Your structured cabling (Computer Cabling) will allow connectivity of all computer-related and telecoms-related devices – anything that communicates on either a PC, MAC or telephone network.
You will receive a 25 year, or sometimes, a lifetime warranty as well as full test results.
We can install Cat5e, Ca6, Cat6a, Cat7 and fibre.
Computer cabling – deal with the Experts at tecwork
We install high speed Ethernet Structured Cabling (Computer cabling) solutions for lots of businesses and organisations. We also install fibre solutions.
We have been doing so since 1998.
So you can rest assured we know what we are doing.
We deal with new build projects and also existing installations. We can deal with small requests as well as large sites.
This web page will tell you all you need to know about Structured Cabling. Just click on the links below to jump straight in to that topic. You can find more on our blog.
Computer Cabling Basics
A structured cabling system is the most common way of connecting all devices found in a premises into a common cabling system so that they can work as if they were plugged directly into their host network switch or phone system. Basically a way for you to plug everything in regardless of what device it is and it’s location.
So you can connect a PC, MAC, an IP, SIP, digital or analogue phone, a printer, WI-FI access point – basically anything that has an ethernet or RJ45 connection (ie a normal computer cable).
There are several variants of structured cabling and these are very briefly described here in bullet points. They are listed in order of cost/ease to install/latest technology:
- Category 5 – this runs up to 100Mbps and is now obsolete
- Category 5e – runs up to Gb (1,000Mbps – maximum cable run is 100m including patch lead length) – in recent years this has been the most common (and cheapest/easiest to install) variant in SME premises along with Cat6 (below) which is now probably more common in new installations
- Category 6 – this also works at Gb speed at 100m length but performs better that Cat5e. It can also run at 10Gbps at 37-55m cable lengths
- Category 6A – this will run at 10Gbps at 100m cable lengths
- Category 7– this will run at 40Gbps at 50m and 100Gbps at 15m
- Category 8 – this is still in development
For most SME premises, these days you would install Cat6 cabling ideally or even Cat6A although it is more expensive. However, both of these cable types are thick and will not bend around a tight 90 degree corner. If your premises is such that the cables have to be installed in tight routes and round corners, you may have to install Cat5e cabling.
All cables run back to a central point from each socket (we call them outlets) to a patch panel and these are mounted in a communications cabinet like the one shown at the top of this page. Your phone system and network switch along with all other critical equipment is located in this cabinet or in a neighbouring cabinet for example.
Where your cable runs are longer that 90m from the patch panel to the socket, the cable will not perform at industry speeds and to resolve this issue, you would install a more local communications cabinet from which you would run local cables. You could then link the 2 cabinets together either with some Cat6 links or, preferably, fibre links. The industry standards are agreed by various organisations including the ISO.
Hopefully by reading what we have written above, the benefits of this kind of solution are obvious. However, here is a summary:
1 – All devices can be connected into a common network cabling system regardless of the type of device or it’s location
2 – By installing a proper structured cabling system and as long as you use a specialist contractor, you will ensure your computer devices are working at the fastest possible speeds with optimised performance
3 – Also, you should get full test results and a 25 year warranty ensuring your organisation can rely on it’s infrastructure for many years
So a structured cabling is made up of these core components working back from the user desk to the centralised communications cabinet:
- PC, network or phone devicewith ethernet/RJ45/computer cable
- The device connects into the cat5e/6/6a outlet
- From the back of the outlet, a cable is terminated and this runs all the way back to a central patch panel
- The patch panel is mounted in the communications cabinet and from here, the device can be ‘patched’ into it’s phone system, network switch etc
Designing a Structured Cabling solution correctly is critical. The main points to remember are summarised here:
1 – Communications or Server Room – many people make the mistake of not allowing enough space for this area. Whilst the fashion is to move premises based equipment into The Cloud, it is still important to being able to expand and fit things in – who knows what the future holds? Who knows – it may become a different world in the future?
2 – There should be enough good airflow and temperature control so equipment does not overheat. The access to equipment should be controlled by a locked security door and/or access control.
3 – Suitable Fire Safety measures should be taken in the design. Also everything should be designed and planned for ease of access by the correct staff and contractors, ease of administration and so on.
4 – Communication Cabinets should be wide, deep and tall enough with Heavy Duty Castors or Plinths where necessary.
5 – The electrical supply should be on a separate ring main to everything else and provided on a suitable commando socket with sufficient ampage – conventional 13 amp sockets should be also be allowed for.
6 – As eluded to above, cable runs should not be longer than industry standards dictate. So for example, the maximum cable length for Cat5e and Cat6 is 90 metres. If your premises is such that cable runs will be longer than this, then you will need a second or subsequent cabinets with ‘local’ cables with data links between them to link them up.
7 – Communications cabinet should be designed in such a way so the cable management is good. Our normal advice is to install UPS equipment at the bottom, with Active equipment above. Working upwards we would then install telephony switches. In the middle we would place the Structured Cabling patch panels and fibre patch panels to other cabinets. Then near the top we would install network switches.
This is a specialist solution and must be installed correctly. If it isn’t, it may not pass a proper cable test and will not perform to industry standards. Here are a few important things about installation
1 – Cables must be run with care and not damaged (Cat5e is the easiest and most forgiving on this)
2 – Cables must not be bent around a radius that may be too severe (more difficult with Cat6, Cat6A and Cat7 – and of course fibre cable
3- Cables should be run in small bundles and must not be tightly cable tied or tied up so that cable ties damage the sheaths due to the weight of the cable bundle
4 – Cables must be properly separated from power cables and in their own compartment and/or cable tray
5 – Cables should not be trailed on top of ceiling grids or left under comptuuter floors without proper protection and fastenings etc
6 – Cables should be terminated at both ends with less than 13mm of untwisted pairs visible
7 – Cables should be properly terminated and labelled at both outlet and patch panel ends. Under no circumstances should cable have RJ45 plugs crimped manually on the ends! Likewise, you should not make up your own patch leads!
8 – This is not an exhaustive list but you get the picture! This is not electrical wiring
Below are some examples of both good and bad structured cabling installation that we have completed (the good) or come across (the bad!).
In our experience, it pays to use a specialist structured cabling company.
Whilst we don’t like to generalise, we find that quite often, builders, electricians, internal IT people and even computer support companies do not do a good job of installing structured cabling.
We would recommend that you either use a company that only does cabling or choose one that lists it as part of their portfolio and can demonstrate they have the expertise and experience of large numbers of previous projects.
We are one of those companies who have experience – literally 100’s of projects over the last 25 years – big and small.
Question 1 – How long can Cat5e or Cat6 Cables be ?
Answer – 90 metres from the rear of the patch panel to the rear of the outlet. Some people mistakenly say 100m but 100m is correct but only if you assume a fly lead to connect the device at the outlet end is 7m and the patch lead at the patch cabinet is 3m.
Question 2 – Why do need Structured Cabling when I can use Wi-fi?
Answer – there is no substitute for hard wired cable! It is faster and more secure.
Question 3 – I have a new office to fit out. How many sockets per desk shall I allow?
Answer – In the old days it was a minimum of 2 (1 for voice, one for data/pc’s). With IP Telephony you can get away with one but we would always recommend installing 2 anyway as some IP phone systems will not allow unrestricted throughput of data devices and V/Lan tagging. So the answer is still 2 plus extras. We would always recommend cabling for total occupancy as it is more expensive and disruptive to install more in a second phase.
Question 4 – What is the difference between Cat5e and Cat6 and which should I install?
Answer – Both will run at Gbps speeds (1,000Mbps) but Cat6 performs better as the 4 pairs of wires inside the sheath are each contained within their own compartment so there is less interference and cross talk between the wires. Cat5e is pretty malleable and flexible and you can run it in quite tight trunking, around 90 degree bends and so on. Cat6 is much thicker and it cannot be bent and twisted as much and therefore some installations will not allow you to use Cat6 (eg residential type premises). Where you ahave computer floors with reasonable access to the rear of floor boxes and outlets, Cat6 and Cat6A can be used.
Question 5 – What is the difference between a patch cable, fly lead, RJ45 cable, Ethernet Cable, Cat5/Cat5e cable and a Computer Cable?
Answer – Nothing. They are different words for the same thing.
Question 6 – Can I run Cat5e cable outside?
Answer – You can but it will perish eventually and you will need to re-run it. A better option would be external Cat5e/Cat6 cable or external fibre.
Question 7 – What is the difference between STP and UTP cable?
Answer – STP is shielded so is a better option where there are large amounts of equipment that could interfere with the cable in terms of electro-magnetic interference.
Question 8 – What is ‘twisted pair’?
Answer – in a Cat5e cable sheath, there are 4 pairs of coloured wires. They are twisted in a special frequency in order for them to be less affected by interference and cross talk and therefore perform better
Question 9 – Can I make up my own patch leads?
Answer – No! Avoid!
Question 10 – Can I extend or join Cat5e cables?
Answer – You can join patch leads with through couplers as long as the total length if less than 90 metres. Generally it is best to avoid extending cables although, if there is no other choice, this can be done by using special krone strips and junction boxes. Not advisable though unless you have no other option (sometimes is the case!)