The worst nightmare of network support are intermittent or transient network cabling faults. They take up a lot of time to find and correct and are often only a simple cabling error. Copper ethernet data cabling also deteriorates and old network cabling can produce mysterious errors from time to time. Here are five tips to make sure that network cabling is up to standard and top notch.
For Ethernet, use a good crimping or punch tool
A vital part of any ethernet network is the connector the links the data cables to equipment. If that is faulty, then you will have troubles. Fly-leads usually have pre-moulded connectors, but in a network installation long data cabling runs do not.
The installer will use a crimping tool to attach the RJ-45 connector to the cable. If the tool is a bit old and blunt, then stripping the outer and inner sheath can damage the copper connector carrying the signal. Similarly, a slightly off cable punch might cause damage. The damage may not be visible, and the connection not fully established.
That is where transient and intermittent data cabling faults will appear. They can also give rise to poor network performance because the data packet needs to be resent because of corruption or loss along the way.
Take care punching and crimping to make sure that connections are solid.
A further point. Each RJ-45 connector has a small wing that solidly fixes the connector in the device’s network interface port. Sometimes these break off and the connector is jammed into the port rather than being replaced. If all the eight ethernet connectors don’t connect properly, once again transient and intermittent network errors will happen. If the wing is broken off, replace the connector.
For Optical fibre, make sure your splicing is excellent
Ina similar fashion, network performance can be affected by poor splicing of optical fibre connections. With the increasing use of Passive Optical Lan technology where optical fibre replaces copper cabling, it is becoming more and more vital to ensure that optical fibre splicing is accurate.
Sometimes if an optical connector is roughly pulled out of the port, the internal splicing may fail, but the damage isn’t obvious. Be careful when handling optical connectors. Fibre testers can indicate if a splice is a bit dodgy, and it must be redone if it does not reach proper standards.
Strictly apply the Cat6 standards for network cable installation
The standards are there for a reason. For example, exceeding the bend radius for a cable can cause interference and put extra strain on the cable eventually causing it to fail. A major problem particularly with copper ethernet is a noisy cable affecting network performance by requiring lost or corrupted packets to be resent. The standards are there to try to minimise noise and maximise performance.
In the past where backbone speeds were 100Mb or at best 1Gb, you could probably get away with not adhering 100% to standards. With backbone speeds now commonly of 10GB, and quickly approaching 40Gb as commonplace, then standards are essential.
Finally, VoIP and video conferencing demands high-quality connections. Poor performance and dodgy connectors can seriously affect the quality of service a user receives and will be quickly noticed and reported.
Keep to the standards.
Watch your routing
Cable runs can be tricky to install. Putting them too near electrical cables without the proper shielding can cause interference. If cables simply hang in risers between floors, they will stretch and eventually fail. They need to be attached to cable trays.
Wall-boxes that stick out from the trunking are a favourite target for cleaners wielding vacuum cleaners or wet mops. Where possible, use flush mounted wall-boxes.
Similarly, swing-frame data cabinets in user areas need to be locked and out of the way.
Also known as “that’ll be alright”. Installers under time pressure will often accept a connector or cable run that doesn’t quite conform to standards. For example, a UTP cable run might exceed the Cat6 standard by a couple of metres, but the installer will let it go rather than redoing it. That might work in the past, but not with today’s high-speed connections.
All network cable installations need to be regularly tested.