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Patch Panel Installation: 11 Steps to Installing a Network Patch Panel and Switch

Posted: Jul 2020

Did you know that there were over 30 million small businesses in the USA? This large number of small businesses makes up over 99% of all businesses in North America. Thanks to the economic upturn in recent years, there are more businesses in the USA than ever before.

As businesses upscale, their technology needs change. A single entrepreneur with a laptop may have started the business. However, before long the business requires office space and a network to meet production demands.

If you are considering upscaling your IT infrastructure, what should you expect to include? If you will need a Local Area Network, what does a network switch or a patch panel installation involve?

Before you can install a network, there are a number of important factors that you will need to bear in mind. What environment will the network switch need? How can you secure it?

The answers to these questions will dictate the success and efficiency of your network. This means that the planning phase of your network installation is crucial.

Take a few minutes to find out the scope of this work by reading our inspect article.

A Patch Panel and Network Switch? What is the Difference?

First of all, let’s clarify the difference between two very similar looking pieces of equipment.

A patch panel and network switch serve very different purposes.

A patch panel is a passive device that acts as an accessory to a network switch. It is essentially a tool that allows for the organization of cables before they reach the network switch.

Large networks can require scores of even hundreds of cables to be connected to a switch. This is because, in addition to computers, sensors, security cameras, and other devices are frequently connected to the same network. The patch panel allows engineers to label and organize all these cables. After this, the network (or ethernet) switch receives, processes, and forwards information that devices transmit on the network. Now that we have clarified this, how can we go about installing a network switch? Check out the following 11 steps:

1. Where Should You Install the Network Switch?

Your physical IT infrastructure is a significant investment. If you are installing it in your current facility or planning a move to a new location, your network should be part of your planning well ahead of time. You should look to install the switch in a place you can easily access in the weeks and month after installation. When addressing issues with your network, the switch and server rack will be one of the first locations you will troubleshoot.The location should also have very good ventilation. This is not only to avoid dust and dirt from building up. A cool environment is also conducive to well functioning electronic equipment. The location of the switch should be reasonably central. The maximum length of a functioning Cat5 cable without a repeater is 100 meters. Placing your switch and patch panel within a 100-meter reach of all machines will prevent you from having to install repeaters or a second switch.

2. Ensure Sufficient Power Supply

You will also need to ensure that the location of your network switch is close to sufficient power outlets.Within the same server rack, you may have a number of devices that require DC power. This could also include UPS (uninterrupted power supply) devices to protect your networked items in case of a power outage.

3. Create a Map of Port Locations

Using available schematics of your office building, you should be able to create an accurate map of device locations and the distances between the switch and each device. This will be very helpful in calculating your cable budget and identifying any obvious issues. You can even assign a patch panel port for each device ahead of time. Making these decisions early in the planning stages removes much work during installation. Cabling issues can be simplified further by means of structured cabling solutions. Structured cabling systems are modular cable and switch solutions that provide for your office’s unique needs.Making these decisions ahead of time can ensure fast and problem-free installation of your network equipment.

4. Cable Preparation

Now that you have the map that indicates your switch and patch panel location and the location of your devices, you can begin to plan for your cable needs.You can speed up installation by measuring and preparing cables before installation. Preparing cables of the proper length will prevent you from having too much cable slack that you will need to manage at a later stage. Preparing pre-terminated cables can also save time during installation.You should also be aware of the power needs of the devices attached to your network. Will your switch provide Power over Ethernet? If so you will need cables that provide that functionality.

5. Protect Cables During Patch Panel Installation

A network switch will only be as efficient and successful as the cables that connect to it. Therefore when setting up a switch it is vital to ensure that cables are well cared for.You will want to choose the type of cable that will best suit your needs and budget. When installing CAT5e and CAT6 you should remember that you can only bend the cable a maximum of 4 times the cable diameter. Kinks or otherwise bending of network cables too much will impair its performance. This is not something you want in a new business facility.

6. Install Your Hardware into the Rack

A server rack is designed to help you secure organize and access your network hardware. Many network racks are enclosed, often they have wire mesh doors. This means that you can lock them and prevent unwanted access. However, it will also allow the free movement of air into the area where you store the hardware.You will likely have network and local storage items on the rack. This is despite the proliferation of Cloud storage options in recent years.Once your hardware is in the rack, you are ready to start connecting your data cables.

7. Cable Identification

As time passes, you will need to maintain and perform checks on your network hardware. During installation, it is important to install a cable management system that will help you to identify the one cable you want to examine out of potentially hundreds.The time to do this is during installation when each cable is separate and you can easily label it. What should you keep in mind when labeling cables?As a very basic point, you should label both ends of each cable. Labeling should be consistent. It should follow the same pattern and match port maps. Labels should be professional and legible. If possible a labeling machine should be used. The labeling system and identifying tags should be agreed upon by all who will need to use them in the future. Everyone should be able to understand them

When troubleshooting network switch issues in the future, an engineer should be able to quickly identify the cable in the network port, and easily identify its destination from the port map.

8. Cable Management Systems

The health of the cables connected to your network switch will have an impact on their lifespan. When installing, ensure that you use horizontal and vertical cable management systems to keep them in place.The efficient management of cables will ensure that personnel do not accidentally trip, impact, or otherwise damage stray cables.

9. Connecting Switch and Patch Panel

Thanks to the hard work you put in during previous steps the connecting of your patch cables should be relatively easy. You have created a map of ports and devices, assigned each a port on the patch panel. Ensured the correct length of each cable. Following the decisions that you made when creating your port map, start to connect each patch cable to your patch panel.

10. Detecting Issues

After you have installed your network with-in the rack and connected the cabling, it is time to switch on the power and begin testing.At this point, there are a number of issues that could arise and you will need to overcome. If you see flashing lights such as the packet collision indicator, do not panic. You can resolve these with the aid of the network switch provider and likely its service manual.

11. Network Validation

Network validation is an important final step as it confirms that the network is working satisfactorily and provides a series of benchmarks.These benchmarks indicate that the equipment is working in accordance with design specs. They also provide details as to the performance that users should be able to expect when using this network.If there is an issue with connectivity in the future, engineers will be able to refer to these benchmarks to understand a realistic level of performance from the network and its devices.These are the basic steps in installing a network switch.

Professional Patch Panel Installation and Much More

Network switch and patch panel installation may seem like complex work. However, with good planning, you can quickly and easily ensure that your business has a smooth and efficient local area network.As your business grows, you can add further network switches to ensure that your IT infrastructure is future-proofed and ready for any peak in demand.If you are interested in ensuring the sustained growth of your business by future-proofing your IT systems, then we are here to help.We leverage our years of experience in business and IT to provide solid and trustworthy solutions to our customers. Contact us to see how our services can help you today.

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