STRUCTURED CABLING SOLUTIONS

Technology is constantly evolving and changing, sometimes faster than you could ever guess. These new tools can make businesses more productive, secure and agile. However, these tools need the right network to support them.

Structured cabling is an infrastructure that’s made up of smaller, standardized elements. You can install structured cabling systems in a building or across a campus. It’s this kind of network cabling that can support all of the rapidly-advancing technology coming to the workplace.

Since the advent of personal computers, the introduction of laptops and VoIP calling systems, the demand on a business’s cable network has only grown. In the past, point-to-point cabling was used, which meant every piece of hardware used its own cable. The cabling literally ran from point to point. This would lead to a jumbled mess of wiring and cables that could be accidentally unplugged or present a safety hazard for tripping. To accommodate the rising need for speed and more bandwidth, structured cabling systems came into use and are now the best solution for a business’s network.

Structured cabling systems are a kind of network cabling solution that organizes your infrastructure. The beauty of structured cabling is that it helps to future-proof your business by accommodating any new hardware you add while supporting the increasing amount of data businesses use every day. It makes things much easier to manage as your business grows!

To help you understand structured cabling systems, we’re taking a deep dive into what they are, how they work and how you can use structured cabling systems at your business to maximize your ROI.

servers demonstrating their purpose as structured cabling solutions

WHAT MAKES UP STRUCTURED CABLING?

Subsystems

“Structured cabling” may lead you to believe that the system is only made of cables in your data center, but that’s not quite the case. A structured cabling system actually runs throughout a building or across a campus, with different points and dedicated areas

Besides cables, structured cabling solutions can include racks, network cabinets, hardware ports and more. All of these smaller pieces work together as part of the overall system.

The standardized elements that make up structured cabling are called “subsystems.” These subsystems are typically located across a building, so it’s important to know where they’ll be in your business location.

There are six different kinds of subsystems that go into structured cabling.

The Six SubSystems:

Entrance Facilities

The physical point where the premises’s wiring begins and the telephone company’s wiring ends

Equipment Rooms

Rooms inside the building or campus that house equipment or consolidation points

Backbone Cabling

Inter- and intra-building cable connections

Horizontal Cabling

Wiring that connects telecommunications rooms to outlets or work areas in the floor

Telecommunications Room

Connects the backbone cabling and horizontal cabling

Work Area Components

Connections between the end-user’s equipment and the outlets of the horizontal cabling system

Installing structured cabling solutions involves laying out and designing the system itself, which can be tricky in and of itself. This design process takes factors like heat, cooling and airflow into account and needs to be methodical for best results. A data cabling company will work with you to design a system that fits your current and future needs.

All six of these subsystems work together to support your business. Your cables and wiring will be accessible whether you need to fix something or want to upgrade in the future.

Types of Cables

You may be wondering what kinds of cables go into a structured cabling system. Each of these cables have different purposes, but they all still work as part of the structured cabling system.

Standards govern how the actual cables in your system are laid out, but one of the advantages to this is that it makes them much easier to identify. Cables should also be labeled for easy identification.

The kinds of cables your structured system will use depends on your needs. They can be made out of copper or fiber, with different specifications. Here are some of the major types of cables used in a structured cabling system.

Commonly Used Cables:

Structured Cabling Solutions 1
Fiber Optic Cable

Fiber optic cables are a lot like electric cables, except they’re made out of optical fibers to carry signals and images. These optical fibers are made out of silica or plastic and coated with more layers of plastic inside the cable itself.

Different kinds of fiber optic cables may be used for long-distance telecommunication or high-speed connections between buildings on campus.

Twisted Pair Cable

Twisted pair cables are commonly used to connect residential homes and businesses with a telephone company. These kinds of cables date back to the era of radio and telegrams and were actually invented by Alexander Graham Bell!

There are two kinds of twisted pair cables:

  • Shielded twisted pair (STP)
  • Unshielded twisted pair (UTP)

UTP cables are used most commonly for telephones and computer networks.

close up of a twisted pair cable as it relates to structured cabling solutions
close up of a coaxial cable in structured cabling solutions
Coaxial Cable

Coaxial cables are a type of transmission line, carrying high-frequency electrical signals with low loss.

Coaxial cables are commonly used for:

  • Cable television
  • Telephone
  • Broadband internet
  • Computer data
  • Connecting radio transmitter and receivers to antennas

What Makes a Structured Cabling System Work?

Patch panels, switches and trunks are three big components of any structured cabling system. These are all important pieces of a data center and your cabling infrastructure. You can think of them as the engine that helps your business run smoothly.

Structured Cabling Components

cables, patch panels and switches as part of structured cabling solutions and system
Cables connected to a patch panel
Patch Panels

A patch panel connects cables. They’re also called patch bays and are attached to network racks. Patch panels use cords to connect to a switch.

You can think of the patch panel as a connection hub. It bundles up all the connections to another network. Often, this is how a LAN connects to the internet. You can usually find patch panels in communication closets and data centers at a business.

cords running to a network switch in a structured cabling system
Cables running to a network switch
Switches

A switch, in cabling, is a component of the system that receives, processes and sends data. The switch connects your patch panels so you can connect devices to a network and share data and access the internet.

trunk cables in a switch as part of a structured cabling system
Fiber optic trunk cables
Trunk Cables

A trunk is a cable that connects to patch panels. You can think of trunks as a way of consolidating the number of wires running from patch panel to patch panel. They’re essentially a grouping of wires that are bound into one big cable to keep everything neat and organized.

USES OF STRUCTURED CABLING SOLUTIONS

If your business is small, then point-to-point cabling might have worked for you in the past. However, as businesses grow and add more technology to their arsenal, the amount of data used and sent increases. With a point-to-point system, it’s difficult to sift through all the connected cables just to move, add or change something. On top of that, pinpointing and locating a problem can take much longer if nothing is organized.

When you install a structured cabling system, you’re investing in a scalable infrastructure. The amount of technology used in the workplace will only grow, so it’s important your network can support all of your needs in speed and bandwidth.

Structured cabling solutions support video, voice, applications and any other tool you might use at your business. Different types of cables support different functions, but they all work together in the infrastructure. With new technologies and tools being added to the workplace every day, structured cabling can support you.

Here are just a few ways you can use structured cabling at your business.

Common Structured Cabling Uses

streaming a meeting using structured cabling solutions

Audio/Visual Needs

Distributed or remote teams are a growing part of the workplace. Streaming conference calls are the best way to keep everyone connected, no matter where they work.

Structured cabling solutions can support streaming, whether it’s in an office or a meeting room. It’s easy to start up a meeting and connect. Whether you need to present, stream a video or use a paging system, you’re all set!

woman accessing the internet with fiber optic installed in a structured cabling system

Fiber Optic Upgrades

Fiber optic is one of the fastest and most reliable ways to get online. Fiber optic cables are much faster at sending data than traditional cables. If you want to upgrade for lightning-fast speed, you’ll want a structured cabling system to support it.

data center using structured cabling solutions to operate

Data Center Management

The more data your business uses, the more support you need. Structured cabling systems can provide the right kind of layout and organization for your business’s data center. You’ll be able to easily move things around if you need to, or easily disassemble and reassemble your data center if you move business locations.

modem connected through structured cabling solutions

Distributed Antenna Systems

Structured cabling solutions can support distributed antenna systems for mass notification, Wi-Fi and wireless coverage. If you need or want to offer free Wi-Fi at your business, you can use a distributed antenna system to do it.

IoT thermostat connected by structured cabling solutions

Network Cabling

The Internet of Things is the next big thing in tech. IoT will connect all of your technology so they can send and receive data. You can use IoT at your business to better manage your resources. Say hello to smart lighting, efficient energy management and better connectivity.

security cameras connected using structured cabling solutions

Security

Your business’s security is important. Structured cabling solutions can connect all of your security cameras and surveillance equipment and control sensors across your building.

Structured cabling has a variety of uses, making it versatile and able to meet your business’s needs. Unlike point-to-point cabling, structured cabling solutions can grow with your business and it’s easy to add more workstations or hardware as you need.

Structured cabling has a variety of uses, making it versatile and able to meet your business’s needs. Unlike point-to-point cabling, structured cabling solutions can grow with your business and it’s easy to add more workstations or hardware as you need.

5 Major Ways Structured Cabling Can Help Your Business

WHAT TYPES OF BUSINESSES CAN USE STRUCTURED CABLING?

Structured cabling solutions can be used in almost any industry, and they’re not just limited to office buildings! They’re especially useful in manufacturing, education and medicine. Since structured cabling is built to handle all of your data and media, it’s a must-have system for any growing business.

If you own a hotel and want to add free Wi-Fi, structured cabling solutions can support your distributed antenna system and broadcast your signal throughout your property. Colleges and schools can stream live events with the help of a structured cabling system. Even emergency services and first responders can benefit from structured cabling solutions for transmitting crucial data.

Beyond using it to support everyday media needs, structured cabling can help you control and manage energy use in your business location. The Internet of Things can connect all of your systems, so your lighting, temperature and even security cameras all send and receive data.

Want to go green? Structured cabling can support smart lighting that shuts off when you leave the office for the day, or central air schedules that are timed with your business hours. Industries like manufacturing can even use IoT to collect data to cut down on costs and to improve safety. It’s these capabilities that make structured cabling such a great option for business owners. It’s versatile, scalable and reliable.

THE BENEFITS OF STRUCTURED CABLING

Businesses use more and more data on even an hourly basis. That puts a lot of stress on a cabling infrastructure. If you don’t upgrade that infrastructure, you could be facing downtime and poor connectivity.

With point-to-point cabling, cables directly connect each piece of equipment. For years, this was the convention and standard for cabling infrastructure. Older data centers or businesses using this kind of cabling system are at a disadvantage and facing disorganization.

You also run the risk of increased downtime and obsolescence. Imagine having to sort through hundreds of unlabeled and identical cables every time you need to fix something. To make things more difficult, you’d have to pay extra in labor and services every time you added a new network cabinet to your data center. Those costs, in both time and money, add up and really hurt your bottom line.

If you want to future-proof your business, invest in structured cabling solutions. Besides just looking clean and more organized, structured cabling solutions can support your business’s daily needs. These kinds of network cabling solutions are built to accommodate future advancements in tech for the workplace.

Benefits You Can Expect

Cost-Effectiveness

Structured cabling systems are a great way to mitigate the costs of obsolescence. As new technologies emerge, a simple point-to-point cabling system won’t work. As you add more and more to your office’s technological toolkit, you need a cabling system that supports it.

With a point-to-point cabling system, it’s not guaranteed your network will be able to support your future needs. It’s also a lot harder for an IT specialist to identify and fix a problem with the network should one ever arise (though we certainly hope it never does).

Structured cabling solutions also help you save on labor and service costs. If you ever upgrade your equipment, you won’t have to re-cable your entire system and spend extra time and money on labor.

Structured cabling maximizes your network’s potential without risking downtime due to human error. You’ll have less maintenance to deal with and more ROI.

Flexibility

You can easily move, add or change the hardware at your business with a structured cabling system. Everything runs to the Main Distribution Center or MDA, so all of your cables are consolidated in one place. This flexibility is key if you ever want to upgrade your systems in the future.

A structured cabling system can accommodate new cabinets, workstations or wireless access points. Unlike point-to-point cabling, there’s no sorting through a tangled mess of cables and wires. And if you ever need to move offices or locations, structured cabling systems are easy to dismantle and reassemble.

Reliability

Installing structured cabling will improve the speed, performance and reliability of your business’s network. A structured cabling system can support your business’s data, video and media needs, so you can get the most out of your network if you need to expand.

Structured cabling will enable your employees to enjoy a high-speed network that supports voice, video and other kinds of media. This is especially helpful in large-scale business operations, like in manufacturing, since structured cabling will also maximize uptime. At the same time, this organized and standardized approach makes it much easier for tech support to identify and troubleshoot issues within the network.

Businesses are sending more and more data through their networks, and it’ll only increase as more tools and technology enter the workplace. Your cabling infrastructure needs to support it. Sticking with point-to-point cabling means you run the risk of longer downtime every time an issue arrives. If you’re outgrowing your old network cabling, or if you just want to maximize your business’s potential, it’s time to bring structured cabling solutions into play!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

If you’re interested in installing structured cabling solutions at your business location, an experienced data cabling company will have the resources and expertise to make sure your network has all the support it needs. They can choose the right solutions to fit your business’s present and future needs.

Besides just being efficient and organized, structured cabling solutions can help you maximize your business’s productivity and make it easier for your IT team to troubleshoot and solve any issues that arise.Why do I need structured cabling?Can I install structured cabling myself?What does structured cabling do?Will I need new equipment?What if I want to add more hardware?Will I have less downtime?Why structured cabling instead of point-to-point cabling?Who installs this kind of system?What happens if I move my business?

STRUCTURED CABLING SYSTEM STANDARDS & INSTALLATION

In the past, point-to-point cabling had no real rules or best practices to guide installing the infrastructure. So, as a business’s needs expanded and added more servers to their data center, cabling only became messier and harder to maintain.

Structured cabling is governed by strict standards to avoid this problem. These standards are in place to guide all installations for structured cabling solutions. When you install a structured cabling system, the data cabling company should be following the official standards for the cables, hardware and everything in between.

The Standards of Structured Cabling Installation

Structured cabling systems are installed in compliance with TIA/EIA-568. These standards are issued by the American Telecommunications Industry Association and the Electronic Industries Alliance.

man working on cabling demonstrating what managed IT services is

The standards for structured cabling are comprehensive and cover all aspects of the installation. You should always have an expert install your structured cabling system since they’ll know exactly how your cabling system needs to be laid out.

Other standards for cabling include:

  • ISO/IEC 11801: Standards for general-purpose communications in commercial buildings. This includes telephony, data communications standards, building control systems and factory automation. It also includes copper cabling and optical fibre cabling.
  • EN 50173: The European standard for cabling. These standards provide guidance for a generic cabling system’s backbone cabling.

The TIA/EIA-568 defines and maintains the standards for structured cabling in buildings and across campuses, and are updated every few years. All of these standards ensure any installed structured cabling system is up to par according to the best practices in the industry. With these standards in place and proper installation, your structured cabling solutions will be able to accommodate new technologies for the workplace.

How Data Cabling Experts Can Help You

As with many home improvement projects, some things are best done by seasoned professionals. Structured cabling installation involves working with electrical wiring and cabling which can be complex, and you may also need to remove any abandoned cables as required by the National Electric Code—something a professional can easily assist with.

close up of a port in a structured cabling system

A data cabling company will have the expertise to install a structured cabling system for your business and provide you with guidance on how it works. They’ll be able to survey your facility, assess your current network and consult with you on your new structured cabling system.

Installing a structured cabling system will mean running cable throughout your business location. You need to know:

  • How many rooms will be wired
  • How many ports will be required
  • The amount of devices connecting to the network
  • The location of the electrical wiring in the building

Oftentimes, there are also local city ordinances and codes that have to be taken into account and followed. You also need to account for electromagnetic interference when you lay out your cabling.

Since there are so many factors to consider, and especially with electricity at play, installing and implementing structured cabling solutions at your business should be done by a trained professional. Mistakes during the installation process can have serious consequences, like a slow connection, errors and hours wasted in getting everything up and running again.

Oftentimes, business owners may cut corners or skip steps in the installation process, which can result in bigger problems down the line. Laying a cable too close to an electric line, for instance, can greatly affect your network’s connectivity.

You want the best for your business, so call in the experts for structured cabling solutions. With all the planning that goes into laying out a structured cabling system, a team of seasoned professionals can install your equipment in compliance with the proper standards.

What You Should Look for in a Data Cabling Company

When looking for the right network cabling provider, it’s important you look for a reputable and experienced team. You’ll want to work with a company that can understand your business’s current needs, analyze your future needs and work with you to choose the right solutions. Besides having the right tools for the job, you should look for a company with the right certifications and credentials for installation.

workstations connected with structured cabling solutions throughout the building

The right data cabling company will also know what standards they’ll need to follow as they install your structured cabling solutions. Organization is the main advantage of a structured cabling system, so things like cord labels are very important. Keeping up with these standards and maintaining them is what makes structured cabling so effective in the first place!

Cabling companies should also be able to work with you on the details of the installation itself. The cost of structured cabling installation can come down to the needs of your business and the logistics of the system. These factors can include:

  • What kind of cables will be used in the system
  • The difficulty of running the cables through the building
  • If workstations and patch cords need to be added
  • How complex the building or campus’s wiring is

Installing the cabling system will need to happen outside of normal business hours or on the weekend so your workflow is impacted as little as possible. Experienced and qualified data cabling companies will be able to provide you with the right documentation after installation, so you know exactly where everything is located.

Once the structured cabling solutions are properly installed, you’ll enjoy faster connection speeds, higher bandwidth and more capabilities than ever before.

CONCLUSION

Structured cabling solutions are the best way to prepare your business for the future. With new tools coming into the workplace, it’s important to have a network and infrastructure that can support your daily needs.

Besides just looking cleaner, structured cabling solutions are a streamlined approach to organizing your business’s network. Since it’s so efficient, adding new equipment is easy. Or, if you move business locations, you can disassemble and reassemble your data center without much hassle.

A structured cabling system has the capabilities to support video, voice and even your building’s energy systems. Because structured cabling is capable of handling so much data and offers so much bandwidth, you can run tools like video conference, streaming and voice calls without any interruptions.

This kind of data cabling can maximize your business’s potential while being cost-effective. With structured cabling solutions, you can rest easy knowing your business’s network infrastructure is organized, efficient and reliable.