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Network Cabling Basics - What to Expect from Your Cabling InstallerWhen planning the move or upgrade of your organization's network infrastructure, a number of important considerations must be taken into account before you decide to contact a qualified network cabling & wiring installer. Regardless of which vendor you choose, all will require some basic information about your new facilities, as well as your current and future technology requirements. This article provides you with some network cabling and data wiring basics to help inform you of the issues that are crucial to a successful network cabling & wiring implementation: one that meets your organization's technology needs, deadline and your budget.
What to Expect in Your Initial Conversation with a Cabling Installer
When you do get to the point where you're talking with a voice / data cabling contractor, you will invariably be asked some or all of the following questions:
- When will you be moving? If moving within the next 60 days, have you already set up your T1 or phone lines with your telecommunications provider? This is a very important aspect of an office move that too often gets overlooked. Many cabling installers have been contacted by persons who are in charge of moving an office in two weeks, only to realize that their telecommunications company requires 45 days notice to install a new T1 line. Be sure that you've made arrangements with your telecommunications provider well in advance of your move.
- How many voice & data drops will you need. A "drop" is basically one run of cable from a starting point (usually the wiring closet or server room) to the end point (usually an office or cubicle). Remember that for each office, cubicle or workstation, you will generally need one drop for the phone line, and one for the computer. You should also take into account drops that are required for things like dedicated network printers and fax machines.
- What type of construction is your new office space? Is it a hard cap ceiling (i.e. like a ceiling in a typical house) or a drop ceiling (also called acoustic ceiling). Drop ceilings are typically much easier to work with as they offer easier access to run cables through.
- Will the new space require plenum or non-plenum cabling? The answer to this will depend on the type of construction used in the new location. If your cabling will need to run above a ceiling that is also used as a space for the circulation of air in a heating, air-conditioning and ventilation system (plenum space), then you will be required to use plenum-rated cable. Plenum cable is jacketed with a fire retardant plastic jacket of either a low-smoke polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or a fluorinated ethylene polymer (FEP), which limit the amount of toxic fumes in the event of a fire. Plenum cabling costs slightly more than non-plenum wiring, but it's necessary to maintain code compliance.
- Will you be moving an existing phone system? This is a question that may or may not be asked, depending upon whether the cabling installer is capable of moving the type of phone system that your office uses. It may be that they can do this for you as part of the cost of wiring the new location, or they may sub-contract this out to another company that specializes in the type of phone equipment your office uses.
What to Expect During Your Site Survey
Once you've located one or more cabling contractors, the next step will be for them to schedule a visit to the new location (a site survey). This is usually a free visit where the cabling professional will assess the environment and layout of the new office space in order to come up with a price quote. Following are some things you should be prepared with to make the visit go smoothly and quickly:
- Make sure you or someone will be at the new location with keys to the new space and to the MPOE (minimum point of entry).
- If applicable, make sure that building managers or security officers at the new location have been notified that you and a 3rd party vendor will be accessing the new location.
- Have a floor plan of the proposed office space. This is generally something that will be provided to someone in your organization by your space planner, cubicle company or designer.
Once in the new location, a cabling installer will be looking at several things to help him or her provide you with a quote. Specifically, a voice/data network cabling installer will be looking at or verifying:
- The type of construction in use.
- Location and appropriateness of the server room and/or wiring closet.
- Measuring distances of the various cable runs
- Determining whether an IDF (intermediate distribution point) will be required. For larger spaces, or spaces containing many company divisions, it is often necessary or beneficial to have multiple wiring closets to separate logical divisions in a network, or to extend a network beyond 300 ft from the MDF (main distribution point, usually the main wiring closet or server room).
- Determining whether any special cabling will be required, such as fiber optic to connect remote IDFs, or CAT6 over CAT5e for spaces that might cause interference in data transmissions.
Once a cabling professional has been able to physically survey your new or existing location, they will then take the information they've gathered to provide you with a quote. It's a good idea to get multiple quotes from different vendors, as pricing can sometimes vary considerably depending upon the overhead and current workload of a particular cabling installation company.