The physical layer of your network needs to be professionally designed and installed. Here are some points to consider when choosing a network cabling company and evaluating your existing network.
Network Cable Plan, Design, and Installation is a Specialized Trade
Designing and installing network cabling should be done only by a professionally licensed, insured, and trained technician. The installation of data and voice cabling is governed by the National Electric Code and state and local building codes. Many municipalities now require proper contractor licensing, contractor bonds, proof of insurance and building permits for cable installation. These requirements serve to protect the public from shoddy and potentially hazardous workmanship performed by unqualified individuals and companies. There are also numerous standards developed and published by the Electronics Industries Association/Telecommunications Industries Association (EIA/TIA) which govern the design and installation of communications cabling. These standards encompass all facets of the physical layer, from the layout of a telecommunications closet to proper identification of a work station outlet. Your network cabling company should be thoroughly familiar and trained in these standards. Finally, the company you choose should specialize only in physical layer installation. In recent years, too many hardware and software companies have rushed to become vertically integrated, to offer a complete networking solution to a customer from software to cable installation. Unfortunately, it is usually the physical layer of the network that suffers. As a result, your network cabling is often installed as an afterthought by poorly trained, uninsured, unlicensed and unqualified individuals.
Points to Consider
- Professional training and qualifications
- Contractor insurance
- Contractor licensing
- Building permits
- Compliance with building codes and industry standards
Professionalism and Organization
The network cabling company you choose should provide a highly trained and qualified technician to install your network cabling. They should be professional in appearance and conduct, working with your employees in a courteous manner to minimize disruption of the workplace during the cable installation. The technician should perform their work in an efficient and organized manner, maximizing labor efficiency and minimizing labor cost. They should not have a crowd of helpers that spend much of their time watching someone else work. This situation tends to disrupt the smooth functioning of the workplace and becomes needlessly costly for the customer. The technician should also keep their equipment and materials organized and promptly clean up after finishing in an area
Points to Consider
- Professional appearance
- Organization and neatness
- Courtesy to employees of customer
- Maximization of labor efficiency
- Minimization of disruption to work place
Evaluate Your Existing Network Cabling
If you already have network cabling in existence, begin by looking at the data closet or rack. It should be neat and organized, with the rack properly mounted to the wall with appropriate fasteners. The patch cables should also be neat, with wire management organizers used between patch panels. The rack, patch panels, organizers and shelving should all match one another for a professional appearance. The cables running into the rack should be neatly bundled without excessive tie wraps and properly fastened to the wall. In the ceiling above the rack, there should be a neat ten foot maintenance loop of cabling, allowing the rack to be relocated within the room should the layout change. Open the ceiling tile over the rack. Is there a neat maintenance loop hung from the building frame or a nasty looking tangled mass of wiring on the ceiling tile?
Next, open a ceiling tile outside of the data closet. All of your network cabling should be run in neat ninety-degree pathways, self-supported by industry approved hanging and fastening products. Not electrical tape and tie wraps, but steel bridle rings or J hooks. All of the cables in your facility should come together into a single main pathway that runs into the data closet. It should not be run from every point of the compass into your rack. The cabling should NOT for any reason be lying on the ceiling grids. The National Electric Code very specifically states that drop ceilings are not rated to support anything except themselves. If your cabling is lying on the grids, it is in violation of building codes and unsafe.
Next, look at a few of the workstation outlets. They should be straight on the wall at the same height as other outlets in the area and tightly fastened into the wall. They should also be clearly and professionally labeled to reference their port number on the patch panels, not scribbled on with a marking pen or lacking identification of any kind. In addition, the wall plate color should blend with the décor, not clash with it.
Finally, think back to when the cabling was installed. The technicians should have been professional in appearance and in conduct, working in a courteous and helpful manner with your employees to minimize disruption to workflow during the installation. They should have been neat in the performance of their work, promptly cleaning up completed areas and keeping their tools and materials organized and out of the way. Once the installation was completed, you should have received printed test results for every cable installed, along with a floor plan of your facility that noted the locations and identification numbers of all data and voice outlets installed.
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