Date posted: 28 January 2020 – Category: Cabling Services
Cables, sheaths, and connectors may not be as exciting as the technologies they support. But if data is the lifeblood of the modern business, then structured cabling systems are the veins that enable information to flow and pump life into the organisation.
Bad installation, poor cable management, and subpar cables can have disastrous effects on operations. To keep your business running smoothly 24/7, knowing how to spot and isolate network problems is crucial. Below we talk about the symptoms and effects of bad cabling, as well as the common reasons behind it.
As nearly everything operates on the Internet the effects of intermittent connectivity on business is obvious, and dire. Employees lose nearly a month’s worth of work to slow connections and broadband outages per year. The cumulative damage totals to a 7 billion-pound drag on the UK’s economy.
Customers use their devices to shop and connect with brands. Just over half of shoppers prefer to shop online. Poor connectivity can mean a sluggish site or an inefficient supply chain and inventory management system.
Technology also helps businesses provide a more satisfying shopping experience for customers in brick and mortar stores. Intermittent connections can grind your POS machines to a halt, leaving customers with a sour in-store experience. Poor cabling can cause businesses to miss out on customer experience enhancing yet bandwidth-hungry technology like in-store kiosks or augmented reality dressing rooms.
Over the course of its lifespan a business will call many different technicians and companies to install, fix, or conduct maintenance on their cabling. These companies often have to retrofit new parts into existing infrastructure. This can eventually create a disorganised nightmare of wires and patches.
A messy system can result in longer downtimes–tracing a problem is doubly difficult when you’re poking through a snake’s nest of poorly labelled cables. You can invest and foist your cables onto expensive cabinets and racks but the foundation of every efficient cabling system is good old organised labelling.
The myriad of devices and equipment in the workplace means the use of varying cable types, even within the same network. The risk of integrating a faulty length of cable grows over time as your network becomes more complex.
One common overlooked part are your patch cords. Patch cords are cables that have RJ45, TERA, or GG45 connectors on both ends. These are used to link end devices like computers and printers over short distances to power sources and network hubs.
Patch cords are often bought without much thought, and as such are one of the most common culprits for poor network performance. Splurging on cabling in the equipment room but using cheap components along workplace areas of your system can cause serious bottlenecks in your connectivity.
When it comes to cables, location determines type. For instance, the cables you run along noisy factories or inside walls will require special shielding to protect from higher interference. Distance between devices and routers will also determine the type of cabling and number of switches and repeaters you’ll need to use to minimise signal degradation.
You’ll also need to consider the layout of your office or building. The needs of a workplace with an open space floor plan will differ from that of a traditional cubicle office. If you plan to expand by adding more equipment or people you’ll also have to consider how the changes impact your cabling layout.
The age of a building can also introduce additional challenges. Older or historic buildings weren’t built for routing with cables, and lack the typical features of modern structures like hollow walls or raised floors that make cabling easier. A trained cable installer knows how to factor in these details to provide you with the infrastructure that’s best for your business needs. But these considerations can be easy to miss, especially for the inexperienced.
Ethernet cables are rated by category. The higher you go, the less crosstalk between wires and higher speeds and frequencies they can consistently support. Many businesses and homes are fitted with the less powerful but cheaper 5e. While these cables can still support Gigabit speeds, they do so less reliably than the Cat 6, which can reliably support 1 gigabit of data per second with less noise.
Many establishments will still see a couple of years’ use with Cat 5 or 5e cables. However, the standard runs on limited time. Gigabit-speed is on the rise in the UK, with an estimated 3 million establishments already run on full-fibre systems. Businesses may want to start future-proofing their cabling structure today to avoid poorer performance tomorrow. This is especially true for companies whose operations rely on constant, heavy transfers and updates between data centres or to the cloud.
Your backbone cabling may also be in dire need of an update. A backbone cable, as the name suggests, serves as the skeleton that traces through the building and connects your entire network to the Internet. Typically they’re installed by your ISPs and are rated for different bandwidths and speeds.
Non-technical owners and businesses without their own IT teams may fail to notice when their bandwidth and speed requirements outstrip their current backbone cable. If you’re experiencing poor connectivity this is one of the first areas you’ll want to look into.
Just because every plug fits nicely into a port doesn’t mean your cabling system was done well. Unfortunately, many businesses are still short-changed by providers who use components that don’t fit current industry standards to offer more competitive pricing for their services.
Most of us aren’t equipped to spot shoddy cables. They all look the same. But quality makes a world of difference. Poorly made cables use copper coated steel or aluminium cores, which is a good way to make sure your connection is bogged down by crosstalk. Solid copper core cables are the ones that comply with Electronic Industries Association (EIA) and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) performance standards.
Cheap cables put your business operations under risk of poor connectivity and physical disaster. Cables come sheathed in a protective covering called a jacket. While Ethernet cables can’t spark fires by themselves, non-flame retardant jackets can contribute to spreading flames and emit toxic fumes when they burn.
A structured cabling system is one of the pillars of a business–unseen yet critical. To ensure smooth operations and prevent potentially massive outages that can cost thousands of pounds it’s imperative to hire a qualified partner for installation and troubleshooting.
At TVNet we specialise in end-to-end cabling and network services, from designing systems that work for your specific needs to maintenance. Contact us today to start building a network infrastructure that can support your growing business.
21 Station Road Workshops, Station Rd, Bristol, BS15 4PJ
Kevin Edenborough, Eden Chartered Accountants