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Cabling Issues

Network Cable ChoicesOne of the most important things about cabling is to purchase cable not just for what you’re using now but for what you may run in the future.   A rule of thumb is to install the highest-grade cable that your budget allows.

The standard is Ethernet. That means there are two basic types of cables to use: copper Ethernet and fiber optic Ethernet. Copper Ethernet cabling is generally used to connect the data center equipment to the end-user, while fiber optic cabling is used to network the infrastructure and to connect to the world outside.

CAT 5e and CAT 6 cables are primarily used for Ethernet applications. The newer CAT 6a/CAT 6e and CAT 7 are essentially still “works in progress”, and are not widely available. The question is which cable to use.  Both CAT 5e and CAT 6 cables support 10/100 Ethernet networks, but CAT 6, although slightly more expensive, comes with higher bandwidth capabilities.  CAT 6 also has improved protection against crosstalk and is more “forgiving” of network configurations that could degrade performance than CAT 5e cables.

The tendency to save money buying bulk reels of cable and crimping their own RJ-45 plugs on them should be avoided, especially with CAT 6 cables. The “amateur” crimping may cause significant degradation in performance; despite the “green light” seen on the equipment.

Devising a “color coding” for Ethernet patch cables to organize the cables is a good idea.  One data center created a color code based on traffic lights:  A red cable was a high security network, while green and yellow reflect less secure networks. Or color coding cables by length:  blue for 5-foot cable, yellow for  7-foot, etc.

The key is plan your network before buying cable, so the cable will be grow along with your data center.

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