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Terminating cables routed in the wall / drop ceiling - just RJ45 connectors or patch panel?  Pros / Cons of each?

Posted on 2006-07-04
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Last Modified: 2013-12-22
This is (I think) one of those questions where there's no real right or wrong answer.  I think I know some answers, and I want to hear from experts what they think about these (and any other answers I might have not thought of).  I'll give points to all that share their thoughts!

In a small office, I'll pull, a few drops (3 - 7?) of solid cat5e data cable from each PC location to a corner of an office / closet  where the 'server' (typically a win xp pro machine), cable or DSL modem and unmanaged switch / router would be.  At the PCs, I'd terminate the cables to cat 5 keystone jacks in wall mounted faceplates (although, even here, why?) and use a stranded cat5e data cable from that wall mounted faceplate / jack to the PC.

At the closet end, how to terminate them?  

2 ways in general?:

A. crimp a cat5e plug on the end and insert it into the switch and be done with it?

or

B. punch it down into a patch panel and then use a cat 5e stranded jumper cable to go from the patch panel to the switch / router.

some people say that A is more subject to failure - the solid cables can't take as much flexing as stranded.  But in a closet, they will see 0 to no cable movement?  And if you do have to cut back the cable, you may not have enough?
But this way, there is only 1 connector.

In method B, this is more expensive, this has the patch panel receptacle, jumper plug, jumper plug on the other end and then the switch receptacle.  Several more places for corrosion / a bad connection to fail.  each end of the jumper cable and the patch panel is a cable / connector junction to potentially fail.  The cable is secured to the patch panel so it won't move around and fail

being a small business / just a few drops, the need to change things (like in a bigger company closet) is minimal so that isn't a valid argument for a patch panel arrangement like in a bigger company (you aren't doing add / move changes)...

Your thoughts?!

So A is simpler, cheaper, but B looks better typically with higher costs and more connection points?
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Question by:Techsupportwhiz
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skaap2k earned 300 total points
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Having worked in the structured cabling industry for a few years, having your cabling running from a RJ45 Jack to a Patch panel is by far the most organised solution, and can help to preserve your cabling, solid core cabling is prone to breakages through excessive bending over time.. but if it's static in  the wall, and in the cabinet it wont break, you can then use a more durable stranded cable to connect from the PC to the wallsocket, and from the switch to the patchpanel.
Also, by doing that, you arent limited in length of your patch lead from the wall to the PC where the length would be fixed if you didnt do that. (careful you dont exceed your 100m limit!)

Using patch panels etc do mean you have more components, however, most outlets are covered unless there's something in it, and patch panels should be in a  relatively clean enviroment anyway. It might be a extra cost, but it's by far the most flexible solution - and you'd be surprised just how many changes you might make over a single year!

The only benefit of going without patch panels etc is that you'd be able to buy yourself some lunch with what you've managed to save.

Regards,
Rob
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by:Techsupportwhiz
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And too, what type of hardware would you use for 5 or so cables coming into the office?

a 66 block type of device with RJ45s on the side?

something like this:

http://www.showmecables.com/catalog/large/ICMPP012U4.jpg

and the switch would be on a shelf nearby?

or a bracket that holds a 1 U patch panel and 2 U unmanaged switch? something like this, but with 1 row of connectors

http://www.gruber.com/images/ebay/300/wb-panel-white-trans-300.gif

I haven't been able to find a hinged bracket deep enough to handle a switch though. and thoughts?
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by:skaap2k
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a small 9U wall mounted cabinet is possibly your best option otherwise a bracket mounted patch panel like you've seen, and a switch on a shelf underneath!
Dont forget about power!!
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by:Rob Williams
Rob Williams earned 200 total points
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To add to skaap2k's comments:
The number one thing you have to know about network cabling is, it is not like analogue phone cabling, where if you have a connection it works. You can test your CAT5 with a continuity tester and all seems great, but the performance can be drastically reduced by kinks, poor terminations, proximity to electromagnetic noise, etc. All cabling, from PC to switch should be tested and certified with a proper certification tool when complete, such as a Fluke DSP:
http://www.flukenetworks.com/us/Cabling/Copper+Cabling/DSP-4000+Series/Overview.htm
In doing so you will see why you should use patch panels, wall jacks and pre-manufactured patch cords. RJ-45's are not meant to be field terminated, though we all do it when necessary, but they never perform as well as factory made cables. However, patch panels and wall jacks are specifically designed for on-site termination, and if familiar with the rules and techniques, can be done quite successfully. The patch panels and wall jacks offer much better flexibility and manageability, and using this method with patch cables allows for easy replacement of the patch cables which is where the damage almost always occurs.
You should also consider running CAT6 if you have the budget. Though a little more it will keep you future compatible.
You should be able to get a small wall mount rack about 7-8" high that will hold up to 2 switches and a 24 port patch panel. The patch panels are available in 12, 24 or greater, ports for wall mount types or you can buy a blank plate and pop in up to 12 wall jacks if you have only 4 or 5 wires to terminate.
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by:skags442
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i would deffinitlly use a punchdown panal of some sort, it dosnt cost much extra, and could same some headaches
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by:scrathcyboy
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I always prefer to use 1 if the setup is fixed and the only flex you need is the length of cable coming through the wall.  With NO connections, you have a much easier time debugging network problems, it can only be the cat5 end that is the problem, right?  Or the router port, it is simple.

I don't like punchblocks, they are too messy, tight, and too easy to cross circuit.  So instead of 2, get yourself some of these Female ethernet crimp plugs, they look like an oversize telephone wall jack, and they snap into a wall plate easily.  You just crimp the clamp down on the wires, like you would a male end, and they are self-contained and very neat.  The 45 plugs go right into them easily.  Yes this takes more room than a punch block, but if you mount them on the wall or rack, you have a very organized layout that anyone will commend, MUCH easier to debug than a crowded punchblock.
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by:skaap2k
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With all due respect scrathcyboy,

There is no such thing as a fixed setup with regards to computer networking, someone, someday is going to move the desk a little further away, possibly needing a longer cable, and to be quite honest, a office with fixed points in the wall means that you can run ANY service over that wire - ethernet, telephone, PoE, serial, even TV! (yeah, i've done that too), simply by repatching the point on the patch panel, RJ11 connectors fit quite well into a well design RJ45 socket, most are designed for that now too.

As for troubleshooting physical connections, a simple pair tester can show you open circuits, crossed circuits, short circuits, and for those slight more trickier ones, like RobWill says, a fluke tester can tell you exactly WHERE in a cable there is a broken core.
Remember, once all the points have been tested (if you choose to test them), the chances of them suddenly stop working is almost 0. the only trouble you might have is with the patchleads, switch or network cards - thats it - infact, having a structured cable installation is EASIER to troubleshoot.

btw - I've been involved in installing, testing & troubleshooting buildings with over 3000 network points in them.
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by:Rob Williams
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Thanks Techsupportwhiz,
--Rob
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