Many offices of all different shapes and sizes include structured cabling. In a nutshell, structured cabling is the networking or telecommunications infrastructure of a building, and it consists of a number of standardised smaller elements or subsystems, hence the name “structured cabling”.
What is structured cabling, and why is it important?
Structured cabling can be categorised as follows:
● Demarcation points - these are the points where a telephone company’s network ends and connects with the wiring at your premises. An example is the BT Master Socket;
● Equipment rooms - literally a room full of telecommunications or computer equipment (although it is usually a mixture of both). Some people might refer to this room as the “server room” in a building;
● Vertical cabling - this refers to cabling laid out in the plenum space between floors in an office. You can often reveal the plenum space in an office when you remove ceiling tiles;
● Horizontal cabling - this refers to cabling laid inside horizontal conduits in offices;
● Work areas - this is where end-user systems connect to horizontal cabling outlets (RJ45 sockets for example).
The design and connectivity of structured cabling in buildings such as offices and factories is governed by a set of standards that specify wiring, connector types and so on.
For example, the standards for unshielded and shielded twisted pair cables are category 5/5e (cat5 or cat5e), and category 6 (cat6). Those types of cables are commonly used in voice and data applications.
The problem with structured cabling
With potentially miles of network cabling installed throughout a building, one of the main problems with structured cabling is connectivity issues. If an end-user cannot connect to the network, the Internet, or make and receiving phone calls using their equipment and an Ethernet cat5/5e/6 cable, and the issue is not present if they are connected to another RJ45 socket, the ‘fun’ begins when you have to try and diagnose what is at fault.
Many technicians may begin a process of elimination such as checking the network cable connecting to the socket in the work area, tracing it to the router or switch in the equipment room, and of course checking the router/switch port that the cable connects to is functioning correctly.
If the issue is narrow down to the connection between the equipment room and the work area, and the devices/sockets at either end are confirmed to be functioning, then the task begins of trying to determine if there is a break in the cable and if so, where it is.
A solution: the Fluke DTX 1800 cable analyser
Rather than spending hours (and in some cases days) trying to trace the fault on the cable, the quickest and easiest way to save time, and money, is to use the Fluke DTX 1800 cable analyser.
This awesome piece of kit is somewhat expensive, with a new purchase costing around £10,000, but is used by networking professionals all over the world. It has a number of modules that can be connected to it, enabling you to connect cat5/5e/6 and fibre cables to it.
Now you might think that all it does is tell you whether a cable is faulty or not, but it does so much more than that! Not only can it tell you the approximate distance of a fault from your location, but will also tell you which pairs of wires have a break, and it can perform a number of complex tests to determine the exact location and cause of a fault.
In order for structured cabling installers to certify cabling for specific speeds, they will need to run a series of tests on the cabling in accordance with TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association) or ISO (International Organisation for Standardization) standards.
The Fluke DTX 1800 cable analyser is the best tool for the job, and it can significantly reduce total certification costs by up to a third each year. So although there is a high initial outlay for the tool, it will certainly pay for itself when it comes to certifying structured cabling.