Untangle Your IT Network: Is it Time to Organize Your Cables?
By Tom Carter
Every IT professional has a horrific tale of walking into a server room or network closet only to find they need to identify a cable that has been swallowed by an entangled spider web that has taken years to weave.
Working within this tangled web, one quickly discovers just how fragile the network is, because suddenly, the Internet can go down or email can stop flowing. By properly organizing the power and network cables your computer network depends upon, situations such as these can be avoided, and future upgrades and installations can be simplified.
With some inexpensive supplies, and by applying the five techniques for organizing your cables, you can easily tame the tangled web that has overtaken your network infrastructure, and reduce the risk of an unplanned network outage.
- Color-Code Your Cables
Color-coding your network cables allows you to easily identify the importance of the connected equipment. By using red cables for your mission critical devices, such as your router, you can easily notice that if this cable is unplugged, it will cause a network outage. Use gray cables to connect the PC’s to the network— you immediately know that if a gray cable is unplugged, only one PC will be affected.
- Label Every Cable
When cables are properly labeled, you can quickly identify the piece of equipment to which they are connected. By labeling power cables at the electrical outlet, it reduces the risk of unplugging power from the wrong device. When network cables are labeled at each end, you can easily identify the network port to which a device is connected.
- Use the Correct Length
When you connect a piece of equipment to the network and an electrical outlet, use the correct length of cable. Cables that are too short place stress on the connections, causing damage to the equipment or cable. Cables that are too long can make it difficult to trace from end to end if there is an issue or, if they are not properly secured, they can become a tripping-hazard, causing equipment damage or physical injury.
- Install Cable Organizers
Cable troughs or ladders can be installed to run cables overhead rather than across the floor. Horizontal and vertical cable managers can be mounted to your equipment racks to route network cables through pre-determined paths and protect cables from being snagged by individuals moving about the equipment. Organizers can also be used to hide excess cables and cable bundles.
- Use Velcro Liberally
Secure your cables with Velcro to ensure cables stay in their desired place and eliminate the possibility of loose cables being snagged or pulled when moving about the equipment. Velcro also works well for organizing bundles of cables, such as wrapping all cables for PC’s in one bundle and wrapping all server-related cables in another. It can also be used to secure power cables so they are not accidentally pulled out of equipment.
By applying these five techniques, you can regain control of the web of cables found within your server room and network closets.
Depending on how your existing network infrastructure was installed, all of the aforementioned techniques may not apply. But if you invest the few extra minutes to use some Velcro and a few labels, you can save yourself a significant amount of time when troubleshooting or replacing equipment and ultimately reduce your risk of a network outage.
Tom Carter is a DocuTech network engineer with more than eight years of experience as an IT professional. An alumni of Drexel University, he holds a B.S. in Information Systems and is CompTIA Network+ certified.