If you’re investigating Ethernet networks as a way to create a more stable and efficient work environment, you may also be wondering about the ins and outs of installation.
Network wiring installation has a few basic steps:
- Create a central hub where the router and networking switch will be located
- Create an outlet near the hub, and another where networked devices will be
- Run the cable through the walls
- Connect the cable at each end
- Fit outlets with faceplates
- Test connection
- Configure devices
But in order to get a network with wiring that is correctly arranged, easy to repair or maintain, and able to scale, there are a few do’s and don’ts to follow in network wiring installation.
What Not To Do In Network Installation
Don’t Run Cable In Unsafe Spaces
When cable runs through a ceiling or wall, it can potentially come into contact with electrical conduits and pipes. It’s important that the Ethernet cables don’t touch ceiling tiles, conduits, and water or gas pipes.
Ethernet cable should also not be run under the floor.
Don’t Bundle Wires Too Tightly
Tight bundles will kink the cables and impair their function, as well as shorten their lifespan. Plus, cables in a tight bundle are harder to access in case of maintenance. Similarly, don’t twist cables or make unnecessary loops.
Don’t Overload Cable Racks
Too many cables in network racks will actually cause overheating problems, so it’s important not to stuff too many into the same rack, and to keep them properly spaced and ventilated.
Don’t Layer Two Types of Cables
Cables like Cat 5, Cat 6, and Cat 7 contain copper wires, while fiber optics contain glass strands. In a network that uses both, it’s important not to layer Cat-type wires above fiber optics, as their weight will literally crush them.
Best Practices in Network Installation
Do Cross Cables At Right Angles
When cables need to cross, make sure they do so at a ninety-degree angle. This minimizes interference or “crosstalk” when data moves through both cables concurrently.
Do Use Labels
Label all cables at their origin point at the network switch, and at their termination at the far faceplate. Individual faceplates should also be labeled for best organization and ease of maintenance down the road. Different colored cables can also be helpful in this regard.
Do Test Cables
It’s helpful to test cables before and during certain points in the installation process in order to make sure that they are functional. Any cables that test as dysfunctional need to be labeled and removed so that they aren’t accidentally installed.
Do Measure Cable Length Carefully
When cutting cable for a network, the best rule is to “measure twice, cut once.” Cable for each run should be cut to fit, with enough room for there to be some slack at each end.
Do Document The Process
Map and diagram the layout of the cables, jacks, and other equipment thoroughly during this installation process. This makes it easy to navigate the wiring system for repairs and maintenance, as well as scale it up later if necessary.
Do Consult With An Expert
Professional network installers will be able to help you figure out what type of network layout your project needs, as well as what hardware and cabling you should choose. In network installation, where the integrity of your network depends on the correctness of its installation, it’s worth it to get professional help.
How to Install Network Cable
Select A Location For Your Server
Essential network devices like the server, modem, switch, and firewall, need a dedicated space of their own. It should be in a fairly private area of the facility, not a public one, and should be centrally located so that it’s easy to run cabling from it to other zones in the facility.
Place Nodes and Measure Cabling
The next step is to find the right locations for the network nodes, or the places where computers and equipment can be plugged into the network.
Then, the different lengths of cabling can be measured based on the distance between the server area and the node.
Select and Collect Necessary Hardware
This hardware includes data plugs, plates, connectors, switches, and cable ties.
Other tools you’ll need for network setup are:
- Punch down tool, for punching down and snipping wire.
- Crimping tool, for joining modular connections.
- Network test tool, capable of testing 8P (RJ45) and 6P (RJ11 and RJ12) connections.
Position Wall Plates and Cut Holes
Before this step, flip the breaker for the building or area to Off to cut power.
The wall plates will cover the nodes where the cables terminate. The best place for wall plates are places that are easy to access, and that avoid other electrical components such as power outlets and light switches.
Run Cable Through Walls
This step is most time-consuming and also needs to be done carefully in order to make sure that none of the infrastructure is damaged. In older buildings with solid walls, it may also involve some cutting.
Once the cable is run through and connected at both ends, you can test the network connection to make sure the cable is active and able to carry data.. This is accomplished using a network testing tool, which uses a series of lights flashing in a particular order to indicate whether the connection is active or not.
Once the network is operational, you can begin adding and configuring servers, routers, and computers.
Hazards of Network Installation
Network installation is not inherently dangerous, but there are some potential hazards that may arise during the installation process to be aware of.
In extreme cases, improper wiring installation can result in house fires when the installation disturbs electrical wiring without taking adequate precautions.
In general, the power to the area where the installation takes place should be cut via the breaker box before the project even begins.
Damage to Walls
Network installation does require cutting holes in walls for faceplates and feeding cabling through the walls in order to connect data ports to the modem. With walls that are mostly hollow, damage is usually avoided; solid walls, however, make installation tricker, and more care needs to be taken in order to maintain structural integrity of the walls while cables are being installed.
Poor Cable Layout
A bad installation will result in a badly functioning network. Poor cable layout or misplaced connections will result in a network that experiences crosstalk, lag, and even downtime. It also leads to premature failure of cables and other hardware. Poor layouts are also notoriously difficult to service, repair, and scale.