The Importance of Cabling Certification / by DataStrait Networks

Fluke Networks Cabling Certification

In a modern corporate environment, a reliable network infrastructure is directly responsible for productivity, service efficiency and expanded services. It would be a grave mistake to suspend testing of the foundation of every network: its copper and fiber cabling.

The most thorough testing for network cabling is certification. Certification proves that a cabling system adheres to rigorous standards for performance and installation quality. Cable certification requires trained technicians and specialized test equipment.

Cabling has been known to cause as many as half of all network failures. By certifying the cable network, failures can be reduced. Here are six financial benefits to cabling certification:

  1. Cable certification is less expensive than cable repair

  2. Product warranties are limited

  3. Cable certification and recertification future-proof the infrastructure

  4. Uncertified cabling = stranded capital

  5. Reducing waste is good policy

1. Cable Certification is Less Expensive than Repair

Certifying copper and fiber cabling prevents problems. Certification is insurance against future problems. Without cable certification, repairs must be made on a live network or worse, on a network suffering an outage.

Network downtime extracts a painful price in lost revenue, lost productivity, diminished customer service and competitive disadvantage. The Contingency Planning Group performed a study that estimated the cost of an hour of enterprise network downtime between $14,500 and $6,500,000, depending on the industry. The Gartner Group estimated that an hour of enterprise network downtime costs $300,000 per hour, on average.

If an enterprise is challenged to improve its annual uptime from 99.9% to 99.99%, it needs to reduce downtime by eight hours. Using the Gartner Group’s conservative estimate of downtime cost, this saves an enterprise hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

There are many causes of downtime. A Gartner/Dataquest study pointed the finger at human error and application failure 80% of the time. But if the network represents just 20% of the cause, it accounts for $67,000 of the exposure.

Contrast this to the cost of certification. A network with 600 Cat 6 copper lines undergoes certification testing. A realistic assumption is that 5% of the links fail the initial test and must be repaired and retested. Using a Fluke Networks cable certifier, the entire process of cable certification will take approximately 11 staff-hours. At a commercial rate of $65 per hour, the expense is less than $750.

$750 for insurance to achieve $67,000 in savings: even more if the network supports a high-value business operation such as credit card, retail or brokerage transactions. The case is certification is self-evident.

2. Product Warranties Are Limited

A network owner may be tempted to roll the dice in tough times and use a manufacturer’s warranty as a security blanket. This approach is understandable because most cable and connector manufacturers offer excellent warranties and they stand behind their products. These manufacturers cannot, though, warranty final installation.

The quality of a cable installation lies mainly in the hands of the installers. If installation craftsmanship is poor, even excellent products fail. The failures and the attendant hardships are outside the scope of a hardware warranty, so the network owner and the installer must negotiate remediation.

The only way to assure that installer quality meets standards is through certification testing. The only way to guarantee that best practices are followed is by certification testing. Certification gives the network owner protection against unanticipated costs. When the economics winds blow ill, protection is welcome.

3. Certification and Recertification Will Future-proof the Infrastructure

A re-certified cabling plant may prove to support higher-speed traffic that is deployed years after the initial cable installation. Support for higher speeds is increasingly essential. According to a survey of data centers by the research firm BSRIA, multi-gigabit technology is now commonplace:

 According to a survey of data centers by the research firm BSRIA, multi-gigabit technology is now commonplace

According to a survey of data centers by the research firm BSRIA, multi-gigabit technology is now commonplace

Category 6 copper cable was designed to support 1-Gigabit per second data rate. Recent field certification tests indicate that a good deal of the Cat 6 cable used in data centers complies with the 10GBASE-T standard and can support 10-Gigabit service over short to moderate distances. If you recertify the Cat 6 cable in your data center, you may find an efficient path to a 10X throughput, avoiding some or all of the cost of replacing the cable. Moreover, when demand for IT services rebounds the recertified cable plant is poised to support new equipment and expanded services.

4. Uncertified Cabling = Stranded Capital

It is a fact: building tenancy has churn. When a new occupant enters a building, the state of its cabling presents a series of questions. How old is the building and the network infrastructure? Is the cable operational? What was the network used for? When was the cable last used? A new tenant may view the mass of copper and/or fiber as a mystery, not an asset.

Certifying 200 lines of cabling will cost less than $500 at most commercial rates. Installing 200 new lines of new Cat 6 cable will cost $5,000-$10,000. The choice for the landlord is easy.

Certification is life extension for a cable plant. It is capital saved for building owners and tenants. Lack of cable certification turns legacy cabling into stranded capital: money spent that cannot be recovered.

5. Reducing Waste is Good Policy

The widely adopted National Electrical Code (NEC 2002) requires the removal of abandoned cable that is not designated for future use. Without cabling certification, the cost legacy cable may well include the cost of cable removal, the cost of cable recycling and/or the environmental impact of disposal.

It is sound business policy to maximize use of existing copper and fiber cable. When properly maintained it has a long lifespan. With corporations demanding greater efficiency from their networks, it makes sense to use cabling certification to implement the three canons of environmental management. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

6. Buyer Beware

An unsettling trend in the cable industry relates to “no-name” Cat 5, 6, and 6A product. This cable is often made outside the United States and is less expensive than a comparable product from major manufacturers. Unfortunately, much of this inexpensive cable is constructed from inferior materials using questionable manufacturing processes.

In 2008 the Communications Cable & Connectivity Association tested nine brands of no-name cables, all of which were rated for use in risers or plenum spaces. Not one met the physical requirements defined in TIA 568-B.2. Only five meet the electrical test requirements defined in TIA 568-B.2, and one met the safety requirements established by UL 1666 and NFPA 262. How is such poor cable reaching the market? It can because safety agencies perform random tests at the point of manufacture, not in the field. The chasm in the quality process leaves end-users exposed to safety and performance risks that are entirely avoidable.

To ensure that there are no costs or risks hidden in inexpensive Cat 5, 6, and 6A cable, enterprises and cable installers should certify cable per industry standards.

Conclusion: Certified Cabling Has More Value

Cabling that is certified has far more value than cabling that is uncertified. The amount of the additional value depends on the application and the enterprise. Consider the pitfalls of uncertified cabling. Consider the trade-off between testing and “hoping for the best.” Hope is rarely a good strategy, and in an ever-changing economy, it is a dangerous one