I've been tasked with putting together a list of tools and supplies to keep on hand in a newly renovated data center. So far my list includes things that I think are fairly common (partial list below), but what am I missing? What tools and supplies do you think are necessary to have immediately at hand in the data center?

  • Various and sundry serial cables
  • Cable Toner
  • Cable Tester
  • Voltmeter
  • Patch cables
  • Power Cords
  • Torx driver set
  • Cordless drill
  • Cage nuts and bolts
  • Cable crimping gear
  • Label printer
  • Gaffer's Tape

In addition to other items listed:

  • a quality set of miniature screwdrivers
  • Velcro - the strips for cables, but also an assortment of squares, etc.
  • zip ties and the knowledge of when not to use them
  • small divided screw organizer that's kept empty except during disassembly of something
  • paper towels and glass cleaner (multi-purpose cleaner)
  • a small vacuum and/or dustmop
  • a socket wrench and socket set
  • a set of needle-nose pliers (two or three sizes)
  • diagonal cutters
  • an outlet tester
  • flashlight
  • spare batteries in each size for everything that uses them
  • notepad/clipboard and pens/pencils
  • dry-erase markers can be used for temporary labeling
  • canned air
  • tape measure
  • ruler/straightedge

I can list more, but I'll stop there.


Additional items:

  • Leatherman tool
  • magnetic pickup tool on an extensible wand
  • parts pickup tool (the flexible, spring-loaded grippy fingers variety
  • inspection mirrors (one with an extensible wand, one without)
  • a spray can of contact cleaner
  • a bottle of 90% isopropanol and some lint-free swabs
  • latex or latex-free rubber gloves
  • a small trash can and bags for it
  • a small duster like the basic Swiffer
  • Where's he going to store the knowledge about the zip ties????
    – BillN
    Jun 22 '10 at 0:01
  • 2
    @BillN - Why in a zip-loc bag, of course! ;-) Jun 22 '10 at 0:09
  • 1
    And a <strike>baseball bat</strike> cream pie, for my predecessor who tied all those ethernet cables down with zip ties, because the were 'cheaper' and 'fast to install'. Jun 22 '10 at 3:54
  • Oh, and a Leatherman tool (on your belt). Jun 22 '10 at 15:07

You should have also something to remove floor tiles, to access the cables underneath.

Very useful if you have to do frequent cabling work.

  • 1
    But don't leave it out in the open -- or you get people who really shouldn't be opening up the floor mucking about and/or not closing it back up correctly once they're done. (luckily, we only had a 9" drop, or I'd have been injured much worse)
    – Joe H.
    Jun 22 '10 at 19:30
  • Headlamp. Better then a flashlight for getting into those dark areas between all the cables or that dark area under the rack. Your hands are free.
  • Rechargeable batteries and a battery quick charger. You might need batteries at 2AM when all the stores are closed.
  • Good cut-resistant gloves like these Kevlar-coated nitrile gloves. These are really worth it. They keep your hands clean when working with cabling, rails, that thin oily schmutz which coats most server chassis', etc. They are very cut-resistant and protect your beautiful hands from cuts and pinches while handling those bulky boxes made with sheet metal. They also have very good grip when lifting those 1U and 2U boxes into place, and are much thinner and allow more dexterity then ordinary garden gloves. They work pretty good in the garden or for regular home repair also. I have found these for $4.00 at my local hardware store.

Kevlar Work gloves


I would stock up on screwdrivers, as those disappear, and I wouldn’t be afraid of picking up a couple of cordless ones, as those can make a long day much shorter if you’re running a lot of screws in (just start them by hand if possible so you don’t crossthread anything). A drill is handy, but a cordless screwdriver is much lighter, easier to wield for an entire day, and easier to maneuver around racks.

You have a lot of things i would suggest on your list already, a good set of wire strippers and good crimping tools. More:

  • A good punchdown tool
  • A rubber mallet and/or non-marring hammer
  • At least two pair of vice grips
  • One mid-sized adjustable wrench
  • Maybe a pair of 8-10” Channellocks

You can get everything I said there for <$30 at most hardware stores, and if/when you ever need them you won’t be kicking yourself for not having them (ever have a rack/rail bent for whatever reason and no way to get it back? Vicegrips/channellocks Ever tried to tighten a loose castor on <thing x> and no way to do it? Adjustable wrench. Ever had something that just barely didn’t fit? Mallets can help :))

The biggest thing I see people skimp on is storage. You stock up with all this great stuff, now where are you going to put it? I suggest more than a cabinet with tupperware containers; a decent set of mid-sized toolboxes (17”-26”) can help you bring the tools to where you need them. A decent rolling workstation can provide a surface to work off of, storage for tools, and the convenience of portability, and in most cases, the security of a metal cabinet that can be locked.

  • Power tools, mallet, Vice grips, Channellocks - All brute force stuff. I'm a bit concerned about your methodologies. Jun 22 '10 at 2:51
  • Only brute force when used by a brute. There are times when everything JustWorks™. At least I'm told those times exist. Sometimes things require, shall we say, encouragement. I'm not suggesting you use said tools to disassemble a server the hard way; merely that their usefulness would not go unnoticed; their lack of presence would.
    – peelman
    Jun 22 '10 at 14:14
  • A cart with a lcd/keyboard/mouse if a KVM happens to go out in a rack
  • A quick contact sheet (Dell's #, HP's #, A/C maint. #, an inventory spread sheet of service dates, service tags, etc).

Most everything I have seems to be listed


No kit is complete without a box of sharpies, pens and notepads.


Not strictly everyday tools but other suggestions for a large scale computer room and other musings:

  1. POTS Phone and Outside analog phone line. Do not connect this to any internal PBX/VoIP system, must be seperate.
  2. One of the standard company phones w/o voicemail.
  3. Wireless headset that can be used with either (1) and (2).
  4. If you were looking at highly critical sites or something for extreme emergencies a satellite phone setup available.
  5. Fire extinguisher of appropriate class.
  6. First Aid Kit
  7. Portable Air Horn for emergency situations.

Common PDUs (Power distribution units) found on server racks only offer C13 and C19 sockets, as shown below:

Server Rack PDU
(Image from ee.co.za)

Since wall outlets are often only available on a wall, far from servers, it can be helpful to have cables for converting C13/C14 and C19/20 to the standard wall plug of your region. An adapter lets someone working on a server to charge their laptop or phone. They also help to confirm that a particular socket has power at all.

Here is an example of adapter cables in the U.S.:

C14 to US wall outlet cable
(Image from Amazon.com)

C20 to US wall outlet cable
(Image from Amazon.com)

It's important for users of these adapters to verify both the supply voltage and the allowed input voltage of the device they are plugging in! It's common for server racks in the U.S. to supply 240V. Since standard wall outlets supply 120V, many device would NOT be safe to plug in to 240V! Check the label on the device being plugged in.

Note that the female version of an IEC 60320 socket is an odd number (C13 and C19) and the male version is even (C14 and C20)

IEC 60320 connectors for servers
Image from Wikipedia page showing IEC connectors


In addition to what’s already been mentioned:

  • Spare cartridges for the label printer
  • An earthing strap
  • A reel of Cat6 cable for use with the crimping tools
  • A USB phone charger with Lightning, Micro-USB and USB-C cables (yes, your data centre is full of devices with USB ports, but you don’t want to be plugging phones into those)

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