Sunday 10 February 2013

Lifting heavy servers is bad for your back

I have a bunch of very large servers. They are 5U in size, that's five times as big a a normal 1U server (and longer, too). They're made of thicker metal, and contain 15 hard drives. I'd guess they weigh 40 or 50 pounds. The first one I made like that I named "Heavy" because it is. Very.

They sit in a rack, 22 inches off the ground. When I need to work on them, I have to slide them out and lift them over to my workbench (28 inches above ground level). It's an awkward thing to do; I have to make sure I don't foul a cable, and I'm twisting while I lift. Not good. And yesterday, the inevitable happened - I strained my back.

Not badly, I think. It's feeling a lot better already. But it's not something I want to happen. So I looked into it - what can I get to make this easier?

First of all, I rescued the latest catalogue from Rapid Racking, pulled it out of the wastebin and had a look. There's one possibility, it's a trolley where you can adjust the height of the shelf, using Allen keys. So I'd be able to slide the server onto the trolley, wheel it to the workbench then lift it onto the workbench.

Then I went to Ebay, and I found two kinds of things; the hostess trolley (which I think is too flimsy for a big heavy server, plus they have tiny wheels) and something that isn't a Zimmer frame, but is like a Zimmer frame on wheels, and I know it's aimed at people who are finding it very difficult to walk, because you can buy it VAT-free, but you have to swear that you're very disabled, or you get prosecuted by the VATman. Anyway, the heights of the shelves were wrong, and it's a bit adjustable, but not much.

Then I found the Sealey Hydraulic Platform Truck. It looks like exactly what I wanted. I'll set the platform to 22 inches, apply the brakes, slide the server onto it (no need to lift), trundle it over to the work bench, pump the foot pump so the platform is at 28 inches, and slide the server onto the workbench. It's rated at 150 kilograms, so it could take the server plus me sitting on it, if I felt like it. The price of £208 looked like a lot for a trolley, but A) it isn't just a trolley, and B) the full price is over £300, C) that's the cost of a couple of hard drives and D) my back is worth a lot more than £200.

While I was in a buying mood, I went to Sports Direct, my favourite clothes shop, and bought three pair of leggings (mens) for use when the weather is really cold, and another three pair of fleece-lined joggers, in royal blue, so if you see a blue-legged cacher, you'll know it isn't because my legs are cold.


  1. Those pump trucks are just what you need, we have several here, I wouldn't move more than 1U without one, even then I'd consider it.

    You'll find that you may end up working on your servers with it on the truck as you can adjust the height so easily.

    Richard (lifechooser)

  2. Your 1U boxes must be heavier than mine! Yes, I had thought about the possibility of it doubling as a workbench. Do you also use the Sealey, or is there another brand?

  3. I'd have to go down to the test floor and check. We have about 3 of them, and I'm sure they're all different makes. At least 2 of them were here when I started 12 years ago.

    I could move a 2U on my own if I wanted to, but a pump truck is easier and at hand, so I might as well use that - it also gives me somewhere to work too. I'm sure my managers would also rather I used it for H&S reasons.

  4. All my rackmounted servers are 1U-small now; I can get four 3tb drives into that. The big servers aren't at the colo (big means 28 tb in this context).

    Read my latest blog; I've just built an 18tb server based on a Raspberry Pi!