What is Structured Cabling in Computer Networking?


Networking your computers is simple, right? All you need to do is pull down cables from your switch to connect the various computers, interconnect the switches and connect an Internet line to your switch and you are done! In a very simplistic way, thats sufficient. But for the durability of the computer network and its trouble free maintenance in the long term, consider implementing Structured Cabling for your Computer Network.

What is Structured Cabling?

Have a look at this diagram for the Active and Passive Components required for Computer Networks. Its an example of structured cabling.

Structured Cabling refers to every action that you might want to take in your network to ensure that all the cables are neatly laid and arranged, concealed as safely as possible, and are easy to locate and trouble shoot.

There are standards for structured cabling, but in this article let us just consider,

An overview of some common structured cabling practices:

1. Place your network switches in a network rack. Don’t plug the cables directly to the switch or to the computer CPU. At the switch end, plug the cables to a patch panel and then connect the patch panel ports to the switch using UTP patch cords. Same way, at the computer CPU end, plug the cables to the I/O box & Face plate and then connect the I/O box – Face plate to the Computer CPU port using a separate UTP patch cord. It is easier to replace a small UTP patch cord in case of connector issues than replace the entire stretch of the cable that goes from the switch to the Computer CPU!

2. There are provisions in your network rack to neatly take all the Cat 6/7 UTP cables / Fiber cables as a bunch. So, from the patch panel all the cables need to be grouped together and taken via the cable manager out of the rack as a group. Also make sure that the cables are tied as frequently as possible at various places in the cable manager/ rack, so that they stay together.

3. If you are using a fiber cable, terminate the fiber cables coming into the rack using a fiber patch panel/ LIU. From the fiber patch panel take a separate fiber patch cord to connect to the fiber ports of the network switch.

4. Mark the Switch ports and Cables with appropriate markings like D1, D2 etc for data ports; V1, V2, etc for voice ports etc. Use cable markers or tags around each cable so that you know where each cable needs to connect when you plug them out later on for maintenance, etc.

5. While taking the UTP cables across the building/ campus, make sure that they are carried as a bunch within secure PVC channels, conduits, ceiling ducts or concealed walls. Try not to expose the cables as much as possible and also don’t take power cables and UTP copper cables together within the same duct.

6. While laying Fiber cables, extreme care should be taken that they don’t bend beyond their accepted bend radius, throughout their length. When laying the fiber cables underground, do ensure that there is a minimum depth of 1 meter. Use HDPE Pipes / External Jelly filled Optical Fiber cables for outdoor installations. Cover the entire length of the fiber cables (just over the underground fiber cables) using bricks or concrete slabs. Also run a warning marker tape a few inches above the actual location of the buried fiber cables (throughout their length) so that if someone digs in that location, they would be warned that fiber cables are going underneath. Try to use a concrete marker / slab on the ground (parallel to the OFC trench) as an indication, at least once in every 100 meters.

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