10 things time has taught us about cabling
Structured cabling – the brains behind the beauty!
Rob Pritchard, owner and managing director of Scenariio, is celebrating a significant silver anniversary. He’s now been a CommScope partner – in one guise or another – for 25 years!
To mark this milestone, we capture some observations from the last two decades of designing and delivering structured cabling infrastructure. And also, how to make sure structured cabling can stand the test of time.
1. Structured cabling deserves more respect!
Throughout the world are buildings where the occupants are seamlessly going about their day-to-day life, with technology and applications enabling pretty much everything they do. Many will not appreciate that it’s a structured cabling system that’s allowing their beautifully-designed and seamless applications to operate. Their technology won’t work properly unless it’s built upon solid foundations. Designed and executed properly, they won’t even know it’s there.
Structured cabling is often seen as the less exciting side of IT. It’s unseen, and at the end of the day, it’s cables! It resides at the very bottom of the Open Systems Interconnection model. So that means, these critical foundations are seven steps away from where the exciting stuff happens. But without them, there wouldn’t be any excitement.
Rob says: “Take out the 240V mains cable in a building and instead, run everything you’d find in a traditional office space, over a data cable. And I mean everything! The lights, your PCs, wi-fi, AV, the phones, the sensors, and the door access controls etc.”
2. Poor structured cabling can manifest itself in the workplace
A structured cabling infrastructure can cause frustrations for building occupants if it’s not designed and installed correctly.
Most people assume that network limitations and connectivity issues only arise from problems further up the OSI stack. In reality, it is possible that a poor structured cabling infrastructure is the culprit. Resulting in:
- A network that’s very slow
- Downtime to crucial business applications
- Extra hassle when you want to move a desk
- Outages when you make a change in the building
3. It lives and dies by its design
A well-designed structured cabling system is worth its weight in gold. If it’s designed properly from the outset, it will serve the building occupants for years – even when their needs and requirements evolve. But, how do you design it to last?
- Experience – knowing how to get it right from the very beginning comes from years of doing the job. From being aware of what position the comms room needs to be in, to getting the cabling routes right and knowing where the data outlets are required. It all comes with decades of experience.
- Vision – Scenariio’s structured cabling infrastructure comes with a 25-year warranty. But the way you use your building today will be very different to how you use it in years to come. That’s why you need the foresight to be able to predict trends, technological breakthroughs, and occupancy behaviours. Of course, this comes with experience too – along with a dedicated commitment to continuous learning and development.
- Quality – as the old adage goes: you get what you pay for. This is true when it comes to designing a structured cabling system that will stand the test of time. Scenariio design infrastructures using products from the world’s leading cabling manufacturers. That way, they know they will last, and that quality will be guaranteed.
4. The proof is in the pudding
A successful structured cabling company should be able to go back to a building – where they designed and installed the cables many years ago – and see that the building managers haven’t had to make many changes at all.
In 1994, when Rob was employed by Severn Trent, he featured in their internal newsletter describing how he rolled out the first structured cabling system, connecting 28 of their sites. Since then, over 30,000 data ports from CommScope have been installed, yet only a handful of faults have been attributed to the data outlets themselves – and most of them were as a result of external factors, such as overzealous cleaners!
The Scenariio team is still working with the Midlands water company. Only now, they’re bringing the latest intelligence to those infrastructures – helping the company to create a portfolio of smart buildings that are efficient, environmentally friendly, and an excellent place for their people to work in.
Rob says: “We got that design right way back then. What we put in over a quarter of a century ago is still being used. This is wholly down to getting the up-front design right. And of course, the quality of the cabling. It’s a privilege to still be working with Severn Trent Water today.”
5. It’s partnerships that unlocks client success
They say it takes a village to raise a child. But it takes strong partnerships to design and install high-quality, structured cabling infrastructure projects. Scenariio has key partner CommScope in its armoury.
Rob says: “They provide us with premium, leading-edge products that have been manufactured to an exceptionally high standard. Not only that, CommScope make heavy investments in R&D, and provide ongoing training and accreditation to make sure we’re always up to speed with the latest advances in technology.”
6. Some things have changed, other things have stood still
In the world of structured cabling, the infrastructure itself hasn’t changed much over the years. What has changed is the quality of the cables, and of course, the way people use the technology that runs over those cables.
Cables have evolved from copper Cat 3, 4, 5/5e right through to Cat 6/6a, 7/7a, 8. And fibre has evolved too: OM1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. The number of category types has increased to mirror the demand for higher transmission speeds and bigger bandwidth.
7. PoE has been a game-changer
Devices – like IP cameras and Wireless Access Points – need both a network connection and power to be able to function. The introduction of Power over Ethernet (PoE) meant that just one cable could now fulfil both of those needs. This radically changed the structured cabling landscape.
A cable that delivers both network connectivity and low voltage power presents so many benefits for organisations. From time and cost savings, to safer and more scalable networks.
8. The RJ45 plugged a gap
The RJ45 is the world’s first, truly universal power plug and has transformed the world of structured cabling. ‘RJ’ stands for ‘Registered Jack’ and, put simply, is a physical connector for network copper cables.
Rob says: “As we put more power down our data cables and enable more powerful devices to be powered by them, the RJ45 has become the world’s first, truly universal power plug. Imagine a day when we can take our laptops around the world and just a RJ45 fly lead – and plug into a hotel data port – for a super-fast, secure data connection and the power to run the laptop.”
9. There’s still a future, despite wireless technology
Building occupants need high-quality Wi-Fi signals to be able to communicate seamlessly and effectively. As more devices use Wi-Fi, the need for greater bandwidth from the wireless access point (WAP) becomes even more important. The cables feeding these WAPs must be the best available.
We’re now seeing more data cables being installed in the ceiling spaces – to support things like BMS, CCTV, and sensors – and less data is being put into the desk.
10. Why structured cabling still matters
Think of structured cabling as the rail network. Without train tracks, Network Rail wouldn’t be able to facilitate the billions of passenger journeys that happen in the UK each year. Over time, trains have got faster, they’ve tilted, they’ve carried more passengers, they’ve been engineered in new ways. But despite all these advances, the tracks have remained able to accommodate commuters and tourists alike.
It’s the same for high-quality, expertly designed and installed structured cabling infrastructures. They’re still critical – because they enable people to communicate and work – even when they’re doing so in new ways.
In summary then:
Only when a structured cabling system is expertly designed from the outset, can it stand the test of time.
It needs to be designed using the expertise and experience of qualified professionals, who not only understand how it will be used today, but also understand how it will be used in the future as networks and devices evolve. And what’s more, an up-front investment in high-quality products, will also extend the life of any structured cabling system.
So, remember, technology is only as good as the infrastructure behind it, and without high-quality, secure structured cabling, you will never see it perform at its best!
Scenariio specialises in the implementation of cutting-edge technologies to optimise productivity in your workspace and the underpinning infrastructure required to deploy those technologies effectively.
We’re preferred and trusted advisors in the design, supply, and installation of data networks. Our company ethos is caring for our customer’s needs by providing leading products and high-quality service, through integrity and innovation – all delivered by a professional, experienced, and dependable, nationwide team.
Our mission is to make your business more intelligent. The team is passionate about enabling you to understand the advantages of a smart workspace, from sensor-rich networks delivered over structured cabling, to capitalising on the latest developments in the IoT. We aim to improve the way your organisation connects with technology to achieve responsive results, more efficient systems and, ultimately, business growth.
At Scenariio, we deliver smarter solutions for smarter buildings.