Recommendations on setting up a small rack for my home network
August 5, 2022 5:57 PM   Subscribe

I am looking at how to organize my networking hardware, NAS, Raspberry Pis, etc. in the closet where they will be located and I’m considering a 6U-9U rack of some sort. This isn’t something I’ve done before so I’d like to get some input before I start buying stuff.

This is a follow up on my previous post which had a lot of very useful answers.

I will be locating the main infrastructure in a section of a 22” deep closet. This includes router, switch, patch panel, NAS, a few Raspberry Pis, etc. Coming into the closet will be the internet and ethernet cables to the rest of the house.

While reading the answers to my last question I started thinking about how to organize the hardware and the cables in the closet. I’ve come up with a rough idea that I wanted to run by you folks before I start finalizing pieces. Where I’ve linked things below they’re examples or something that seems to fit my needs, more specific recommendations/alternatives are welcome.

For holding everything I’m thinking of using a wall mount 6U-9U server/patch panel rack. Something like this or this.
* Since a lot of the stuff I have is not rack mountable, I would have a couple of shelves inside to hold that stuff.
* I’m leaning toward ~9U so that things like the NAS (7” high) will fit entirely within the rack.
* I have no idea if there are reasons to prefer an open frame design like the monoprice vs a closed frame like the StarTech in my case.
* I would mount this a couple feet up on the side wall of the closet with the ethernet cables coming in through a passthrough wall plate of some sort below it.
* The deepest hardware I’m likely to want to mount in the future is something like a Dream Machine Pro, so call it a minimum of 12” deep.

Mounted at the bottom of the rack would be a 24-port keystone jack patch panel. The ethernet cables from the rest of the house would come in to keystone jacks and I could use patch cables and inline couplers to put things like the NAS on the patch panel.
* The reviews for the Monoprice keystone patch panels and keystones are pretty meh, so I may look at other options.
* I will need to ensure that any keystones I buy fit the panel I buy, as it seems like that’s not a given.

For power I would probably use a standard power strip mounted behind the rack (or below if I don’t have room behind) unless there’s a good reason to buy a more expensive rack mounted one.

Does anybody have any thoughts or recommendations regarding this approach?

A few references I found useful:
posted by unus sum to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My one thought: you didn't mention cooling in any way. A lot of equipment in a small space would, I think, need some form of cooling or at the very least a way to exhaust heat from the closet.
posted by TimHare at 6:50 PM on August 5 [4 favorites]

If you can fit it, I personally greatly prefer racks on wheels than wall-mounted racks. Sometimes it's really useful to get to the back of stuff without having to actually unmount it from the rack.

Cooling is something to consider, though I will (perhaps heretically) say that I think people worry about it too much. I've had equipment in pretty poorly-ventilated spaces (by necessity) for a decade plus and it's been fine. Definitely if you can ventilate or cool, you should. But some folks will tell you that you shouldn't do it at all if you can't, and I don't completely agree with that.
posted by primethyme at 7:07 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]

Buy a bigger rack than you currently need. You will likely want to add some other piece of hardware in the future. You may want an UPS or central home audio.

You will want some form of active cooling in the closet.

If you're running new wires throughout the house, consider also running some smurf tube conduit alongside. Also make it slightly bigger diameter than you think you need.
posted by Diddly at 7:09 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]

If you're going to install a 7" NAS on a shelf, it'll take up a smidge more than 4U (the shelf has a non-zero thickness). If it's on a shelf in a 4U slot and let it intrude into the space above, it won't slide out (because the hole in the rack is 4U minus something).

If it *is* rack-mountable, adding 1U for the keystone panel and reserving another 1U for the Dream Machine only leaves 2U (Amazon/StarTech) or 3U (Monoprice) for "a lot of stuff."

Upgrading to the Monoprice 12U rack is an $11 investment ($15 for the 12U StarTech rack) in future expansion and tidiness.

The enclosed sides of the StarTech rack might make your cables in the back a rat's nest (because you have to add 14" to each cable to reach the front of the rack as you slide equipment in from the front), but it'll also hide the mess.

Agree with primethyme with "meh" on cooling. The User Manuals will tell you the operating temperature of the gear, and most equipment can handle running at 90F ambient (Dream Machine's datasheet says up to 104F). Active circulation will reduce ambient temperature back there (a small fan on the floor may be sufficient), but too many cables crammed in the back will reduce circulation, and as TimHare mentions, exhaust is key (even if it's just keeping the closet door open).
posted by panmunjom at 8:44 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]

The first step in cooling would be ventilation in the form of an opening at the top for warm air to escape and another down low for cooler air to enter.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:11 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]

You can save yourself a lot of money if you're OK with just getting shelves. Get some sturdy modular shelving on wheels; anywhere from cheap wire rack shelves (usually for kitchens) to fancy shelves for A/V equipment.
posted by Nelson at 3:20 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]

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