Server FaultServer room kit?
[+36] [22] Bill Weiss
[2010-01-12 20:42:21]
[ server-room equipment ]

I feel like this is a question I've seen on here before, but some searching didn't do me any good. This [1] looks similar, but I'm looking for stuff I leave there, not what's in my go-bag.

What would you say is indispensable equipment in your server room? I've inherited one that's a bit light on stuff (except for servers, those are in there). We're in the single digits of racks, if that matters.

I'm thinking of things like:

Community wiki, because, really.

[Edit] I suppose it's important to say that it's a colo facility, kind of far from the office. No food, water, etc. :(

(1) In my experience, anything left in a data center that won't actively trip an alarm when removed, will be gone within a year. Some stuff will be accidentally borrowed and some maliciously stolen, but gone none the less. - jj33
(1) +1 :( However, in this case, our cage is locked tight, and I don't think anyone's going to do some ninja stuff to steal my tools. - Bill Weiss
@jj33 What kinda datacenter's are you colo'ed in ;)? If you have a locking cabinet/cage I don't think anything is going anywhere. - JamesBarnett
@JamesBarnett - It wasn't a colo, it was our corporate data center for a midwestern CLEC/ISP. That meant nothing was locked up. I was really thinking about shared tools though. When we started there was a toolbox with basic tools - screwdrivers, strippers, label maker, etc. All got "lost" slowly but surely. - jj33
[+34] [2010-01-12 21:33:56] Posipiet [ACCEPTED]
  • A workspace with enough room to work comfortably on a broken 19" server, with screen, keyboard, mouse. Separate from the racks.
  • An old PC. Optimally with controllers and slots to fit every piece of hardware you may have to analyze. Mine speaks SCSI wide & narrow, IDE, SATA, PCI, USB, Firewire 400. Keep a small stash of old computers, if you can. They will come and ask if you can rescue the data from this 5.25" disk one day.
  • A notebook on the side. The rescue PC has no internet connection, to make sure it cant be infected.
  • A big enough disk to put data on that you may have to rescue.
  • Room for spare parts and cables. Room for a museum of old stuff you might need for old systems.
  • Cart. In case you have heavy servers, a lift of some sort.
  • A selection of tools you know you will need. You can keep this small, if you have a complete set elsewhere.
  • Telephone with outside access, if your mobile doesnt allow that.
  • Pen and Paper.
  • Spare parts for your most important servers. If you have several identical machines, keep one spare. It is the organ donor. It may be used for testing new setups, but be prepared to rip it apart.
  • A few switches, network converters, cables of all kinds.

Generally make the server room your fortress of solitude, where you can retreat when the brown stuff hits the rotating thing. Nothing like coming out smiling after one hour of hacking, and the broken server is back up, with all data.

(1) Amen to point #1. As someone who has to regularly work for a couple of days at a stretch in customer server rooms the one thing that I find that is most frequently overlooked is a decent work surface. Doesn't have to be a full desk but as you say, big enough to open up a broken 19" server and take a screen, keyboard and mouse. - Helvick
(4) Just to add: A Chair. Really, sitting on the floor or standing for 2 hours just because some update/backup/rescue operation takes time sucks and may not be healthy. - Michael Stum
All of that is good for a customer server room. It's pretty unlikely to find it in a colo in environment. Unless you have a cage their. - JamesBarnett
[+11] [2010-02-15 13:26:43] user34884

I'd add

A magnifying glass** so you can read the ridiculously teeny-tiny writing you get on some equipment, and a mini-maglite so you can use it.

** yes, I am seriously old

I'm completely with you on that one. - Bill Weiss
(5) For when it's in awkward places, I've been known to use a digital camera. (and then zoom in on the display, if necessary) It also keeps me from needing to copy down serial numbers while wedging my head into racks. - Joe H.
[+10] [2010-01-13 00:50:36] Liam

Aside from tools I would highly recomend a small first aid kit, and some nonmessy snack foods that keep in storage well. Being able to put a bandage on a paper cut or other small nick on the spot is nice insted on having to hunt down someone from security just for a small bandage. The snacks are good for when it has been two hours too long and you are still more or less stuck in the computer room.

(1) Forget papercut! Some of the worst cuts I've ever had have been from moving and cataloging old hardware, those steel cases can cut like a knife under the right(wrong?) circumstances. I used a paper towel and duck tape at the time, but a first aid kit would have been much appreciated. - C. Ross
(1) Food != Raised Floor If you are in the Datacenter Suite with the equipment say no to food. - JamesBarnett
[+7] [2010-01-13 16:10:19] mpez0

Telephones as mentioned above, but with a long enough cord to take the handset to any cabinet. And yes, corded phones -- there's likely to be enough signal on whatever freq you choose for there to be a problem with cordless.

While I'm on the subject, even if the site uses VOIP phones, you need a non-VOIP, non-PBX, direct line to handle the instances where the VOIP or PBX equipment is down.

Other stuff that hasn't been mentioned: Printed reference material - phone numbers, networks, remote host dependencies, etc. Stuff that you might need to bring up the server where the online copies reside.

(2) +1. Nothing worse than having critical info for fixing a server... on the same failed server. - Massimo
What colo's have you been in that have a phone in the suite? - JamesBarnett
[+7] [2010-01-12 21:01:29] pboin

A big, big roll of sheet plastic and duct tape.

For when the ceiling leaks (water), or someone decides they have to drill holes in the walls (dust tent), or when you have to rig up some emergency cooling.

Ok... why? I'm intrigued. - Bill Weiss
(7) for sealing yourself in, of course. in case of zombie attack or world-ending virus. someone's got to keep the servers running, right? - quack quixote
(5) It will get useful when some (l)user comes screaming in because he wants his data immediately. - Massimo
(2) Carpets can also be quite useful, you know. - Massimo
Fair enough. (15 character max) - Bill Weiss
(2) but carpets leak. sure, they're opaque, but you need that first layer to be waterproof or you'll end up with physical evidence all over the place. - quack quixote
(2) For when the ceiling leaks (water), or someone decides they have to drill holes in the walls (dust tent), or when you have to rig up some emergency cooling. - pboin
(1) @pboin: that's actually a really good reason. gonna add it into your answer so it's more obvious and detached from our collective sarcasm. - quack quixote
[+7] [2010-01-12 21:26:05] pcapademic

Larger, easier to handle screwdrivers, torx wrenches, wire cutters.

The small packs are nice in an emergency, and they go with you, but trying to use those little guys for hours on end can begin to hurt your hands.

Absolutely agreed. - Bill Weiss
You may want to check out this system: It combines into a real proper screwdriver, locked tight. Available large and small.… - Posipiet
[+5] [2010-01-12 21:49:13] pcapademic

Multiple spools of cat 5 cable, along with several boxes of RJ45 ends, because you know you want to use that cable-crimper you've been lugging in your go-bag.

But, I don't want to make cables :( You're right though. - Bill Weiss
(1) But you will need to. - Massimo
Most datacenters (think: private cages) will not allow you to run your own cable to their meet-me punch-down block; Instead, I recommend having a few spares of appropriate length and color pre-made. - Joe
[+5] [2010-01-12 21:33:46] pcapademic

Zip ties [1], preferably in various colors, and some kind of snip (I use wire cutters) to cut them free.

Velco ties for short-term binding.

Keep the server room all pretty and neat.


(4) lets add some velcro ties, too - Posipiet
I've read that zip ties aren't a good idea for Ethernet cables. A reference, though not a great one: . I don't know how accurate that is, but I've heard similar. However, velcro ties, I whole-heartedly agree. - Bill Weiss
(4) Urban myth. As long as you don't tighten the ties so tight that they cut into the cable you'll be fine... - James
(1) Agreed with @James. There's no physical reason an inert plastic tie would be inherently bad. - ceejayoz
(1) I think the concern is that it's easy to over-tighten those plastic ties. I didn't think that the plastic would set up an EM field or something :) - Bill Weiss
(4) I always use velcro ties for long-term binding as well, so much easier when the time comes to un-bind a run for whatever reason ^^ - Oskar Duveborn
(2) @Oskar - one reason to use the zip ties is so that others don't unbind the run just because they came up with a reason. It creates a barrier to change - both for good and for ill. All in all, 6/half dozen, IMHO. - pcapademic
[+4] [2010-01-12 21:32:48] quack quixote

Rolling carts. For the single-digit server room you describe, one may be enough, although I'd guess you'd want 2 or more.

Use them as a portable tool bin, an easy-to-move worktable, etc. Some setups might have a couple as wandering worktables, and another couple as dedicated terminal carts.

[+4] [2010-01-12 22:49:38] Brett G

I've seen some people mention zip ties, and while they are nice looking, I don't like them so much anymore anymore. I've come to prefer twist ties. They're easy to remove (don't require a tool to do so) and they are also easy to modify (if you need to add additional cables to the bundle). I picked up a spool of it from the gardening section of menards that comes with a cutter... that's similar to this [1]...


(2) Have you tried the "releasable" cable ties? They have a little tab you can pinch and it releases the tie. They work really well, and for short term bundling, try velcro ties. - Joel
(3) Velcro, it's cheap, comes in different colors, removable and less likely to dig into wires. - Chris S
[+4] [2010-01-12 21:50:31] Hondalex

I'd say these are something I've needed and I've started keeping in the Server Room kit:

  • Flashlight
  • Zip ties
  • Labeler
  • Dell DVDs so if I need to install something or get drivers I can get it from there instead of downloading them
  • A pen (many times I wanted to write something down and found my self with no pen or pencil
  • Sharpie to lable stuff if the labeler won't work

(2) better than just keeping your Dell DVDs, keep a latest-drivers archive on a handy network share. don't delete old driver versions, since you never know what new drivers might break (or not work with the ancient OS you're installing). having a DVD is handy, but not as handy as having any drivers you need ready to drop onto a thumbdrive, optical disc, or whatever. - quack quixote
A network boot image (or WinPE CD) for booting a borked computer and retrieving data without having to change any physical hardware. - Chris S
[+4] [2010-02-26 04:32:54] Norman Ramsey

Digital camera, so that when you have to unplug or move things, you can put them back the way they were.

Cell phone cameras work okay for cabling ... but most can't handle the macro issues of shoving it between servers to snap a picture of a serial number. - Joe H.
[+3] [2010-03-02 17:18:57] mctylr

Quality tools. Cheap tools like screwdrivers that the tips shear off when you're trying to remove that overtightened screw can ruin your day, especially if you're at the colo in a downtown urban centre at 3am, and there is nowhere within a hour drive (or commute) to get a replacement. They don't have to be top of the line machinist tools, but decent quality, not a bigbox / department store set bought on sale for $4.99. Wiha, Wera, Snap-On, and Klein Tools are recommended brands.

And the right tools, that actually fit. Needing to open a case where the screws have been "stripped" due to screwdriver slippage, or using the wrong screwdriver is an act of unnecessary frustration.

  • Notebook and pen/pencils.
  • serial cable, USB to serial adapter (for laptop), null-modem connector, and serial to RJ-45 adapter for routers and switches (a cheap multi-cable [1] for the DIY types)
  • cross-over ethernet cable (if not covered by previous)
  • install / recovery media, and portable hard drive for storage / backup
  • nut drivers, particularly for rack screw / nuts that can need more torque to loosen
  • bottled water (for colo); not a diuretic like soda or coffee, which forces bio-breaks
  • spare power cord - I always seem to end up short
  • compact keyboard
  • Cat-5/6 cable, plus RJ-45 connectors, and crimper, wire cutters, utility knife
  • Multi-tool, again quality one, e.g. Leatherman or Gerber
  • phone list / directory of contacts

Serial-to-USB and cisco null modem cable good call. - JamesBarnett
[+3] [2010-01-12 21:29:26] pcapademic

After years of replacing cordless screwdrivers because the NiCad battery wore out, the Flashcell cordless screwdriver [1] is very welcomed.


That's a neat looking tool. - Bill Weiss
OMG I want one so badly :D But appear that it's not in sale anymore :( Can't find it... - Marc-Andre R.
+1, awesome tool! - Michael Stum
[+3] [2010-01-12 21:07:48] Zypher

I'm looking for stuff I leave there, not what's in my go-bag.

The only thing that should be stored in the server room is servers. Everything else should be stored nearby, but removed from the server room when not needed.

To add a bit to my above statement. Colo's and Server rooms are two different animals. With colos you generally have your cage space and that is it - would be nice if they provided lockers for client use but they generally don't.

Before we shutdown our colo we had a crash cart with the following:

  • Multiple screw driver sets - torx, phillips, flat head in a wide range of sizes
  • Battery Powered Drill with screw bits (and the charger)
  • CD Case with all needed software for all systems at that site
  • BERT tester
  • Cable making supplies - coil of cat5e, crimper/cutter tool, tester, tips
  • Small trashcan
  • Small key safe with keys for all the equipment front panel locks
  • Collection of spare screws
  • Spare lock box for tape transport
  • Leatherman Multitool (most useful!)

(2) Some have server rooms that aren't conveniently located near additional secured storage space. I'd rather have equipment safely stored in a cabinet in the server room itself than trekking across a building because I forgot something I'd never use outside the room... - ceejayoz
(2) Unfortunately, my servers are in a colo facility an hour from the office. Some things I just don't want to haul back and forth. Plus, I leave for there from different places: the office, my house, bars (when I'm really unlucky), etc. Otherwise, I'd be with you. - Bill Weiss
(1) If you have space in your rack, I wouldn't be surprised if some company offers 19" lockable drawers... - Michael Stum
[+2] [2010-01-13 12:28:31] Keith Stokes

We have and use "community" fold-up tables and chairs in our colo areas. Provides the work surface, a place to sit and takes up little room when stowed.

Also a light jacket for when it's 90 degrees outside, you're wearing shorts and a t-shirt and you end up spending most of the night in a 65 degree server room.

The colo offering tables and chairs would be so nice... doubt it's going to happen, unless I want to cart the machines out to the break room. - Bill Weiss
(1) That's why the tenants do it themselves. A couple of cheap chairs and a table fit in-between racks pretty easily. - Keith Stokes
Oh, I get it. Great idea! - Bill Weiss
Jacket is an often overlooked idea. - JamesBarnett
[+1] [2010-01-13 09:08:42] Chris

A small tool box to keep small tools mentioned above.

[+1] [2010-01-13 00:48:19] John Gardeniers

A desk, so you can go in there and work when the "outside" world gets to be too much. Also a fold-up bed/cot, for those times when things get so bad you're too tired to drive home afterwards. Oh yeah, and a beer fridge won't go astray either.

Personally, I've found one of the most valuable items to be a rechargeable torch (flashlight), mounted just inside the door. Non-rechargeable types have a habit of always being flat just when you need them most.

[+1] [2010-01-12 22:18:40] Massimo

A PC with a floppy disk drive and a DVD burner, and a stock of floppy disks and writable CDs/DVDs.

A time will come when you will need to flash that firmware...

(1) Floppy Disk! The number of times I've been saved by that long-obsolete technology... - Mark Henderson
Not to speak about installing pre-Windows 2008 systems when a controller driver is needed... - Massimo
[+1] [2010-01-12 22:31:14] James


Keep them locked away in the server room so they don't go walk about...

[+1] [2010-03-02 19:54:21] Joe H.

a small pry bar (I use a Stanley Wonder Bar II) has come in handy a number of times -- trying to get a tight server out of the rack; replacing swollen batteries out of a UPS. But it gets its most use when I have to shift everything in the rack up a couple of mm because the server I'm inserting is just a hair taller than whatever it was I just took out. (lossen a higher machine, lift it 'til it's tight against the one above it, tighten screws, repeat down the line).

... if you weren't in a colo, I'd also suggest a crash cart w/ serial terminal, and a lift cart (for those times when your management won't give you a maintenance window, and you really, really need to move that server; it also comes in handy when you don't have enough people to safely unrack that ancient 8U UPS, but can extend it far enough to get a lift under it)

Why if it's not a Colo we have those things in our Colos. Crash carts are all the more important in a Giant Server Room. - JamesBarnett
@James : because the couple of colos I've been to didn't have places to store & secure them. I guess some might be different, looking at the various answers here. And I'd think a lift would be something that the colo should buy, not each individual renting space. - Joe H.
[0] [2011-11-28 03:26:51] JamesBarnett

I work for a Colo Company and in our Cages we have:

  • LABEL MAKER (One of the most important things)
  • Table
  • Chair
  • Monitor/Keyboard/Mouse (w/ 20 ft cable extenders to reach way in the back of the rack)
  • Crash Cart (Monitor mounted like in a hospital)
  • Spare PDU
  • Lots of Spare Copper & Fiber Cables
  • Sometime old servers for Spare Parts
  • Spare Disk Drives
  • Drill
  • Screw driver with lots of bits
  • Velcro/Zip Ties (for Cable Management VERY IMPORTANT)
  • Exacto Knife to cut zipties
  • Probably some other tools, see others answers for a better tool list
  • Tool bag to carry the tools
  • Headlamp
  • Pen/Paper
  • Rack Rails, Screws, Mounting Hardware
  • Power Cables
  • Cable Tester
  • Plastic Bins (to organize the above)