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5 Key Factors to Keep in Mind While Installing Ethernet Cables

5 Key Factors to Keep in Mind While Installing Ethernet Cables

It’s time to install the Ethernet. That means your network planning should be in a good place, and you’re ready to plug in devices and get things running.

For simple networks, this can be a straightforward task that doesn’t take too long or run up costs. In more complicated networks, even installing Ethernet cables can be an ordeal.

So, set your expectations and plan ahead. Keep in mind these five key factors, and your installation will go better.

The Environment

This is a big idea, but it’s also the most important. You need a clear idea of your working environment before you lay any cable. Even though Ethernet can be easy and straightforward to install, there are easy mistakes to make.

So, the very first aspect of the environment you need to figure out is its size. What are the exact dimensions of your cable runs? What kinds of bends need to be in the runs? These questions are paramount.

As the industry saying goes, the most expensive cable in the world is the one that’s an inch too short.

Beyond dimensions and curves, you also need to think about other environmental factors. What will the temperatures be like? Will there be major vibrations? Are there corrosion concerns?

These are all issues that show up in plenty of professional networking environments, and they influence what kinds of cables you should be using as well as how they should be connected.

Should you be trying to run through the ceiling, floors, or walls? Why? Environmental factors are almost always the answer.

Regulations

Your next most important factor is regulation. Every city, county, and state sets rules on how cables can and cannot be run, and plenty of those rules apply to Ethernet as well.

Take a good, long, hard look at all of those regulations before you get started.

As you do, here are a few things to keep in mind when you check building codes and telecommunication regulations:

  • What does the network do? If it’s used in telecom, you may need to check FCC regulations in addition to building codes.
  • What type of building houses the network? Historic buildings add a lot of extra rules, as an example.
  • Where do you want to run the cables? Cables must be rated for plenum, outdoor, or otherwise.

A few other things to consider with cable regulations include the material makeup, connection form, and shielding.

Material makeup is the most important. For the most part, Ethernet cables are either all copper or made with a mixture of aluminum. Many building regulations prohibit the use of aluminum Ethernet as it can increase fire dangers.

Connection forms and shielding typically only matter when FCC regulations come into play.

All of Your Hardware

If you have ever installed Ethernet before, then you’re off to a good start on hardware checklists. If it’s your first time, then you should look at several hardware checklists to make sure you have everything you need.

In the first section, you considered the environment to ensure you have enough cable and that it’s the right type of cable. At this point, you can add that you want to make sure your cable is fast enough for the work at hand.

But, that’s not the end of the checklist.

Do you have all of the hardware that will attach to your cables? Sometimes, you need to add access points or endpoint devices when installing cable (especially if you’re using PoE cameras, for example). Double-check all of that equipment before you get started.

There are other bits of hardware that also matter. Do you have enough connectors for all of your endpoints? Do you have a crimping kit so you can terminate the cables properly? Do you have a testing kit to make sure everything works?

Simply going through those questions will help you avoid most problems. As long as you take the time to make and review a hardware checklist, you’ll be in good shape for this factor.

Network Design

If you’re installing the Ethernet cables, you may or may not have had input on the design itself. Regardless, you need a working knowledge of the network’s intended design in order to install the cables properly.

Obviously, you need to know where all of the endpoints are at the beginning. This ensures that you do in fact attach cables to all of the devices that need them.

But, this is only part of the larger picture.

Arguably, it’s even more important to understand the long-term design implications. Are you laying out the network to make it easy to add devices in certain areas? Are there plans to expand the network to other parts of the building? Will the building itself be expanded?

You need answers to these questions, even when installing Ethernet cables, and the reason is pretty simple. You can install things in a way that makes upgrades and expansions easy, or you can install things that don't account for the future.

Sometimes, you may want to make it harder to access certain parts of the Ethernet infrastructure simply to better protect them from environmental risks. Clearly, you need to know when this will create problems for the future of the network and when it’s a good practice. That all comes down to network design.

Your Budget

The last item on the list is your budget. In theory, the budget was set and accounted for before you got to the point of laying Ethernet cables, but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. At the very least, budget concerns aren’t always clear at this stage.

Ideally, the budget is set during the design phase. That allows network managers to figure out the cost of hardware, cable, and everything else and ensure that it’s all under budget. In many cases, this isn’t done thoroughly, and you’ll find yourself buying things to finish an installation job.

When that happens, you still need a clear budget, and your best bet is to go ahead and do the planning that was overlooked up to this point. Review the network, take stock of what you have, and to the best of your ability, figure out what you still need. Tally up the costs, and compare those to whatever budget you can access.

Controlling costs isn’t always easy, but it’s always easier to anticipate costs than it is to find extra money when things go wrong.

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