This Server's on the Road Again...and Again...and Again...
June 14, 2006 11:45 AM   Subscribe

At work, we have a storage device that we need to send across these United States for live demonstration purposes. We want to send a 2U device, along with a 1U server host and a 1U pull out keyboard/trackball/flip-up LCD. I have some questions regarding this, notably how to ship it, in what, and with what?

1) What is the best container to ship it in? After a perfunctory search by my boss, we came upon this: Are there any better/cheaper options? Our minimal requirements are 4U, 4 post rackmount that can withstand many, many shippings.

2) Any advice on the 1U K//LCD/M? We don't need a switch built-in, so just 1 input is OK.

3) We will also have to send along accessories (hubs/switches, Cat6 cabling, power strips). What else should be in this "Go Kit?" I know that power strips are like gold at some trade shows, so any extras are uesful to make friends. Gaffer's tape is a necessity, too. Anything else? I don't want the size to get too out of hand, so I have specifically excluded a spool of Cat6 cable and crimping toolkit.

3a) Should we get a custom box to ship the Go Kit in, too? They are not worth as much money-wise, but they are just as important.

My Googling only reveals products, not opinions, which is why I am reaching out to my MetaFriends.
posted by JLobster to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
We used to ship 20" CRT monitors to trade shows at a previous job using what I can only describe as "roadie boxes"... the ones you see getting rolled out of trucks when rock bands show up at your local stadium. Black sides, wood, with metal edges & corner reinforcements. Splits in two and has a metal-flap hinge/lock to keep it together. Somewhat like the one you link too, but ours were not plastic. The monitor was kept in place by custom-cut foam inside.

We never had any problems with the monitors. The boxes got very, very ugly, but there was never any damage to the monitors.

Machines with hard drives are a different issue - the drives may be very susceptible to shock. Dunno how to get around that. The page you link to looks like a more modern version of what we used.
posted by GuyZero at 11:56 AM on June 14, 2006

Best answer: those SKB cases are great. we use one to ship around our portable server setup for our trade shows (we man 20 booths at a time and keep them all linked wirelessly). for the "go kit" i'd get another SKB case that's got a more "general" layout that will allow you to cut foam as needed. good for putting general stuff in. i guess my only suggestion to what you've already got in there is 1 or 2 Linksys WRT54GL routers modded with DD-WRT firmware. you wouldn't believe how useful those things can be for bridging when there's no direct connection, offering wireless access for other things, etc - and only about $70 each, that's a good investment that will get you a long way.
posted by quadrinary at 12:16 PM on June 14, 2006

When I used to work for a huge magazine in NYC, we had a series of Lightware cases made custom for us. We shipped probably 15-20 computers and 17-20" monitors in them, dozens of laptops, as well as a hell of a lot of networking equipment (Cisco routers, switches, etc.), and I can't remember anything *ever* getting damaged unless we screwed up and packed it wrong. I'm not sure if Lightware is still doing custom cases for non-photographic stuff, but it's worth a try.
posted by delfuego at 12:30 PM on June 14, 2006

As GuyZero mentions, the harddrives are the most susceptible to shock. If at all possible, I'd remove the drives from the rest of the hardware and ship them seperately. If you bought the drives seperately in the first place, you may still have the box and styrofoam packing. If not, all hard drives are the same physical size, I'm sure you can dig some up.

For the rest of the equipment, you shouldn't have any problems. In a company I used to work for, we had a very limited budget. That meant that all our servers had to be bought used off of eBay. We bought mostly Dell 2U servers, and they were shipped to us in all sorts of containers. Of the dozen that we received, not one was damaged to the point it wouldn't run. Not even the server that was so warped that it no longer fit in the rack! This is the server that arrived in a box that was half-full of packing peanuts, with one corner completely smashed flat.

I wouldn't recommend shipping your equipment out that way, but I've learned not to stress too much about it. Computers can take a suprising amount of abuse without breaking.
You should see the servers we got out of the flooded server room after Katrina. Still running!
posted by Eddie Mars at 12:30 PM on June 14, 2006

Custom corrugated boxes will be much cheaper and as long as you have 1.5" of foam padding you should be okay. Might need 2-3" depending on the weight.
posted by Ekim Neems at 1:36 PM on June 14, 2006

Also, ship with plently of lead time. If equipment is damaged or lost you don't want to be putting people on planes with servers for their luggage (last minute airfare is still cheaper than many couriers)
posted by Megafly at 5:18 PM on June 14, 2006

Best answer: For something rack mounted, you want an ATA-style case, probably with shock mounts. The shock mounts might be a case inside a case with foam in between, or it might be a coil of steel cable on the corners suspending the rack rails inside the fiber case.

Either way, cardboard is a non-starter for heavy equipment that's rack-mounted and being shipped a LOT. It will get ripped. The styrofoam (or pluckfoam) will get damaged in the packing process.

For non-rack mounted gear, my company uses "Benson Boxes" from Freight Mate which are built from corrugated plastic with heavy custom-cut foam. They are much lighter than ATA cases and ship just fine. We've been shipping (and airline checking) laptops and other sensitive equipment in them for about three years now.

But again, rack-mounted hardware should go in a shockproof rack kit like the SKB that you link to.
posted by tomierna at 7:11 PM on June 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think one of your questions was a suggestion for an LCD/keyboard.. We use something like this with no problems.
posted by joshgray at 7:17 PM on June 14, 2006

We do trade shows and the like, lugging around a bunch of sensitive wireless equipment and various computer kit.

For a lot of it we use Pelican cases. Usually we just secure them shut with zip ties and FedEx the cases in advance to the hotel.

There are some racks designed for audio gear that are shock abosorbing, and might be up to the task. Here's an example of one.
posted by kableh at 10:41 AM on June 15, 2006

« Older Suddenly Sluggish Powerbook G4   |   Concord NH job hunt. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.