Benjamin Franklin once wrote that “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” When you as an organization decide to move into new facilities, it is imperative to plan—not just for the days ahead but down the road. A term that is thrown around quite vaguely in the information tech world is “scalability.” It’s defined as the potential to be enlarged to accommodate growth, where decision makers often envision new employees, more technology, and greater revenue but the key to efficient scalability is planning.
An aspect that a fledgling business might not consider is cable management. After all, plug into the wall, run some CAT6 between the servers, and your routers and operations are good to go. Unfortunately for the small business owner though, technology is constantly changing. The amount of cabling required is ever changing, from the cumbersome days of a variety of switches, routers, and modems to provide internet to wireless deployments featured today. Today we’re going to take a deeper look into the world of structured cabling—what it is and how it can be useful.
What is Structured Cabling?
Structured cabling simply put is how to install cables in an office space. Surprisingly, the structured cabling industry has a lot of practical guidance and standards out there. The Telecommunications Industry Association and Electronic Industries Association (TIA/EIA) in addition to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) produce a set of standards that help define how to safely and effectively cable a commercial building. As it currently stands, there are four main standards to utilize when cabling:
- ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B: commercial building telecommunications cabling standard. This standard addresses the telecommunications wiring system requirements for commercial buildings that support various local area network, data, voice and image/video systems.
- ANSI/TIA-569-C: commercial building standard for telecommunications pathways and spaces. This standard defines the design and construction practices within and between buildings (primarily commercial establishments) that contain telecommunications media and equipment.
- ANSI/TIA/EIA-606-B: design guidelines for administration of telecommunications infrastructure in commercial buildings. This updated standard fully addresses the administrative needs of a data center as well as that of general administration.
- ANSI/TIA/EIA-607, commercial building grounding and bonding requirements for telecommunications. This standard is to provide guidance around the issue of bonding and grounding as it relates to building telecommunications infrastructure.
Now we have some standards but how do those relate to actually plugging in cables? Each standard focuses on a different piece of the cabling puzzle when implementing in the building. For instance, standard 568 talks about the maximum length of cables and recommended amounts of power to flow through. It sounds tedious and maybe even beyond what the typical business owner will need to know, but being able to know where to start your own research is crucial when vetting the right contractor.
The key takeaway is that standards do exist and while aesthetics are important, should you note on a final walk through that wiring appears unsafe; the standards listed above are the first place to look to see if it actually is unsafe.
We have covered the legalese portion of structured cabling. Standards are fine and dandy but how will they cut on future expenses? A well-laid fiber optic cable can last indefinitely. Industry experts currently don’t know how long a fiber optic cable will actually last. Typically, the cables are fore cased to last around 25 years initially. However, in a 2014 study commissioned by the IEEE, researched estimate standard fiber optic cables can last more than 40 years deployed.
Great! Our cables will last forever, so why does it matter how they are arranged? There are several main benefits of structured cabling implementation:
Downtime Potential Is Reduced:
Being able to minimize any possible moments of service outage is always the goal of the IT department, or in some instances, everyone in the company. Typically, downtime outages that cost the most are the unexpected ones that require a bit of troubleshooting. If a piece of hardware fails, being able to ensure that the backbone technology supporting it is not the cause can save a lot of time. As operations expand, the original architect may no longer be around, but by utilizing effective structured cabling, whoever is left to get operations back up won’t have to worry about walking into a mess of tangled wires.
We all know what aesthetics are. And yes, look at the back of your home theater set-up and then ask yourself, how would an aesthetically pleasing display of cables really save on costs? Aesthetics are important because it maintains a certain sense of order and organization. Not only from the obvious internal benefits of keeping organized, but should a customer or potential new-employee visit the facility and see well-kept wiring, it would certainly be more inspiring than seeing loose cabling and wires abound.
There are many aspects and minutiae to structured cabling. Becoming an expert in it takes time, but understanding the underlying principles is easy enough for the layman. It is an afterthought in business priorities, but it can play a real impact in being able to effectively to deliver to the client in a profitable manner. Sometimes a little bit of forethought can go a long way. The time and headaches saved by proper commercial structured cabling definitely outweigh ignoring it as a possible issues.
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