The Kendall Howard Rack Helper: An Extra Pair of Hands for “I’ll-Do-It-Myselfers”

November 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Server Racks and Enclosures 

rack-helperIn this world, there are two types of People Who Get Stuff Done. The “Do-It-Yourselfers,” and the “I’ll-Do-It-Myselfers.” I’m the latter. I don’t know exactly why, but I hate asking for and/or accepting help. I’m always ready to lend other people a helping hand, but this project I’m working on? I’m fine, thank you very much – you can stop hovering in concern and go away now. It can be putting together a bulky piece of furniture, hanging a huge, heavy picture on the wall (without being able to find the hook), or painting a spot that’s just a little out of reach, even when I’m standing on a chair. It’s stupid, actually. Pretty pathetic. But I figure that at least the risk is pretty low – I only act like this with my own stuff, and if I screw up, I’m the only one who will be put out.

I would never do this if I were, say, a professional network or A/V installer who happens to rackmount other people’s really expensive new electronics on a regular basis. Trying tackling a job like that alone, and you could end up in a situation that calls for way more than an embarrassed “Oopsie.” Rackmounting heavier components often requires two pairs of hands, but what do you do if there isn’t a sidekick available, or if you (like someone else you know) prefer to work alone?

The product developers at Kendall Howard know that staff can run short and that stubborn people sometimes take singlehanded risks, so they created the Rack Helper, a temporary bracket that’s able to bear the weight of heavy servers and UPSs while you use both of your hands – and all of your focus – to bolt them into a rack. No juggling routines or physical strain: just an extra pair of hands (so to speak) that stay out of your way, and let you work faster and smarter. And if that’s not enough, you’ll love this: the Rack Helper doesn’t charge by the hour, so it can really help you cut down on labor costs.

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Table Top Relay Racks – The Way to Rack-Mount Electronics When You Don’t Need a Whole Server Rack

November 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Server Racks and Enclosures 

table top relay rackI think that being faced with server racks and enclosures all the time, I tend to take rack-mounting for granted. Have computer components, recording equipment or a power conditioner? Just bolt it/them into a rack – that’s what everyone does. Or do they? What about the people who have absolutely no extra space to accommodate a full-blown server rack? Or who may have some rackmountable equipment, but not enough to merit the purchase of a full-size enclosure?

My guess is that they balance stuff on desks and table tops, and hope for the best. That can be a little risky, though – think about all of the overheating and general damage that can happen when when stacks of papers and cups of coffee are piled near (or worse, on) your network equipment. Not a pretty thought.

So Bud Industries has decided to stop cringing at all the horrifying what-ifs, and has developed a table-top relay rack for all of those small offices that only need a little bit of rackmounting. No oversized, cumbersome cabinet that takes up too much valuable floorspace, and no wallmount enclosures jutting out into your already limited workspace. Just a compact rack that’s the perfect size (12U – 16U) for the few components that you have, and can be installed right onto a desk, table or media console top without hogging your entire work surface. Safely mounted electronics with no wasted money, and no wasted space. That’s just smart.

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Dasco Media Storage Cabinets: Perfectly Customizable, Functional and Secure Storage

media-storage-cabinets_colorsSo, I saw the name “Dasco Media Storage Cabinet,” and I automatically got presumptuous and assumed that this one was like all the others: a plain metal cabinet used to put things like CDs, DVDs and licensed software under lockdown. Then I dug a bit deeper, and when I saw what this cabinet is truly capable of, I began to remember the old adage that says that “when you assume, you make an *ss out of u and me.”

Needless to say, I was wrong. This wasn’t any ordinary storage cabinet. It was a treasure trove of storage possibilities. From the outside, it doesn’t look like anything particularly special, but thanks to all of the optional accessories you can choose from to accompany it, it can be turned into an ultra-custom dream cabinet. Want to store CDs and DVDs? No problem – there are special dividers designed just for that. Need to hang files and store binders? Easy – there are special drawers and compartments for that too. But I think my absolute favorite would have to be the mail cubbies, so that you can sort and store mail for a bunch of people at once. I’m not so sure why I like those so much, but I think it might be because they remind me of Fawlty Towers, with John Cleese flipping out in front of the hotel’s front desk mail compartments.

Sorry, we’re talking multimedia storage, not BBC classics. Anyway, the whole concept is that you order the basic cabinet, and then treat it like a blank canvas, customizing it with whatever floats your boat. And then it’s beautiful, organized storage galore – under lock and key anytime you choose. Who knew that mere office storage could be this good?

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Dasco Laptop Storage Cabinets: Protective Lockdown for Your Entire Fleet of Laptops

dasco-laptop-storage-cabinetI never have to worry about keeping track of more than one laptop myself, but to IT teams that have entire fleets of corporate laptops to keep tabs on, I feel for you. Signing them in and out, making sure that they’re only accessed by the chosen few, and keeping them clean (data-wise) and functional has to be a pretty big job, and heaven forbid that one ever goes missing. (I once received a letter from a former employer that several company-owned laptops had disappeared, and that my personal information may or may not have been on one of them. I and hundreds/thousands of other current/former employees were then offered complimentary ID theft monitoring. Someone’s head had to have rolled for that one.)

Like I was saying, the protection and maintenance is a lot of responsibility, so that would make anything that brings a little peace of mind and lets you turn your back without worrying a great thing, right? Meet the Dasco Secure Laptop Storage Cabinet, your newest ally in the battle against corporate computer/data theft. This thing is like a luxury high-rise fortress for company-owned notebook computers. Every laptop gets its own room (okay, so by “room” I mean “drawer”) with a keyed lock, and full amenities like power, luggage storage (aka: the roomy accessory drawer at the bottom), and even the option of “in-room” (okay, in-drawer) Internet access, so you and your staff can operate the laptops without actually having to drag them out and hook them up somewhere else.

Wow – secure storage and battery charging all in one place. No “Where did that laptop disappear to?” And no “Why wasn’t this notebook’s battery charged when I took it to my presentation?” So congratulations, Great Guardian of the Laptops: your job just got a lot less stressful.

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Brush Grommet Panels

middle-atlantic-brush-grommet-panelI’m one of those people who’d really rather not fish around behind desks looking for computer cables. It’s annoying to have to crawl around on rough carpet, there are almost always dustballs involved, and I’m perpetually terrified that my rear pants-waistband will creep down well below where it’s decently supposed to be – and I do not want to come down with a case of Plumber’s Butt… ever.

With these neuroses in mind, I’ve become a big fan of products that keep unplugged computer and peripheral cables at seated arm’s reach, right along the back edge of your desktop. This solves the problems experienced by me, Ms. Crack is Whack, but what about all the IT guys out there who have to worry about keeping cables just so in a server enclosure?

Now, I’m pretty sure that locating stray cables in a server enclosure is free from the public exposure issues that I always run from, but still, it’s got to be super frustrating. Trying to grope around for a cable or two in what is essentially a dark metal box full of electronics pumping out hot air can only be unpleasant at best. And that’s before you even think about the tens or hundred of patch cords that already live in there. It’s kind of a hellish “Where’s Waldo?” scenario.

Luckily, it seems that some genius out there decided to apply their mental powers to server rack accessory design, because Middle Atlantic happens to offer the perfect solution to this needle-in-a-haystack-type predicament. I give you the Brush Grommet Panel. It may not look or sound too exciting, but this thing works, and in more than one way.

First of all, it’s designed like a brush, which means bristles. Said bristles gang up together, and united, they’re gentle enough to let cables move on through when they need to, but strong enough that they hold the cables in place, without letting them slip backward into oblivion (aka “the cabinet”). Secondly, even though the look like they completely block cable access openings, all of those bristles we just talked about still actually allow for airflow, helping to keep interior components cool. And lastly, while the bristles let air through, they’re not so easy on dust, which we all know is riff-raff and needs to be kept out and away from fussy server equipment.

So, IT/Network Admin dudes… why don’t you have one of these yet?

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Flammable Storage Safety Cabinets

flammable-storage-cabinetWorkplace safety isn’t limited to ergonomics, lockout/tagout and PPE – sometimes, it’s all about the storage. Take flammable materials… you can’t just leave them laying around or stack them in a corner somewhere. Aside from the obvious ignition risks, many fuels and flammable solvents can also cause chemical corrosion or damage to other materials, so the smartest and safest bet is to keep them well-contained in strategic areas of your facility.

As for what to actually keep them in, I suggest Flammable Storage Cabinets by Eagle Manufacturing. These double-walled enclosures provide an excellent buffer between hazardous flammables and the things that might set them off, such as sparks, open flame and high heat. And they’re just as good at keeping flammables in as they are at sealing ingnition sources out: a 2″ raised door sill keeps liquids from trickling out, even if there’s a leak or spill inside the cabinet.

Leveling legs and an all-around 1.5″ air cushion (remember those double walls I just mentioned?) keep vibration at bay, to prevent seals from loosening and containers from toppling over. As for warning workers of flammability risks, these Eagle enclosures are emblazoned with unmistakable safety warnings in 3 languages (English, Spanish, and French) to eliminate any confusion as to the cabinets’ contents and their potential dangers.

And there’s one other little thing that these help with: OSHA compliance.

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FSR’s CB Series Ceiling Boxes

March 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Server Racks and Enclosures 

CB-Series_ceiling-box_installedBeing that we’re all about networking and rackmounting server equipment, it can be easy to get a little narrow-minded about the options that are available. If you see enough open server racks or cabinet-style enclosures, those can start to seem like the only choices out there. Sure, you can customize things a bit by choosing whether you want to wall mount the rack or just set it on the floor, but what about those times when you might not want to see any rack at all? Granted, there are quite a few companies out there whose server and A/V racks get better looking all the time, but when all is said and done, a rack is a rack, and no matter how sleek and updated its look is, it still has the potential to drag down the aesthetics of certain environments.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy just nixing electronics in rooms that can’t be marred by bulky equipment racks. Should a high-end executive conference room or beautifully designed house of worship have to go “unplugged” just to avoid the techy look of projectors and computers? No way! Multimedia presentations are a staple in many different venues today, no matter how clean and uncluttered appearances need to remain. Luckily, FSR has come up with an easy solution for facility managers who need to keep rooms technologically up to speed, yet visually electronic, cable, and rack free: the CB Series Ceiling Box.

FSR’s CB Series boxes actually let you mount projectors and network equipment right in your drop ceiling. Length and width-wise, the boxes are sized to the roughly the same dimensions as standard ceiling tiles, so they can be installed right within the dropped-ceiling frame. The bottom of each box (what you’d see if you were looking up at the ceiling) stays flush with the ceiling tiles for a uniform look, and can be opened trap-door style when equipment needs to be accessed. And thanks to varying numbers of built-in outlets (it depends on which box you pick), all of the the cables – including power cords – can be routed and hidden in the ceiling as well, you’ll more or less never see a thing. Talk about invisible.

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Wide Body Media Cart

wide-body-media-cartThere’e nothing like a media cart to get me reminiscing about the good old days at Pembroke Elementary School (go Panthers!). Back at my original alma mater, the sight of a TV and VCR setup rolling through the classroom door was enough to make us pray that the feature presentation would last until end-of-the-day dismissal (in case you didn’t already know, movies instead of Science and Social Studies equals less homework). So it goes without saying that media carts have always held a special place in my homework-loathing heart. But it’s not just me; ask any public school kid – I’m sure they’d say the same.

Only the other day, I was writing an article on how to organize A/V cart cables, and I got to wondering, “why don’t we sell these things?” Turns out that our New Products team was way ahead of me on that one, because the very next day, as if by magic, I received an e-mail stating that we now sell Vutec’s Wide Body Media Cart.

The first thing that I noticed about this cart is that its wider design makes it a lot sturdier than the A/V carts of my past. I don’t know if that’s just because I was a pipsqueak at the time, but the school media carts I remember were usually about 8 feet tall, and always extremely top-heavy. Vutec’s, on the other hand, are quite a bit stockier (in a good way, though), and built to be a heck of a lot sturdier. I really like their shorter height, too – with the TV platform topping out at 48 inches high, it’s a lot easier to view the screen without having to tilt your head back at an uncomfortable angle.

Another nice feature is the locking compartment at the bottom, which gives you a safe place to stow DVDs, remote controls, and anything else you might want to secure. But one of my favorite things is the built-in surge protector, which lets you plug the entire cart into just one receptacle, but gives you 4 protected on-cart power outlets for all of your electronics.

Sooooo… what say we break out the Orville Redenbacher, wheel in the TV, and catch up on some vintage Nat Geo documentaries? C’mon, pleeeeeeeeaaaaase? But they’re educational!

Panduit® Adhesive Lined Grommet Edging

adhesive-lined-slotted_smQuick – as fast as you can, name as many classic “pairs” as you can think of! Peanut butter and jelly. Chicken and waffles. Sonny and Cher. Starsky and Hutch!!! It’s never much of a challenge to come up with pairs that are funny, delicious, or total ’70′s throwbacks, but listing obvious dangerous duos can be a little tougher. I don’t know what comes to mind for you, but two things that don’t do well together for me are sheet metal and cables.

At one point or another in your life, chances are you’ve inadvertently made contact with the edge of a piece of sheet metal, and sustained, at very least, a scratch. Sharp sheet metal edges can be really nasty to things that are softer then they are, be that human skin, or even cable insulation. That’s why it’s so important to cover them up and render them harmless -but how do you accomplish that feat?

Easy. Just try some adhesive-lined grommet edging from Panduit®. Designed for use in server rooms and data centers where enclosures made of sheet metal abound, this completely customizable product gives a quick fix when you need to make cable cutouts safe for contact with both hands and network cables. The grommet material comes on a roll, so you can cut off the exact amount you’ll need. And it’s even lined with adhesive, so once it’s in place, it will stay exactly where you want it to.

Here’s how it works (this won’t take long). First, as I just mentioned, you cut off a piece that’s the same length as the sheet metal edge you need to cover. Next you apply the grommet edging by slipping it onto the edge (the sheet metal will slide easily into the grommet channel). And for a finishing touch, pinch the applied grommet between your thumb and forefinger all along its length, so that the adhesive lining activates and gets a good grip on the sheet metal. And, well… that’s about it.

Not a bad day’s work, considering that the tiniest amount of effort and a very cost-effective product are all you need to invest in the safety of your cables and your fingers. Believe me, you’ll appreciate this stuff the very first time you run wiring through a sheet metal cutout and manage to finish the task with both the cable jackets and your skin intact. I promise you this: sheet metal and grommet edging are a way better combo than Sonny and Cher.

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Gator Shock Rack Cases

polyethylene-shock-rack-caseOkay, this is one of those rare blog posts that don’t involve me talking directly to professional network installers, home DIY’ers, or gadget-obsessed tech fans. Today, it’s time for the working musicians to listen up. Yes, I’m talking to all of you guys (and girls) who pack up your gear and instruments, stuff them into the backs of your cars and vans, and set it all up someplace else, so that you can rock the worlds of music-loving followers who pack into bars, live music venues, and outdoor festivals every weekend.

While I can’t do anything to reduce the wear and tear that you might feel from taking your show on the road, I can recommend something that will make travel a little less painful (and dangerous) for your power conditioners, equalizers, rack tuners, and patchbays: Shock Rack Cases from Gator. These aren’t your standard polyethylene road cases – they have rubber shock absorbers in each corner to cradle your electronics, and absorb the impact of drops, jolts, and plain old road vibration.

One of the really great features of Gator’s polyethylene Shock Rack Cases is that they’re ATA compliant, so that even if you have to fly with your rack mounted gear, you can relax during the flight, because you’ll know that the equipment will stay safe on the plane, and be stage-ready as soon as you land. Shock Rack Cases also have locking lids to keep things secure, and their recessed side handles make them easy to pick up when you need to move your gear around.

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