How Well Do You Manage Your Cables?

Laura Viars for blog By Laura Viars, Account Manager, Rackmount Solutions, Inc.

Unfortunately, managing cables in many data centers is an afterthought. Without a plan and guidelines in place, troubleshooting can be tricky at best.

network-rack-225Here’s Some Help

Well-designed patch cable storage managers, which house and cover patch cords between patch panels and devices, are popular. They are not only functional in helping reduce cable sprawl, but they are also bend-radius-compliant and offer cosmetic appeal, as well. Other cable management options include horizontal and vertical wire managers (which can be mounted on the front or rear of your equipment rack or cabinet), cable ladders, a large assortment of cable trays and conduits, and various wire minders (rings that can be mounted on any rack system.

Also very popular are vertical and horizontal lacer bars.  These bars can be mounted on a rack or within a cabinet and have slots through which Velcro enclosures or cable wraps are routed to hole groups of cables.

Always Plan and Look Toward Expansion

If you intend to incorporate more equipment in  the future, ensure your cable management configuration allows for it. Do this by making certain managers (both in-rack cable managers and external trays and ladders or conduits) don’t meet or exceed their fill capacities. Most management options are available in multiple sizes, ensuring a fit with plenty of excess if needed.

Also seek solutions with the flexibility to add new equipment or troubleshoot an existing component. Lean toward reusable options such as Velcro straps in lieu of cable ties and managers that allow easy access to their contents.  Have an idea of when you’re looking to expand and by how much. If you expect rapid and near-term growth, keep cables loosely organized during implementation by cutting down on the bundling and by using managers (D-rings vs. managers with covers) offering easier access.

Do Your Vendor Homework – Check for Experience, Warranties & Other Factors

Cable management affects the data center infrastructure sub-system including airflow and mechanical and electrical distribution.  Therefore, when you look for a vendor, find one with experience that lines up with your business, offers warranties, and understands network configurations to the extent that they guarantee installation and network performance.

Manage Your Cables with Color-Coding and Labeling

  • Visually identifying cables will save you time tracking them down.
  • Use color and labels to identify and organize: cables’ role and function or connection type,  dual-power feeds for redundant power sources.
  • Hint:  Use secure labels that can be seen but difficult to remove.
  • Maintain a spreadsheet that identifies the cables and colors, where cables come from and go, and configurations.

Basic Needs

No matter the size of installation planned, you’ll likely need basic management  items such as vertical managers to bundle cable along the height of the racks/cabinets; horizontal managers to bring the cabling neatly from the drop to the equipment; and Velcro straps to bundle cables as needed.

Test Cables Before Installing – Once installed it’s more difficult to find problems

Heating and Cooling – Overhead racking for network and storage cables will prevent air dams forming under the floor.  Also make sure cables are out of the way of exhaust fans in storage

Key Terms

Cable bend radius – The minimum radius a cable can acceptably bend and still function as intended.

TIA/EIA – The TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association) and EIA (Electronic Industries Alliance) provide best practice guidelines regarding cabling infrastructure.

Other articles by Laura Viars:

Lots of Cables?  There’s a Rack for You!

Cooling Your Data Center

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