The term “structured cabling” conjures up images of a neatly installed cabling plant with everything properly labeled. However, structured cabling is actually much more than that. It’s a comprehensive system for designing and implementing a flexible and future-proof network infrastructure that enables the continuous flow of information.
What’s more, the structured cabling plant encompasses more than the data center and endpoint devices. It supports voice and video conferencing systems, video surveillance systems, building access control, and more. Wi-Fi also depends upon reliable, high-performance cabling to connect wireless access points to the network backbone.
The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and Electronic Industries Association (EIA) began developing the TIA/EIA 568 Commercial Building Telecommunication Cabling standard in the mid-1980s and released it in 1991. The standard establishes the technical criteria for the design, installation and documentation of the cabling plant to ensure consistent performance, simplify maintenance, and support the adoption of new technology. The standard has stood the test of time as technology has evolved.
Under the standard, the cabling plant is divided into six subsystems:
- The entrance facility is the building’s interface with the outside world, and where the Internet service provider will install its cabling and customer premises equipment.
- The server room or equipment room will have one or more racks with servers, routers, firewalls and other equipment.
- The telecommunications room houses telecommunications and networking equipment and serves as the cross-connect between the backbone cabling and the horizontal cabling.
- Backbone cabling connects the entrance facility, server rooms and telecommunications rooms, and can also link multiple facilities.
- Horizontal cabling connects the telecommunication rooms to the work areas.
- The work area has multiple network outlets to support computers, printers and other end-user equipment.
Subdividing the system into six components makes it easier to trace problems, and reduces the risk that human error will propagate throughout the network and cause disruption or downtime. It’s more cost-effective, reducing power requirements, maintenance costs and the time spent locating issues.
It’s also really flexible. Let’s say you want to move to a new facility. You can actually unplug and take apart what you have in the server and telecommunications rooms and take it with you. You’ll have to pull horizontal cabling in the new building but other than that it’s almost a done deal. And if you plan carefully the cabling plant is future-proof, providing the bandwidth needed for expansion.
The documentation aspect of the standard is very important. When I’m designing a cabling plant for a customer, I start by doing a site survey and documenting their existing subsystems. I then come up with a plan and work with our CAD engineer to develop drawings for the implementation team. The design must take into account the distance limitations of copper cabling versus fiber-optic cabling and clearly specify where hardware is to be installed.
I then generate a scope of work and bill of materials. All of this documentation is shared with the customer so they can approve the design before we begin the project.
This level of detail and strict adherence to standards is especially important for the cabling plant, which typically has a 20-year lifecycle. The Rahi Systems team can design and implement a structured cabling system that provides the reliability, cost-efficiency and flexibility your business demands.