Patch Cable Management: Not Just for Looks

Jun 25, 2015

by Ryan Blundell, president of MTG


Neatness in the network room or data center doesn't just look nice – it’s practical, too. When your equipment and servers are orderly and presentable, you can proudly showcase your technology to clients and employees. More importantly, it will be easier – and faster – to accurately identify connections during troubleshooting or outages.

Neatness behind the panel is easy. As long as an experienced professional contractor does your cabling, neatness in the permanent link portion of the cabling system (behind the panel) should not be an issue. Once the cabling is pulled, supported, neatly routed, bundled in the rack or cabinet, terminated, labeled, and tested, it will rarely be touched again. No worries.  

Neatness in front of the panel can be a challenge. Where neatness most often goes awry in network rooms and data centers is when it comes to the equipment connections (the patch cables).  
Before (left): Excessively long cables are unsightly and hard to work with.

After (right): Managing connections is simplified by selecting and routing patch cables of proper length.

When a network room is first commissioned, connectivity is usually neat and tidy. There is a pride of ownership, photos are taken, tours include the network room, etc. Everyone is happy. Fast forward two or three years and the patch cords are a tangled and inefficient mess. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to avoid this scenario. Just follow three basic rules for good patch cable management.  

#1: Use Appropriate Patch Cord Management Products 

We recommend high capacity wire management products that are durable and functional, thoughtfully positioned to accommodate easier routing and tracing of patch cables. Many products have removable hinged covers, which help with aesthetics.

There are a variety of horizontal and vertical patch cable management products available. When designing the system, it’s important to consider: 

  • How patch cords will be routed 

  • Capacity requirements (including possible growth) 

  • Estimated frequency of changing or adding connections 

#2: Keep Proper Length Patch Cords On Hand 

Patch cords are available in 1-foot increments. Keep an inventory of various lengths on hand. Using a patch cord that is too short or too long for your routing and management strategy is usually where trouble starts. A shelf in the network room with a tote for each length of patch cord has worked well for many of our clients.

With the increased connection density requirements in equipment racks and cabinets, how and where to route the patch cords is a big challenge. Using wire management products helps, as mentioned above, but we are usually talking about a lot of cords. Using a 7- or 10-foot patch cord when a 4-foot patch cord will work creates problems. Do this multiple times and wire management products won’t be enough to conquer the chaos. 

#3: Patching Discipline 

IT staff must agree to make neatness a priority and stick to it. Patching connections is often done in high-pressure situations. It’s very difficult to think about neatness when you are troubleshooting or dealing with an outage. In addition to cable management products and an inventory of patch cords, a unified “patching discipline” is the essential third rule that will keep your network room looking good and make it efficient to maintain.