Structured cabling is something that practically every business needs, or might already have, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone to explain it to you. So, what is structured cabling? Structured cabling is any sort of cabling infrastructure installed at your business or home that is made up of different, smaller elements that are structured together to act as the central hub for all your business’s telecommunication needs.
Jeff Hodges, Manager of Infrastructure Services at Datanet IT, an IT solutions provider with over 34 years of experience, says that structured cabling is an unsung hero that makes up the backbone of many businesses.
“On a cost emphasis, your network only makes up 5 to 7 percent of the initial cost of your business,” he says. “In reality, it’s responsible for 100 percent of your business and your efficiencies.”
1. Understand What Structured Cabling Is
Structured cabling is about making the flow of communication and information as streamlined and efficient as possible as you prepare for the future. If you think of your home or business as a human body, structured cabling is the nervous system that relays information between all the different parts.
Structured cabling works by putting together a series of different patch panels to make a system where additional hardware or cables can be easily plugged in and connected to the larger rack. The result is a well-planned system where all your important cables and wires live, rather than a tangled mess of cables tucked away in an old broom closet.
2. Define Your Needs
One of the first steps in planning for your own structured cabling is determining exactly what your business needs and what it doesn’t. Depending on the size of your business, and your industry, your requirements could vary greatly.
For example, a real estate office where the network is largely used for email and interpersonal communication may not require a network as robust as an architecture or design firm that needs to send many large files and programs quickly. Consider the sizes of files you regularly use and how much storage space you regularly need on your server.
“Each client has different visions for their network in the future,” says Hodges. “They lay out a draft of the minimum standards they recommend, but not all users need that.
Ask yourself what sort of goals you are trying to achieve with structured cabling. How big is your business? Are you setting up internet and a few phone lines, or are you incorporating conference rooms, huddle rooms, and other networks throughout your office or campus? How do you project the growth of your business in the next ten years?
“It’s about the future,” says Hodges, “Thinking and planning for future technologies and making a cabling plan robust, like the Internet of Things (IoT), everything is eventually going to be connected to the internet. Planning for that is what structured cabling is all about.”
3. Ask Where Your Structured Cabling Should Go
Another big part of installing your structured cabling is deciding where your new infrastructure should be located. The design and placement of your structured cabling should be easily accessible for future repairs. It’s also important to ensure that your cabling complies with all accepted standards.
Hodges says that the incredible variety between various buildings as well as differences in county codes make each job unique to the business itself.
“All businesses and facilities are different,” says Hodges. “There are different codes from county to county that can affect the job. The buildings also change. You may have block walls or sheetrock walls. There’s a lot to be investigated to provide an accurate estimate and cost.”
4. Pick the Right Components for Your Project
Once you have a general idea of what your business needs, it’s time to find the right gear to do it. Different cables have different capabilities, and all of these are crucial to the success and effectiveness of your infrastructure. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when faced with a wall of different types of cables in a big box store. How do you tell the differences between different gauges of wire or what sort of cord is right for your system?
This is an area where selections are best made under the guidance of a professional. By choosing to work with a certified IT solutions provider, businesses can be confident that their structured cabling is installed with state-of-the-art fiber optic or copper cables and equipment to ensure optimal functionality.
5. Always Plan for the Future
Hodges also says that it is crucial for businesses to think about the future, rather than only the immediate needs of a business.
“A cabling plan usually has a lifecycle of five to seven years,” he says. “A lot of people only care about the present. They aren’t thinking about seven years down the road, even though the lifecycle of the building is more than 40 years.”
He says that considering scalability and adaptability is vital to a successful structured cabling system. Through the forward-thinking application of structure cabling strategies, businesses can position themselves to be agile enough to adapt to rapidly changing technology without having to replace their entire infrastructure.
6. Trust the Professionals
While it may seem simple on the surface, installing structured cabling isn’t something you’re going to want to ask your tech-savvy relative to install. These are complex systems responsible for ensuring your telecommunications network operates smoothly and efficiently. It’s a far cry from simply setting up an internet connection.
Matthew Marotta, Director of Program Management at Datanet IT, says that working closely with a trusted service that is well-versed in the standards and best practices for structured cabling is crucial to the success of your business.
“Having an organization that lives, breathes, and runs on their network and understands how to install structured cabling as it should be, based on standards, is critical,” says Marotta. “You want to work with someone who has talent on staff who are certified to design and understand the aspects of proper design that includes those best practices for an organization.”
Schedule Your Structured Cabling Service Today
Given the rate at which technology is evolving, there’s a good chance your business’s structured cabling may already need an update. Speaking with a trusted structured cabling company today to see how you can future-proof your business.