Finding the weak link in your cabling

It’s a commonly known fact in the cabling industry that patch cords can be the “weak link” in any end-to-end infrastructure solution. Like anything in life, weak links need to be repaired in order for any solution to work effectively.

Historically, many businesses focused on the cable performance when making decisions on infrastructure. However, as cabling systems have evolved, connectors and patch cords have become significant contributors to deteriorating efficiency. The fine tuning of these high performance components is required to enable reliable, predictable performance every time, needing to be tuned not only to each other, but also variation control techniques.

Patch cords are constructed with flexible cordage and a modular (RJ45) plug at each end. In order to deliver optimal performance, the characteristics of the cordage are carefully matched to the plug, including jacket type, thickness and overall outer diameter. The orientation of the pairs at each end prior to termination, the twist rate, the insulation diameter and the conductor diameter are among many others characteristics that need to be considered when designing a patch cord.

A poorly assembled plug will deliver an inconsistent performance and may even exhibit intermittent continuity – a network manager’s worst nightmare! In some extreme cases, badly assembled plugs have even been known to damage the contact pins in cabling or switch ports, for example when the plug ‘blades’ are loose, too high or out of alignment.

The arrangement of each cable pair inside the plug must also be carefully controlled. This enables system vendors such as CommScope to tune jacks and plugs to achieve optimal performance, above that of the minimum standard requirements.

Using just ‘any patch cord’ in a system may not only degrade performance but may prove to be a costly mistake in the event of a system failure. Any system is only a sum of it’s parts, so ineffective parts can cause many more problems that you might initially expect.

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