What is the difference between a rack and an enclosure? Both structures can keep your equipment organized and accessible, but although all enclosures contain racks, not all racks have enclosures. Enclosures are essentially enclosed racks – racks surrounded by side panels and front/rear doors, which provide an extra layer of security – and they are sometimes called “rack enclosures.” Racks, on the other hand, if not enclosed, are sometimes known as “open-frame racks.” Not sure whether you need open-frame racks or enclosure racks?  Below we’ve summarized the primary advantages and disadvantages of each type.

Telephony & Rack Enclosure - DS700 Series

Open-Frame Racks vs. Enclosure Racks


Since open-frame racks offer a more modest selection of advantages, let’s start with their primary benefit: Open-frame racks are more affordable than enclosures. Due to their simple design, they require fewer building materials and labor costs. If you’re on a tight budget and you’re working with a lot of equipment, you might enjoy the significant savings offered by open-frame racks. Enclosure racks are more expensive because they require additional materials in order to form a fully enclosed and protective structure.


The other main advantage of open-frame racks? Accessibility. They work well with equipment that needs to be accessed frequently because they make it very easy for anyone to access the equipment. Enclosures’ lack of easy accessibility may cause issues when quick maintenance is necessary, but sometimes it’s important to trade accessibility for protection, as we discuss more below.

Airflow & Cooling

Climate-controlled enclosed racks are perfect for equipment that is sensitive to extreme temperatures. While open-frame racks provide unobstructed airflow and are typically easy to keep cool, they lack the control of an enclosure. To customize your enclosure, you can add fans and cooling devices. Enclosure racks also provide more active and passive airflow management, and you can select ventilated doors to encourage more airflow. For flexibility and control, you can’t beat a high-quality enclosure.

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Open-frame racks should never be used to organize sensitive equipment and data because anyone can walk up to the rack and push buttons on the equipment, unplug cables, swipe a storage device, etc. They lack the security and protection offered by enclosure racks. Plus, you can increase the security of your enclosure by adding protective features, like a keyed entry to lock out unauthorized personnel.


If you have sensitive equipment, you probably aren’t just worried about people accessing your equipment without permission. A harsh environment can throw a lot of threatening things at your equipment, like dust, debris, moisture, and other particulates. Open-frame racks are not ideal for harsh environments. In fact, they can be dangerous and threaten the lifespan of your equipment by allowing the buildup of dust and particulates. In addition, cables are less secured with open-frame racks, so they may be pulled or stress the ports into which they’re plugged. Only consider an open-frame rack if you’re working in a safe, secured space.

An enclosed rack, on the other hand, can prevent impact damage and ward off dust, debris, moisture, and particulates, which could otherwise accumulate on your equipment and damage it. Enclosures also protect your equipment if something (or someone) bumps against the rack, and they reduce the risk of the cables being damaged.


Because open-frame racks are not covered, the equipment and cables are visible. You may or may not be bothered by this, but keep in mind that it will create a messier look. An enclosure rack, on the other hand, conceals everything within, creating a more streamlined and aesthetically appealing appearance.

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Ready to Buy an Enclosure?

If you’re in the market for a computer enclosure, DustShield is here to help. The leader in industrial computer enclosures for production environments, DustShield has an extensive line of enclosures designed to protect LCD monitors, tower and desktop CPUs, and printers. Heavy-duty and delivered completely assembled, our enclosures suit a variety of applications. And if you can’t find the ideal product to suit your needs, we can design and fabricate a custom enclosure that meets your requirements. To learn more, please contact one of our enclosure specialists toll-free at 800-587-9557 or contact us online.

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