Stop drowning in spaghetti cabling!

by FM Media
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Following our recent successful cover story on cabling chaos in Australian commercial buildings, GAB AGHION from Business Relocation Management offers 10 handy tips to relieve intra-office power and data cabling congestion.

Poor cable management costs companies every day through lost productivity, consultant time to unravel the tangles, compromised network speeds and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) issues, together with poor workplace aesthetics.
With this in mind, consider these ten hints for creating efficient cable management systems to save time and money and create a safer, organised work environment:

1. Find the time to audit the premises and clean house
Keep spares of each cable colour and length and use the right lengths in the comms room and open plan. Run a tight ship; the first wrong cable can quickly degenerate into a horrible tangle of spaghetti cabling.

2. Move wireless routers into the ceiling cavity space
Wireless routers are frequently seen balanced on workstation screens, window ledges and the tops of bookshelves. The signal is effective through ceiling tiles, so create data and power outlets (if required) in the ceiling cavity space and hide the routers out of sight.

3. For fitouts and refurbishments plan with the end goal in mind
Cabling plans created by design consultants should be reviewed for ‘company fit’. Incorporate the comms room requirements, rack and patch panel layout, meeting spaces, audiovisual set-up, open plan and workstation cabling needs early in the design process. When setting the networks up on site ensure the right cabling lengths and colours are sourced and available; start fresh rather than relocating the existing patch leads.
For future growth areas consider running the cabling during the initial fitout works and leaving the cabling hidden in the ceiling grid for easy access when the future workstations arrive.

4. Incorporate cable management into the workstations
Chunkier screen style workstations use power poles and run the cables through channels in the screens, whereas desk-based systems have baskets under the desks and umbilicals to bring the power and data services from the ceiling. The best designed workstations include power and data locations that match the user’s needs – for example, managers with laptops should be able to easily access power and data above the desk instead of kneeling on the floor each morning to plug their computer in; permanent computers should have cabling terminated under the desk so cabling is safely stored out of sight.

5. Retrofit existing workstations
Existing desks and workstations can easily have accessories retrofitted to improve the cable management. Under-desk baskets can be suspended to the underside of most workstations to clean up the under-bench cabling clutter and provide better access for cleaners. Other workstation accessories to consider include cpu holders mounted underneath the desk, umbilicals, blades or power poles to provide services from the ceiling, as well as monitor arms with cabling provision. Also, consider cutting cable holes into the worktops at the right locations.

6. Provide sufficient power and data throughout the premises
Staff use more devices than ever and offices that do not allow for local printers, phone chargers, heaters, etc, will have double adapters and power boards gathering dust in every corner of the workspace and altering the switchboard loading. Insufficient data points mean traffic must be split with network hubs or switches, which increases the data traffic per cabling run.

7. Match the cable management to the meeting room requirements
Static meeting and boardrooms that are seldom reconfigured should have data and power provided to the centre of the room and carried through the centre of the meeting table. If providing services through the floor is not possible, a floor cord cover can safely carry the services to the centre of the room. Small meeting rooms with a side table or ledge provided in the corner means the phone doesn’t end up sitting on the window ledge or floor. Flexible meeting spaces (such as training areas with operable walls, folding tables and stackable chairs) operate best with recessed floor boxes, which unobtrusively provide power and data without creating tripping hazards.

8. Keep the comms room functional, neat and clean
Ensure the comms racks are appropriately sized and have enough access space for maintenance. The network rack patch leads should be colour-coded and kept short. Sufficient power and data can be provided through a raised floor or from above to avoid any tripping hazards. Power and data should also be provided for all comms room services (PABX units, security panels, UPS units). Clear out any furniture or unused equipment (for example, removed doors from rack cabinets should not be leaning against the server room walls). Relocating is a chance to start fresh with a pristine comms room, but, if you are not moving, make the effort to keep the area maintained. Cleaners often don’t have access to the comms room, so allocate supervised time for occasional cleaning and clear outs.

9. Ensure the data cabling provides adequate network traffic speed
Cat 5 (category 5) data cables are generally considered too slow. Cat 5E (E meaning enhanced) is gigabit capable and installed as the minimum in new fitouts. Cat 6 and upwards attracts a premium of 10–20 percent higher installation costs, and is generally viewed as future-proofing your network cabling for future computers and traffic requirements not yet required in the standard workspace. Consider how long you will occupy the space and select the right cabling for your budget and data traffic needs. When looking at cabling speed requirements remember to consider the entire run, including all patch leads, data cabling, computers and switches that will carry the data.

10. Create a numbered data plan
Source a layout plan with numbered voice and data points and keep this updated through future company churn and growth. Set up a system during the fitout (for example, wall sockets have data on the left, voice on the right) and maintain this system whenever future cabling is added to the workspace.

Gab Aghion founded Business Relocation Management (BRM) at the age of 27 after identifying the need for a single point of contact across a company’s relocation project. Nearly ten years on, BRM continues to provide companies with high-quality project management advice spanning the search, fitout and relocation stages. BRM prides itself on providing project owners with access to quality information.

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