By David O’Coimin and John MacDonald, Kell Systems (www.kellsystems.co.uk)

Today’s small business is heavily dependent on IT, and almost every company will have PCs on the desk. But what about the server and communications hardware that’s usually required as well — where should this go?

A dedicated computer room is one solution, but it is expensive. And many companies simply don’t have the space for a server room, particularly if they are in open-plan offices.

Leaving the servers in the main office is not a good answer, as they are noisy and require specialised cooling to operate.

Server cabinets

Many SMEs are turning to specialised server cabinets to solve this problem. These cabinets enable the deployment of servers and network hardware directly in the office workspace, doing away with the need for dedicated computer rooms. They combine noise reduction and high thermal capacity with exceptional reliability and an all-inclusive, plug-and-play specification.

In typical usage, server cabinets reduce server noise by more then half, CO2 emissions by 96.5%, and operating costs by 98%, compared to a server room. They take only about 10% of the space required for a computer room, and save over 95% of the running costs.

To provide an indication of the potential cost savings, if a typical 3.6kW server room installation were replaced with an equivalent Kell ComputerVault Pro deployed in the open office, hardware cooling costs can be reduced by £3,385 per annum (calculation based on a low-end price of 10p per kilowatt/hour); this figure is at the conservative end of the spectrum. If a Kell server cabinet is deployed instead of building a new server room, then immediate savings of up to £20,000 are typically achieved’

In practice many companies have already installed server cabinets. For example, the UK’s National School of Government selected a cabinet to augment its data centre facilities. The School chose a cabinet rather than building a traditional server room, as it offered a fast to deploy, tidy infrastructure solution that didn't require expensive and disruptive building works. Its portability allows greater flexibility if buildings need to be repurposed or floor plans changed later.

"The soundproofing is so effective that we have staff working just two metres away from the fully configured installation," says Martin Cragg, Head of Networking at the National School of Government.

Another example, Towergate Partnership, specified server cabinets in preference to building new comms room facilities, as it didn't want the capital expenditure of building new comms rooms with costly, dedicated air conditioning. Towergate now uses server cabinets to house the entire communications infrastructure at all new branch offices without existing comms room facilities.

"Taking into account the costs of demountable partitioning, dedicated air conditioning, and basic data racks, we estimate that Kell's enclosures save approximately 59% per site, without taking into account the reduced floor space costs," said Peter Morris, Head of Towergate's property management unit. "Cabinets are a far better use of floor space, and in the event of an office move or lease expiring they are easily redeployed and aren't the sunk cost of a permanent comms room.”

Eleven reasons to consider server cabinets

1. They’re quiet
2. You save money
3. They’re easy to move around
4. They keep your equipment secure
5. They look nice and fit anywhere
6. To save energy and cut CO2
7. Cooling is already built-in
8. Installation is quick and easy
9. They can be managed remotely
10. To save space
11. They make your IT systems more reliable