Mmmmmay! The moment has finally come, it's time to actually make this mess look blessed!!!!! The state of my computer area as depicted, has taken months to accquire this "look", the same as many computer rooms are these days in any persons house, or apartment. This "mini" guide will outline how to turn an unorganized area, into a space saving area, and how to do it cheaply.
This all got started when our 17 inch viewsonic monitor on the Lexi Entertainment server up and died, a few weeks back. Torn with spending money on yet another "Big Brick" monitor, i started contemplating a TFT. When I presented my TFT idea to "Domestic Management", it was suggested that maybe I should "first" clean and organize the area, and then we might see about Mr. "TFT". Well, since I never do much without a plan, I commenced to 'envision' an organized setup for all my computers, and provide my wife with a seperate working computer, from my stand of four.
The problem was compounded somewhat by the fact that the bedroom being employed as the "office" was one of the smaller rooms in the dwelling, thus limiting some solutions. As I planned, I organized the computers by usage, and accessibility, within the area I have available. By using a shelf/rack solution, I could eliminate at least two pieces of furniture in the room, that were currently used to support desktop units, and keep them off the floor. That would open the room up considerably, and allow for consolidation of all the desktops, and categorization by use, and proximity to the KVM switch.
The Rack Shelves
I had remembered seeing thick wire guage shelves, that for all intense purposes, looked like proferssional racks! They are not, of course, but they are more than able to do the job, within a limted doemestic setup, or home business. A number of stores in America sell these, and they are standard inventory at Lowes Home improvement stores($54.00 U.S.);
Some of the things to think about when planning a reorg;
Power Receptacle Availability - Make sure you place your computer 'rack' where ample power is available. It's been best in my experiences to spread it to wall outlets on seperate walls
Surge-resistant power strip(s) - One for extra power needs on the "rack". Use two if you have alot of power needs.
Extension cables - For mouse, keyboard, and monitors, or extra KVM cables, if you re going to utilize a KVM switch.Twist Ties - For securing the cables in place to the shelf, once placement is established.Case/Equipment Measurements - Take the time to measure the cases of the computers, and any other items you are planning to "place" in the "rack"Inventory List - Create a numbered inventory, for each part, as it's removed, for easy decoding during the reconstruction process.Plenty of Time - Make sure you don't need your computers for awhile, nor do you need to do anything else, as in my experiences, it's been best to complete this operation at once, or in two sessions.
Here is the spreadsheet I put togehter to inventory the cables and what they all went to. Being the type-A that I am, I devised a simple method for labelling my cables, with a code that instantly identifys which machine the cable goes with and it's function. Not real effective for small relocations, but more than two machines, and it can get real tricky. Each one of my servers is named, and I choose the first letter of each machines 'name', since they were all unique. i then made up a designator (like SND for sound, and VIDOUT for the monitor cable). Finally, if there was more than one, I assigned a sequential number to each one in the set.
My goal here was to "arrange" the cabling into groups, and perhaps prevent the "spaghetti" pile, I'd come to despise in my computer area. Once the cables were labelled, I proceeded to layout the cable arrangement on a drawing of the rack shelf that roughly replicated the configuration of the actual one. With some planning, I was able to devise a method of arranging the clbes for each rig into "bundles", that are easily disconnected when one of the rigs require extraction for maintenance, or just a good blowing out (texas is notorious for DUST).
For the sake of clarity, I have omitted the individual connections from the drawing. If you have gotten this far, you probably are "cool" with the individual connection types on the back of your PC. The chart shown roughly approximates the positions of the equipment on the rack, as I had envisioned it.
Start by understanding what depths you are going to make your shelves. Make notes, and once you are confident, build the "rack". If you are using a product as pictured here, it's fairly easy to ensure that the shelves are even, and the feet on this model have leveller bottoms. Being perfectly level isnt as important as being straight. Each of the poles have a circular groove every inch. It's a simple expedient of counting the number of rings up from the bottom on each pole, and placing the inserts in position, and sliding each self into place. Once, you have all four shelves mounted, double check the measurements between each shelf, against what you measured for your components.
Now that you have built your "rack", it's time to put your stuff in it!! Earlier, I mentioned making a "inventory" of what was moving, and to where in the rack/shelf. It should be in spreadsheet form, and each component is written as an entry, and assigned a line number. Write this line number on a mailing label, and affix it to the component. Seems like a lot of work, but 5 or more cables all look the same when they are heaped together in a pile! It's good to know which A/C adapter goes with which component, lest damage can occur.
In the relocation featured in this article, there were four desktop PC's and two printers, DSL modem, 10T/100T hub, Cable-TV connections, 2 sound systems, network cables, KVM switch and cables, and a number of other assorted connectors, and convertors. Without a proper inventory, it would have taken much longer.
Run as many of your cables at first, and "plan" how they are going to be seen, and how they can be best concealed. Use the twist ties to secure the excess cables, and cable loops to the back of the rack, but keep in mind the flexibility required, and refrain from securing often moved cables, or you will be cutting twist ties off every time, and you will soon cease using them for organizing your 'cable farm', and seeing all your cables look like spagetthi. Take care not to "bind" cables down too tightly with the twist ties, as this can damage the wire in the cables, and make it difficult to remove them without cutting into the insulation of the cables. Using your plan and inventory, begin the assembly of your computer components on the rack/shelves. Make sure you understand the placement of your Desktop boxes, and airflow requirements. I have left a 4 inch space around each machine. Do ONE computer at a time, and take a break in between computers. When you are done, don't be too surprised if you had to alter your plans, as NO plan survives first contact with reality!!
The Completed Rack
As can be seen from the photo, all the rigs have been relocated to the shelf unit, and all associated peripherals and PSU's are now in the shelf unit. The rig that Bitbendette will use (black case) is mounted as close to the workarea she will be populating as possible, to allow for cable length limitations. The remaining 3 PC's are all controlled from a KVM switch mounted on the rear of the shelf unit. All excess cabling has been bundled, and tied off, with respect to it's need for removal. Network cable excesses are rounded, and tied off with twist ties. KVM cables, Sound system cables, are all arranged, and bundled togther, according to the PC they are serving. This not only cuts down on the amount of "Cable Clutter", it helps arrange and organize the cables, and allows for easier removal and grouping, should a single machine need be removed for maintenance, or replacement.
And, not to forget the shoemakers Wife !!
Well, since we had alredy gotten that 17" TFT for the main desk, it seemed a crime not to get me missus a TFT, too... Her workstataion is a simple one, served by a GigaByte GA-7VXRP/AMD 1800/512Meg of ram, 64Meg ATI VIVO Video, 80GB of HDD, and a CD-RW.
Summary: The relocation shown here required only the shelf unit. The TFT screens were "optional". You too, can use common idea's and suppies to organize your computer station to look as "professional" as it gets, without the high costs!