Server Installation Guide

JANUARY 5, 2022

How to NOT Screw Up A Server Installation

Captain Obvious and his friend, Sergeant Sarcasm, want to give you a friendly reminder that sometimes the simplest details can derail a project. Let's say you’ve got some new (or new to you) servers ready to go into your data center or location. And you’ve engaged rack and stack services (like the Smart Hands Services from M Global) so you don’t even have to mess with it. Done. Wait, not so fast. There are still a few tasks that need to be handled if you don’t want to end up looking like a noob. I know these might seem like rookie mistakes that should never happen. But trust us, we’ve seen these scenarios play out in real life with experienced admins. So don’t be the one with egg on your face next time you have servers to install. We're here to help you avoid overlooking the obvious in your next data center installation project with these simple tips.

No-Brainer Server Installation Tips

#1 Make Sure PDUs Fit in the Rack

We're not trying to insult your intelligence, promise. It is ridiculously obvious, but we've witnessed the fallout when this crucial step was overlooked. Measure, even if you think it will fit without a problem. If you are purchasing the PDU through the provider performing the install, make sure to provide them with the cabinet model to ensure a proper fit. (Did we mention that M Global can help with that?)

We've seen the quick and dirty solutions that are the result of poor planning and PDUs that don't fit. Solutions might have involved quite a few zip ties and scrap metal bent into makeshift brackets. We have got to give points for ingenious problem-solving, but the situation was less than ideal to say the least.

Tape Measure

#2 Verify Power is Available to the Rack

This is another case of neglecting an essential part of an installation project. Even though there are power plugs above every rack in a data center, power isn't sent to the plugs until the data center technician gets a work order to turn them on. So make sure to submit your request for the power to be turned on the day before installation.

We were helping on an install and got all the way to the point where we were ready to plug everything in and power the equipment up. But it wouldn't turn on. We checked both PDUs (always install 2 for redundancy), but they were both fine. Turns out there was no order to bring power to the cabinet! Unfortunately, we couldn't just flip a switch. The customer had to submit a work order, and it was hours before a technician was available and everything could be finished up. What could have been a very simple install, instead took hours. Now, we always ask even at the risk of offending our customers, "Is the power ready to go at the cabinet?"

#3 Check that Networking is Set Up

Much like needing power turned on at the rack, it's also essential that the internet connectivity is all squared away. You laugh, but it happens, we've seen it. We were on another install project and had all the servers racked and plugged in. All the switches were in and networking cabled. Everything powered on and worked fine. The customer was ready to remotely login to the servers and start configuring. But wait. The customer couldn't connect to the servers. We rechecked that everything was set up correctly, so what could the problem be? Welp! The customer forgot to order internet connectivity to the rack! They had to order service from the ISP and schedule a data center technician to connect service to the rack. The whole install project was delayed an extra day and set the customer back on their timeline.

We can't say it enough. Double check that these simple details are taken care of, so you can focus on the more complex parts of the install.

Cabling Tips & Considerations

Tangled Server Wires

Troubleshooting

Follow cable A... Ha!  Have fun troubleshooting in that mess! This is one of those times that a little OCD comes in handy. Taking the time to set things up properly at the front end will save you a world of hurt when you have to go in and trace that cable through cord chaos. Not only is this kind of chord tangle a pain to work with, but it can cause performance issues too. Besides the obvious connectivity problems, restricted airflow and degraded cables could add to your misery.

Cabling That Won't Drive You Crazy

Plan Ahead for Scalability and Flexibility
No one likes to have to redo their work so even if you don't currently have plans for changes, make sure your cabling designs are flexible enough to adapt easily to changes.

Don't skimp on quality.
Use high quality cable copper or fiber cable. Don't be tempted to reuse old cables. Older degraded cabling can cause a host of problems reducing bandwidth and even potentially causing downtime because of connectivity loss.

Organized Server Cables
Server Racks with Panels Holding Cables

The Right Tool for the Job

Bread tabs and zip ties aren't your only option. There are a ton of cable management resources out there that can make your life easier. Resources include things such as cable management panels that attach to the cabinet, cable ties (velcro or other adjustable ones are handy when you need to move something), cable labels, and even fiber raceway/routing systems if you have quite a bit of cabling or it needs to span an opening such as a walkway or door.

Let M Global Help

Contact us if you'd like to find out more about how we can help you with your server installation project. We're happy to assist you at any stage and will work with you to find the best option for your unique IT environment!

By Angie Stephens

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