What is the difference between an Open Frame Rack and a cabinet? Both structures keep your equipment organized and easily accessible, but while all cabinets contain racks, not all racks have cabinets. Enclosures are essentially closed racks - racks surrounded by side panels and front/rear doors, providing an extra layer of security - they are sometimes called "rack enclosures". Racks, on the other hand, are sometimes called "open racks" if they are not enclosed. Not sure if you need an open or enclosure rack? Below we summarize the main advantages and disadvantages of each type.
Open Racks vs. Rack Racks
Since open racks offer fewer options for advantages, let's start with their main advantage: open racks are more affordable than cabinets. Due to their simple design, they require less construction material and labor costs. If you're on a tight budget and use a lot of equipment, you may enjoy the significant savings that come with open racks. Enclosure frames are more expensive because they require additional material to form a fully enclosed protective structure.
Another major advantage of open shelving? Accessibility. They are suitable for devices that need to be accessed frequently because they make it easy for anyone to access the device. A lack of easy access to an enclosure can cause problems when quick maintenance is required, but sometimes it's important to trade accessibility for protection, as we'll discuss in more detail below.
Airflow and Cooling
Temperature-controlled enclosed racks are ideal for equipment that is sensitive to extreme temperatures. While open racks offer unrestricted airflow and are generally easy to keep cool, they lack the control of a cabinet. To customize your cabinet, you can add fans and cooling devices. Cabinet racks also offer more active and passive airflow management, and you can choose vent doors to facilitate more airflow. When it comes to flexibility and control, no one can beat a high-quality cabinet.
Never use open racks to organize sensitive equipment and data, as anyone can walk up to the rack and press buttons on equipment, unplug cables, slide storage devices, etc. They lack the security and protection provided by closed racks. In addition, you can increase the security of the cabinet by adding protective features, such as keyed entry for locking out unauthorized persons.
If you have a sensitive device, you probably don't just have to worry about someone gaining unauthorized access to your device. Harsh environments can pose many threats to your equipment, such as dust, debris, moisture, and other particulates. Open racks are not suitable for harsh environments. In fact, they can be dangerous and can accumulate dust and particles that can threaten the life of your equipment. Also, cables don't hold up well in open racks, so they can get pulled or put pressure on the ports they're plugged into. Consider an open rack only if you are working in a safe and secure space.
An enclosed rack, on the other hand, prevents impact damage and keeps out dust, debris, moisture, and particles that could otherwise accumulate on and damage your equipment. Enclosures also protect your equipment if something (or someone) hits the rack, and they reduce the risk of cable damage.
Since the open rack is uncovered, equipment and cables are visible. You may or may not be bothered by this, but keep in mind that it creates a messier look. The shell shelf, on the other hand, hides everything away, creating a more streamlined and aesthetically pleasing look.