Monthly Archives: February 2019
Ethernet cables are used to connect everything with an Internet connection today. Even wireless devices like tablets and smartphones have to connect to other devices like routers that are themselves run off ethernet. While the world wide web did not start booming until the late 90s, ethernet’s origins can be traced back to the 1970s.
Robert Metcalfe, the engineer who laid the groundwork for the Internet by co-inventing ethernet.
1976: The first ethernet system is privately deployed. Upgrades to the system eventually result in 10 Mbit/s ethernet, the first cable released to the public market later on.
Setting up a network sounds easy. Just run some ethernet cable, plug it into your computers and other equipment, and everything is good to go. However, that is a bit of an oversimplification. Under ideal conditions, things really would be that simple. But conditions do not start out ideal and how close they are to the mark largely depends on the prep work.
The best way to prevent any problems is to avoid them entirely. Knowing which mistakes are the most common during the planning phase is the best way to dodge them during implementation.
Poor Cable Management
Most people have probably laid eyes on a jumbled, tangled mess of wires at one point or another. Messes like this can lead to a host of problems down the road. Most obviously, tangled cables are hard to work with and annoying. If anything ever needs to be moved or replaced, the task becomes much more tediously. Additionally, cables twisted together can go past their maximum bend radius, damaging or even outright breaking cables in the long run. Keeping cables organized and labeled with a little extra work now can save you from a lot of extra work later.
These good practices also extend to removing old, unused cables. It is not uncommon for old equipment to be removed while the cables used for it are just unplugged. Those old cables take up space, can tangle with other wires, and get in the way when making new installs or repairs. If an old piece of equipment needs
The term splitter gets thrown around pretty often when it comes to cables. The average splitter works by taking an input signal and dividing it into multiple output signals. For example, on a two-way splitter each output will have half the normal strength since the signal is divided by two. However, this is not how ethernet signals work.
Simply put, ethernet signals cannot be divided the way audio/video signals can. There are devices called ethernet splitters, but they work differently from other kinds of signal splitters. However, a different device called a network switch can be used with ethernet cables for the same effect.
Ethernet splitters allow users to run one cable instead of two through walls, floors, and ceilings. But in the rooms your equipment is in, users will still need two cables. To facilitate this, ethernet splitters must be used in pairs.
For example, say you have an Internet router in Room A and need to connect hard lines to a computer plus a printer in Room B. But each room only has one ethernet jack in the wall. You would take two cables coming out of the router and connect both to your first ethernet splitter. The other side of the splitter will connect to the wall jack in Room A. Then you do the same thing in Room B, connecting the computer and printer to the other splitter and then hooking that to the other wall jack.
While these great at doing the
The ability to just click a button and connect to WiFi on almost any modern device is hard to pass up. On the other hand, ethernet is still around after years of WiFi so surely it has its advantages. The truth is that both options have ups and downs. Your priorities as a user will be the ultimate deciding factor for determining which is better.
Wired Connections - Ethernet
Ethernet is older and better tested than WiFi, maintaining a number of benefits. Physical connections are faster and provide greater reliability, control, and security.
- A signal with a cable to guide it will always be faster than the wireless equivalent, making tasks like file sharing quicker.
- Ethernet signals are much less prone to becoming unstable and/or dropping.
- It is easier to control who is connected to a network, ensuring a network will not be bogged down by too many users.
- Wired networks cannot be seen by anyone with a wireless device, making hacking much harder.
Being older may make ethernet more of a tamed animal, but its age does show with a few disadvantages.
- All machines must be physically connected to the same wired network to communicate.
- Connections will be limited by the length of the cables being used.
- Cables tangle and can be tricky to manage.
- Some devices (cell phones, tablets, etc.) do not have ethernet ports as an
Patch panels are simple pieces of equipment designed to house a large number of jacks. Typically, they are mounted onto rack or cabinets. The panels themselves are easy to install, but there are a few details to know before getting started.
Horizontally, patch panels are 19 inches (the industry standard size). Vertically, patch panels are measured in rack units (RU). Patch panels are rectangular and secured with four screws, one on each corner. A single RU is the amount of space one row of jacks will take up on a unit (1 RU = 1.75 inches). Typically, a maximum of 24 ports can be squeezed onto a single RU.
There are two main types of patch panels, pre-made and keystone.
*If you need help installing a patch panel onto a rack or cabinet, please see the article here.
Pre-Made Patch Panels
Pre-made patch panels are used for ethernet and telephone connections. This type of patch panel is built with the jacks already installed. Ethernet patch panels feature punchdown on the back for wiring directly into the connectors. They even feature charts with wiring schemes on the back to help during installation. Ethernet panels are available for the various types of ethernet (Cat5e, Cat6, etc.).
Telephone patch panels are also called Telco patch panels. From the front, they look very similar to ethernet patch panels. On the back, a port is available to plug in a Telco cable. This allows for a simple, easy install in data closets and similar environments. There are different types of jacks available on these panels with different positions (P) and conductors (C). For example, regular phone lines may need 6P4C while a VOIP phone could need 8P2C. There are more options besides those two, so see what your phones will need to make an appropriate selection.
“Pinout” is a term describing how an electrical cable is wired. Some cables do not have pinouts because they only contain a single internal wire, like coax cables. But if a cable has multiple pins on the end of the cable, it will have a pinout.
Each type of multi-pin cable has a standard pinout or two, but these layouts are not set in stone. Some machines will require non-standard pinouts; this will require users to use a custom cable.
Pinouts also come into play when using a cable with two different ends. For example, going from DB9 (9 pins) to DB25 (25 pins) will mean the DB25 side has 16 unused, “dead” pins.
If you need to know what pinout a cable needs, ideally there will be a spec sheet handy showing it. The next best option is contacting the manufacturer of the equipment the cable will be used with to see if they have a spec sheet available. If you have a cable tester available, that can be used to see how the pins line up. As a last resort, a cable can also be cut open to verify the pinout.
In the guide below, we will be highlighting the standard pinout configuration for common types of multi-pin cables.
Ethernet uses two main pinouts, straight and crossover. Straight cables are used to connect computers to other devices, like modems and routers. Crossover cables are used to connect two computers directly. The wires inside ethernet cables are color-coded to industry standards, making it easy to follow the standard pinout options.
Every type of cable has a maximum distance. These distance limits can vary greatly from one type of cable to the next. Along with determining whether a cable will work, distance limits will also determine how well a cable works. Knowing the fundamentals behind cable distance limits is the first step in selecting the best cable for your needs.
Cables will always have some sort of “maximum signal” rating, depending on the type of the cable. For ethernet cables, it will be the maximum upload/download speed. For HDMI, it will be the maximum resolution of the video. And so on and so forth for other cables. Any type of “maximum” rating should be taken with a grain of salt.
Those ratings are the best possible rating the cable is capable of under theoretical, perfect conditions. For example, modern HDMI cables are all rated for 4k. But if the HDMI cable is running through a coupler, users will almost certainly not get 4k. Each time a signal passes through a connection, even just connecting a cable to something like a TV or computer, the signal quality degrades a little. Using devices like extenders and couplers will make the signal weaker; for example, coupling a 10’ cable to a 5’ cable will result in a weaker signal than just using a single 15’ cable.
Another key factor for signal quality is the distance of the cable. The further a signal has to travel, the more it will degrade by the time it gets from Point A to Point B. Going back to our HDMI example, a 15’ cord will give a clearer image than a 50’ cable. It is possible to get around this issue using an extender/boo
Surface mount boxes are great little alternatives to wall plates when running cables to a keystone jack. A surface mount box can be easily affixed to the wall, floor, or ceiling when setting up a keystone jack. This makes them perfect for setting up connections without having to pull cabling through the walls as well.
In the guide below, we will be attaching an ethernet keystone jack to a single port surface mount box. A video guide is available at the bottom of the article.
Step 1: Gathering the Supplies
The main item will be the surface mount box itself, which will come disassembled in a few separate pieces. Not all of these pieces will be used; some will be left over depending on how you secure the mounting box to the wall/floor/ceiling. Aside from the box, you will also need the keystone jack as well as the cable being attached to the back of the keystone. In our example below, we have pre-wired the keystone jack.
From here, the next step is to decide how to secure the surface mount box. There are two options for this: screwing the box down or using an adhesive pad. For using a screw, see Step 2a. For using an adhesive pad, see Step 2b.
Step 2a: Securing with a Screw
Towards the back of the surface mount box, there will be a small round hole. The screw included with the box fits through here and can provide a secure connection to