Magpie Tech Tips

October 26, 2013

Cable Management Tips from the Pros

Do your network cables look like spaghetti cascading down from the racks? If there's an issue, disorganized and unlabeled cabling can cause even more trouble. This month's Tech Tip gives tips on how to organize & manage network cables.
Cabling is the circulatory system of your network. If your server cables are labeled, neatly bound & organized, troubleshooting network issues is a whole lot easier. Your server room is clean and professional, and a point of pride.

If your cabling is "spaghetti" with no clear labeling, imagine the fun you’ll have in a network emergency. You could unplug a cable and easily disconnect the wrong server. Imagine how it will look to management, when an outside IT Consultant arrives to help and has to use an expensive tool just to determine what each cable controls, before he can even start troubleshooting!

Engineers at PlanetMagpie are trained in proper cable management. What do they learn?
  1. Label all cables when they’re put in place (use pre-numbered latex labels, they last longer).
  2. Label ports on the patch panel & endpoints too.
  3. Post a cabling map in the server room, so engineers can see the cable paths while troubleshooting.
  4. Install cable management on the racks—both horizontal and vertical—so cables are routed correctly and kept off the front of the network equipment.
  5. Use the appropriate length for patch cables, so they don’t add to the mess.
  6. Terminate cables using a T568B pattern. That way you can interchange them with regular phone service, if a fax line is needed.
  7. Use a cable color code, so it’s easy to discern what a cable’s purpose is. Example: Red for critical server connections, blue for client connections, yellow for crossover cables.
  8. When binding cables, never use Zip Ties, always use Velcro.
Many times we find that network issues are due to "shoddy physical plant." No matter how fast your networking gear is or how well it should perform, it still depends on a clean physical install to work without failure. Many companies cut corners here due to labor costs. But you will ultimately save money via faster emergency response if you learn to look at cable management as an IT art form and a reflection of your engineering skill.