I had a chance to check out our new building yesterday with the contractor present and wanted to share some thoughts that I had. In this case, we have a new location that will need data and voice wiring/cabling, a new server room, electrical outlets, etc. There are several things to keep in mind during projects like this, such as when the best time to run cables is, what the contractor is doing regarding running conduit, where your ISP will connect to the building, what your company’s growth might be in a few years, what types of cabling you will use, and many others. Here is a short collection of suggestions that should make this stage of the build much more manageable.
Best time to run cables?
It is essential to know the schedule of your contractor and the various other teams that are working at your location. For example, you would want to run your data cables after you see the finalized plans of the electrical work, thus ensuring that you do not place unshielded data wires next to electrical cables, as it can cause interference. Additionally, running network cables can be more comfortable after certain phases of the building project, such as before or after drywall installation, depending on the situation. Remember, communication is vital.
Contractor using conduit?
Conduit, a protective sheath, protects wires and cables from the elements, electrical interference, and depending on the material used, can prevent unauthorized access. Conduit also makes running cabling more straightforward, as it can be fished through with ease. Talking to your contractor beforehand to see if they can run the conduit for you in significant areas can provide you with the security your data cabling needs as well as make your job a lot easier.
Where your ISP will connect to the building?
It can be easy to forget about how your ISP (Internet Service Provider) will provide service to your building, as it is their job to ensure that you get internet access. When planning where your server room will be, for example, cables must be run to the room through wherever the building’s network/phone room is; typically, this is a small room (which should be secured) that allows multiple security, data, electric, and internet providers to set up their equipment. The data cables in this room, especially if in a shared building with other tenants, need to be protected with metal conduit, as unauthorized personnel can attempt to tap into the wire to access your network.
What is your company’s growth potential?
During every new project, regardless of how trivial, it is important to understand what your company’s projected growth will be. Before running any data cables, keep in mind that this job will be harder after the building’s construction is finished. So, if your company is set to double its current employee size (like mine), then you will want to ensure that your network infrastructure is scalable. Spending more money on higher-performing equipment at this stage and running extra cables, even if you do not currently need them, is always a good plan for the future.
What types of cabling will you use?
The types of cabling SMB (Small/Medium Size) business’s use have different advantages and disadvantages. Optical cables transmit data by using light pulses and are comprised of thin transparent cores made of plastic or glass. Copper cables have many strengths that copper cables do not, such as high transmission speeds and the fact that they are not affected by electromagnetic interference (EMI). Optical cables also offer protection from power spikes due to them not conducting electricity. When it comes to tapping, optical cables also provide much higher security than copper cabling. These numerous advantages come at a price though, in the form of a much higher cost than copper cables. Copper cables are a cost-effective alternative to optical cabling and come in many varieties, such as Cat 5, Cat 5e, Cat 6, Serial, and Twinax. Keep in mind that different cables have different recommended distance limitations. For example, if you intend to run 10 Gbps for up to 100 meters over twisted pair cabling, you need to use Category 6A or higher cabling.
In our case, we will be using Cat 6 cabling, which consists of four twisted pair wires and has a data rate of 10000 Mbps. Understanding what your business’s network requirements are currently/in the future, the cost of the cabling, and how flexible, durable, and protected they are, can make your life much easier during both installation and expansion.
As many companies are transitioning to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) from their outdated phone systems, this changes a few things with how your cabling will be designed and installed. In the past, twisted pair cabling was expensive, motivating companies to install different cabling for data and voice (phones). Since voice cables did not need to be as sophisticated as data cables, many would choose to use less expensive voice cables, thus allocating more funds for data cables. With the introduction to VoIP phone systems, data cables must be used to allow the phone system to connect to the internet. So, using Cat 6 or higher cabling, whether adding separate cables for voice or data or not, can ensure you have the necessary infrastructure to make sure you have enough throughput for both voice and data. At our company, we will be using multiple switches, separating the voice and data lines, which on its own, increases redundancy (by having multiple switches we can swap out if one fails) and simplifies routing.
More often than not, the single most effective task during the install of network cabling is labeling. While a cable might be in a wall, above on a wire tray, or run under the floor, labeling where the cable is going, what it connects to, what type it is, and even its installation/maintenance dates can help during installation, future expansions, and upgrades. Take the time to label everything using a wire tag, different colored cables, or a simple notebook consisting of install locations.
Laws, codes, ordinances.
When I first began this project, my nerdy side was extremely excited to get started. However, I had to remind myself that there are specific rules and guidelines to all of this, often enforced by local codes and city laws. These laws and codes are there for a reason, typically increasing employee/installer safety, as well as reducing the potential of fires, toxic fumes (when PVC burns), and electrical disasters. Failure to follow local codes can result in fines, termination of your project, death or injury, and having to redo everything (which costs time, money, and your precious sanity). Do your research before, during, and after each phase of the build. You will thank me later.
While this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what you should look out for, focus on, and avoid during an initial network installation of a building, following these guidelines and tips can both increase your productivity, ensure that you and your employees are safe, and most importantly, guarantee that your network’s operation will be as advanced and sophisticated as you planned it to be.