Cutting corners on cabling is cutting corners on business productivity as a whole. Smart businesses need to plan for — and invest in — the right structured cabling solutions that will allow them to do their job today and scale to meet tomorrow’s demands. You will save money and time in the long term by choosing the appropriate cabling infrastructure now, and by working with an experienced cabling solutions provider.
When we refer to cabling, we’re referring to the medium that transfers information between data centers, equipment rooms, telecommunication rooms and individual workstations. To understand cabling, it’s important to understand the function and purpose each space serves.
Data centers house computer systems, servers, storage units, backup power supplies and other equipment and require high-bandwidth cables. Data centers connect to equipment rooms throughout the business, other buildings and even other sites. These equipment rooms act as the heart of a building or campus, serving the building or the entire facility, and housing complex telecommunications and data-switching equipment. They also act as distribution points for “backbone” cabling to telecommunication rooms. Backbone cabling comes in many forms, with the most common being fiber, and what you choose is dependent on various factors, such as the distance requirements between equipment and telecommunication rooms.
The telecommunication rooms are what supply cables to business essentials, such as workstations, printers, wireless access points, security cameras and more. As some facilities may require multiple telecommunication rooms, backbone cabling is used to connect them. To link the telecommunication rooms to individual stations, Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP), or “horizontal” cables, as well as fiber, can be used. In this case, too, fiber is the most common.
The following content focuses on cabling standards specific to equipment rooms, telecommunication rooms and stations, rather than those specific to data centers.
Common types of cabling solutions for equipment rooms and telecommunication rooms
Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP)
UTP cabling is a widely adopted cabling solution due to its support for both voice and data applications. A UTP consists of insulated, copper wires twisted around each other to reduce crosstalk and electromagnetic induction between pairs. Sometimes, a twisted pair will be enclosed in a shield that works as a ground; in other cases (UTP), the pair remains unshielded. UTP cables are often referred to as a “Category," with Cat5e cables having been the standard solution and often used for legacy equipment or lower bandwidth needs.
Today, Cat6 is the most common copper type in new installations, but other categories are standard solutions. Cat5e will soon be going away, with available options being Cat6, Cat6a and Cat7. These options offer increased levels of performance and improved installations.
All of these cable types can adequately provide you a connection. The differences between them lie in their transmission speed capabilities and costs.
In practical terms, fiber cables are comprised of light, which reduces signal interruption, allowing for signals to be carried longer distances seamlessly. Fiber cabling solutions are also considered one of the most secure systems. Plus, fiber cables are lightweight and easy to manage. Though fiber cables are highly sought after, the cost to purchase and install has decreased throughout the years, making them a reasonable choice for companies seeking a reliable, scalable solution.
The multi-mode fiber type (like UTP into Cat5e, Cat6, etc.), can be separated into categories: OM1, OM2, OM3, OM4. Used for short distances, multi-mode fibers have a high light-gathering capacity, meaning the use of lower cost, lower wavelength technologies like LED and vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) can be employed. For longer distances, single-mode OS1 and OS2 are used; single-mode fiber uses lasers to achieve higher speeds and further distances.
These cables do more than join servers and connect switches. They are the foundation of your technology environment; therefore, they are critical to network performance.
Your solutions provider will help you match the best cable to your needs.
Planning for a cabling installation
Purchasing cabling solutions and choosing the right partner is just the start. Strategic planning for cabling solutions can lead to many benefits, including maximizing your space, reducing your facility operating costs and long-term stabilization. In short, planning well will benefit you for many years.
Once your new cabling is installed, set aside time for substantial testing. If installed correctly, your new cables will perform well. But if installed incorrectly, they won’t work, or will have decreased performance. Planning ahead and choosing an experienced cabling solutions provider will help you avoid these types of time-consuming incidents.
Maximize space with an optimized office setup: This is the time to take note of users, user locations and space constraints. Are there physical limitations to where you need to place cables? Is there room for growth? Performing an audit of your space will allow for a better cabling flow and reduce the complexity of your cabling system.
Reduce facility operating costs with the right materials: Choosing the right materials, based on your organization’s needs and cabling location, can stretch your budget farther. Remember, cabling is not one-type-fits-all. By being strategic about your needs and effectively planning, you can enjoy significant savings.
Stabilize your setup for duration of use: Anticipate how many users you will need as your company grows. Plan on a lifespan of at least a decade, if not 15 years. Make sure your system is based on open standards and can support any application.
Invest in a cabling solution for the long term
By planning for a long-term cabling solution today, you'll save resources (both time and cost) tomorrow. Choosing the right solution for your business is a matter of knowing your needs and designing for scalability. Work with a partner and establish your structure and you can begin to implement your cabling solution with confidence.
Learn more about cabling by downloading our guide on the what and why of cabling.
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Originally published on 03/03/2016