DIY SOHO Organization For Rack Mount Gear

The late George Carlin famously told a story about, “a place for my stuff.” A home office can be a challenging place in which to find a proper home for all you stuff. We need a place for everything, and everything in its place…or anarchy reins.

As most home offices are not equipped like corporate data centers, rack mount equipment can be especially difficult to accommodate. Often gear designed to be rack mounted doesn’t readily take to being used on a table top, at least not for the long-term. I recently stumbled upon a novel and inexpensive solution to housing a small amount of rack mount gear; the Lack Side Table from IKEA.

It seems that this modest little side table just happens to accommodate standard 19″ rack mount devices. Priced under $10 US it’s not the most structural piece of furniture, so you may find some need to reinforce the legs in order to ensure that you gear is held securely. Supporting the rear of deeper items is also a good idea.

While I’ve not used this little table in this manner myself, there seem to be a number of people who have gone that route. There’s even a wiki describing its assembly and use in this manner.

I also found a German blogger who describes his process for reinforcing the Lack while turning it into a nice little rack.

I went a little different route for my office. I decided to make a built-in rack that would hold all of the core components of my office network.

My office was once a four-hundred square foot garage apartment. As such it’s a square space about twenty feet on a side. One quarter of the space is partitioned off to create a bathroom.

That bathroom has a closet along one side. Where the end of the closet meets the rest of the space I decided to cut an opening. That opening was large enough to mimic a full height equipment rack, flush into the end-wall.

As I didn’t need quite that much rack space, I used the upper portion for CD/DVD storage shelving, and installed rack mounting rails into the lower half. The result is that some otherwise wasted space in the dark corner of a bathroom closet now houses our network gear.

Beyond the woodworking aspect of the project all that I purchased was some pre-tapped rack rails and a few rack shelves to accommodate smaller gear that was not itself rack mountable. I’ve found Parts Express to be a great source for low-cost rack mounting hardware.

Everything in the rack is powered by a small UPS, which itself shelved in the rack. Nothing in the rack gives off very much heat, so I haven’t had any issues of overheating. The rear of the equipment is in the largely open space that remains one side of the closet. There’s still reasonably good air flow to keep things cool.

One of the great things about working from a home office full-time is that it justifies taking steps to make the space more optimal for your personal productivity. Perhaps the best side-effect of the built-in rack is that the fan noise from the various small devices is now contained well away from my work-space.

  • EllisGL

    Now only if they sold the “cage nut” style rails. I’ve found them to be a lot better then the pre-tapped.

    • It’s a truly curious thing, but different industries use different types of rack rails. In the broadcast industry we find rack rooms almost always have racks with pre-tapped rails. In the IT universe rails requiring cage nuts are the norm. For my employer this is pain since our gear gets installed in both sorts of locations. We must accommodate both kinds of racks. We have found that “universal” racks mounting kits often don’t fit well in either case.

      For the small racks in my home office pre-tapped rails work just fine.