What is Structured Cabling? Uses and Standards

Someone working on a structured cabling system

There’s a reason why telecom spending on infrastructure is expected to reach a staggering $1.46 trillion. Low-quality cabling systems have been the cause of much grief with network admins. If your network repeatedly fails, the problem likely lies in your cabling. 

So what’s the solution? The solution is to develop a well-designed infrastructure that lays out cabling in a way that sets the network up for success both in the present and the future. This concept is known as structured cabling. 

If you want to discover more about this vital telecom idea, you’re in the perfect place. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the different structured cabling standards and uses to see if it’s right for your building or organization. 

What Is Structured Cabling?

Structured cabling is the process of taking an organization’s network and dividing it into structured, standardized elements. Once these elements are in controllable blocks, you connect the cabling systems. 

For example, you might combine Cat 6A cables with AOC cables. The result is a network system that can access all the data that goes through your building’s complex management system. 

Related: How to Test a Fiber Optic Cable: Best Methods & Tools

What Are the Structured Cabling Standards?

If you want to have a successful structured cabling system, you will need to follow the standards laid down by professionals. In this case, you can find these standards by searching in the American National Standards Institute

This institute worked with EIA and TIA to produce standards the United States cabling industry currently accepts. These standards will walk you through everything you need to know about implementing structured cabling, from design to installation and maintenance. 

How Does It Differ From Point-to-Point Cabling?

To better understand what structured cabling is, it’s vital to understand its counterpart: point-to-point cabling. Point-to-point is the cabling method currently used in many networks and data centers. 

This system runs patch cables (also called jumpers) directly to and from any hardware that needs connecting. While this system is simplified, it does create a lot of messy intersections of cables. 

Structured cabling, on the other hand, uses a Main Distribution Area (or MDA) to centralize everything. 

Patch panels and trunks create a much more unified, structured system than point-to-point. Short-length patch cables can then be moved, added, or changed with little to no effort. 

Want to know how structured cabling relates to data center infrastructure? If so, make sure to read this guide here

The schematics that go into planning structured cabling

The Benefits of Structured Cabling

Structured cabling certainly requires some planning and funds to implement correctly. So what are the benefits that come with it? First, structured cabling gives you a lot more flexibility. If you ever want to add on or move your system, it’s much easier with structured cable. 

Next, structured cabling dramatically reduces the amount of downtime that’s caused by human error. Remember, the cost of human error shouldn’t be underestimated. If you ever need to locate a specific cable or port, a structured system makes it much easier to find. 

This will save you a lot of time when you need to repair or make changes. Lastly, there’s the matter of aesthetics. 

This might not be important to some organizations, but point-to-point cabling can give off a messy look. Structured cabling provides a much cleaner look and a better impression of the organization. 

Related: Cable Jacket Ratings: What Does Your Cable Need?

The Potential Risks of Not Switching to Structured Cabling

If you’re using a point-to-point cabling system, it’s pretty likely your infrastructure is an absolute mess. Unfortunately, this can lead to a lot of human error problems. Messy infrastructures make it easy to accidentally unplug the wrong port. 

Even locating the cable in question can be a huge undertaking that requires trial and error. Next, point-to-point cabling leads to cable bulks that hinder airflow. This can prevent the switch from operating correctly. 

The congestion also blocks the airflow to the computer room air conditioning (or CRAC) unit. As such, it can cause cooling issues down the road, especially as you add more cable. 

Network cables plugged into ports

How to Get Started With Structured Cabling

Structured cabling requires a deep knowledge of cable system design and installation. Sadly, not all cable providers offer this expertise. So how do you find a company that can help you? First, consider asking these ten questions of all installers. 

This will give you a complete picture of whether or not they’re qualified for the job. Next, ensure you provide your installer with a detailed plan regarding your current cabling set-up and where you would like to take it. 

Give the professional the final vision of the network infrastructure that you want. Then, allow them to determine the best way to implement and organize it. Without this, you’ll be relying entirely on the cabler’s interpretation of your organization. 

C&C Technology can ensure that your cabling infrastructure remains straightforward and open to potential change. Contact us right now to find out how we can help you. 

The Importance of Structured Cabling

We hope this guide helped you learn more about the importance of structured cabling. As you can see, it doesn’t matter if you’re a data center or a campus; your buildings can benefit from this type of organization. 

First, it allows your network to work more efficiently. Plus, it outlives network components that aren’t structured. 

So not only will you see a return on your investment right away in terms of performance improvement, but you’ll also see it down the line too. So get rid of your mess cable tangles today and start getting organized. 

Related: Data Center Cable Plants Testing & Troubleshooting

Last Updated on June 8, 2023 by Josh Mahan

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