols. Data center migrations expose equipment, data, and staff to situations that can result in their damage or permanent loss.

When you expose expensive equipment full of invaluable data to theft, misplacement, drops, bumps, and bangs, you place the company’s assets, the stockholders’ security, and your professional reputation on the line. Security and continuity begin with planning, and you should involve yourself in that process.

Shawn Simon of NCWS also recommends splitting up freight: “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket! Consider your total inventory and split your load if you can. Our belief is that if you have a 53 [foot] trailer of packaged equipment, the load should be split into to [two] 26 [foot] trucks. If there were to be a catastrophic event, this would help to minimize loss. Also depending on logistics, often times 26 [foot] trucks are a bit easier to navigate in tight quarters and lift gates help as well.”

Data centers often overlook the physical logistics, he says. And, when dealing with sensitive electronic equipment – especially servers –  the truck must be air-ride equipped no matter how short the trip.

Safety First

You need to protect your equipment, infrastructure, and staff. Most data center employees spend relatively little time migrating entire banks of servers. When moving a single server here and there, they might sometimes ignore routine safety procedures. However, when facing the rigorous demands of a big data center migration, safety protocols are absolutely critical.

Take precautions to protect them, your equipment, and your infrastructure. Stephanie Faris recommends keeping three things in mind:

1. Know Proper Lift Procedures. Lifting, moving, and carrying heavy servers and other IT equipment should be done with a server lift. Make sure that you train staff on the importance of using an assisted lifting device. Even when lifting items under 50 lbs. (23 kg), employees should have proper training and understand how to lift safely.

2. Invest in Supplies and Equipment. Professional movers use back support belts and assisted lifting devices. Your employees should too. As part of their safety training, they should understand how they help and how to properly use them.

3. Keep Walking Areas Clear. When a data center migration begins, things get a bit chaotic. Have someone walk rounds daily to ensure obstacle-free walkways. Falls accounted for 25% of fatal work-related injuries, throughout the U.S., according to the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2016. Falls, slips, and trips accounted for 19% of the nonfatal injuries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If you have a data center move on the horizon, hopefully criteria in this post will help you plan appropriately, whether you are performing the move using your own staff or a professional data center relocation company. Either way, ensure that you have enough server lifts on hand for all involved persons, and train everyone who will cross the data center threshold. Show your supervisors that you value the safety and efficiency of everyone who enters your data center as much as, if not more than, the data itself.

Thanks to Mark Evanko from Bruns-Pak for his help in contributing to this article.

How strong should a server handling lift be?

How Strong Should a Server Handling Lift Be?

Strength refers to “the ability of something to support a force or weight without breaking,” according to the MacMillan Dictionary.  But, when we refer to the strength of data center lifts, we’re talking about their ability to perform at their best. Can the device handle servers to carry out the three baseline functions of a data center lift?

  1. Transporting Servers
  2. Positioning Servers
  3. Assisting with Installing (or Removing) Servers

How strong should a data center lift be? You want a lift that’s strong enough to allow a single IT tech to carry out all of these functions safely with your heaviest server.

With a Strong Server Handling Lift, One Tech Does the Work of Three

Using a data center lift that’s strong enough, one person should be able to lift, transport, and install or remove a server, without any help. How strong does a server handling device need to be, to be able do that?

A Data Center Lift Must Be Strong Enough for Your Heaviest Equipment

A data center lift should have a weight capacity rating greater than your heaviest server or switch. If you plan to move several pieces of equipment at the same time, the lift should have a capacity larger than the combined weight of those pieces of equipment.

Suppose that you have a 75-pound (34 kg) Lenovo 5462EDU server that you move frequently. You also have a modular blade or switch chassis system, such as a fully populated HPE BladeSystem c7000 or a Cisco Nexus 7000 18-Slot Switch, each of which can weigh 500 pounds (227 kg) or more.

You know that your tech can safely install the 75-pound server by hand with help or on his/her own with a light-duty lift. However, if you want your tech to do their work without the help of another and also be able to move the chassis system as efficiently as possible (without having to remove some or all of the blade or system components), you’re going to need a strong lift, rated somewhere between 500 and 1,000 pounds (227 – 453.5 kg).  

That’s how strong a server handling device must be to meet the challenges you face every day when operating your data center.  If your data center lift weight capacity rating exceeds the weight of your heaviest equipment, your IT tech will never need help lifting, transporting, or installing or removing a server.

A Server Handling Lift Must Be Stronger than You

When dealing with smaller, lighter rack mounted equipment, strength still matters. Even when steadying a 35-pound (16 kg) server inside a server cabinet, attaching it to its mounting hardware with the other hand is an Olympic feat. Even if it can be done, a data center lift can do that same job, safer, steadier, and better.

Why Pay Three Employees to Do the Work of One?

As data center technology advances, techs must handle more and more servers on their own. For example, Facebook data center operations staffers “can manage at least 20,000 servers, and for some admins the number can be as high as 26,000 systems,” reported Facebook Data Center Operations Director, Delfina Eberly. That means that more and more data centers will have their admins working each shift alone.

Data center managers on a tight budget want to avoid calling in extra help to migrate or switch out a heavy server. Extra hours, and maybe even paying overtime or holiday pay, won’t go over well with the chief financial officer. On the other hand, risking an employee injury or damaged equipment due to an accident while moving a server won’t go over well with anyone.

Imagine this scenario:

It’s 3:05 in the morning on a Saturday, and one of your critical servers just went out, knocking out the network or forcing you to run solely on the backup. You have a replacement server, but it weighs over 70 pounds (32 kg). Even with someone steadying it, it’s a bear. The last time you switched this server out, two of your coworkers helped you haul it over to the cabinet, line it up, and line up the rails. You pinched your fingers trying to get it into the rail.

Tonight, both of the other techs just got off a double shift because they were migrating equipment to the new data center, and your supervisor worked a double shift with them. You’re the only person in the building. Do you want to call your supervisor and wake him up after he’s worked a double shift?

You don’t need to call anyone. The purchasing department delivered a new data center lift just last week, and your coworkers used it this week for the data center migration. When you clocked in, you noticed that even though your colleagues used it to populate a new bank of cabinets during that double shift, it still had more than enough juice to keep going. You’re on it.

Before 3:45 AM, the networks’ backup is, well, back up. Your supervisor’s still asleep, and you’re pouring yourself the night’s first cup of coffee. Take a break and enjoy the cup of joe; you’ve earned it!

In your data center, you want to keep IT staff to a minimum and avoid dangerous server handling by hand. Make sure that you arm your staff with the tools they need to do their job – a server handling device that they can use in any environment and in any situation to handle server transport, positioning, installation, and removal, without having additional staff on hand.

Are Motorized Data Center Lifts Stronger?

Both hand-cranked and motorized lifts can handle heavy loads using similar force-generating mechanisms to achieve results. Motorization does not necessarily make a lift stronger, but it reduces the amount of user effort required to achieve the lift. Consequently, there’s something else to think about. Can the lift safely perform throughout its baseline functions and protect your staff from injuries due to overexertion and stressful repetitive motions?

Here’s where the motorized server handling device does give users a big advantage over hand-cranked alternatives. A battery-powered motor works faster and longer (and without complaint) than a person can comfortably turn a lift crank. It achieves the same work faster, but with no physical strain on the user. A properly spec’d motor driving a lift system can raise and lower 1,000 pounds (454 kg) in seconds. Because the motorized lift does the work more efficiently and avoids fatiguing IT staff, they are recommended for the vast majority of data center operations.

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As a general rule, stronger and electrically powered is better when selecting a data center lifting tool. However, smaller operations where IT equipment is rarely added or swapped out can get by, using a lower-capacity hand-cranked lift. Managers should take into account their heaviest anticipated piece of rack-mounted equipment, exceeding that capacity as much as possible to plan for the future. And the heavier the maximum load, the more important it is to use a powered motor-drive data center lift, regardless of how frequently servers are moved. Mechanical advantage only goes so far, and lifting very heavy loads using a hand-crank is not advisable. Buying a single large data center lift that has all your operational needs covered might, in the long run, help avoid having to replace it later on.

women-data-center

Women in the Data Center

There are more women in the data center than ever before. “In 2015, women held 57% of all professional occupations, yet they held only 25% of all computing occupations,” according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in 2016, women in the U.S. occupied only 38.9% of jobs in data processing, hosting, and related services, despite an increase in the number of women graduating with graduate degrees in IT programs.

Between 2005 and 2011, institutions with IT programs issued more than 76,000 degrees to women, with increases among graduates at the master’s (19.7%) and doctorate (14.2%) levels, according to the Institute of Education Sciences.

Many strategies have been suggested regarding increasing the number of women in quality tech positions, says the Workforce Institute. Unfortunately, as far as data center careers go, the dirty little secret is that, on a daily basis, workers in data centers have to lift heavy, expensive servers up and down, in order to do their jobs. As a result, many employers, consciously or unconsciously, hire young, strong, male candidates to fill IT engineer or tech positions. Likewise, women may not even apply for positions because they know that it includes tasks that are as physically demanding and as dangerous as construction site jobs.

What Does the Law Say About Lifting Heavy Objects?

As a general guideline, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in the 1980s, established a basic recommended maximum lift weight of 51 pounds applied equally to both men and women. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have both adopted the NIOSH recommendation. However, no federal legislation in the U.S. requires adhesion to the recommendation, leaving employers and employees with the responsibility of making decisions about lifting equipment in data centers.

To help physicians advise pregnant women, NIOSH established a Revised Lifting Equation (RNLE) to provide recommended weight limits (RWLs) for pregnant women in the workplace. Just as with the original recommendation, the federal government does not require compliance. It is the employee who must take the initiative to consult with a physician to establish a safe weight limit and negotiate assistance terms with her employer.

Should Women Apply for Data Center Jobs?

Lifting heavy IT equipment does not have to present a barrier to women, or anyone else, who would like to work in an IT job. Easy-to-use data center server lifts have virtually eliminated lifting ability as a hiring consideration.

Purpose-built server lifts maneuver well in the data center, and they eliminate the need to lift, hold, or support any piece of IT equipment that fits in server cabinets. Well-designed server lifts level the playing field and provide a tool that can be used universally by anyone regardless of height, age, or strength.

Aside from essentially doubling the pool of candidates (more than half the population are women), hiring women in the data center generates a number of advantages, according to a study, “The Case for Investing in Women,” by the Anita Borg Institute. The key advantages:

  • Improved Operational and Financial Performance. “Women have tremendous purchasing power. Organizations who employ more women in key roles are better equipped to meet the needs of the broader market, because women know what women want,” according to the Institute.
  • Increased Innovation. The ability for companies to innovate is a critical competitive advantage. Research has shown what should be plainly obvious – that the different perspectives of women produces a more fertile environment for new ideas and ways of thinking. According to research, women “bring valuable perspectives and approaches to the ideation process, resulting in more innovative solutions to complex problems.”
  • Better Problem-Solving and Group Performance. Diverse groups with diverse perspectives, compared to homogeneous ones, solve problems more efficiently and increase overall performance.
  • Enhanced Company Reputation. Those with aptitude in the tech field are in short supply and high demand. Having women in positions throughout the organization sends a strong and positive message to suppliers, customers, investors and prospective employees.

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The pool of female IT graduates is growing and will continue to do so, as the enrollment of women in IT-related degree programs increases. Having the tools needed to hire women for jobs in a data center environment can benefit the overall business by improving company diversity, productivity, innovation, and image.

Federal regulations protect men and women equally, with respect to duties involving lifting IT equipment, and recommendations exist to establish fair policy. Lifting solutions such as server lifts now eliminate the barriers of physical strength and height that may have once prevented women from applying for data center technician and other positions requiring the handling of heavy IT equipment.

Motorized Lift vs Hand-Cranked Lift

Motorized vs. Hand-Cranked Data Center Lifts

Each data center manager has different operational needs to consider when it comes to evaluating lifts for IT equipment, in the data center. When selecting a data center lift, you need to start by choosing between hand-cranked data center lifts and ones that lift using motorized winches. We suggest that you focus on three main criteria:  

      1. Frequency of component moves and maintenance
      2. Quantity of servers handled in a single move
      3. Largest IT equipment size

When purchasing decisions fail to consider these criteria and end up buying the cheapest device, the results don’t always meet initial expectations. By planning well and procuring the right tools for the job, your IT techs will thank you and deliver the efficiency and safe operations everyone is aiming for. Conversely, settling for the least expensive or insufficiently spec’d lift can result in reduced efficiency, downtime, a data center accident, or even a lawsuit.

Your lift protects your equipment and employees from the highest-risk activities in the data center: installation, transportation, and positioning of servers, batteries, and other heavy IT equipment. In addition, it allows them to perform these functions in the most productive way possible.

Consider the following three questions when comparing a hand-cranked vs. motorized data center lifts.

Frequency of Component Moves: How Often Do You Move Servers?

A hand-cranked lift improves data center safety and reduces effort, compared to attempting to move servers without a lift. However, motorized lifts also reduce IT staff fatigue and potential work-induced musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) with push-button ease. The motor does the repetitive muscle work.

According to Ergonomics Plus founder, Mark Middlesworth, increasing people’s efficiency in their working environment, “by systematically reducing ergonomic risk factors, you can prevent costly MSDs.” Middlesworth added that, “approximately $1 out of every $3 in workers compensation costs [are] attributed to MSDs. In addition, he warns that “… indirect costs can be up to twenty times the direct cost of an injury.”

A data center with frequent server deployment requires a motorized data center lift to avoid fatiguing hard-working techs. A motorized lift may well compensate for the additional investment, if it prevents a single injury or accident.

Quantity of Servers: How Many Servers Will Be Deployed or Serviced?

To execute a large data-center deployment, IT techs depopulate and populate many server cabinets during the work week, and some data centers may schedule four or five migration events during the deployment period.

With a properly rated lift, your techs may transport several servers at a time, requiring elevating and lowering the lift repeatedly for a single migration or refresh. Data centers with many cabinets full of servers, switches, and other heavy IT equipment will require a motorized lift for heavy deployment needs.

Even routine maintenance, in large data centers, calls for a motorized lift because it reduces the time and effort needed to pull servers and reinstall them. If you’re moving many servers or cabinets, a powered server lift can reduce installation or migration time, respectively, by 50%.

Heaviest IT Equipment: How Much Does Your Heaviest Server Weigh?

The size of your heaviest piece of IT equipment can make the hand-cranked vs. motorized lift purchase decision for you. In our experience, if you have any item weighing more than 300 pounds (136 kg) we recommend a motorized lift, especially for frequently moved equipment. Although a hand-cranked lift may have a rating well above 300 pounds, our customers tell us, and our research has shown, that the physical effort required to raise a heavier server or battery with any regularity puts a great deal of strain on your shoulder muscles and back.

You should buy a lift with a weight capacity greater than your heaviest device, whether it be a server or a battery. If your IT techs use a manual hand-cranked lift for anything over 300 pounds, they’re risking an injury or at the very least an unwanted daily arm workout.

Data Center Budget: Does a Cheap Lift Really Cost Less?

A hand-cranked lift, by nature, costs less because it doesn’t have a motor, battery, or charger, like a motorized lift. As a result, purchasing departments may choose a manual hand-cranked lift in order to save a little bit of money. Savvy data center managers know that minor budget savings should never  dictate the selection of essential work tools. Instead, they will always choose their device by considering move frequency, their heaviest single device, and the weight of multiple devices in a single load. This approach also results in greater productivity and safety, both of which easily make up for the slight additional cost of a motorized lift.

If your budget cannot really take efficiency or optimum safety into consideration, a hand-cranked lift certainly beats not having a data center lifting tool at all. Prevention, though, will probably tax your budget much less than IT staff fatigue or work-induced injuries.

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.

data center lifts warehouse lifts

Data Center Lifts vs. Warehouse Lifts: 3 Main Criteria

Servers can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The data they contain may be worth millions. Some of this IT equipment weighs three-quarters of a ton. You want to make sure that you have a data center lift designed to protect those assets while performing the three essential functions for your IT equipment:

  1. Transporting
  2. Positioning
  3. Installing and removing

By providing your data center manager with an appropriate data center lift, rather than a warehouse lift, you enable your IT techs to move heavy, delicate, expensive servers safely and efficiently. A lift designed for the data center environment effectively navigates its narrow aisles, tall server racks, unprotected IT equipment, and interior finish. With a purpose built data center lift, they have the tool they need for the specific tasks that they perform, while protecting them – and your equipment – from dangerous falls.

Material Lifts Designed for Warehouses

Material lift manufacturers have designed their lifting solutions for rugged warehouse spaces. They comply with the rules, regulations, and physical conditions of the warehouse environment. Wide aisles, large turning spaces, heavy-duty shelving, and goods with protective, disposable packaging demand less precision and control than server installations in a data center.

These devices were not designed to handle expensive, sensitive IT equipment requiring precision positioning and support during installations. Most were not expected to protect finished, raised floors or maneuver through narrow server room aisles, like those in the data center.

Warehouse lifts and jack trucks belong in warehouses because that’s the environment in which they were designed to operate. A data center lift keeps your employees, equipment, and environment safe when lifting and transporting heavy items, and it poses less risk to expensive equipment and infrastructure.

A Data Center Lift Must Safely Perform Essential Functions

In order to eliminate all the manual, physical handling aspects of a tech’s job, a data center lift, unlike the warehouse lift, must carry out three essentially important functions – transporting, positioning, and installing/removing IT equipment – with gentle precision.

1. Warehouse Lift Function: Transportation

Warehouse lifts were not designed to navigate in a data center. Their small wheels or low clearance may force users to unsafely tip the devices to traverse obstacles. Some warehouse lifts may not navigate effectively inside hot and cold aisle containment structures or modular data centers. Few have mechanisms to avoid hitting door frames, cable trays, ducts, or hanging lights.

Your data center lift should have large enough wheels and undercarriage clearance to travel smoothly over thresholds, cable covers, elevator entrance-ways, ADA ramps, and floor grates. A purpose-built data center lift should provide multiple tie down points to secure your valuable cargo while your staff navigate the high and low obstacles and confined spaces unique to the data center environment.

2. Warehouse Lift Function: Positioning

Designed for heft without precision, warehouse lifts cannot accurately line up a server with server cabinet rails or faceplate screw holes. Under weight, the lifts’ tines or platforms tend to sag and bend, making it impossible to keep the server level enough for installation. Many have imprecise, or even jerky lift movement, forcing you to have additional staff on hand to help manually reposition your hardware to properly align it. That’s when disasters can happen, and you don’t want damaged equipment, lost data, or injured employees because you bought a cheap warehouse lift.

Correctly designed data center lift platforms, unlike warehouse lifts, have broad, planar lifting surfaces engineered from rigid, sturdy material that will keep the server level and firmly supported during installation. It should elevate your heaviest equipment without deflecting more than 0.5 degrees. With a good data center lift, you won’t need three techs to position a heavy device; you’ll just need one.

3. Warehouse Lift Function: Installation and Removal

Material lifts do not effectively assist in the critical task of server installation and removal. They may not provide the necessary support and may even become unstable and tip over because they are not designed to handle edge loads.

The ability to provide quick, efficient, stable installation support really sets the data center lift apart from the warehouse lift. Face-mounted servers and installation on fixed rails, for example, call for a data center lift platform that extends into the cabinet to support the equipment while you work. This perpendicular action, together with a reliable braking mechanism, should provide support for the server inside any cabinet or rack.

Your lift platform’s edge should have a rated weight allowance of 40 to 60% of the full lift capacity for stable transfer of the server into the cabinet. A good data center lift will allow for some sideways movement to install a heavy device into a server cabinet without sacrificing stability.

Warehouse and Material Lifts in a Data Center

A purpose-built data center lift allows your techs to install a server directly into the rack in half the time, without assistance. The lift bears 100% of the equipment weight and maintains the server in place, so your techs can safely concentrate on cabling and fastening.

When comparing warehouse lifts vs. data center lifts, take into account the specialized design of the device that supports your IT equipment transportation, positioning, and installation: tasks that warehouse lifts cannot perform effectively amid data center obstacles.

Server Cabinet Relocation: How to Safely Depopulate & Repopulate a Rack

Faced with cabinet relocation? Your data center staff needs to know how to depopulate and populate server cabinets safely to move them. Moving a populated storage rack without the proper equipment can damage the supporting structures because they are not designed to withstand tilting, lifting, or sliding.

Likewise, servicing a rack’s midplane, internal power cables, DC input unit, or DC adapter tray requires partial or full depopulation and subsequent repopulation of the rack. Just as with moving an entire cabinet, conducting regular maintenance requires techs to move heavy components, exposing them to the same risk of electrical hazards and muscle strains.

IT components can weigh anywhere from 30 to nearly 1000 pounds. OSHA warns laborers, “Lifting loads heavier than about 50 pounds [22.7 kg] will increase the risk of injury.” As a data center manager, you can reduce the probability of one of your employees getting injured while moving equipment.

According to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, data centers can use up to 200 times more electricity than found in office environments. While properly functioning equipment contains safeguards to protect against electrical shock, damaged or defective equipment can fail and become hazardous.

Employees doing hands-on work in server racks should understand the dangers, for example, of arc-flash incidents. They should know that these events result in fatal accidents and severe injuries every year. Data center employees must know how to avoid them.

Tips to Avoid Accidents

1. Develop and Encourage a Culture of Safety in Your Data Center. You can prevent risks to personnel and equipment by providing compliance and best practices training in your data center before your staff ever sets foot inside the center. Server cabinet depopulation and repopulation, as well as server migrations, represent some of your data center’s highest-risk activities. Data center safety training should include best practices information that includes the following:

                 a. Best Practices for fire protection, prevention, and suppression

                 b. Electrical safety

                 c. Working in confined spaces

                 d. Protection from indoor noise exposure

In addition, employees should understand the potential consequences of poor practices. For example, spilled soda on servers being used by a hospital is a big deal, because the server could shut down during surgery or while a patient is on life support. An arcing event could cause a death or a fire.

 

2. Use a Cabinet Diagram. A cabinet diagram requires a little extra work initially, but it will save time and frustration in the long run. Here’s how to make and use one:

a. Make the Diagram. Before removing a server or other element from the server rack, label the cables still connected to the modular system. Also draw out the positions of the components, such as servers, switches, and VLANs on the rack, to assure correct population in the new cabinet.

b. Tape the Cabinet Diagram to the Target Cabinet. The cabinet diagram, or map, will help populate the target rack later. Tape it to the target cabinet, to visually confirm proper component racking and cable connections. Disconnect the data cables only once the diagram has been taped in place. 

 

3. Check and Recheck Before Pulling Components – Whenever moving electronic devices, dangling cords and cables can create hazards by tripping an IT tech, catching and detaining the heavy devices at their most vulnerable moment, or getting severed and creating a dangerous arc or short. Before pulling a device from its cabinet, take a few precautions.

a. Remove Power from the Cabinet. Before pulling a server or other apparatus from the server rack, assure that you have removed power connections from the cabinet. All cables, wires, or cords should be removed or safely wrapped and fastened to the device.

b. Be Sure to Release the Chassis 100%. Each component of the server cabinet will have screws attaching its chassis to the rack brackets. Unscrew them from the rear to front, and move servers one by one. You want to be sure to remove all of the screws to avoid accidentally pulling and tipping the server rack along with the component you’re uninstalling.

c. Check for Foreign Objects. Check to see that tools, cell phones, cables, hands, feet, shoelaces, and other loose items will not get caught in rail or lift movement.      

     

4. Use a manual or motorized server handling lift – Keep staff from injuring themselves during equipment moves, and keep from damaging components. Use a lift whenever moving anything over 50 pounds such as servers, switches, or boxes of cables.

a. Respect the lift’s load ratings. Learn the weight of servers and components before moving them, and never load a server handling lift more than the lift’s rated capacity. Keep the lift’s user manual with the lift at all times, for reference. Consider noting the capacity on the server handling lift itself, where you can see it.

b. Only Use the Lift for Appropriate Equipment. Never sit or stand on any lift not designed for such use. Keep tools, cell phones, and other personal items off of moving equipment.

c. Secure IT Equipment During the Move. Straps are commonly used to secure IT equipment when moving an ALD over uneven surfaces: thresholds, floor outlets, cable protectors, ramps, outdoor sidewalks, driveways, and other bumpy surfaces.

d. Keep a Low Center of Gravity. Move IT equipment only in the lift’s lowest position, preventing destabilization and resulting accidents.

 

5. Store the Servers Appropriately – A server belongs in a server rack. Otherwise, store it on a sturdy surface, designed to hold a server.

 

Populating and depopulating server racks pose some of the greatest risk events for personnel and equipment in your data center. You can ensure that employees stay safe and take care of equipment by reviewing these safety practices with them.

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Mark Evanko is the principal and one of the original founders of BRUNS-PAK. BRUNS-PAK’s 37 year/5500+ project experiences in design/building high technology data center projects serve as the basis for the evolution of the ultra-reliable facility. Mr. Evanko actively participates as a BRUNS-PAK project director integrating facilities with information systems in developing technically proficient solutions.

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:

  • Transport
  • Position
  • 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.

The truth about date center safety

What is the Number One Secret to Data Center Safety?

Instinctively, you know that preventing on-the-job injuries is vital. But, you may not be focusing on what is actually the biggest risk of injury in the data center environment.

Data Center Safety Not Focused on Biggest Risk

Why is it that when we mention data center safety, the first thing most data center managers think of is reducing hearing loss by blocking the noise pollution from the ambient sounds of cooling fans and the beeping, humming data center environment? Or, they worry about fire hazards or even electrocution.

The biggest risk, however, is something that your engineers and maintenance teams probably do every day without thinking. But it’s the one thing that actually exponentially increases your onsite risk for a safety snafu.

Why is it ok for data center workers, normally hired for their brain (not their brawn) to lift heavy hardware? Everyone does it, but no one seems to be talking about it. The truth is, you can enact every safety measure that will lessen the risk of injury, but if you don’t introduce something to lessen the heavy lifting, your liability goes up.

Limited Facts on Server Handling Injuries

OSHA reports the following as the most frequent injuries in an industrial environment:

  • Falls
  • Struck by object
  • Electrocutions
  • Caught-in/between

The Lancet, a well-respected publisher of social health-related findings, states that low back pain is the leading cause of human disability around the world.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) keeps tabs on the volume of nonfatal injuries in the U.S. via their Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities program. Their most recent records from 2015 show:

  • Close to $3 million reported cases of on-the-job injuries that year.
  • The average number of days missed per injury incident was 8.
  • There were 324,700 incidents involving “sprains, strains, tears.”
  • 155,740 were back injuries.
  • 238,610 were cases that involved slips, falls, and trips.

While lifting heavy equipment is one of the most common tasks in today’s data center, it’s rare to find an onsite policy that eliminates risky procedures that threaten equipment and the people that try to migrate it.  While data specific to server-handling injuries and equipment damage is largely unavailable or inconclusive, we think having even one employee injured in your data center is one too many.

Preventative Maintenance Starts with an Assisted Lifting Device (ALD)

The architects of today’s data centers are increasingly concerned with preventative maintenance. That’s because IT has shifted from a back-office function to the core of business today. You’ve got a lot riding on ensuring data center uptime, guarding against cyber breach, and creating redundancy.

It might startle you to realize you are missing one piece in your preventative maintenance plan – that is to ensure against the risk of employee injury by using an assisted lifting device (ALD).

What is the number one secret to data center safety?

There is only one thing you can do to reduce the risk of physical injury when installing or decommissioning new hardware. Data center safety really starts when you take the heavy lifting out of equipment installation with an ALD.