The perils of DIY installation

Surprisingly, if you decide to install your network cabling yourself but don’t have the proper knowledge, you will actually save money. This won’t last.

Chances are slim that your network will provide optimal bandwidth to its users from the get-go. Oh, and you’ll probably run into some other major connectivity problems sooner or later as well.

Here are four basic things to remember when setting up network cabling:

  • The problem with piecemeal: The piecemeal approach to networking — in which the number of PCs at a small organization slowly builds and cables and hubs are daisy chained — is a recipe for trouble. The signal quality decreases until eventually those added last will experience a much slower response from the network. This is a definite disadvantage, especially if large files are being saved to a server or shared among users.
  • Don’t interfere: Network cabling can be run under floors, around office dividers, even above certain ceilings, but it’s important to keep it away from power outlets, fluorescent lighting fixtures, uninterruptible power supplies and other sources of strong electromagnetic interference. Keep it away from telephone cables too. You should never run phone and data together on the same cable (even though it’s possible). This, and the other sources of interference, may not kill the signal completely but they will degrade it. The worst thing about such a slowdown is that users will not really know it is happening. This is not only a waste of bandwidth; waiting for the network is also a waste of employee time and your money. “It’s not rocket science, but there are certain things you can do wrong that will really limit your success rates,” says Leslie Babel, president of Oakville, Ont.-based DigitalFire Computing Inc.
  • Plan from the panel out: You may save a lot of money by being disorganized and taking a haphazard approach to cabling rather than using proper techniques, but this is guaranteed to hurt employee efficiency in the end. For example, says Babel, some SMBs try to save money by not buying a patch panel; they just leave a male connector at each end of the cables going from the closet to each user. A patch panel helps you stay organized and identify which cable is going where. Another essential practice is the use of a punch down tool to terminate category 5 wiring to the patch panel and the RJ-45 jacks. Avoiding this step risks a sub-standard connection and poor network performance from that cable.
  • Don’t know? Ask a pro: Finally, if you don’t have people with enough IT knowledge required to set up network cabling on their own, you have two choices: get them the training and advice they require to do the job correctly; or hire a competent, proven value-added reseller or consultant to do it properly for you. You won’t regret either choice.

Leslie Babel is president of Oakville, Ont.-based DigitalFire Computing Inc.

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