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Network Cabling Considerations

The third installment of our ‘It’s Your Move’ series is dedicated to cabling considerations. Previously we explored business phone systems and bandwidth considerations for those who are moving or expanding their offices.

When you expand your office or acquire a new space, it is inevitable that you will need to either augment or replace the existing cabling. Chances are, cabling isn’t something that you know a whole lot about. But it’s important. Cabling is the delivery system for all of your mission-critical applications. It significantly affects the performance of your network in ways that you may not be aware of. So where do you get started?

The Best Test

Outdated, mismatched, or improper cabling will affect your network’s performance much more than old hardware systems will. Even though cabling typically amounts to only 5% of your network expenditure, bad cabling can cause up to 80% of your network’s failures. You may buy the best cabling available, but if it is mismatched or not installed properly, you are going to have performance issues.

Therefore, your first task is to get the existing cabling inspected and tested. You need to know if it is going to meet your business’ bandwidth and network requirements.

Hire a network cabling company to conduct a full assessment of the existing cabling. Some testers only provide a connectivity report, which tells you whether the cabling is active but does not supply important details. You need a more comprehensive inspection to know if the current cabling will be able to handle your business’ network activity and connected devices. Testing equipment can range from $100 to $10 000. Ensure that the professional you entrust has state-of-the-art equipment that will provide you with a full report of the existing cabling system’s capacities.

A proper test will tell you:

(a) Whether the cabling meets ANSI/TIA/EIA standards.

(b) The electrical characteristics of the cabling. This will find issues such “cross-talk” (interference from other electrical devices).

(c) The capacity and bandwidth of the cabling.

Installation Foundation

After having the cabling tested, you will know if the existing cabling will meet your needs. You must now decide: add on to the system that is in place, or install a new one.

If you decide to replace the cabling, we have some foundational tips to help you out:

(1) Remove Abandoned Cabling  – It causes health and safety risks. Do yourself a favour and don’t just install new cabling over it.

Did you know that abandoned, inadequately fire-rated cables in the plenum ceiling space can spread a fire throughout a building while emitting toxic fumes? Why take the risk?

(2) Understand Your Options – Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6A, and fiber optic cabling are the types of cabling that are best suited to support the network. Categories of cabling below Cat5e are unlikely to be able to provide the bandwidth required for business. With a capacity of 100 Megabytes per second (Mbps), Cat5e is generally sufficient for current business needs. Cat6 is a good investment in future-proofing your network and is certified to handle Gigabit Ethernet (1000Mbps). Fiber optic cables are ideal for transmitting more information over longer distances than the Cat5e-Cat6A standards, such as the backbone between wiring closets.

Did you know that there are very detailed standards for communication cabling systems? For example, Cat5e, 6, and 6A copper cabling have a maximum segment length of 100 meters – 90m for structured (permanently installed) cable and 10m for connecting cable at the ends. The ANSI/TIA/EIA is the standards body for the manufacturing, installation, and testing of communication cabling systems.

The professional you hire to install your cabling should provide you with recommendations as to which type of cabling is right for you and adhere to the ANSI/TIA/EIA standards.

(3) Do it Right the First Time – Leading cabling manufacturers— Belden, CommScope, Corning, and Panduit —design their cabling systems to perform effectively when installed to industry standards. Mixing and matching will cause performance impairment, resistance, and errors.

The installation must be handled with the proper know-how and care to avoid mismatched patch-cords, incorrectly terminated cables, over-bending, and binding cables beyond capacity. Any of these problems will affect the performance of your network by reducing the speed of transmission, causing inefficiencies in your business while underutilizing your expensive network hardware.

Did you know that there are certifications for the design, installation, and testing of communication systems? Ensure that your cabling system is designed by a Registered Communication Distribution Designer (RCDD), and installed and tested by certified installers.

(4) Get a Warranty – If you have the cabling installed properly, manufacturers have complete confidence that their cabling will perform well and last a long time. A warranty will give you piece of mind that when you upgrade your network, the cabling system will support the higher bandwidth capabilities.

Did you know that manufacturers will provide performance warranties for up to 20 years for correctly installed and tested cabling by trained and certified vendors who adhere to prescribed standards? Ensure that you receive manufacturer certification, and the manufacturer will provide an entire replacement at their expense if there are performance issues.

To recap, your cabling is the backbone of your network. When moving to a new space, you must: get it tested, decide to add on or replace, remove abandoned cabling, understand your options, have everything properly designed and installed, and get a warranty.

If you’re planning to move or expand your space, we invite you to contact a trained and certified Activo cabling specialist today for a Complimentary Cabling Analysis. The analysis includes a cabling system inspection, sample testing, comparison to industry standards, and recommendations.

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