The network cables running through your building are analogous to blood vessels running through your body. Cabling is often overlooked, but it’s key to the success of any business’s digital transformation plans. In this article we will explore some advantages of a structured cabling plan and why it may be time for you to think about a re-design.
So what is structured cabling?
This may seem a little obvious, but structured cabling refers to the wires running throughout your building to connect all devices together into a network. The structured part is the one that many people forget, however, and is where the real skill comes in. A structured cabling system is designed from the ground-up to support not only all the equipment and technologies you employ today, but also any foreseeable future developments.
For a lot of businesses, a network, or at the very least the cabling to support a network, is just part of the building’s fabric. It’s there when you move in to the building at the start of a lease, and will most likely be there when you move out at the end of the lease. For too many businesses, the pre-installed cabling is considered˜good enough’, or even worse, not thought of at all before work to install your network begins.
What should I be thinking about when planning structured cabling?
To answer this, we’ll first divide your building into five main areas or subsystems:
- Entrance facilities
This is where the phone line(s) enter the building, not your staff.
- Equipment rooms
These are your server or networking rooms, where all your building’s core services are run from.
- Backbone cabling
This is the cabling that runs from the entrance to server rooms.
- Horizontal cabling
Horizontal cabling breaks out from your server or equipment rooms to the work areas.
- Work area
As you might imagine, this is where your end users and their equipment are.
Naturally, each zone of the building presents very different demands and requirements to the network. This will influence the choice of cable to install in each area. There are several types of cable, which all have their own benefits and drawbacks:
Fibre cables are the real heavy lifters. Capable of transmitting enormous amounts of data over long distance, fibre optic cables come at a cost but are perfect for backbone cabling.
Copper cables are ubiquitous“ we can guarantee that you’re sitting within 10 feet of a˜traditional’ copper network cable while reading this. They come in many flavours, however:
Low-cost and well-proven, Category 5 Enhanced (Cat5E) can only reliably transmit up to 100Mbps but is perfect for connecting end-user devices to the network.
Category 6 ethernet can be pushed to gigabit speeds and reduces heat dispersal when used for power over ethernet (PoE).
Category 6 Augmented (Cat6A) cables are the closest copper gets to fibre in terms of throughput. Cat6A can support 10 gigabit connections over distances up to 100 meters, making it ideal for horizontal cabling.
A true structured cabling deployment will make intelligent use of each of the cables listed above. The mix of cables used depends largely on the scale of the building and network, but a˜typical’ example of a structured cabling deployment would be:
– A fibre backbone connects your entrance facilities to your server/equipment rooms to provide maximum throughput.
– Heavy duty routers and switches in the equipment rooms convert the incoming fibre signal to Ethernet before Cat6A takes the horizontal runs to the work areas.
– Low-cost Cat5E or Cat6 cables are used in the work areas to connect end-user devices to the network.
Plan for the future
Berry Technologies can help with all of the above stages of cabling design and install, but the equipment and cables we specify will depend entirely on both how you currently use your network, and how you plan to use it in the future.
For example, do you have a CCTV loop in your building at the moment? If not, do you plan to deploy one in the future? If so, we’d suggest investing in Cat6 or Cat6A cables for your backbone as a minimum to provide better support for PoE.
It’s also important to consider that it’s not really possible to know too far ahead of time what demands you will be placing on your network in 5 or 10 years. So while any cabling install must be cost-effective for the current demands placed on it, it must also allow for future expansion. This means building in extra capacity and making upgrades easy when the time comes.
The networking experts at Berry Technologies are neat freaks. Everything we install is labelled, colour coded, intelligently run and cable tied. But that’s not where our job starts. Before we send engineers to your office to start work, we consult with you and perform a full survey to scope out the work. Our architects will sit down with you to discuss how you work and what technologies you currently use, and how you’re thinking of expanding in the future. We take this information and build a plan in several stages to modernise your building’s core network while causing as little disruption as possible.
So what are you waiting for? Give us a call today if you’re frustrated with a poor performing network, are thinking about rolling out some new equipment to your staff, or are moving offices. We’d love to come and visit you and see how we can help get your network into shape.