Every once in a while I encounter a product that solves a common and oftentimes vexing issue, and it makes me wonder how I didn't know such an option existed. It's a rare experience, but one that almost always makes me feel proud to finally be a member of the club.
I experienced this feeling recently when I discovered lifts from ServerLIFT that are designed to assist IT pros in lifting, holding, moving, and redeploying servers and other rack-mount equipment in data centers and server rooms.
ServerLIFT offers two IT equipment lifts that feature varying capabilities. The manufacturer's basic SL-350X Manual ServerLIFT manages up to 350 lbs. of equipment and leverages a manual mechanism to raise and lower its load. The company's beefier SL-500X Electric ServerLIFT holds up to 500 lbs. of material and adds the convenience of an electric motor to raise and lower its shelf.
Both models are designed to work well in data centers. The wheels work on raised floors. Both lifts' footprints are minimized to 21" wide by 24" long to help ensure it can pass through narrow data center server aisles.
The SL-350X weighs 350 lbs. and the SL-500X weighs 428 lbs., and those weights don't include optional accessories, such as lift extensions and platform risers that enable additional flexibility in positioning equipment. The lifts are too heavy for a smaller technology consultancy to reasonably expect to be able to transport the unit to and from client sites or data centers. So, when you buy one of these lifts, you should expect to be leaving it on site.
BenefitsReduce the number of engineers that must be sent to a major client site or data center when needing to deploy, move, or service rack-mounted equipment: While some manufacturers call for as many as four people to mount certain equipment in a rack, a capable lift used properly by one engineer can eliminate the need to dispatch multiple employees when only one technician is required. Reduce the risk of techs injuring their backs while on the job: ServerLIFT promotes the scary statements that are all too true: "back disorders are one of the leading causes of disabilities," "leading organizations use smarter working practices more extensively than lower performing peers," and "IT professionals face dangers when asked to manually lift or move servers." Like most tech consultants, when it comes to having to get something done, I've stepped in (ignoring many best OSHA or lifting practices) and brute-forced rack installations. I've paid the price, too, having to gingerly attend clients the next several days due to straining my lower back to the point I had difficulty getting out of a chair.
Most consultants would enjoy having a lift available to assist in loading, deploying, moving, servicing, and administering rack-based equipment. But like everything else in a business, the devices -- which range in price from around $1,000 for simple lift trucks to $6,000 or more for technology-dedicated versions -- must be worth the investment. The only way such IT equipment handling products will be worth the cost is if your consultancy frequently dispatches engineers to load, move, or service equipment in large server rooms and data centers; then staff cost savings become easier to calculate.
When calculating a lift's true value, your consultancy should also remember to consider the costs of injuries and physical equipment damage resulting from accidents that a server lift might eliminate. Preventing one accident can more than pay for even the most deluxe server lifts. Consultancies seeking cost/value assistance should read ServerLIFT's cost-benefit analysis document (PDF).
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.