If you are a network engineer, cabling is a part of your life. A decent Cat 5 cable should last you between at least five and 10 years. Whether you are putting in a 75 ft ethernet cable or just running USB cables shorter distances, there are some basic things you need to remember when you are running cable.
- Measure and measure again. In carpentry, they have a saying, “Measure twice, cut once.” The same adage can be used in cabling. If you are not careful when you are measuring your cables, you can end up wasting a lot. If you need a 75 ft ethernet cable, for instance, you do not need a cable that is only 74 feet. You may think that a few feet of wasted cable every here and there is not a big deal but it adds up. It does not take a lot of time so do yourself a favor and measure more than once.
- Make sure you label everything. You know what each cable is and what it is for when you are running the cable but will you remember in a month? Will another person know what everything is? That 75 ft ethernet cable may only be there for a specific reason and you know that but label it anyway. Make sure you place a label on either end of the cable. This just makes it easier for everyone. You will end up making more work for yourself if you do to label everything when you first run your cables.
- Use a color coded system. This simplifies everything. Assign certain colors to certain functions and you will be thankful you did that later. This just makes everything easier to deal with. It does not mean you should omit labeling everything. You need both systems to keep your cables straight.
- Get good terminations. You may be tempted to save money by buying cheap terminations but you will end up spending more money by doing this. You do not want to lose your connection when you wiggle the cable.
- Test everything. When you make a cable, test it. You will need to redo any cables that do not pass. It is easier to find out and redo any bad cables when you are running them the first time. Say you put in the 75 ft ethernet cable and you see that it does not pass the test. It is easier to go ahead and deal with that right away than finding out your internet connection has dropped and you have to test everything later on.
- Design your network to be cable friendly. You can design your data center to be more cable friendly. Where you place your rack can make a big difference in your cabling. You will want to avoid putting it in a place where you will have a hard time running your cables. You do not want to end up with cables hanging from the ceiling. Consider what expansions you may make in the future when you are planning your data center. Plan for more cables than you need now. You may only need a 75 ft ethernet cable today but try to think about what you will need tomorrow when you may need a 500 ft ethernet cable.
- Separate the different cables. You want your power to be separated from your data. Your cat5 cables can suffer from interference from your power cables. They can leach signal and cause problems for the cat5 and cat5e cables. Do whatever you can to keep your power cables separate from your network cables.
- Make sure everything stays cool. Everyone knows that the servers need to be kept cool but many people do not think about that when it comes to their cables. Cables can get hot. If you have a lot of them, that can cause you problems. Make sure you keep your cables as cool as your servers.
There are a lot of myths out there about cables. Some people will tell you that a good HDMI cable has to cost at least $50. People also say that video and audio quality diminish over distance. Neither of these things are true. Despite the mystery people want to add to cabling, it just takes some planning.