August 2012

Choosing a Data Center Server Lift

14 Specifications for Choosing the Best Data Center Server Lift

By: ServerLIFT Corporation

Protect your data center staff and hardware with the right tools. Here is a list of criteria to consider when choosing a server lift to assist in installing rack-mounted equipment in a data center environment.

1. Design Intent
Question: Was the lifting machine designed to be used in a data center?

Importance: Lifts that handle general materials in a variety of environments (like warehouses and loading docks) are designed to operate in spaces and aisles regulated by commercial architectural standards and local codes.

Data centers are built with much tighter spaces than commercial environments and have strict policies against products that use hazardous materials.

To effectively handle and install rack-mounted equipment in compact data center aisles, a lifting machine must be designed with the functionality and configuration to suitably maneuver in the specific space and accurately position the equipment. Further, the use of hydraulics or other hazardous materials by the lifting device risks a code violation in the data center.

2. Load Capacity
Question: Is the lift’s rated capacity able to handle the weight of the IT equipment you need to lift or may need to lift in the future?

Importance: The servers, switches, and power supplies used in modern data centers can weigh hundreds of pounds and some trends indicate they will only get heavier. It is important to plan ahead and spec a lifting device that is designed to handle the heaviest equipment you have now as well as equipment that might be needed down the road.

3. Platform Stability
Question: How rigid and stable is the machine under load and when in use?

Importance: Lifting and moving servers, is unlike handling any other type of load. IT equipment can be sensitive to jarring movements and needs to be kept level and secure for proper installation into data center racks.

When selecting a lifting machine for this purpose, the more rigid and stable it is under load and during operation, the better. If the platform sags, the equipment won’t remain level and installation will become more difficult. If the unit is unbalanced, shakes, or is wobbly, the server is at risk of falling or being damaged.

4. Equipment Positioning
Question: In which orientation does the lift position equipment?

Importance: In data center aisles, space is tight and equipment may be populated on both sides of the aisle.

Front loading units severely restrict the space and maneuverability available to the operator, because the lift needs to be turned to face one side. Also, repositioning is very difficult when the unit is facing the rack.

Lifting devices that position equipment from the side allow for racking on either side of the aisle. Side loading makes it easy for the operator to make precise position adjustments.

5. Compliance
Question: Does the lifting device comply with regulations and is it certified?

Importance: All data center devices, including servers, switches, and power supplies must be certified to ensure that maximum levels of radio-frequency disturbance are not exceeded and minimum safety standards are met. The certifications are based on compliance with local regulations such as FCC/IC (North America) and CE (European Union). Devices that are not in compliance can cause a danger to data center employees and equipment.

6. Adjustment Scale
Question: Is the lift capable of making incremental up/down movements?

Importance: Precise alignment of the equipment is essential for successful installs and is especially important in populated racks. Only lifts that can move up and down in very fine steps are able to achieve the positioning necessary to precisely match up the equipment and rack mounting points.

7. Lifting Speed
Question: How quickly can a maximum load be lowered or raised?

Importance: Time is money. Lifts that can move equipment up or down very quickly and efficiency better support data center operating goals. The ultimate solution for data centers are lifts that can:

  • Move servers quickly up or down for efficient vertical positioning, AND
  • Make slower, precise positioning adjustments for efficient horizontal racking or un-racking

8. Platform Range
Question: What is the vertical range (lowest to highest position) of the lift’s equipment platform?

Importance: To operate efficiently, data center racks must be populated from top to bottom. Heavy IT equipment needs to be supported and installed into all available rack positions. Lifting devices selected for data center applications should have the operational range necessary to deliver equipment at the bottom or up to the top of any rack.

9. Overhead Safety
Question: Does the unit have safety measures to prevent damage to data center facilities and equipment?

Importance: Low ceilings, overhead cable trays, cold/hot aisle containment areas and seismic re-enforcement structures are often found in data centers. Catastrophic damage to these facilities and equipment can occur due to operator inattention when raising servers with a lifting machine. By protecting against costly accidents, lifts that have built-in, dynamic safety measures are better suited for data center environments.

10. Braking System
Question: Does the lift have a braking system that effectively prevents rolling during lifting and install?

Importance: When supporting equipment during an install, lifts must remain stationary for safety and functionality. Braking systems with only a single point of contact to the floor may prevent directional motion, but can still rotate about the single braking point. Mechanisms with multiple locking points, like individual wheel locks, are more time consuming to use and risk the operator neglecting to engage one or all of the locking points.

A braking system with exactly two points of contact to the floor and a single point of activation for the operator is the best choice for data center applications.

11. Wheels
Question: Are the casters or wheels of the lift adequate for traversing across your data center’s flooring?

Importance: Data centers with raised flooring are commonly made up of grated tiles. Wheels that are thin, small and made of metal can damage flooring. Only large (minimum 4”-5” or 10-12cm) diameter wheels that are made of non-scuffing material are able to navigate smoothly and safely over this type of terrain when carrying heavy loads.

12. Containment
Question: Does the lifting mechanism have components that contain hazardous fluids or compounds that are restricted from use in your data center?

Importance: Over time, hydraulic systems and lead acid batteries are prone to failure and will eventually leak. These fluids are extremely dangerous and can cause major damage to data center facilities/equipment, leading to significant downtime. Only hydraulics-free machinery that use leak-proof batteries are suitable for the data center. Car batteries are never acceptable

13. Securing Equipment
Question: Can the equipment be secured to the platform?

Importance: Servers and switches can shift during transport. A feature that allows loads to be tied down or secured in place is essential to a data center lift in order to prevent damage to sensitive equipment.

14. Operating Controls
Question: Are the controls easily accessible from a variety of positions?

Importance: Maintaining line of sight with the rack is critical in making the height adjustments necessary to precisely align equipment for an easy install. Operating controls that are easily accessible from any position ensure that a clear line of sight can be achieved in any situation.

ServerLIFT Corporation is revolutionizing the IT industry with specialized server handling solutions to increase safety and productivity in your data centers. Our products are designed to effectively handle servers and rack-mounted equipment in today’s data center environment. With a focus on creating products specifically for the data center, we have become the premier provider of solutions for handling IT equipment. Visit ServerLIFT at