Integration of voice applications with support for video, data, VoIP communications and integrated services over a single low-voltage cabling system makes for special demands. The structured cabling system is the wiring network that carries all of that content. It includes everything from the data center to the desktop:
- Connecting hardware
- Telecommunications rooms
- Cable pathways
- Work areas
- Wall plate jacks in offices
A well planed structured cabling system will facilitate low voltage data flow, enable sharing of resources, accommodate changing technology and expansion. It will also last a long time.
Things to remember when designing structured cabling:
- Usage: When planning a network consider peak loads for all applications, types of traffic, usage patterns and outlet density. Keep the future in mind change happens fast.
- Location of users: Where are the users and how far are they from network switches. What kind of network will work best.
- Kind of network: Star networks feature individual point-to-point cable runs from a central hub equipment room. Each line is independent from the others and can be altered or removed without affecting the whole network. A Ring network links a series of devices in a continuous loop. This is a simple arrangement in which all signal runs through all devices, passed from one to the other. A Buss network consists of a single backbone cable to which all devices are connected. All devices tap into the content that travels the length of the cable.
- Upgrades and the future: Expect at least 10 years of lifespan from your network. Well planned networks used to go 20 years without replacement. This may accelerate in the future.
- Distances: Keep in mind the maximum distance between network switches and users. Different cable / transport media has different maximum lengths.
- Electromagnetic interference: Keep in mind that this can be a factor that can reduce usable bandwidth and cause transmission errors.
- Collaboration between IT and automation staff: IT people are the ones who are intimately familiar with structured cable at the enterprise level and automation people are the ones that best understand the factory environment.
- Standards: To implement and maintain a structured cabling system you have to get familiar with the standards and best practices established by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).
- Goals and objectives: Assess your needs and keep the future in mind. Look at the possibilities of gigabyte-per-second rates. Improve your scalability by investing in 30 or 40 percent spare cabling at initial installation.
- Expert help: Many standards-based tools are available including Visio and CAD. Third party qualified experts are available to help plants execute this critical step.