Executives, Business Owners, IT Leaders, even contractors are required to make sure the proper network infrastructure is installed to run your businesses’ key applications. Salesforce, Microsoft, Google Apps, Databases, Data Storage are all applications that would be inaccessible without the right network and computer cabling in place. Even wireless networking requires wires and cabling in certain parts of their installations to perform.
This Guide will server as quick reference of what you need to know about today’s network cabling. It is not intended as a technical paper only a briefing on the aspects of cabling that business leaders need to know.
There was a time when Wireless Networking did not exist. All computers, mainframes, controllers, gateways, routers, had to be hardwired. There were hundreds of different cables to get different communications established. Each system required special cables to get things talking to each other. There was a different cable to connect printers. There was a different cable to connect storage arrays. There were different cables to connect mainframes. There were many, many different computer and network cables. The reason for this was because there was not a standardized network communications protocol that all systems could speak and understand.
Today, this is no longer the case, the majority of network and voice communications use one protocol, and one standard to talk to each other. Fortunately, this data protocol can be communicated via very inexpensive cable called Twisted Pair Cable. It looks very similar to old telephone cable. The good thing is only a few cable types are used these days. They are Category 6 and Category 7 Twisted Pair Cable and Fiber optic cable.
Today’s high-speed networks require high speed cabling to support them. For the most part voice, video and data service is provided to the desktop via Gigabit Ethernet switching. These network switches are connected via fiber or Category 6 and Category 7 Cable. Access to the network is provided by patching into the wall outlet via a patch cable.
Category 6 cabling is needed for voice cabling. Today’s voice traffic and voice communications traffic is transmitted through Data IP based networks. Your voice is encapsulated into packets pushed across a network and decapsulated on the other end for voice communications. All these packets are transmitted over network cabling. If you want good communications and voice calling, it’s important to have certified high-speed network cabling in place.
More companies are relying on wireless networks to provide connectivity to their networks. New technologies are emerging like IEEE 802.11ac Wireless Access Points and devices that are capable of data speeds as high as 1.3 Gbps and soon 7 Gbps. With those types of speeds in makes more sense to implement Wireless Network solutions versus traditional hard-wired network switch connections. Companies can give lightning like network speed without spending thousands in additional cabling and infrastructure costs. It is imperative that the cabling connecting the wireless access points be Category 6 verified. Wireless Access Points are connecting points for multiple users, so the cable connecting the Wireless Access Point to the network switch is carrying network traffic for multiple users at high speeds. IT Risk Managers LLC recommends using Shielded Cable for Wireless Access Points that is properly grounded. Another concern when running network cable for wireless access point and bridges is Power. PoE or Power over Ethernet is when power to run the Access Point is provided through the ethernet cable. The voltage needed to power the WAP is run through the twisted pair cable. This is another reason IT Risk Managers LLC recommends using Shielded Cable for Wireless Access Points. Shielded cable is better suited to handle the heat generated from the higher voltages and amps generated in POE applications.
In many cases commercial office spaces have multiple floors and buildings. Work areas and office cubicles in each of these areas require wired network connections for speed and reliability. Today’s ethernet cabling has distance constraints. The maximum recommended distance of a Category 6 or Category 7 Cable is 100 meters. When the office location to the data center distance exceeds 100 meters an intermediate switch must be installed to insure reliable communications and connectivity. The way the intermediate switch is connected to the main closet or data center switch is via a backbone cable. The network switches have high speed ports that may support speeds from 10 Gbps to 40 Gbps. This means you need the right backbone cable in place to support these speeds. Depending on the distance and application fiber optic cable may be used as a backbone cable to connect the switches. However, if the switches are not further then 100 meters apart it’s not necessary to implement a fiber optic backbone. A quality Category 6 or Category 7 Twisted Pair cable can be used as a backbone cable. But if the distance between the switches is greater than 100 meters a fiber optic backbone cable would be required. Copper cable will never be able to support the speeds that fiber optic cable does but your data speed requirements may not require fiber. Check with a network infrastructure company like IT Risk Managers LLC to verify the data speed requirements your backbone cabling needs to support. Then the correct decision can be made regarding fiber versus copper.
In many instances a pre-connectorized fiber optic cable can be used. This means cable splicing and connectors do not have to be installed on-site. A fiber optic cable technician is a very specialized career, and costs to terminate fiber optic cables in-site is expensive.
Today’s video surveillance cameras run on (Internet Protocol) IP Based networks. As discussed, earlier networks built on the IP protocol use twisted pair for the cabling medium to communicate traffic between the camera and the network, and video surveillance recorder. Even today’s cameras are called IP-Based Cameras versus the old Analog based cameras. If you think of today’s IP-Cameras as being like minicomputers it will make more sense. Today’s high-resolution cameras have RAM, CPUs, and Network Ports just like a laptop. And just like computer networks the cameras are connected to the network via Category 6 Twisted Pair Cable, Category 7 cable or Fiber optic Cable.
Today’s alarm systems and Access Control Systems use network cabling for communications. Access Control systems consist of door readers, electronic keys, magnetic locks, and door controllers. Well, these systems all use IP Networks to communicate, therefore you need Category 6 Cabling, and Category 7 Cabling to connect these systems to the IP Network. In many cases you will have the security access control systems, and the camera systems sitting on the same IP based Network, all connected via category 6 and Category 7 Twisted Pair Cabling.
The Security Alarm Systems for cannabis operations is comprised of magnetic door contacts, sensors, motion detectors, glass break detectors, control panel, zone expanders, alarm keypads, and panic/holdup alarms. These systems are like burglar alarm systems however they can be integrated with your access control system, and camera system. These systems must be installed by a licensed private alarm contractor and monitored 24/7 with alerting capabilities to local law enforcement agencies.
Many of today’s Intercom entrance systems also run on IP-Based Ethernet networks. They to require Category 6 and Category 7 network cabling. To enable the features and get the full power of an IP-based Intercom it must also be connected via Category 6 and Category 7 Cabling to the network. And since the IP-Enabled Intercom is now sitting on a network you can access the intercom via a web browser, and do the Intercom programming, troubleshooting, configuration and management directly through a web enabled application.
Many of the systems that today’s modern Conference rooms use are also IP-enabled. Meaning things like the Flat Screen, Projector, Conference Bridge all sit on a network. For these conference solutions to communicate with each other they to need to be wired to a network via Category 6 and Category 7 Cabling. IT Risk Managers LLC has the expertise to wire and connect all your conference room needs.
IT Directors, IT Managers, and Network Managers have the task of managing, and maintaining the cabling environment. We’ve all seen it. You walk into your computer room or your company’s data center, and what was once a beautiful piece of artistry has morphed into a cabling nightmare. It’s kind of resembles a bowl of spaghetti. Different color wires hanging all over the place. Improper bend radiuses of your high-performance fiber optic cables, and category 6 cabling. Electrical and power cabling mixed in with data and telephone Category 6 cabling. Unshielded twisted pair cables run next to fluorescent lighting. But wait! You started with a beautiful computer room and data center. However, you’ve been handling other responsibilities and not had time to stay on top of the cabling infrastructure. Network and computer cabling for your company is the one area that is very predictable. And if you manage and maintain your cabling and network’s physical infrastructure it will pay off in better network performance, save you hours in troubleshooting time, and make you happy every time you walk into the data center. Ok! Let’s get into it and talk about how to improve your network and telephone cabling infrastructure, and a few tips on avoiding cabling chaos.
One of the things I see most often is not planning when running and building out computer and network cabling infrastructure. For instance, you may be feeling pressure to limit the amount of Category 6 Cable runs, to save money. Or you may be told to cut costs by not implementing Category 6A or Category 7 cabling. You may even be told to run cables in a way to limit the use of network switches. Information Technology leaders are always tasked with saving the business money by deploying different technologies. However, network and IT Cabling is the foundation of your IT systems. Wiring for Wireless Access Points is necessary, Category 6 cabling for Voice over IP phones, Hi-speed wiring for the Storage Area Networks, and fiber optic cabling connecting switches all need to be done right. It’s up to you as an IT leader to make the proper business case to get the right cabling in place. Verify current cabling standards and make sure your cabling infrastructure can support the speeds of today’s IT networks.
Today’s networks are highly converged. Meaning the cabling you will be installing will be supporting voice, video and data. In year’s past it may have made sense to use different cables for different applications. But for today’s hi-speed network cabling needs keep your voice, video, and data on the same hi-speed cabling infrastructure. At a minimum your cable plant should support Gigabit speeds. The higher Category 6 and Category 6A supports 1 Gigabit ethernet and 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Evaluate the costs of all the equipment that will be sitting on your network. Do you really want to create a potential problem by using cheaper cable?
Cabling Management includes Category 6 Patch Panels, Relay & Communications Racks, Server and Switch Cabinets, wire management brackets, cable trays, ladder racks, fiber patch panels, J hooks, labels, Velcro wraps, even colored patch cables to differentiate equipment connections.
A lot of what happens in computer and network cabling goes on in places that are not visible, like above the dropped ceilings, behind walls. This is where proper cable management is important. J Hooks and cable raceways should be mounted and fixed to the hard ceiling. Do not attach cables to the wires used for dropped ceilings or lay the cables across water pipes or fluorescent lighting. There is nothing worse when a computer cable installation expert peeks above a dropped ceiling and sees cables not properly fastened to hard ceilings with j hooks and cable trays. This is when someone else’s poor cable installation makes the network cable pro’s job harder. If J hooks and cable trays are used the right way from the beginning any work going forward will go faster. In the event other network cable installers are hired they won’t be tempted to take shortcuts like laying an important Category 6 cable across a water pipes or across fluorescent lighting. There will be space “above the dropped ceiling” when J hooks and cable trays for additional cables are used the proper way.
Another thing that perturbs any good Category 6 Installation expert is seeing fastening and mounting attached to the same wires that are used to secure the dropped ceiling. This is amateurish and to be avoided. Any network cable mounting hardware like j-hooks, bridle rings, or trays need to be mounted by dropped Rollers and Strut Mounts affixed to the ceiling or building infrastructure.
When an executive or your boss steps into a computer data center that you manage and maintain it should appear structured and organized. You don’t want your boss to walk into your computer room and see cabling and wires all over the place in a disorganized mess. This is when the right planning comes in.
Consider hiring certified individuals to help you plan, install and maintain the cabling infrastructure in your data center. Organizations like Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI) offers industry leading Telecommunications certifications. Some of their certifications include:
Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) Established in 1984, RCDDs demonstrate knowledge in the design, integration and implementation of cable plants and network communications infrastructure. An RCDD certified professional is going to make sure your network cable plant is designed and implemented properly. This includes using the correct fiber backbone cabling, Category 6 cabling, Category 6 Patch Panels, Telecommunications Rack installations, and proper cable routing and mounting techniques.
Registered Telecommunication Project Manager (RTPM) A BICSI RTPM will make sure larger cabling and network infrastructure projects meet time milestones and keep within budget. A network cabling project manager will create a budget, identify stakeholders, identify the project deliverables, create and manage launch and deadline dates. They are also a good resource so communications between vendors, stakeholders, and the cable installation team, is kept current and effective.
Data Center Design Consultant (DCDC) Established in 2011, Data Center Design Consultants demonstrate knowledge in data center design.
Outside Plant (OSP) Designer Established in 2001, OSP Designers demonstrate knowledge in outside plant design.
It’s not an absolute necessity that someone carries an RCDD or other BICSI cabling installation and management certification to do your network and infrastructure cabling project but it’s helpful. If a network cable installer or project manager has taken the time to get his/her BICSI certification it demonstrates their desire to be the best in their chosen industry and career. It also signifies that they have the education and structured thinking to make your next cabling and infrastructure project a success. BICSI trains network and communications cablers to use the best practices, standards, and skills developed for the Information and Communications Technology Industry.
Can I use electricians to run network cabling? This is a good question. And the quick answer is no. Maybe not in every case but most times it’s best to have a professionally trained low voltage cabling expert handle network and communications cabling, and let the electricians stick to their specialty which is power and high voltage cable. Low voltage cabling systems are implemented to run electrical equipment that use 50 volts or less for power. This is different from a traditional wall outlet that is 120 volts. Common low voltages are 12V, 24V and 48V. Low voltage systems like doorbells, garage door opener controls, alarm system sensors, thermostats, door access control systems, computer networks, phone systems, camera systems all use a smaller amount of current, and can be wired with telephone cable, and unshielded twisted pair cable. Certified communication techs should be used to run low voltage wiring. They have the experience to terminate the cables properly. They understand the applications of low voltage wiring and can make sure low voltage standards are adhered to. Structured cabling for low voltage communications applications adhere to TIA/EIA 568 Telecommunications wiring standards.
These standards were developed so a standardized system can be adhered to that will support data network, video and voice networks. These standards are evolving to support today’s higher speed networks. Today’s network cable pros are versed in the different types of high-speed cabling and must continually educate themselves on the evolving standards. It is a continuous education cycle supported by organizations like Building Industry Consulting Services International (BICSI), and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). It’s best to hire certified Category 6 and 7 low voltage installers. Let them handle your low voltage cabling needs. And have licensed electricians handle the high voltage wiring.
Don’t assume that the cabling you’ve had installed is going to meet your high-speed computer networking needs unless its been tested and certified. The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) provides the standards that should be adhered to when certifying or verifying Category 6 and soon Category 7 Compliance. Make sure that the Cable Installation contractor you are using has a cable tester that meets Level III tester requirements. When Category 6 cable is installed it is important installation practices be followed and verified. The tester will provide most of the verification. Ask your Certified Category 6 Installation expert for a print-out of the results for all the computer and network cables you’ve had installed. IT Risk Managers LLC uses the Fluke DTX tester to certify and verify category 6 cable installations. It tests for various things:
Pinout/Continuity: Makes sure the cables are terminated properly and there is point to point communications.
Resistance- This is the OHM Measurement that will give you an understanding of the cable length and its current capacity.
Insertion Loss- Measures signal reflections in fiber optic cabling
NEXT- Near End Cross Talk measures the noise or cross talk in your twisted pair cable installation
Fortunately, it is not necessary to understand all the tests a certified Category 6 cable tester does. The important part is that your Cable contactor and low voltage wiring pro does the testing and gives you the results in a pass/fail format. The cable tester does the heavy lifting. A certified category 6 or Category 7 cable infrastructure is going to give you the capacity and speed you need to make sure your network switches are going to be running optimally. You also want a certified category 6 installation because in the event you have poor network performance, you don’t want to have to look at your cabling as part of the problem. With a certified category 6 installation you’ll know immediately any packet loss or poor network performance is not due to the network and computer cabling because its been tested and certified.
There are certain rules and guidelines that must be followed when running Category 6 cable, Category 7 cable, and Fiber Optic Cable. There are bend radiuses to consider, direct burial issues, temperature considerations, moisture issues, lighting and lightning issues to name a few. Let’s begin with outdoor cables and shielded cables. There is no purpose in running shielded cables if they are not terminated and grounded properly. Shielded cables have a grounding clad, or wire that must be properly grounded to get the protection benefits of the shielding. Shielded cables are recommended in heavy industrial environments, very hot environments, or running outdoors. If you are in a Manufacturing plant with a lot of machines a properly installed shielded Category 6 cable will protect against Electro Magnetic Interference (EMI) which will insure proper performance of the cable. Sometimes this interference is referred to as machine noise.
In addition to shielding when you are running outside cabling, protection from lightning must be considered. Surge arresters will prevent the electrical charge of a lightning strike from damaging your equipment. Any outdoor cable runs should be protected by surge arresters. When burying cable make sure the cable you are burying is direct burial rated. Direct burial cable has multiple layers of sheathing, waterproof coverings, shock absorbing gel, and other characteristics that are conducive to being buried underground.
There are other simpler rules, for instance when you are running Category 6 or Category 7 avoid running the cables across fluorescent lighting as the electrical discharge of the lights may cause interference. Running network cables near power cables can also cause interference.
If you have further questions or need professional network cabling services, please contact Rick Bolda at 630-918-7370. Or
email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.