Patch panels vs switch

Can someone please help: I'd like to know what a patch panel is and how it is going to help me.

Our office consist of multiple stories with many partitions between rooms on a floor.
A lifetime ago I connect our servers to a series of unmanaged switches. I figure it is an easy way to extnd cable lengths and manage the cables. Just put a switch in each room that connects to a switch on the server room. And if there isnt enough port, simply daisy chain the switches. Then the network became really slow....

So we enlisted the help of a network guy who told me that instead of multiple switches, I need to install a bigger, managed switch in the server room. The cables from each individual clients should all connect directly to the big switch. It does seem to help.

But now we have daisy-chained the big switch (using a trunking of 8 cables between the two managed switch) to allow us more ports for additional clients. In addition to becoming slower, we found that the cables are becoming so messed up and difficult to manage. Every now and then, rats will find a way to damage the cables. Also, the wiring in the server room is becoming more like a jungle.

So this is where my question comes in. I have just recently learned the existence of patch panels. So my questions are:

1. Will patch panels add more hops to the network ? (I was told this is the reason my network was low in the first place).
2. What is the performance difference between using multiple patch panels vs multiple dumb switches?
3. Can I use patch panels to patch panels connection without decreasing speed? (i.e, basically go back to my original dumb switch design but instead use patch panels on every room, and connect the panels to another panel in the server room).
But how is this different from using dumb switches?

But I guess what I really wanted to know is: what is the best practice to using patch panels?
I'm not even sure how it will make the wiring INSIDE the server room more tidy, let alone the whole office.

And by the way... Can you please recommend a good patch panel?

Thank you
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Soulja53 6F 75 6C 6A 61 Commented:
Have you considered using Fiber? It was allow longer distance without the need for patch panels.
Soulja53 6F 75 6C 6A 61 Commented:
Patch panels don't as hops, they just extend terminate cable runs. Usually patch panels will homerun to the jacks out on the floor and  switch ports would plug into the patch panel.
Soulja53 6F 75 6C 6A 61 Commented:
What is the performance difference between using multiple patch panels vs multiple dumb switches?

Patch panels won't decrease or increase performance. They could affect connectivity if you extend a cable run past it's intended length. The downside of daisy chaining dumb switches is that you are adding multiple points of failure, and transmission is only as fast as the slowest switch in the daisy chain.
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SW111Author Commented:
We actually dont have a long distance to go through. But its a maze and if I recall correctly the total length is about 18km now. So I'm not sure fibre is the way to go.
Sorry, I dont underatand the 2nd sentence of your 2nd post. What did you mean by homerun, and can i do patch to patch as if doing switch to switch, only without hops?
Mohammed KhawajaManager - Infrastructure:  Information TechnologyCommented:
Think of a patch panel as a phone jack.  Instead of running a long cable from the Telco termination to each phone, you could run a cable to a jack in the wall.  All a patch panel does is allows you to break a long to multiple partial runs to facilitate for clean cabling.

A patch panel is not going to do anything for performance, etc. but instead helps you break a long cable to sections.  Answers to your questions is listed below:

1. No additional hop is added
2. You should never use a dumb switch to make a cable run longer.  Without a patch panel or a switch, you could use CAT6 couplers which will patch two cables to a make a long cable.  If you are using dumb switches for this matter, patch panel, coupler or a long cable will make things better
3. If you have switches at multiple locations, you should connect them to your main switch with a cable and not cable to switch to cable to switch

Best practice for patch panels is ensure you have a clean wiring infrastructure.  With a panel you can mark which port is connected to which port on what switch and make easier management and administration.

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I don't believe you understand what a switch does versus what a patch panel does.  A patch panel does not add ports like a switch can.  For every port on the patch panel you use you have to have a cable running to your server room.  It won't tidy up your server room.

You could change your allocation to having one managed gigabit switch per floor and it should give you good throughput, it will make for fewer long cable runs when the rats chew wires, and also leave far fewer wires in the server room.

Just a thought.
SW111Author Commented:
Mnkhwaja, I think I may not have phrased my point properly. Allow me to rephrase it:

2. I dont actually need to increase the cable length. I meant to say that I have multiple small rooms in the building. And because of the number of rooms, the cables take many turns and bends. This made us use a lot of cable. Eg: if the distance between the room to the server is actually only 25m in straight line, all the turns will actually make us use 60m of cabling. And that is just for one client. So if in that one room we have 5 clients, we're running 300m (a box) worth of cables. Add the other rooms, the network printers and so on, it all becomes untidy and unmanageable.

So what I wanted to do is:
smart switch to server room patch panels
server room patch panels to patch panel in room A, room B, and so on
patch panel in room A to clients in room A
patch panel in room B to clients in room B
and so on

Notice that I was trying to say that, previously, I tried to do this with dumb switches (replace "patch panels" above with "dumb switches")
But it caused problems with hops.

As kadafitcd mentioned, I'm not familiar with patch panels.
But I'm trying to achieve exactly what he says, but I dont want to take the switches out of the server room, because that is where electricity is "backed up" by a genset (a long story...)
So instead I try to achieve the above.

Btw, I'm using an 8 port trunking between the 2 smart switches. I'm not sure that I can say we're seeing much performance difference... In fact on one of the ciritical server (a filemaker server) I'm using a 10Gb connection to the switch. And this is actually where I get the most complaints from.

So can I conclude that its okay to connect 2 patch panels without decreasing performance or increasing hops? (Switch >>> Patch panel 1>>>>Patch panel 2<<<<clients )

Thank you
A cat V cable run should not be more than 90m in length from device to switch or switch to switch, make sure your 'unmanaged' switch isn't in reality a hub. Hubs can't store and forward so the TOTAL run from server to device is 90m so you can have a 45m run from server to hub and a 45m run from hub to device.  Any distance longer than 90m requires a switch or a repeater or use fiber.  Hopefully your core switches are gigabit ports.  And if you are putting multiple connections between switches in hopes of increasing band width you make sure they support spanning tree - trunk mode your network slow down on unmanaged switches with multiple connections between them may be caused by looping broadcast traffic. A good layout would be switch in server room with uplink to switch on each floor, then from that switch to additional switches on the floor if required.  Each floor should go directly back to server room unless it exceeds the 90m length if that is an issue I'd run fiber to each floor and then CATv from the floor's main switch.  If you are talking lots of devices VLAN for each dept / floor might also help with performance, then you are talking managed switches.
Soulja53 6F 75 6C 6A 61 Commented:
A Hub is a repeater, but I highly doubt the author is using hubs.

As stated in my first comment, consider fiber for distance purposes, and you may want to implement wireless for areas that are causing you a headache to run cabling to.
I'm afraid you're trying to achieve something that won't be saving you much or speeding up your network at all.  Patch panels won't add ports and don't offer any way to speed up your network.  What they will offer is the ability to replace shorter runs if the rats chew the wires.

I think you should be looking at figuring out your main problem between your switches.  You said it was going good until you added the 2nd switch.  So you need to find what is causing the slowness.  Do you have your switches properly configured to use the Trunk of 8 cables?  as tmoore said above
And if you are putting multiple connections between switches in hopes of increasing band width you make sure they support spanning tree - trunk mode your network slow down on unmanaged switches with multiple connections between them may be caused by looping broadcast traffic.
You need to figure this out.

As far as going from one patch panel to another patch panel it's not going to add anything other than shorter cables and I wouldn't suggest it.  It's not like you can splice off the back of the patch panel and split ports like a phone jack.  It will cause huge slowness issues and will be far worse than where you are now.  You should do no more than one patch panel per floor that will handle all the connections on that floor in my opinion.

You may find that as the others have said that Fiber is the way to go.  But it can be costly so it's all up to you.
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