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Business Benefits of Planning a Structured Cabling System

Within any business, multiple departments compose the business as a whole and in order to prevent the business from falling apart by the weight of its departments, these pieces must actively communicate to keep the business processes operating and producing.  Structured cabling systems are the core communications medium and are often overlooked post installation.  This is an area where business decision makers should not skimp on performance and quality to save a few dollars.  Doing so could cost more money over the long term to troubleshoot, test, repair, or replace.  Planning for the future and implementing a high-performing, name brand, quality structured cable system in accordance with industry standards will allow your networking equipment and computer systems to perform to their potential.

IT equipment has continued to increase in communication speed capacity due to the quick response time by vendors/manufacturers in supplying products.  If a data center manager is faced with a poorly designed cabling infrastructure, the whole process suddenly comes to a grinding halt. To avoid such a situation it is important to obtain advice from an experienced network design engineer, preferably an RCDD (Registered Communications Distribution Designer), during the master planning stages of the construction project.

A cabling system has 6 subsystems in order for it to be classified as structured. First, it must contain entrance facilities which refer to the building interfaces along with the equipment rooms that store equipment (servers, routers, switches, security systems, telecom equipment, phone systems, etc.) used to serve users connecting to the cabling system. The telecommunication rooms, or closets, house mission-critical equipment and serve as a connection point to two cabling subsystems – the backbone cabling and the horizontal cabling.  These two pieces tie the system together with the horizontal cabling connecting the telecommunication equipment to the workstation outlets. The work-area components connect the end-user equipment to the outlets coming from the horizontal cabling system.  Patch cables are used to connect the users’ equipment (computers, phones, printers) to the work-area outlets.  Patch cables should be less than 16 feet in length.  Patch cables are also used to connect the network switches the the patch panels.  The patch panels are the termination point for the aforementioned horizontal cabling.  In addition to patch panels, network racks or cabinets can also contain fiber optic enclosures.  These boxes protect the sensitive fiber optic strands from getting damaged at the termination points.  The enclosures are also use to patch the fiber cables to GBICs or fiber optical media converters.  All six components can be properly constructed according to industry standards and maintained individually for better organization.

A network design engineer can recommend ways to maximize the structured cabling system’s easability to make ongoing changes to configuration planned today and respond to future equipment technologies as well. Some example recommendations that a network design engineer should make during construction planning are:

• Placing telecommunications IDFs in central locations in the office space to enable clean cable management.
• Telecommunications rooms: MDFs, IDFs and ER should be designed with a 20% to 30% expansion capacity to accommodate future equipment requirements.
• Planning for future equipment acquisition and business growth in facilities when designing pathways during new construction phases to efficiently plan for future cable installation.
• Recommend a high-performance cabling infrastructure system capable of supporting a variety of communications needs, including voice, data, video, electronic security, and building control.  At a minimum, Category 5e cable should be installed.  Category 6a and fiber optic cables provide the best ROI because they provide the ability to meet both current and future network communication performance requirements.
• When selecting a structured cabling system it is beneficial to get a performance certification that will cover the network’s actual delivery rather than simply the installation of specific products.  Such a certification on a cabling infrastructure guarantees that a system installed today will perform at or above industry standards.  It also ensures that new applications defined for the installation will work.
• Switches should be located in the center of server rows to enable simple and cost effective cable management as well as the efficient addition of equipment. It also shortens cable runs, which translates into cost savings up front and later when MACs (Moves, Adds, Changes) are required.

An effective cable system design coupled with an industry standard installation from Tier 1 IP increases your ROI, minimizes MACs, and reduces your IT administrators’ need to spend time testing, troubleshooting, or replacing the cabling system.  During the commercial construction planning stages of a new data center, office building, or tenant improvement project, it is crucial to spend time anticipating future needs and allow for expansion and technology upgrades in a copper or fiber optic cabling infrastructure.  A qualified network design engineer will ensure that prudent planning and intelligent design are combined with cabling industry standards during installation.  This will result in a structured cabling infrastructure that has a good chance of staying productive for several years, reduces unplanned expenses over time, and provides building occupants with access to high-performance, cutting-edge telecommunications solutions.

All businesses should use structured cabling systems to ensure quick and reliable data communications that help you stay on top of the competition.

Mike Howson is an experienced IT network consultant who implements certified structured cabling systems for US businesses and Government in office buildings, warehouses, data centers, and industrial facilities.  For information on Network Cabling, including Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a, Multimode Fiber, and Singlemode Fiber, he recommends contacting Tier 1 IP, a leading structured cabling installation company.

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