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 to go and its cables are not being repurposed, those can go as well.

Ignoring Distance Limits

A single ethernet cable has a maximum length of 100 meters (328 feet). That is the maximum length a cable can run while still functioning at all. For modern cables, that means working with 1 Gbps speed. Cable speeds can decrease with distance. Even if a cable is capable of supporting speeds like 10 Gbps or 40 Gbps, there is a limit to the total footage that will apply to. Knowing the different speeds and limits of ethernet can be a crucial component when setting up a network.

Inadequate Space

Determining how many cables you need is great, but also check whether there is enough room for all of them. This is especially true when already using conduit, holes, and other infrastructure already in place. There must be enough space to get at least the cable itself through. Ideally, there will be space for the head of the cable to fit through any openings. If need be blunt cables can be run and the connectors can be attached afterward, although this is more work.

However, attaching the connectors after pulling the cable will make removing the cables without cutting the connectors back off impossible. Losing the ability to remove cables is another common mistake where space is concerned. Networks tend to grow and squeezing in additional small cables can make spacing too tight to remove larger ones later on.

That being said, when initially setting up a network it is a good idea to leave enough room to grow. If more machines are added to a network later and more cables are needed, it is very inconvenient to not have enough space for them. That means drilling new holes or expanding existing ones, running additional conduit, and doing more extra work that can be avoided by just leaving extra space during the initial setup.

Using the Wrong Cables

While ethernet is the backbone of any network, there are different types of ethernet. Exactly where the ethernet cables will be located will determine what type is needed. Ethernet should be kept as far away from electrical lines and other sources of electromagnetic interference (EMI) as possible. Using shielded ethernet helps to block EMI but it is not a cure-all.

If any ethernet cable is going to be outside, it must be outdoor rated ethernet cable. Standard ethernet is not rated for UV (sunlight) resistance, water resistance, and other factors that outdoor ethernet is built for. If a cable is going to be buried directly underground, direct burial ethernet cable must be used. Cable underground may end up completely submerged in groundwater for long periods and regular outdoor cable is not rated for that. Direct burial cable should be buried 6-8 inches deep and kept at least 6-8 inches away from any buried power lines.

The type of cable needed may also be affected by local or state safety codes. For example, some areas require businesses to use plenum cables. Plenum burns slower than standard PVC jackets and lets off a non-toxic smoke. Cables run all throughout floors, ceilings, and walls in most buildings and can be an easy way for fire to spread during an emergency if they are set up improperly.