What Makes a Good Server Rack Cabinet for Harsh Environments?

In a perfect world, all critical IT equipment would be housed in a climate-controlled, impenetrable cloud, with remote management and a redundant failover system on the other side of the planet.

But in the real world, servers and switches sometimes have to work amid the dust and dirt of factory floors, utility plants and warehouses. They have to contend with water in the form of steam, splashes and drips. They are surrounded by foot traffic and falling debris. Under these environmental circumstances, the right NEMA 12 server cabinet can be the key to preventing equipment failure and costly replacements.

Rack Protection in Harsh Environments

Look for these rack features to support the performance and longevity of critical equipment:

  • Filters
    Dust is a major culprit; it can congest fans and vents and cause overheating. Built-in filters trap dust and keep it away from equipment inside the rack.
  • Ventilation
    Even air-conditioned spaces can heat up quickly when they are housing switches and servers. Look for racks with fans and ventilation that support front-to-rear airflow to prevent the recirculation of heat back to equipment.
  • Sealing
    Doors, gaskets and cable ports are all vulnerable points on a rack through which moisture and contaminants can reach equipment. Racks should properly seal off these points.
  • Accessibility
    In tight spaces, racks will ideally have a design that can help with accessibility, like front and rear reversible doors. They should also have security features that deny access for unauthorized users and protect equipment from tampering and theft.
  • Durability
    Steel frame racks can best protect against falling objects, collisions and even jolts and vibrations from surrounding equipment.

NEMA 12 and IP54 Ratings

To take the guesswork out of identifying a rack enclosure’s protection capabilities, NEMA (National Electronic Manufacturers Association) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) have created standardized ratings.

Look for a NEMA 12 network cabinet rating for indoor industrial use. NEMA 12 applies to enclosures that protect against dust, falling dirt, dripping noncorrosive liquids and incidental human contact.

IEC assigns two-digit IP (Ingress Protection) ratings. The first digit represents the degree of protection against solid objects based on the sizes of exposed openings; the second digit represents protection against water. For standard indoor industrial use, an IP54 rating is optimal as it indicates reliable protection against dust down to wire size (1 mm) openings and against dripping and splashing water.

NEMA 12 and IP54 are used for similar applications and generally indicate the same level of protection. For more details about these ratings, refer to this NEMA/IEC Rack Enclosure Ratings Guide on the Tripp Lite website.

Tripp Lite SmartRack Enclosures

Tripp Lite offers a selection of NEMA 12- and IP54-rated server rack enclosure cabinets to suit your harsh environment.