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How Do You Lay Out a Computer Room?

First, I measured everything: racks, tables, shelving units, even a safe. I then got out an old-fashioned ruler and started laying out everything on graph paper. I designed three different layouts and ended up implementing parts from two of them.

TIP

If you don't have any graph paper, you can create your own, using a spreadsheet program. Using Excel, for example, resize rows and columns to squares, show the gridlines, and print.

Here are some key components to room layout:

  • Start with the wiring racks. I mentioned earlier that every computer in the building has its network jack wired all the way back to the computer room. Of course, once installed, those racks can never be moved without rewiring. Work with your wiring vendor to determine how many racks you'll need based on the number of network jacks that you're going to install. We needed 5 racks total: 1 for data jacks, 1 for voice jacks, 1 for switches and router, and 2 for phone system equipment. You need to leave at least 30 inches of space from the wall to the back of the wiring racks for installation and servicing.

  • Figure out where the server racks will go. I took this approach: I brought everything down from the ceiling, so that there would be no wires to trip over (not to mention how much more attractive it looks). We had the electrician drop power to the racks, plus we installed a patch panel in one of the server racks that went up to the ceiling through conduit and back down to the wiring racks through more conduit. We placed the server racks in a row directly in front of the wiring rack row.

Finally, we placed tables and shelving units around the perimeter walls, and placed the safe in the corner. It's a very functional and attractive room that I'm proud to show off!

Keyboard, Video, and Mouse (KVM)

I'd be forgetting an important aspect of a rack-mounted computer room if I neglected to mention KVM (Keyboard, Video, and Mouse). This is a device to switch the inputs from any server to a single keyboard, monitor, and mouse. With the push of a button you can control any machine that the KVM switch is hooked up to. We have two KVM switches daisy-chained together to support up to 16 computers. We have about 10 machines hooked up and can do it all from one location. A real space saver, and it keeps you from walking around a bunch to perform routine tasks.

NOTE

With Windows 2000 Server and Windows XP Professional, the need to visit the computer room in person has diminished significantly. We use a feature called Remote Desktop where two of us at a time per server can control those servers remotely, much like a host and a client of PCAnywhere. I use it all day and it's a real convenience.

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