Data Cables - Do It Right For Trouble-Free Service

Data Cables are the lifeline of your business. Most take them for granted because they just sit there and work day after day. After all, they are the fastest and most reliable means for moving data, surpassing WiFI by 1000%. But to get to that point; to earn the right to take your cable for granted, the cable has to be run correctly. This requires good planning and execution, and this is how we do it:

#1. Plan for the future:

With a certainty you know where devices are placed right now. But what about three to five years in the future? Cable is cheap, getting someone to run cable is not. So while the cable installation folks are there, have them make double runs to each location and to logical points on each wall. You may have one computer and printer per office now, but later you may have four people and four other devices. Do it right in the beginning. A little extra expense now is much better than tons of money latter.

Today, 100mb Cat 5 rules the cable world, but tomorrow you may want 1gb cable. Run 1gb Cat 6a cable now so that you don’t have to replace it later.

#2. Use same cable types for voice and data:

 Today your phone system might run fine on inexpensive Cat 3 cable. But the trend now is for VoIP phones that run Cat 5 or better cables. That is because a VoIP phone is really a computer and requires the same amount of bandwidth. Besides, the real cost is in the labor. So use the same cable type for both computers and phones.

#3. Use cable management

 I hear you. Punch Panels, ladder rack, and rack-based cable management adds cost. But it pays dividends when it comes to reliability and versatility. Fact is, point-to-point hand-made cable connections are 75% more likely to fail, and finding the failure on a point-to-point cable system if very difficult. Punch panels using commercial patch cables if very reliable and allow you to easily document your cable system. You not only minimize the chance for failure, but you also make it easy to find and fix if it does fail. At the minimum, use a Punch Panel!

Versatility is another plus for cable management. Moving a system to a new device is a simple matter of moving cables. Unplug from one port and move it to another. Cable management really makes “cents”.

#4. Never run Data cables parallel with electric wire

It is tempting sometimes. Computers require electricity and electrical wires usually go right where you want to put a data cable. But electric cables put out 60 cycle electromagnetic interference that can wreak havoc with a data signal. Rule of thumb, stay at least one foot away from 110 volt electric wire, two or more feel from 220v or 440v wire, and don’t follow a parallel path. If you must cross over an electric wire with data cable, do so at a right angle. And if you must run in parallel down a wall, push a little extra cable in the wall. That will cause the data cable to run in an “s curve” fashion, minimizing that chance of a parallel run, thus minimizing interference.

#5. Stay away from Noisy Electrical Devices and Lighting

Fluorescent, sodium vapor, metal halide lights and motors can emit a tremendous amount of electrical  magnetic interference. We measure a 3 foot aurora of electromagnetic interference around a typical fluorescent light, with spikes exceeding 15 volts within the aurora. Since data cable signal is usually measured in milivolts, placing data cable within the aurora will not only disrupt data signals, but it could also harm to computer equipment. Stay at least three feet away for fluorescent lighting and motors. Five would be even better. If you must cross a fluorescent light (do so at your own risk), do so at a right angle, and with as much clearance as possible.

#6. Stay within cable distance limitations:

It’s simple. Cat 5 maximum cable length with 100mb Ethernet and no electromagnetic interference is 320 feet. If you must exceed 320 feet, use a booster or repeater.

Use Cat 6a cable for 1gb bandwidth up to 320 feet. Anything else is a respite for disaster!

#7. Follow ALL laws, codes, and ordinances

 Chances are you won’t get caught, but there are far worse things than “getting caught”. Failure to adhere to local codes can create dangerous safety issues for people. Example: PVC-jacketed cabling is prohibited in air handling spaces. When PVC burns, it creates a toxic gas that can be harmful to your people and firefighters should there be a fire. I wouldn’t want that on my conscience!

 If you are caught, you risk fines and the likely hood of having to rip out and replace your cabling. Bottom line, make certain that your cable contractor is aware of, and follow ALL codes and ordinances.

 #8. Test and certify the cabling infrastructure:

 Once the cabling is installed, you should test every cable using appropriate tools to make sure that it will be suitable for its intended use. This includes verifying length and cable specifications matched to needs. If you need 1 gb transmission speeds, verify that the cable’s properties will support 1gb.

 #9. Follow Cabling Standards

There is a cabling standard named EAI/TIA-568-A and B. It dictates the method by which data cables are terminated. Not following the standard can diminish the results and effect bandwidth throughput and reliability. In addition, if somebody else has to come back later to work on the data cables, it will be much easier and quicker is the cables are to spec and standard. Much less costly too.

 #10. Not running a cable when you need one

 New installations: Run two cables together, for every 10 feel of wall. Adding cable later is very expensive as most of the cost is in simply getting the cable person out there.

You can use a switch and create additional cable drops, but that injects more equipment and additional cables into the system, resulting in increased points of failure. When this is done, it usually does not get documented, making is exponentially difficult to troubleshoot problem. Then there is the “swinger” where the cable works “most of the time” but Murphy’s law has the cable fail at the worst possible time, then working again when the cable tech comes to fix the problem. Run cable, not switches.

The same rules apply whether you are funning calbe in a manufacturing plant, office building, or home office. If you do this right in the beginning, you can count on many many years of trouble-free cable service.