January 4, 2019

Cabling Trials and Tribulations: Tips on Avoiding Problems

I’ve been involved in quite a few engagements that require new cabling. When I’m allowed, and it is a small job, I do it myself since its quicker. Lately, I’ve had to rely on cabling companies and been reminded of how things can go horribly wrong.  In this article, I will outline what I’ve run into with the hopes that you will be prepared for your next cabling run. About 90 percent of the time the cabling companies do a great job, but every so often things go wrong.

Preparation is everything

I make sure I have drawings, specific instructions, photos, labels, and anything else that will make the cabling run as straightforward as possible. In most cases, I meet with the installers to walk them through what I need and ask for an ETA. I explain that I want to ensure that all cabling, patch panels, and everything else are labeled and accompanying documentation is provided. I also ask that we meet again after the work is completed to ensure all is well before and any documentation is delivered before I sign off on the work.

So here’s some of the odd ball stuff I’ve run into:

Electrical tape as a labelling technique: I’ve had three companies use electrical tape to identify new cable runs. Not sure what happened to good old cable labels. I went back and put proper labels on everything after they left and then documented accordingly.

Short runs: And I’m not talking about little to no slack. I’ve had two companies run cable that was 3 to 4 feet too short. When I showed one of the cabling companies that it was too short, they gave me some Ethernet female to female couplers and suggested I use a longer patch cable to make up the difference.

Connectors: I had an installation company literally pull and leave the cabling unterminated. When I asked when they would have the cabling terminated, the reply, “That’s extra.”

Outdoor cabling: One company used indoor cabling outside. When I explained that there’s outdoor grade cabling and asked why they used indoor cabling outside, they said, “Outdoor cabling is not required since the cabling is up against the building and protected.” Yikes!

Grounding: If your installer does not know the concepts of grounding and when it’s required, call someone else.

CAT5 vs. CAT6 vs. CAT7: I had a few companies install CAT5 and CAT6 when CAT7 was specifically ordered. One admitted that they used CAT5 since they have a lot of in stock.

The moral of the story is that you, or have someone you designate, go back to check on the installation. In this video, I show you one of the short runs I ran into. In this case, I was able to cut the tie wraps, reroute the cabling, and mount the equipment at the top of the rack to make it work.

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