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A Cluster of Cables = Bad Network Speeds

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Do you have a computer or other electronic gear that is attached to a rat nest of cables, or alternatively have your cables all bundled nice at neat?  If so then read this post to sidstep common pitfalls.

When I was a student at DeVry University, many years ago, I had a professor who taught me a bit about data communications.  Throughout the past 20 years I have picked up other tidbits of information that is rarely important to an end user of computers and data communications equipment.  As of late I have had the need to draw on those obscure and usually irrelevant teachings to solve a couple of technical issues for my clients.

Issue:  Recently I installed a 100MB ethernet switch at a customer’s business site (replaced a 10MB switch) and found that all computers except one would successfully negotiate a connection.  I tried several different network configuration scenarios on the computer failing the 100MB negotiation.  Manually setting the network card on the computer to 10MB successfully resolved the issue; however I was not satisfied that this was a reasonable solution to permanently fix the issue.

Solution:  I found that the customer had an unusually long network patch cable running from the computer to the wall jack.  In an effort to clean up the cabling in her office my customer had coiled up the excess length of cable and bound it up with a rubber band.  The coiled cable was causing attenuation to deteriorate the signal strength.  Simply uncoiling the network cable solved the negotiation failure issue.

Recommended Cabling Practices
A computer user may or may not pay attention to the cabling mess that often protrudes out of the back end of a computer.  Someone who likes to clean up their cable cluster should follow some basic practices to keep out of trouble.  Even if you don’t clear up the cluster of cables, you should still review your cable cluster for potential issues.

1.  Refrain from coiling computer and network cables.  To make your cable cluster more presentable you   the cables together in a parallel fashion and use zip ties, cable trays, or cable wraps to securely fasten.  Replace long cables with cables that fit the installation.

2.  Limit the use of extender cables.  You may find that you need an extender cable for your monitor cable to reach the PC chassis for optimal viewing comfort.  Wired keyboards and mice are also common devices that may need an extender cable.  If you see any degradation in video quality on the monitor you may need to buy a better insulated VGA or DVI cable, and use a single cable instead of coupling with an extender cable.  If the keyboard or mouse have response delays, you may want to try out a wireless solution or extend with a USB 2.0 hub instead of a PS/2 extender.

3.  Run cables perpendicular to power cords.  When laying out cables near power cords or power lines refrain from running the cables parallel to the power cords.

4.  Avoid using frayed or damaged cables.  Check your cables occasionally for damage, especially in high traffic areas or where damage may occur from vacuum cleaners, chairs, drawers, or other mechanical dangers.

-Mike, SmallBiz Computer Wiz!
MicroNet Technical Solutions
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