The Ultimate Guide to Network Cable Management for Businesses
It’s safe to say that everyone has experienced tangled wires. Whether it’s the headphones in your pocket or the cables at the back of your TV, messy wires are — simply put — annoying.
If you’re a business owner, you may be painfully familiar with tangled wires in a large office building with hundreds of wires and cables. But tangled wires in this setting is more than just annoying — it can have serious consequences for businesses.
So what can you do about it? In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of cable management, why it’s important, and best practices for managing your company’s cables.
What is Network Cable Management?
Network cable management is the process of designing, organizing, and maintaining your organization’s cable system. The goal of cable management is to enable administrators to identify cables quickly for troubleshooting or maintenance work. As you can imagine, this can get problematic in larger organizations with hundreds of feet of cable.
There are many tasks involved in cable management. Most of these include planning the route of your cabling system, selecting the right cables, and labeling them. Before we discuss how to go about this process, let’s first discuss why you should care.
Why is Cable Management Important?
Efficiency is perhaps the biggest advantage of cable management. Network architectures typically involve thousands of cables, easily forming a knotted, tangled, spaghetti-style mess. This can be a nightmare to maintain or troubleshoot later on.
But suppose you took the time to organize, bundle, and label cables. In that case, it would be easy for staff to identify the right wires in your network setup.
Cable management can also impact your network’s performance. Jumbled wires can stretch or kink, putting pressure on the cable and can lead to poor signal transmission. Furthermore, some cables (such as power cables) also interfere with other wires (such as network cables), which can further degrade performance.
Proper network cable management also promotes airflow around the wires. This can help prevent overheating, which is a major cause of fires. Additionally, hotter wires create higher resistance, leading to higher electricity consumption.
Network cable management will also make your workplace safer. Improperly placed wires can be a tripping hazard, which could cause injuries. Plus, these accidents will also damage the equipment, leading to downtimes.
Ultimately, cable management is crucial to maximizing your network’s uptime while reducing risks for your business. If you’re ready to get your cables under control, let’s look at how to do cable management correctly.
Network Cable Management Best Practices
Clearly, cable management is important for any business. Here are some tips on how to cable manage your organization.
Labeling every cable might seem tedious, but it’s one of the best cable management tips we’re going to give you. Trust us, you’ll never regret labeling your cables.
Wires and cables get jumbled up into a mess all the time, especially in hubs with routers (as you know, sometimes dozens of them are involved). Unfortunately, this can make figuring out which cable goes to which a huge pain.
Labeling allows you to know instantly what a cable is for and where it’s going. This knowledge is indispensable when you need to test multiple circuits in a short period of time. It’s also helpful if you’re trying to fix an error quickly or don’t want to risk unplugging other important cables.
Fortunately, labeling is easy. You can buy a relatively inexpensive label maker to print out labels on the fly and label wires as you install them. Some brands even let you print labels in different colors, which you can use to organize your cables further.
Here are some quick tips: label both ends of the cable so you don’t need to “trace” the label from one end to another. Also, document everything so your IT personnel can troubleshoot it even without you around.
Labeling cables might be time-consuming at first, but the time you’ll save in the long run is well worth the upfront investment in time and effort.
Use cables in multiple colors
This isn’t always a possibility (you can’t always control what color cables you receive with routers, etc.), but it could help you organize your cables in a pinch. Essentially, using different colored cables allows you to distinguish one from another at a glance instantly.
For example, you can set Ethernet cables as orange, crossover cables as blue, and switch-to-switch cables as red.
There’s currently no set standard that governs the color coding of cables. Thus, you have considerable freedom in choosing the standards that work for your organization. Make sure to be consistent with your standard and document it so everyone knows which color means what.
Alternatively, if you don’t have colored cables, you can use colored Velcro sticks or plastic ties to bundle and identify cables of the same type.
Use the correct cable length
There are plenty of advantages to using the right length for your cables. Financially, it just makes sense. After all, why pay for five meters of cable when two will suffice?
But when it comes to networking cable management, there are also practical reasons. Cables that are too long for the space allotted tend to jumble into a mess that’s difficult to untangle. It could also cause kinks that can damage wires and reduce cable performance, including data loss and lower data speeds.
Ideally, you should measure only the right amount of wire you need, then shorten it to that length (with some buffer). You can also consider using customized cables, but they could be prohibitively expensive for smaller companies.
If cutting isn’t an option, then consider planning your connections. For instance, you can position racks and workstations at a distance that allows you to use standard-length cables.
Use only quality cables and terminators
Naturally, it’s best if you only use high-quality cables and terminators in your network. While the upfront costs may be higher, this will make server cable management much easier and more cost-effective in the long run.
For one, this could lead to better performance. You’ll have better data transmission with less signal loss. They’re also more durable, meaning they don’t stretch or snap as easily. In other words, they’re more durable and reliable, so you don’t need to troubleshoot them as much nor will you need to spend money on replacements.
The same is true with terminations. Using cheap terminations with quality cables is useless, as they’re more prone to coming loose and disrupting your network.
Don’t overload cable trays
An overloaded cable tray not only reduces cable quality but can also pose a safety risk. That’s because overhead trays with too many wires can become too heavy which can result in them falling, as well as overheating.
One good practice is to audit all the cable trays in your organization regularly to ensure they’re within a reasonable weight. Check for unused wires and remove them – don’t trim the ends and leave them there. Abandoned wires are easily forgotten and can add unnecessary load to the cable tray.
Plan everything out
Before you start wiring anything, it pays to have a plan. A simple approach is to have a diagram showing where critical components are located and how cables will run to and from them. This allows you to spot problem areas early so you can tackle them right away. Having a plan will make ethernet cable management much easier in the long run. Admittedly, planning cable layouts can be complex without the proper experience. That’s why we recommend consulting with a dedicated cabling contractor to assist you in developing the best cable layout for your building.
Bundle cables by type
It’s always a good idea to group cables by type, then isolate them as much as possible. Not only is this an easy way to organize cables, but it also has a practical reason. Many cables produce electromagnetic interference, which could affect the signal of any nearby cables. A good example of this is power cables interfering with network cables. Bundling cables also creates pockets of space around the cable, providing much-needed ventilation to avoid overheating. By grouping and separating cables by type, you can avoid these issues in the long run.
Use cable strain relief
A good practice for proper cable management is to use strain relief, which is any device or fitting that protects the cable from mechanical stress. The use of such protection is regulated by the EN 62444 standard.
Network Cable Management: DIY or Outsource?
Network cable management may sound like a straightforward task but in reality, it’s a crucial and complicated process where even a small mistake can result in major repercussions.
So can you perform DIY cabling in your business? The short answer is yes, it’s possible to do it yourself. The DIY route is certainly practical if you only need to wire together a handful of workstations and a few switches. However, for anything beyond that, you should consider hiring a professional company. Larger office buildings have an extensive system of wires and cables, making the cabling process incredibly complex. You need a well-thought-out wiring plan that only an experienced contractor can provide.
The best part is that a cable management expert can do everything for you, including planning and implementation. This is great for business owners that already have far too many things on their plate. Hiring professionals also ensures the best safety and performance of your network.
In California, few can match the expertise and experience of Signal Solutions.
We have offered structured cabling in San Francisco and Los Angeles for over 35 years. We’ve handled the cable requirements of every kind of business in California, from small family-owned wineries to tech giants like Amazon.
Need help with your network cable management? Contact us today for a consultation or site assessment.