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What is an As-Built?

As-builts are another name for the blueprints a structured cabling company delivers to a building or campus network manager after the completion of a project. This will provide the network owner with data ports marked, usually with a triangle, as well as any other relevant ports (ex. TV, A/V, etc.). This is important for multiple reasons. Initially, it lays out a plan for the network design that will be installed by the structured cabling company. This then provides the cabling company an accurate view of the project, allowing them to give a fair and accurate quote. As-builts are also important throughout construction. They are the guide showing the structured cabling company where to pull and where to terminate cables.

Regarding installation: occasionally on the as-built, the ports are not clearly labeled, the IDFs are not properly marked and it can be unclear which IDF the cables are supposed to be directed to. This can create problems for the estimator and the installer. They must be remedied prior to installation to ensure both an accurate quote and an installation that satisfies that the end-user’s requests.

Upon completion, cables are labeled, typically with their IDF and the switch and port numbers. These labels and the corresponding as-built are the road map for any future adds, moves, and changes.

The as-built is also very important for the end-user. Network Managers and IT Professionals need to know the layout of their network to be able to troubleshoot. This could be anything from a faulty cable, patch cord, or jack to an AP that has interference issues, or a camera that stopped transmitting. Even if a structured cabling company is needed to fix the issue, the end-user can hire a new company, unfamiliar with the network layout to fix any network issues. With the help of a properly labeled as-built, the newly hired firm can quickly identify and solve any problems. Without this tool, problems can cause more than just headaches for a Network Manager. These problems can lead to network downtime and loss of revenue for a firm.

Because of the as-built, your network is not dependent on any one person or one company to correct these problems. Despite not being part of the installation team, a properly trained professional will be able to perform network adds, moves, or changes.

Kathi BleaseWhat is an As-Built?
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All About Structured Cabling

Cabling your network using low voltage cables such as Ethernet or fiber optics into a well-defined infrastructure that can handle your organizations needs for the foreseeable future is the very definition of structured cabling.

The result is a reliable network that can easily be modified.

Standards in the Telecommunication industry include the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). Their standards include all aspects of structured cabling and were designed to address any type of facility, covering everything from the structure of the system to installation specifications, standards and testing criteria.

Do you Need Structured Cabling?

It is not a requisite for every business, but even smaller organizations quickly outgrow the limits of a router. Cabling becomes messy and disorganized, speeds slow down, and the network no longer runs as it should.

The fix isn’t complicated, but it will take a professional to do the job. Your going to need someone who has experience cabling your type of building/campus, a contractor who is certified, and a company who can provide you with an agreeable price point.

When completed, however, you should no longer have visible cables except in the telecommunications closet where the patch panel is located, and the cables are terminated.

This will make it easier to make additions or changes in the future and will organize your company’s network infrastructure for some time to come.

Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI)

BICSI, a professional organization for the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry, is the main provider of professional credentials for low voltage cabling. (Low voltage, structured, and network cabling will all be used interchangeably throughout this post)

Key credentials include Technician which certifies an installer in both copper and fiber and prepares them to be a project lead.

Another key credential is the Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD). This certifies mastery in both design and implementation of equipment/infrastructure.

The RCDD is even a requisite for Department of Defense contracts.

Check to see if the companies bidding on your project are certified, both by BICSI and by the manufacturers whose products they install.

Inside Plant and Outside Plant

Cabling can either be Inside Plant (known as ISP) or Outside Plant (known as OSP).

BICSI categorizes OSP as any infrastructure installed external to buildings.

OSP cables are underground, direct-buried, or aerial. ISP refers to any cable installed inside of a building, including the patch panel, patch cord, and switch.

Both require different methods of installation.

OSP may require trenching equipment or boring technology, while ISP requires cable pulling and jack installation.

Types of Cables

Ethernet and Fiber Optic cables are the two main types of network cables.

Ethernet cables exist in a twisted pair format. There are two types of these Ethernet cables – Shielded and Unshielded.

Shielded Twisted Pair (STP) Ethernet cables have a grounding cable that cancels out electromagnetic interference and is commonly used in government environments for Secret Internet Protocol Router Networks (SIPRNet). This type of cable is recommended to be used anywhere there is significant electromagnetic interference including anything from motors to powerlines.

Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) Ethernet Cables are the more affordable variation because they lack the extra layer of protection. However, they are easier to work with and will save you not only on product costs, but on labor costs as well.

Once you’ve decided whether you want UTP or STP, you need to make the decision of what category cable you want to install.  Generally, you are going to be selecting from the latest iterations of either Cat 5e, Cat 6, and Cat 6a.

Cat 5e reduces the noise that existed in the Cat 5 model cables, complying with IEEE standards to limit crosstalk. It can transmit at up to 100 m.

Cat 6 cable is ten times faster than Cat 5e, running at 10 Gbps but limited in its distance to under about 50 m.

Cat 6a is the best of both worlds, delivering the speed of Cat 6 at the distance of Cat 5e.

Fiber Optic cables can be purchased in both single mode and multimode.

Single mode fiber is best when cabling a campus-sized project with multiple buildings. Its reach can be measured in miles while OM4 (the current multimode standard) fiber has a maximum distance of about 400m.

Plenum Cable

Plenum is the area designed so that air can circulate for HVAC systems. Air must be able to circulate properly for the space to be designated plenum. When a building has a dropped ceiling (meaning there is space between the actual ceiling and the ceiling tiles) or a raised floor, that area is plenum. An area can also be considered plenum even if it isn’t designed to be. If air begins to circulate somewhere that it wasn’t designed to due to aging or poor installation by the HVAC technician.

The worry with plenum spaces is that the circulating air would feed oxygen to any fire that reached that area. Therefore, plenum cable is tested to meet fire safety standard from the National Fire Protection Association. It achieves this standard by using a fireproof coating and has low smoke characteristics so that the cabling doesn’t feed the fire while producing toxic smoke.

Riser cable is used in non-plenum areas. Fire standards are not as strict. It is used to provide the same services and deliver data the same as plenum cable, it just lacks the fireproofing. This makes riser cable less expensive than plenum and is often used wherever possible to save on cost for a given project.

Project Magnitude

Now you need to decide the magnitude of the project. Do you need one data port at each outlet location?  Two has become more standard as the cost of pulling an additional cable is often offset by the usefulness of an additional port on the network. Some locations require four data ports.

If your building/campus is large either in terms of floorspace, height, or both, your project may be costlier. This makes sense as you must pull more cable for each outlet and need more jacks.

The other factor is your Intermediate Distribution Facilities (IDFs). Every project will have a single Main Distribution Facility (MDF) but can have multiple IDFs if the project is a larger footprint. Each IDF essentially intermediates the connection between the MDF and the jack. If the cable pull is too long, exceeding the 295’ distance limitation from the jack to the MDF, an IDF will need to be incorporated into the project design components.

Project Recommendations

Make sure that all your cables are properly tested with industry recognized test equipment.  When terminated you want to be sure that every cable run is properly functioning, and all connections are working properly. Request documentation of the testing to incorporate as part of your cable plant records.

This leads to the importance of having proper documentation. Always have an as-built that corresponds to the work being done so in the case of a network move, add, or change you have the plans readily accessible. The last piece of key documentation is the acceptance of the work being done per building code by the inspector.  Be sure that your inspection acceptance and the associated closed out permit are provided to you by the contractor upon completion.

Plan and account for future growth. Your company may require many more connections than presently required if you anticipate adding additional staff at a later date and it will be less expensive to cable initially if you allocate for growth than to continually add to your network on an ongoing basis.

Additionally, make sure that you have full coverage from your wireless access points. These should be planned out in advance, in some cases you may benefit from a wireless survey ahead of time.

Warranty

Warranties should be a consideration on a case by case basis.  As a minimum your contractor should provide you with a one (1) year warranty.

In the cases of new construction and stand-alone facilities that the owner will maintain for 10+ years you could benefit from a manufacturer’s provided warranty.  Industry recognized partners such as Commscope, Corning, Leviton, Ortronics and Siemon provided extended material performance warranties with terms of 15-25 years.

Be sure the contractor supplying the cable connectivity have the longevity and required manufacturer training to support these warranties.

You can also compare warranties between vendors if that is crucial to your decision-making process.

A structured cabling system should last you quite a long time, except for the moves, adds, and changes required by your expanding organization.

Power over Ethernet

With the advent of Power over Ethernet, some services that typically required both an electrical connection and a network (or low voltage) connection now require only an Ethernet cable for both networking and power.

This adds to the flexibility of your network. Access points can be placed away from electrical outlets as can other devices. This includes access control, lighting, cameras (CCTV), phones (VoIP), intercoms, and Point of Sale (PoS) devices.

The additional benefits of this ‘flexible’ network is that it is cheaper, requiring less labor and less cost in terms of materials.

CCTV

Many facilities and campuses require constant and complete security coverage. This is made easier by PoE CCTV. Systems are completely customizable depending on the needs of your organization. You will have the option to login remotely from a browser or smart phone.

Lastly, video records are searchable based on time and location.

These options can all save a business time and money, from insurance or reduction in activities detrimental to the business.

CCTV functions on PoE.

VoIP

Another great option for organizations is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This solution allows calls to be made over the Internet, often for free or at a very low cost.

This can save a company or government entity quite a bit of money as phone bills can be a large cost driver. It should be a consideration for a call center or other businesses with a significant number of users.

Connectivity will increase among your employees and there is the option of connecting to the system via mobile phone so that you don’t miss any important calls.

As VoIP works over PoE, once again you only need one cable rather than two to power and connect your phone system, saving you money.

Conclusion

There are many choices when selecting a structured cabling system for your network infrastructure. The key is to plan and to be sure to cover all the future needs of your organization. Consider all PoE options that your business may need.

Finally, make sure you select the proper company to cable your project. This often means checking the reputation of a business in the industry, getting references, and comparing quotes. Price is important but should not be the only factor to consider as a reputable contractor has invested in continuing education on industry standards, will have significant buying power with vendors, and the quality of work has been clearly established based on their current customer base.

Your selection of a structured cabling company should be made early in the design process of your facility, campus or office.  Consider that your network needs should not only meet the immediate needs but also strive to “future proof” wherever possible.

 

 

Kathi BleaseAll About Structured Cabling
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5 Quick Tips about Structured Cabling

1. Always test – Test your cable when terminations are completed to be sure that all your cable runs, and jacks are functioning and properly connected to the switch and patch panel.

2. Have proper documentation – Have your as-built handy and correctly marked to be sure you are running the cable to the correct IDF/MDF from the correct jack. Also, don’t forget the permit!

3. Plan – If your company is not done growing then plan so that your infrastructure is able to support your business’ growth.

4. Make an informed decision – Fiber versus ethernet; Compare speed, price, security, durability, plenum or non-plenum environment, and capacity.  Choose the backbone to your network that suits your needs

5. Get full coverage from your Wireless Access Points (WAPs) – Make sure that if you have Wi-Fi installed, there are no dead zones. This should be accounted for ahead of time.

Kathi Blease5 Quick Tips about Structured Cabling
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What is FTTP, FTTH, FTTC, FTTX?

FTTX refers to all types of fiber infrastructure including fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP), fiber-to-the-curb (FTTC), and fiber-to-the-node (FTTN).

FTTH stands for fiber-to-the-home and is synonymous with FTTP (fiber-to-the-premises). They both refer to a fiber optic cable running directly from the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to a home or business location.

FTTC stands for fiber-to-the-curb and refers to a fiber optic cable run to the curb near the user with a copper ethernet cable connecting the fiber at the curb to the final location.

FTTN stands for fiber-to-the-node and refers to a fiber optic cable running to service a large area with copper ethernet cables connecting each location in service area to the node.

Kathi BleaseWhat is FTTP, FTTH, FTTC, FTTX?
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CapEx and OpEx

CapEx and OpEx

Capital Expenditure on a network has many dependencies. The choices your company makes here will affect the operating expenses down the road. Are you planning for future innovation in the telecommunication space so that your network can handle faster speeds? Are you preparing your office to handle new employees with extra jacks and wireless access points throughout your facility/campus? Do you want to power your devices via the network?

Choosing a more recent iteration of the Ethernet cable (6 or 6a) or fiber optics can ensure that you will not need to spend money well into the future on replacing your network. You may just have tweaks (adds, moves, & changes) as your company grows. This would amount to some of the operating expense.

You can also spend more upfront to switch to Power over Ethernet (PoE) for some of your devices. Security cameras, phones, Wireless Access Points (WAP), intercoms, and other devices can be added to your network and be powered by Ethernet cabling rather than Alternating Current (AC). This would reduce your operating expenses as you would spend less on power. You would also reduce operating expenses by switching to a Voice over IP (VoIP) system, significantly reducing your phone bill.

Additionally, all cabling is tested when termination is completed and once successfully tested your structured cabling contractor can provide you with a manufacturer’s extended warranty, ensuring that you don’t have to sink more money into upgrading your network for a significant amount of time.

Upgrading your network can be a win-win for you – with a one-time CapEx cost that prolongs your network’s useful life and reduces operating expenses.

 

Kathi BleaseCapEx and OpEx
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Advantages of Power over Ethernet (PoE)

Power over Ethernet (PoE) or remote powering has transformed the way facilities are cabled and the way that electronics are being powered. It uses the same twisted pair data (Ethernet) cable to power the device as it does to connect the device to the Local Area Network (LAN). Devices that can utilize PoE include lighting, cameras, phones, Access Control, Intercoms, Point of Sale Devices (POS), and Wireless Access Points (WAP). Utilizing PoE for all these devices can create an intelligent infrastructure whereby devices can be monitored and controlled via Internet connection.

Additionally, the reduction in cabling allows for more cables in one area in addition to the increased safety of using low voltage wiring. This in turn means lower upfront costs for the owner in terms of installation as the low voltage installer can pull all the cable required without getting an electrician involved. It can also mean lower costs over the life of the network as less electricity is used by the low voltage network.

Devices attached to the network can also be moved more easily because devices are no longer constrained by how close they are to an electrical outlet. Moreover, PoE allows you to put devices in places where it is difficult to install power – like drop ceilings.

Devices on the network can also be backed up by a power supply, something multiple times costlier with many devices running on Alternating Current (AC) power. PoE comes from a sole source rather than many, making the backup process much more straightforward.

Kathi BleaseAdvantages of Power over Ethernet (PoE)
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What Type of Low Voltage Cabling does your Business Need?

Structured cabling can sound complicated with multiple types of copper and fiber optic cabling available. So first let us explain the differences of each type of cable.

Fiber optics will provide you with the fastest speeds, although CAT 6 cables will support up to 10Gb/s which may be fast enough for your business.  Fiber optics has the additional benefit of transmitting light rather than electricity which means it is not subject to electromagnetic interference, it is much harder to intercept, and it is not subject to the hazards of electrical current. Alternatively  you can use Shielded Twisted-Pair (STP) copper cables to avoid electromagnetic interference as well.

The second thing to consider is the scope of the job. You may be forced to used single mode fiber if your project spans multiple buildings (Outside Plant – OSP) or long distances. If it is a one building project (Inside Plant – ISP) you still need to choose between multimode fiber, cat 5e, cat 6, and cat 6a. This choice may come down to whether you must run cable outside or it may be personal preference of the business owner as multimode fiber is comparable to Ethernet when cabling in a small to medium size building.

Kathi BleaseWhat Type of Low Voltage Cabling does your Business Need?
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10 Signs It Could Be Time to Invest in Upgrading Your Structured Cabling

1. Your network requires constant repair

Are you repeatedly looking for and calling technicians to fix your network or troubleshooting problems with your network on your own? A single provider of the low voltage cabling needed to provide the backbone of a network could help you to organize your infrastructure and reduce costs.

 

2. You’ve moved into a new office and the current configuration doesn’t suit your needs

The cabling is CAT 3, and does not have the bandwidth for VoIP and your conference room AV needs.  A properly designed network infrastructure solves this problem by having a plan in place tailored specifically for your location with its current/future needs in mind.

 

3. You have no jacks for your cables, the computer is connected directly to the router or switch

Jacks not only organize your network and simplify the wiring by placing it in the walls or ceiling, they also increase the longevity of your network as the formerly exposed wires would need replacement. Now only the patch cord connecting the computer to the jack would need to be replaced in the event of an issue with the wiring.

 

4. You do not have a professional managing your network infrastructure

Do you still troubleshoot network issues on your own and is it taking up more of your time than you can afford? As a small business, you want to dedicate all your time to satisfying your customers’ needs. Repeated issues with the network can complicate your day and significantly reduce productivity.

 

5. Your network is not achieving required upload and download speeds

A properly cabled network will achieve higher speeds as it facilitates the transfer of data from your service provider to your computer using the properly rated cabling and correct infrastructure.

 

6. Wires are making your location a mess

A mess of wires is not only unappealing and dangerous, it can cost you money. Exposed wires often require replacement. This is money out of your pocket.

 

7. You still have an analog phone system (not VoIP)

Analog phone systems work but if you have one you are overpaying significantly for a service that could be provided to you at a much lower cost. This includes long distance phone calls. VoIP also allows interconnectedness between users within the network.

 

8. Your wireless network does not cover your entire location

Do you have a building or campus without adequate WiFi coverage? A structured cabling specialist can fill the holes in your network using Inside Plant (ISP) and Outside Plant (OSP) wiring and Access Points.

 

9. You need an IP Security System

Your current video security system isn’t sufficient to fit your needs. Maybe you can’t manage your security system digitally, store footage, or monitor it live over the network. An IP security system uses Power of Ethernet to power the cameras and can allow for high resolution video.

 

10. Some of your cables just don’t work

Your cable runs maybe be too long, the wires may be too tightly bunched or faulty, they may bend more than they are rated to, or they could be terminated improperly. A structured cabling technician can test every wire at your location to be sure your network is functioning at peak levels.

Kathi Blease10 Signs It Could Be Time to Invest in Upgrading Your Structured Cabling
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Why You Should Consider Power over Ethernet (PoE)

Power over Ethernet is a technology that allows network cables to carry electrical power.  The benefits of PoE offer both improved network efficiency, costs saving and flexibility.   For example, a digital security camera normally requires both network cabling and an electrical connection.

Time and cost savings – with the ability to run one ethernet cable to each device a savings is realized by eliminating the need for the labor and material expenses associated with electrical power.  Applications across multiple market segments are numerous, including point of sale devices, nurse call systems, digital signage, video conferencing and access control.

PoE promotes network flexibility. Without the need to be reliant upon the location of electrical outlets, devices such as IP cameras and wireless access points can be installed throughout a building or campus environment where needed most. Network adds, moves, and changes can be accomplished faster with PoE-enabled switches and network devices. The business will not be impacted by delays in completing network modifications or upgrades. Additionally, PoE can facilitate temporary network deployments for offices, classrooms and conference rooms by eliminating the need for the installation of additional power to support networking devices.

If you would like to discuss the advantages of PoE as it relates to your facility’s needs, please call Intranet Communications Group at 561-367-7276 or contact us online.

Kathi BleaseWhy You Should Consider Power over Ethernet (PoE)
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