structured cabling systems

Structured Cabling: What is it and How Can it Help Your Business?

structured cabling

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When aiming to produce the quickest, most effective network, most businesses utilize a system of cabling known as structured cabling. Structured cabling is a commonly used tactic of using network cabling in the most streamlined, effective manner possible.

Structured cabling may sound like a fancy term, but the basics of what it is and what it consists of are simple. Virtually all businesses will benefit from implementing a structured cabling system into their operations. Read on to learn more about structured cabling, its benefits, and more.

 

What is Cabling, Specifically Structured Cabling?

 

When a network is set up for a business, network cables are used when developing their network’s cabling infrastructure. Structured cabling refers to the cabling infrastructure used in buildings or across buildings, like a campus, that involves several smaller components; hence the term structured.

The purpose of structured cablings is to streamline and simplify a company’s digital infrastructure. As a result, it reduces the amount of network cabling and other types of cables that are used for telecommunication.

 

How Does Structured Cabling Work?

 

Structured cabling uses patch panels and trunks to create a digital infrastructure for an organization. All cables and hardware connect to the main distribution area (also known as MDA). The MDA serves as the central connection point for all information transmitted to all other points.

 

What Was Used Before Structured Cabling?

 

Before structured cabling was standardized, each piece of hardware used its own cable. This type of system is known as point-to-point. As a result, network equipment was often a mess in terms of the number of network cables used. Additionally, accidentally unplugging a single cable could take down an entire network.

As networks evolved to become more complex and required more speed, the systems used in structured cabling came to be developed and utilized. Nowadays, cable management is much more effective and organized, and cabling can be easily removed and added as needed.

 

What are Some of the General Benefits of Using Structured Cabling?

 

Some of the benefits structured cabling can provide include the following.

A practical, consistently predictable performance

Since you are using a standardized system where you know the speed of your cabling, you should always have a baseline idea of how effective your network should be at any given time.

 

A network that can accommodate additions and changes

 

Cables can be easily changed in the MDA, removing the need to add and remove numerous cables from an equipment rack. This will allow your business to adjust and scale your network needs based on your current size and network usage, optimizing the amount of data you utilize.

 

Cleaner-looking cabling

 

In the past, point-to-point systems were much messier than structured cabling. This included having cables running across floors, under desks, and being potential trip hazards in general. However, structured cabling allows for this to be a concern of the past.

The standards that are in place in structured cabling systems remove the need for cables to be exposed. It will be easier to save space and change your current setup since cabling will be organized logically. Additionally, there is less chance of cabling becoming unplugged or someone tripping over a cable.

 

Cost-effective

 

Since you can upgrade and downscale as needed, structured cabling allows you to maximize the amount of equipment you need to cut costs.  This will allow you to also cut down on the cost of labor and service costs, as you will not have to pay someone to re-cable your entire system again. In short, a structured cabling system will lead to less maintenance and a higher return on investment.

 

A greater supply of network bandwidth

 

Point-to-point systems were much more limited in the amount of bandwidth they could supply to devices. 

Fortunately, today’s structured cabling systems use high-capacity cabling capable of transmitting data quickly and use dedicated network hardware that allows for better network load balancing. 

As explained in more detail later, Telecommunication rooms are responsible for keeping everything running smoothly.

 

Better troubleshooting

Having your equipment organized in a logical manner will allow you to more easily pinpoint where a specific function is not working. For example, if an IP-based security camera goes out, you will know the specific port and cable it is connected to. You will also be able to better identify issues with your network, such as what is causing slowdowns and bottlenecks.

 

What Are Some Risks of Not Using Structured Cabling?

 

Some risks your business is taking by not using a structured cabling system include the following.

 

Potential network downtime

 

Being down for even as little as an hour can have dramatic consequences on a business’s earnings. In addition to losing money, not correctly being able to service your customers’ needs can cause frustrations on their part, possibly leading to missed business opportunities. If your cabling infrastructure is messy and unorganized, it will be effortless to make mistakes like unplugging the wrong cable. Using structured cabling will reduce the risk of removing the wrong cable and ensure that you properly organize your cabling.

 

It is messy and hard to clean

 

While attempting to clean up the room your network equipment is in, you will inevitably find it more challenging to clean up and organize your cabling. Additionally, you risk tripping over a cable or unplugging one.

 

Worse airflow

 

Since there will be more cables that may be blocking the airflow of a switch, the potential for cooling issues to occur is higher. Having structured cabling ensures better airflow around the switch due to fewer bulky cables potentially blocking its airflow.

 

What are the Main Components of Structured Cabling?

 

There are several components involved in a structured cabling system, and here are some of them.

 

Patch panels

 

A patch panel is used to connect network cables. They are generally attached to network racks for a cleaner, more aesthetically pleasing look. Patch panels are used to connect network cables to a switch. Put another way, a patch panel bundles all connections together in a network and transmits them accordingly.

 

Switches

 

A switch is used to send, receive, and process data in terms of networking. The switch connects to the patch panel and, ultimately, takes that data and shares it across the internet.

 

Trunk cables

 

Trunk cables are the types of cabling used to connect patch panels. They are ultimately used as connector cables to allow for a better, more consolidated connection.

 

What are GPON Cables Used for in Structured Cabling

 

GPON is the standard for fiber optic connection on the market. GPON cables can provide download speeds of around 2.5 gigabits per second, making them easily the quickest option available. While the initial cost of installing and configuring GPON network cables may be more expensive than traditional copper wire cabling, the speed and efficiency of utilizing GPON network cabling more than makeup for the initial cost in the long term.

 

What are Cat-6 Cables Used for In Structured Cabling

 

Cat-6 is one of the most effective and quickest cables readily available on the market in terms of traditional ethernet cables. Cat-6 cables can transmit data at up to 10 gigabits (10,000 megabits), meaning that information can be transferred quickly. This ensures that data can be downloaded or uploaded rapidly and faster than Cat-5 and other cables can provide.

 

What are Cat-5e Cables Used for In Structured Cabling

 

While not as fast as Cat-6 and quickly becoming obsolete, Cat-5e cables can be a good choice for small businesses with a smaller budget that do not require top-notch speeds. Cat-5e cables can reach a maximum speed of 1 gigabit per second.

 

What are the Subsystems of Structured Cabling?

 

In a structured cabling system, all the standardized elements used are called subsystems. These will be located across a building or series of structures (e.g., a campus). There are six subsystems.

 

Entrance Facilities

 

Here cables, connecting hardware, and other equipment can be located. Most importantly, the is where your business’s private cabling begins and outside wiring from your internet service provider (ISP) ends. This is known as the demarcation point.

Put another way, everything beyond the entrance point is a company’s responsibility, as an ISP only provide internet services into the building.

 

Equipment Rooms

 

This refers to rooms inside a building or series of buildings that host equipment. The insides of equipment rooms often host items such as switches and routers. Cabling from the entrance facility will run through the equipment room via a patch panel. From the patch panel, move cabling can be run through the telecommunications room.

Since equipment rooms are where the bulk of your network equipment is being held, it is vital to ensure that this room can easily be locked and that only authorized personnel have access to it.

 

Backbone Cabling

 

This refers to the cabling that connects the other rooms in your system, such as an equipment room. Backbone cabling handles all the major network traffic.

The main components of backbone cabling include the following:

  • Cable pathways: shafts, conduits, raceways, and floor penetrations (such as sleeves or slots) that provide routing space for the cables.
  • The actual cables: optical fiber, twisted-pair copper, coaxial copper, or some combination of these. (Note: You should avoid areas where potential sources of EMI or electromagnetic interference may exist when planning the routing and support structure for copper cabling.)
  • Connecting hardware: connecting blocks, patch panels, interconnections, cross-connections, or some combination of these components, and
  • Miscellaneous support facilities: cable support hardware, firestopping and grounding hardware. Note: The terms horizontal and backbone (previously called riser) evolved from the orientations typical for functional cables of these types. However, the physical orientation of the cabling has no bearing on classifying the cable as horizontal or backbone.

 

Telecommunications Room/Enclosure

 

A Telecommunications room hosts the termination point between the backbone and horizontal cabling. It is also used for hosting equipment for telecommunication.

 

Enclosures are like a telecommunications room but are different in the fact that they cover a smaller location than a full room. Enclosures will often cover a fraction of an entire room.

 

Horizontal Cabling

 

This refers to cabling that connects the telecommunication room with the work area. It is usually installed when a building is constructed. Horizontal cabling is normally setup using unshielded twisted-pair cables (UTP). There are standards on how horizontal cabling should be installed.

 

Work Area

 

This refers to the connection between horizontal cabling and end-user devices, such as computers. This is what users will, ultimately, see when they are going about their business.

 

What Are Common Usages of Structured Cabling?

 

Structured cabling can help do more than make your network equipment look clean. Here are some practical usages of utilizing a structured cabling system.

 

Easily allow for future upgrades, such as implementing fiber optic cables

 

The future of networking is fiber optic cabling. Fiber optic cables are faster and can handle a more significant amount of data at a given time than traditional cabling. If your current system is using standard ethernet cables, using a structured cabling system will allow for the ability to upgrade in the future easily.

 

Better data center management

 

Data centers can get complicated and messy very quickly. Having an organized system for your cabling will allow you to make more efficient changes to your data center. This is specifically beneficial if your business were ever to move, as reassembling your data center in a new location will be significantly more manageable.

 

Better security

 

Having a structured cabling system will allow your business to connect all your security equipment in one place and allow for the ease of access to be able to control it and make modifications, as needed.

 

Managing your wireless access points

 

Having wireless access points is great for businesses, but management of them can be difficult. Having all your wireless access points connected to one unified system will allow you to better manage them, adjust them, and troubleshoot them as needed.

 

Examples of Industries Where Structured Cabling Can Be Extremely Beneficial

 

Having a structured cabling system in place will allow most industries to remain competitive and be able to help future-proof themselves. Here are some examples of industries that will benefit from implementing a structured cabling system.

 

Insurance Providers 

 

Insurance agencies constantly check large databases for information, including information like a client’s assets and prior criminal history. Because of this, the speed and reliability of their internet will be critical. 

To ensure that they can continue to access information without any hiccups, insurance providers will want to investigate implementing a structured cabling system. This will allow them to upgrade their internet speed down the line.

 

Financial Institutions 

 

Banks, trading firms, credit unions, and other financial institutions frequently access a wealth of information over the internet, especially client information. Information that is not immediately available or accessible could result in a loss of business or a reduction of overall productivity. 

Financial institutions are incredibly reliant on having a consistent and organized system. Having a structured cabling system implemented at a financial institution will ensure that they can maintain the workflow they currently have while also ensuring they can handle any increase in internet usage in the future. 

 

Call Centers 

 

More so than most businesses, call centers have an incredibly high volume of inbound and outbound calls inside their offices. Since most business phones are VoIP (voice over internet protocol, i.e., internet-based phones), having a structured, fast, reliable internet connection is vital. 

Structured cabling will allow call centers to make changes to their network to accommodate any future growth they may undergo and allow for better management of their VoIP equipment.

 

Restaurants 

 

Restaurants use the internet for a variety of purposes. These include taking credit card payments, online ordering, internal inventory, a POS station, and more. Having even a brief outage of service can be extremely deadly to a restaurant, effectively crippling them during this period. 

Having a structured cabling system in place is a good idea for restaurants to ensure that their services remain constant and without any issues.  

 

Healthcare 

 

In the case of the healthcare industry, outage of service can, quite literally, be deadly to their client’s health. Whether accessing clients’ data, communication with other businesses, scanning results into an online database, or anything else internet-based, ensuring that data is as quick and stable as possible can ensure that they can help their clients as reliably as possible. 

If they do not have a structured cabling system, hospitals and other places where health care is provided should seriously consider installing it. This will allow them to quickly update and improve their network to allow for future growth of patients and handle larger workloads.

 

Hotels 

 

Hotels have a considerable number of clients coming into their facilities that they need to keep track of. Additionally, since they provide guests with wi-fi access, having quick and reliable internet is an amenity that guests expect over the years. 

Hotels will benefit from implementing a structured cabling system by allowing them constant, fast access to customers currently staying at their facilities, ensuring their public wi-fi is quick and stable, allowing them to check out and in customers quickly, and more. 

 

Retail 

 

As they are dealing with a large variety and volume of items and purchases, retail stores will require the best internet possible to allow for them to provide their client base with the best service they can offer. 

Having an issue with a credit card machine, slow access to an internal database, issues with online purchasing, and more can be a crippling factor for the retail industry. Fortunately, a structured cabling system will help alleviate the problem and ensure that customers can happily shop without any issues.

 

The ISO/IEC 11801

 

Structured cabling follows an international standard called ISO/EIC. It is followed worldwide for all information technology systems, and the goal is to standardize and regulate all structured cabling systems across IT networks. ISO standards are reviewed every five years to implement best practices.

The most common of these, section 11801 deals with network cabling inside of commercial buildings. 11801 covers data, voice and video services, copper and fiber-optic cabling specifications, and more. If you implement a structured cabling system into your business, you will need to follow section 11801.

 

How Long Should Cables Run in a Structured Cabling System?

 

When running cables, you should ensure that no cable should run more than 100 meters, or about 327 feet, in length. If you run cable beyond this length, you will experience signal degradation that will impact the effectiveness of your system.

 

Is Electromagnetic Interference a Concern in Structed Cabling Systems?

 

When installing network cabling into a structured cabling system, it is vital to ensure that you are not installing cabling near equipment that can cause electromagnetic interference. Some devices that generate electromagnetic fields include heating and cooling units, printers, copiers, electrical wiring, video equipment, and more.

You should ensure that your cabling is at least 3 feet away from any electrical magnetic generating device, as well as fluorescent lighting. Fortunately, professional I.T consultants will be able to assist you in making sure that everything is setup both correctly and optimally.

 

How Should a Company Go About Setting Up a Structured Network?

 

Setting up a structured network will be nearly impossible for the average person to do. A specialized company should be consulted before any work related to network equipment.

Fortunately, companies like House of I.T exist for this very reason. House of I.T specializes in assisting companies of all sizes set up structured networks inside their business, in addition to a wide variety of other services. If your business is not currently utilizing a structured network setup, we highly encourage you not to wait any longer and contact House of I.T for a free consultation.

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