Structured cabling is the design and installation of a cabling system that will support multiple hardware uses and be suitable for today's needs and those of the future. With a correctly installed system, current and future requirements can be met, and hardware that is added in the future will be supported.

Structured Cabling is defined as building or campus telecommunications cabling infrastructure that consists of a number of standardized smaller elements (structured). A properly designed and installed structure cabling system provides a cabling infrastructure that delivers predictable performance as well as has the flexibility to accommodate moves, additions, and changes; maximizes system availability; provides redundancy; and future proofs the usability of the cabling system.

Structured cabling design and installation is governed by a set of standards that specify wiring data centers, offices, and apartment buildings for data or voice communications using various kinds of cable, most commonly category 5e (Cat 5e), category 6 (Cat 6), and fiber optic cabling and modular connectors. These standards define how to lay the cabling in various topologies in order to meet the needs of the customer, typically using a central patch panel (which is normally 19-inch rack-mounted), from where each modular connection can be used as needed. Each outlet is then patched into a network switch (normally also rack-mounted) for network use or into an IP or PBX (private branch exchange) telephone system patch panel.

The methods we use to complete and maintain cabling installations are relatively standard. The standardization of these installations is necessary because of the need to ensure acceptable system performance from increasingly complex arrangements.

The U.S. cabling industry accepts the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), in conjunction with TIA/EIA, as the responsible organization for providing and maintaining standards and practices within the profession. It has published a series of standards to design, install, and maintain cabling installations. These help to ensure a proper cabling installation.

What Are the Benefits of Adhering to Industry Standards?

  • Consistency of design and installation;
  • Conformance to physical and transmission line requirements;
  • A basis for examining a proposed system expansion and other changes; and
  • Uniform documentation.

The industry standard term for a network installation that serves a relatively small area (such as a structured cabling installation serving a building) is a local area network (LAN). There are also metropolitan area networks (MANs) and wide area networks (WANs). Structured cabling installations typically include: entrance facilities; vertical and horizontal backbone pathways; vertical and horizontal backbone cables; horizontal pathways; horizontal cables; work area outlets; equipment rooms; telecommunications closets; cross-connect facilities; multi-user telecommunications outlet assemblies (MUTOA); transition points; and consolidation points.

What Risks Are Involved If Not Switched to Structured Cabling?

With an unorganized messy cabling infrastructure, mistakes are common like incorrect ports are unplugged or even worse is the messy cabling that gets in the way. Trying to remove a single cable from a large tangled mess can cause stress on the other cables. This stress can lead to network and channel errors in the hardware that are very difficult to trace.

If a point-to-point method is used, the front and potentially the sides of the switch are congested with cabling bulk. This impedes the airflow that the switch needs to operate. This also translates to underfloor cooling; cabling congestion in this space hinders the airflow of the computer room air conditioning (CRAC) unit and can cause cooling issues.