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Ask Slashdot: Server Room Toolbox? 416

jandersen writes "I am the system manager in charge of a smallish server room (~50 servers, most in racks), and I am going to buy a set of tools; but first I want to hear what other people think would be a good idea. Certainly a range of good quality screwdrivers — slotted, Phillips, Pozidriv, Torx. But what else? Tape measure? Spirit level (for aligning the racks)? Any meters or cable testers? A wood lathe? I can probably get away with a budget of a few hundred GBP, but there ought to be some mileage in that."
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Ask Slashdot: Server Room Toolbox?

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  • You need (Score:5, Informative)

    by Vadim Makarov ( 529622 ) <> on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:24AM (#42127205) Homepage
    Mechanical tools: screwdrivers, wrench kit, pliers, cutters (plier style), cutters (x-acto), hammer, metal file (to round an odd sharp corner), tape measure, heavy-duty duct tape, lots of plastic cable ties. I also needed a drill to install an odd rack shelf, so throw one with some drilling bits if your budget allows. I don't know what cables you use, but tools to fix cabling may come in handy (multimeter, soldering iron and solder, shrinkable tubes, special tool to terminate cables, etc.). If you have fiber optics, get a good push-action connector cleaner.
  • by Brianwa ( 692565 ) <(brian-wa) (at) (> on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:31AM (#42127241)

    Utility knife for opening boxes and stuff.

    A cheapo multimeter. You're working with electronics, having one of these is a requirement even though many people in IT try to get by without them.

    Perhaps a soldering iron and solder sucker. Hopefully you'll never need them but weird shit happens.

    A set of precision screwdrivers is sometimes needed for taking stuff apart, and can be pushed into extra duty as pin extractors or whatever else.

    A dedicated Ethernet tester can be pretty handy too. And get a crimper for these if you don't have one already.

  • Some suggestions (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:34AM (#42127265)

    A toner that works on live network cables
    a cable qualifier
    a fluke nettool or equivalent
    A set of loopbacks
    a set of console cables
    a buttset
    A cage nut tool
    2 sets of screwdrivers, including torx, hex, etc.
    telescoping magnet (part retriever)
    Box cutter
    work gloves
    ear plugs
    a jacket
    a jackrapid if your patch panels are modular
    a crashcart
    power screwdriver
    a cordless drill
    a rack lift
    velcro spools
    a stockpile of cage nuts and (matching) bolts

    The first few on that list will break the bank.
    Most of the time, all I really need is a screwdriver with bitset, a leatherman wave with bitset, a cagenut tool, a flashlight, and a console cable.

  • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:35AM (#42127273)

    Because sometimes you want to test the wires that are not connected to a server/workstation.

    Get a good hand-held time domain reflectometer. I prefer Fluke but I'm sure that others are just as good.

    This will not only tell you that the wires are correct, but if they are broken it will tell you how far away they are broken. VERY handy for hunting down problems.

  • A new hundred? (Score:5, Informative)

    by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @03:43AM (#42127319) Homepage

    It all depends on how big your server room is, how actively it changes equipment, and a number of other things.

    For a few hundred (anything), you're not really looking at much of a tool set. There are some 'bare minimums', and 200-300 will be eaten up in very short order. Here's a list of what I consider to be bare essentials:

    * A multi-set of philips, flathead, etc. screwdriver bits. Make that two sets, they're cheap. Pick up an extra multipack of #2 and #3 Philips driver bits for another couple bucks. Forget independent screwdrivers, that's just wasteful, and you'll never find the one you want because it's awkward to keep them all together and sort through them. In all likelihood, you'll need #3 and #2 philips only, as more and more systems come toolless; this would be for rack equipment.
    * A manual torque driver is a must (batteries can fail) - don't be that guy who over-tightens everything and it's impossible to get crap out of a rack without shearing screw heads and stripping bits. You can pick up some pretty decent ones for $10-15. I like the ones with the recessed rear caps which have a cylinder full of different bits.
    * A good multitool. MUST MUST MUST. SOG are awesome, I love my PowerAssist. I have done emergency recabling jobs with nothing more than a Spartan Swiss Army Knife. Currently, I'm liking my Gerber Balance (and I keep extra bits in my pocket, just in case). This is your tool; it goes in your pocket, and it's your last line of defense against not being able to fix something because someone ran off with the tool you need.
    * A good flashlight. I'm not talking about a $120 surefire, a cheap $10 Trustfire from DX or the like will do just fine. It just can't be crap. (Personally, this is something I always keep on my person anyway.)
    * cable tie offs, velcro, cat6 jack heads, spare power and ethernet cables,, etc. - you'll want a supply, because you will probably need them.
    * RJ punch down tool (to crimp onto your cat6) - the alternative is to buy all pre-cut lengths, and this makes a mess in short order while wasting a fair amount of money.
    * A network continuity testing tool, preferably one that'll allow you to test things thoroughly and not just give you a 'good' light.
    * A hardware ethernet tap. You can get a good one for $15 or so.
    * compact cordless Makita torque/impact driver, preverably the one with the pivoting head. I have spent a lot of time rebuilding etc. racks, and you never know when you'll need

    A very nice to have: compact cordless Makita torque/impact driver, preverably the one with the pivoting head. I have spent a lot of time rebuilding etc. racks, and you never know when you'll need it. IMO a 'must have' but only because I've redone entirely too many racks manually.

    This list can balloon quickly, depending on how reliant you are on vendors, and how

  • Re:A new hundred? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 29, 2012 @04:33AM (#42127563)

    You're describing my old kit almost to a T. The only things I'd add/adjust are:

    * Screwdrivers: Kits sometimes aren't enough. You want long reach and short reach in common sizes. It's often helpful to have 'bent head' screwdrivers as well.
    * USB DVD+RW drive. Critical to have.
    * USB thumb drives.
    * Labeller. Even a cheap Dymo will do wonders.
    * USB-to-serial port adapter. There's unfortunately still a lot of gear that requires a serial port to talk to. Make sure you can get it working with your laptop/netbook of choice. (Had all sorts of kext'ing fun trying to get a cheap one from Fry's to work with OS X a few years back.)

    Seconding and, if you'll give me time for the proper blood rituals, forcing people to third, forth and fifth the call for a torque driver. Building a rack by hand is fun precisely once.

    If you have the room:

    * In-rack drawer. If you can keep your crap at the datacenter, you can't possibly forget to bring it.

  • where to begin? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:00AM (#42127677)

    I'll just go with what's in my Stanley blue steel cantilever toolbox (the plastic ones are absolute shite and don't like being stood on):

    Stanley 99E retractable boxcutter w/5 spare blades
    1 snipe nose plier/multitool
    1 8" adjustable wrench
    2 6" mole grips
    2 sets Worx drill/driver bits (comes in a little box. 10 different HSS drill heads, 20 driver heads including Torx, Pozi, Philips, slotted and square and 1 1/4" socket adapter, and 1 extender)
    1 set (usually comes in 20's) 1/4" Whitworth bi-Hex sockets in metric and imperial and 2 Neiko 1/4" ratcheting arms: one 6" and 1 10".
    2 1/4" Gator Grips: 1 1" and 1 1/2" for those stripped heads
    1 14oz claw hammer
    1 Bondhus combination balldriver L-wrench set
    1 bag case thumbscrews
    1 bag chassis screws
    1 set (32 pc) precision screwdrivers (better if you can get hold of the case hardened ones, they don't chew up if you hit a particularly hard screw)
    1 Challenge 18V cordless drill/driver w/spare battery
    1 butane blowtorch
    1 can lithium grease
    1 Cree LED anglepoise (yeah the arm is custom)
    1 13-amp plug with earth pin connected to a wrist strap and two alligator clips
    1 QTech PCI diagnostic card - and that just blew the budget on its own
    1 QTech diagnostic CD/DVD/FD set
    1 copy Knoppix LiveCD
    1 CF-IDE module with Knoppix installed on a 16GB card, and several spare cards for recovery
    1 bus powered USB DVD burner
    1 80GB USB hard drive (custom cased low-drain job... Hitachi if I remember right)

  • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:25AM (#42127769) Journal

    Don't forget this the UK; crowbars may be a bit difficult to come by.

    I'm beginning to think that either this whole thing is all just some big American troll by you or else you have literally never been out of your mum's basement. If you actually were from the UK, and had ever been shopping, you would know that you can get crowbars (along with knives, axes, chainsaws, sledgehammers and all sorts of other useful tools) from places like B&Q or Homebase.

  • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:46AM (#42127841)

    Sorry for not answering to everybody individually, but there has already been loads of good ideas. Some of them I already have or thought of, but there are many that I hadn't thought of.

    And I note that my budget of a few hundred GBP seems too low - I should have guessed, since /. is predominantly American. I work for an American company here in UK, and while we try to get by on a meagre budget, our colleagues in the States aren't as shy about the zeroes at the end of the numbers. Maybe we just need to upgrade our case hose :-)

  • Re:Sonic screwdriver (Score:2, Informative)

    by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:57AM (#42127867)

    For non-Dr. Who fans, (if such a thing can exist here on /.) []

  • by andrewbaldwin ( 442273 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @06:37AM (#42128001)

    Cannot recommend this highly enough. Label both ends of every cable and the back of every power plug -- then you'll know what to expect when you pull it out.

    Second only to this - two ring bound folders and a hole punch. Seriously.

    Then you document cable layouts, server details (serial numbers, IP/MAC addresses, configuration details, software licences....) in your favourite tool and take a print out. File the printouts - one in the server room and one elsewhere. It may seem old tech but it will save your skin when you lose connectivity/database/application... -- by all means keep a copy on your own PC/Tablet and or a DVD backup but do keep paper copies -- spoken from experience

    Of course this requires discipline to track changes and keep the records up to date but it will save you much more time in the long run than the occasional trip to the shops to buy a specific screwdriver bit.

    Finally, I agree with a lockable cabinet -- tools can evaporate faster than a puddle on a hot summers day ;-)

  • Re:Hammer (Score:4, Informative)

    by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @06:40AM (#42128007)

    A hammer and spike. Seriously. When hard drives fail, you can easily destroy them and ensure that no one is going to dumpster dive and get your data.

    I'm assuming that a .45 is out of the question, due to the GBP reference. But it would be pretty sweet to be able to expense one as "data security device." Even if you don't want a gun, being able to expense one would for a server room would be worth it alone. If equipment is made by Foxcon, can you justify a hunting rifle in GB?

  • by Zaphod-AVA ( 471116 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @08:20PM (#42136717)

    The Cybertool series from Victorinox has been a great addition to my kit for years. Sometimes it does better than dedicated tools. Model 29 is small an light enough to have in your pocket for daily use. Much lighter than the Leatherman, it is more tuned for tech use than outdoors.

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