Network cable management done wrong

Having a nice and tidy server room with a properly organized cable system is something that IT people need to be concious of. Re-organizing hundreds of tangled network cables is not what I would call a pleasing task, but unfortunately, it has to be done. Not only will doing so make troubleshooting network problems easier, but it makes you appear more professional in front of your bosses or clients.

Most server rooms I’ve seen (in small to medium businesses) are a usually built with little or no regard for cable management. I don’t have to tell you that such a situation can quickly transform your life into a troubleshooting nightmare, particularly when it comes to network connectivity problems.

Here are a few pictures of what I would call “Cable Hell”:

   

And now, here’s what your cable-management system should look like:

 

I understand that making extensive changes could cost a lot of money; fortunately, there are some simple ways to make your patch panel look professional and organized.

1- Make a connectivity map. Put down (on paper) the location of all devices running in your environment and assign them a number.

2- Use these numbers to tag each device and their location on your patch panel.

3- Disconnect all network cables going from the patch panel to the switches and re-plug them in an orderly manner. If you can get your hands on colored cables, use a color scheme to categorize devices. ( I.E. Servers could use red cables, printers yellow ones and workstations could use traditional blue ones.)

Voilà! Now if you’ve done things properly, your cable system should not look like a mess. Just don’t ask me to help you organize your desk – you’re on your own on that one.

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44 Responses to Network cable management done wrong

  1. Pingback: Network cable management done wrong « Binary Insanity

  2. Yea – I agree the last two pictures do look neat. But try tracing one of them cables, or having to add/remove to the pile.

    Sorry, but messy cables are actually easier to trace than cables that have plastic fricken clips every 2 inches holding the things in horribly tight.

    Of course decent labels would overcome this problem :)

    • Thats the dumbest argument I have ever heard…. If you do it right the first time, ie label switch ports in the switch, keep a spread sheet, or label the cables, then you wont have to worry about the "plastic fricken clips every 2 inches".

    • What's the point of tracing cables, if you have them labeled or at least listed in a matrix table (Sw port VS Patch panel port). Properly management and change record is what matters. The way your network cables look, reflect the kind of person you are.

  3. Yea – I agree the last two pictures do look neat. But try tracing one of them cables, or having to add/remove to the pile.

    Sorry, but messy cables are actually easier to trace than cables that have plastic fricken clips every 2 inches holding the things in horribly tight.

    Of course decent labels would overcome this problem :)

    • Thats the dumbest argument I have ever heard…. If you do it right the first time, ie label switch ports in the switch, keep a spread sheet, or label the cables, then you wont have to worry about the “plastic fricken clips every 2 inches”.

    • What’s the point of tracing cables, if you have them labeled or at least listed in a matrix table (Sw port VS Patch panel port). Properly management and change record is what matters. The way your network cables look, reflect the kind of person you are.

    • I work for the phone company as an internal installer. We have everything neat and tagged at both ends and it works just fine. I am talking giant rooms of this stuff with co ax, fiber, power, twisted copper all mixed together. It works if you do it right.

  4. That top-middle picture was my favorite – there were modems hanging from their connectors. That is a bit over the top. I can take being a little messy, but to the point where you are stressing connectors…that's another story!

  5. That top-middle picture was my favorite – there were modems hanging from their connectors. That is a bit over the top. I can take being a little messy, but to the point where you are stressing connectors…that’s another story!

  6. Man, oh man, I've seen worse messes than those on TV patch panels.

    Btw.. #2 reminds me of a rack I saw in the server room of a school that shall remain nameless.

    -A

  7. Man, oh man, I’ve seen worse messes than those on TV patch panels.

    Btw.. #2 reminds me of a rack I saw in the server room of a school that shall remain nameless.

    -A

  8. A 'fox and hound' works quite nicely when you're not sure of a cable or if you walk into an unlabeled, undocumented mess.

  9. A ‘fox and hound’ works quite nicely when you’re not sure of a cable or if you walk into an unlabeled, undocumented mess.

  10. You can use new Patch-See cables as well, which have a clear optical cable inside. Basically, attach a light to one end, the other end lights up to show you it's destination. A bit more per cable, but a dream to trace!

    Weldon

  11. You can use new Patch-See cables as well, which have a clear optical cable inside. Basically, attach a light to one end, the other end lights up to show you it’s destination. A bit more per cable, but a dream to trace!

    Weldon

  12. Cable ties! Ugh. "good" illustration no. one seems to be using black velcro ties…OK, they are undoable for rewiring. Cable ties in "good" example two are bad unless you are in some kind of high vibration environment that won't ever need modification or repair.

    Bad because you need dikes or a knife to remove them and they need replacing when the job is finished.

    Better is the green (cheap) plastic coated wire gardening ties that come on a spool with a built-in cutter.

  13. Cable ties! Ugh. “good” illustration no. one seems to be using black velcro ties…OK, they are undoable for rewiring. Cable ties in “good” example two are bad unless you are in some kind of high vibration environment that won’t ever need modification or repair.

    Bad because you need dikes or a knife to remove them and they need replacing when the job is finished.

    Better is the green (cheap) plastic coated wire gardening ties that come on a spool with a built-in cutter.

  14. You should come to Vietnam. The "plastic Fricken Cables" hold the IT industry together nevermind the network cables.

    Double sided tape also helps to hold switches down (or up depending where it is)!

  15. You should come to Vietnam. The “plastic Fricken Cables” hold the IT industry together nevermind the network cables.
    Double sided tape also helps to hold switches down (or up depending where it is)!

  16. My last job had 5 wiring closets and a server room. The server room was decent, but the wiring closets were out of hand. It didn’t help that the closets were shared by two different divisions, one using Ethernet and the other TokenRing. My division was switching everything over to Ethernet when I left. I talked with my boss about getting the overtime approved to fix the wiring closets, preferably at the same time as the other division would have their techs available with overtime (this was a state operation, union job, nothing like being a network admin with a 7am-4pm job!) and getting the cable situation straightened out.

    I would have gone the custom clip-to-length route if we had actually done it with either velcro cable ties or wire ties too. Never got the OK, and then I got married and off to another state.

  17. My last job had 5 wiring closets and a server room. The server room was decent, but the wiring closets were out of hand. It didn't help that the closets were shared by two different divisions, one using Ethernet and the other TokenRing. My division was switching everything over to Ethernet when I left. I talked with my boss about getting the overtime approved to fix the wiring closets, preferably at the same time as the other division would have their techs available with overtime (this was a state operation, union job, nothing like being a network admin with a 7am-4pm job!) and getting the cable situation straightened out.

    I would have gone the custom clip-to-length route if we had actually done it with either velcro cable ties or wire ties too. Never got the OK, and then I got married and off to another state.

  18. This is kinda like what my company's server room looked like when I came here 130 users going from the patch to the switch. Horrible mess, unfortunately it's still not perfect but it's getting there. Extremely hard to get everyone in the department to follow this new neat scheme especially when they're used to dealing with the mess.

  19. This is kinda like what my company’s server room looked like when I came here 130 users going from the patch to the switch. Horrible mess, unfortunately it’s still not perfect but it’s getting there. Extremely hard to get everyone in the department to follow this new neat scheme especially when they’re used to dealing with the mess.

  20. I have installed 2376 HP servers in 2 data centers over a 33 month period. There a total of 4500 servers between these 2 data centers
    Models that I have installed include: DL360, DL380, DL385, DL580, DL585, and C7000

    I have been told that my cabling is a work of art. I am asked why I install the patch cables so neatly. I give them 3 reasons.
    1) It facilitates better air flow. I insist on right-size cables. This keeps the amount of cable in the cable management arm to a minimum which allows hot air from the back of the server to escape better.
    2) Better operation of the cable management arm when extending the server out of the rack for service. One should be able to pull the server out 1000 times and the cabling remains neat and enacted.
    3) It looks good. There is a sense of pride when your multi-million dollar data center looks like a multi-million dollar data center.

    Currently, I am working as an Analyst teaching others how to properly cable servers and teaching them about the vision of having the neatest data center on the planet.

    Dave

  21. I have installed 2376 HP servers in 2 data centers over a 33 month period. There a total of 4500 servers between these 2 data centers

    Models that I have installed include: DL360, DL380, DL385, DL580, DL585, and C7000

    I have been told that my cabling is a work of art. I am asked why I install the patch cables so neatly. I give them 3 reasons.

    1) It facilitates better air flow. I insist on right-size cables. This keeps the amount of cable in the cable management arm to a minimum which allows hot air from the back of the server to escape better.

    2) Better operation of the cable management arm when extending the server out of the rack for service. One should be able to pull the server out 1000 times and the cabling remains neat and enacted.

    3) It looks good. There is a sense of pride when your multi-million dollar data center looks like a multi-million dollar data center.

    Currently, I am working as an Analyst teaching others how to properly cable servers and teaching them about the vision of having the neatest data center on the planet.

    Dave

  22. Regarding #3, "re-plug them in an orderly manner":

    I think this is the most difficult part for most folks. Is there a standard or recognized "best orderly way" or tips for keeping some sort of best practice while organizing cables? Ours was decently organized at first but has recently got a little mucked up. I plan to re-organize, but would like to do it absolutely right this time.