Selecting and Using a Server Lift

Server lifts are used to raise equipment to installation level in a frame (cabinet or rack) or to remove equipment from a frame. Server lifts should only be used on level floors strong enough to support lift and load. If using a ramp, put equipment on a pallet to get it to level floor near the installation point before using a server lift. Using a lift may be slower than maneuvered by hand; but if worker or equipment safety (usually because of weight) is a factor; using a lift is required.

Instructions For Using A Server Lift

Consult instructions for your specific server lift, but the process should include the following:

  • Adjust lift to initial height of equipment (or a comfortable height for loading). Be sure there is enough clearance for the equipment to be completely on lift yet clear of frame.
  • Confirm lift is locked in position both vertically and at wheels.
  • Move equipment onto the lift.  Since the equipment is usually heavy, the platform should be lowered (to reduce the possibility of tipping) before the wheels are unlocked for any moving.
  • If rails, etc., need to be moved this should be done while the lift is out of the way.
  • Move lift to destination and align it. Lock wheels again. Adjust lift to the desired height.
  • Manually slide the equipment into place (in most case wheels cannot move into the frame because of its structure.) Carefully lower lift platform to assure the weight is being borne by the frame or storage location.


Common Issues with Server Lifts

A survey done by Server Lift in 2014 noted 11 user concerns with server lifts:

  1. 23% have an issue with the platform on the lift sagging
  2. 25% have an issue aligning equipment at the appropriate rack level
  3. 30% are concerned that the lift does not include safety straps
  4. 26% of it professionals answered that their lifting solution dose not reach high enough
  5. 40% of people using a generic warehouse lift said it was unstable
  6. 23% of people believe that there lifting solution does not have adequate braking
  7. 20% feel that the crank is difficult to turn while lifting equipment
  8. 23% are scared that the battery in there lift is unsafe for their data center
  9. 14% of lifts wont properly handle the weight of the it equipment being installed
  10. 19% of lifting solutions use unsafe hydraulic lifting systems
  11. 31% of people a warehouse lift have difficulty navigating narrow data center aisles

Selection Criteria for Server Lift

  • Weight capacity: Some switches and chassis are about 500 pounds (225 kg) when fully configured. Consider the equipment you will be lifting and buy for the maximum expected. Also consider that the floor must support the equipment and the lift; but that is not usually as much as loaded frames.
  • Length: There is a right middle ground. The lift must be able to turn in an aisle. The unit must be long enough to support the center of weight for the equipment you are installing. Consider these hypothetical measurements: lift length of 30 inches, platform length of 20 inches, and maximum equipment length of 27 inches. When the equipment is placed on the platform it will hangout by 7 inches so the unit you are turning will be 37 inches long – probably almost 48 inches diagonally (if 30 inches wide). The front edge of the lift platform will be just 6½ inches beyond the physical center of your equipment, so you should consider whether heavy components like disk drives and power supplies are on the supported side or hanging out.
  • Width: Width adds stability but reduces maneuvering ability. Narrower lifts may tip if pushed or turned sharply. Taller lifts should be wider.
  • Height: Consider the height of your frames, doors and equipment. Office doors with closers may limit overall height to 78 inches. Putting a 3 RU disk drawer at the top of a 48 RU frame may require a platform height of 83 inches. A typical maximum lift platform height server of 50 inches will reach RU 27 in most frames. That will work if you are mounting (3) 10 RU units (at 1, 11, and 21) or mounting (2) 23 RU units at 1 and 24. You must consider your possible configurations and paths.
  • Lift power: consider how often the unit will be used. Options are available for hand crank (screw drive), foot pedal (hydraulic), or motorized (dirty power). Motorized units are generally heavier, more expensive and longer (imposing some limits); but easier on the staff if used often.

What I Would Specify in a Server Lift

BIG CAVEAT: your specs could be different

Weight capacity Units of 500 pounds
Height of lift Under 78 inches
Maximum height of platform 50 inches (or more)
Minimum height of platform 3 inches (or less)
Length of platform 20 inches
Width of platform 20 inches
Length of lift 30 inches
Width of lift 30 inches
Material Steel
Wheels Rear min 4 inch rubber; front casters min 2 inch
Operation (your option)