Structured Computer Cabling Installation for New Offices

Published: 18th November 2011
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Like other sets of standards for procedures and hardware used to simplify computer operations, structured cabling is the term for the standards for wiring an office efficiently. Data and voice lines must be distributed to workstations from patch panels to connecting hardware and be managed. This article discusses standards for structuring cable into an office.

Your computer and communications network is a vital investment so it's helpful to have an understanding of some terms, procedures, and the inevitable list of acronyms that constitute the numerous sockets, cables, conduits, trays, and other items you will encounter in the struggle to make everything fit together into a functioning office, data center, or call room. Even if a contracting company is doing the job you will still be the one to flip a switch and hope the light comes on, so knowing how the cabling is laid out and an understanding of the terms will assist you in discussing problems when they come up. Without proper management of the cabling situation there is the potential for impediment of operations during the confusion.

There needs to be an entrance facility for underground cable coming into the building; from there the backbone cable runs into the main equipment room, telecommunications closets, and main terminal space. This is the entrance wiring closet, from where the cable can run along accesses called backbone raceways to the intermediate wiring closets containing the Intermediate Distribution Frames. The Backbone Cabling System Structure includes patch cords or jumpers used for backbone-to-backbone cross-connections. An Intermediate Distribution Frame (IDF) cross-connects backbone cable to the individual line circuits.

Many terms such as Main Distribution Frame and Intermediate Distribution Frame come from the Telephony sector that shares the same basic cable technologies with Computer communications transfer. The same industry standards for hardware and safety precautions are followed. As the name implies, the Intermediate Distribution Frame on each floor connects the individual user devices to the Main Distribution Frame which in turn is the connection to the phone company.

The backbone cable is laid in a star formation using modular sockets with Category 5 or Category 6 cable into a rack-mounted central patch panel where all the outlets would terminate. Connections to backbone cabling should be less than 90 feet; additional IDF wiring closets may be necessary on the same floor if the cable runs are too long. It should be noted that backbone cabling is limited to two levels of cross-connects, the Main Distribution Frame (MDF) and Intermediate Distribution Frame.

Once the office computers and phone equipment are placed at work stations in a new office, someone acting as IT manager would be delegated to map out the dozens of cables and keep the network organized. Large companies needing extensive work in structured cabling get the original work done through a cable installation company but with new tenants of a small office they may be forced to spend time wiring the computers and phones personally.

Documenting the infrastructure of the cabling system design is critical in tracking the continuity of your network through all the patch cords, cross-connects, computer cables, raceways, devices, connectors, and outputs. Security of the entrance wiring closet is needed due to the sensitivity of the computer cabling - in this case security from things like water exposure, overheating, and unauthorized access by mice or disgruntled employees with wire cutters bent on vandalism.

Pat Boardman is an SEO Consultant for Computation Ltd, electronics recycling and network cabling Toronto service who also perform Toronto network cabling installation.

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