Cable Management - Racks and Cabinets
Keeping cables organized in racks and cabinets can be tedious, but it is well worth the effort. Nothing is worse than needing to get to a single cable having problems while trying to sort through a jumbled, unorganized mess of wires. Luckily, there are a number of options for keeping cables organized so that any repairs take minutes instead of hours.
Size is the main factor to take into consideration when looking at cable management equipment. The standard width for all racks and cabinets is 19 inches across, so that will be the size of any cable management equipment that does not say otherwise. The length of the equipment is measured in rack units (RU). A single rack unit consists of one pair of holes used to secure equipment on either side of the rack/cabinet and the space around them, measuring 1¾ inches total. When selecting cable management equipment or any other equipment, make sure to check how many RUs of space are available first.
Cable ducts are made to route, organize, and protect cables running through an open frame rack. They are fairly large, designed to run the entire length of the rack. Sizes range from 8 RU (the smallest racks made by most manufacturers) to 45 RU (the largest rack size generally available). Each cable duct has a slotted back (the slots are called “fingers”) that can be easily removed when cables need to be added, removed, or reorganized.
Cable spools are simply plastic spools that can be mounted to a rack to wind up large amounts of excess cable. When cables that are much longer than necessary have been installed, a cable spool is an excellent way to pick up the slack (literally) and keep that extra cable out of the way without it dangling on the floor. Each cable spool fits within a cables bend radius, preventing any wound up cables from being damaged.
D-Rings (also called distribution rings) are secured with simple screws and can be put directly into a wall as well as mounted on a rack or cabinet. There is a bit of variety when it comes to D-rings. They are made in both metal and plastic, depending on whether sturdiness or flexibility is the chief concern. Different sizes are available, ranging from 1¼” to 3¼”, for various quantities of cable and how much free space there is for the D-ring to stick out. Lastly, D-rings come in horizontal and vertical versions depending on how they need to be oriented to optimize cable management.
Rubber grommets are used to cover metal holes, protecting cables from scraping the metal sides and being damaged. Grommets come in a variety of sizes and generally need to be purchased from the manufacturer of the cabinet they are being used with. Different manufacturers make the holes different sizes and grommets need to be a tight fit to secure properly.
Lacer bars are simple metal bars that act as supports for cables. Supporting cables with a lacer bar allows them to be spread out, which increases airflow and allows equipment that puts off a lot of heat to cool better. They can also help to keep electrical cables away from other lines, cutting down on signal interference. Lacer bars come in different offsets, anywhere from no offset at all to 10 inches away from the rack/cabinet, depending on how much space is available.
Neat-Patch trays are one of the latest and greatest tools used for organizing loose cables. These metal trays allow users to tuck away excess cable in a vented metal enclosure for easy storage, keeping the ends of the cable easily accessible for maintenance and other use. Along with being efficient, Neat-Patch keeps aesthetics in mind for a clean, professional look. Simply coil up the excess cable, tuck it neatly inside the Neat-Patch, and slide the cover closed.
Cable claws are made to hold cables in place instead of leaving them dangling loose and in the way. The metal “claws” extending from the main unit have just enough space between them to secure loose cables, keeping them tight and preventing tangling. When using a smaller number of cables, cable claws are a simple and efficient method of organization.
Vertical cable managers are designed for cables that need to run the length of a rack/cabinet. The openings in a vertical manager are fairly large, with each opening being able to accommodate a sizeable number of ethernet cables. They are built with “fingers” that can handle a standard cables’ bend radius without causing any damage. The metal covers can be opened in either direction, allowing easy access to the cables from either angle when cables are installed, uninstalled, or otherwise moved around.
Horizontal managers are one of the most common cable management tools, generally measuring one or two RUs. There are a few different types of horizontal managers. The usual variety uses built-in D-rings to secure cables. Like independent D-rings, these are available in both plastic and metal. Some units even have D-rings on the back as well as the front. Other common horizontal managers use cable trays with finger ducts. This version is sturdier than the D-rings but more difficult to access, making it the popular choice for more permanent installations. If the cables are going to be accessed and/or moved around frequently, the D-ring version is typically the better option.