It’s always a challenge when managing hundreds or thousands of network connections in a single wiring closet or computer room. In this video, you’ll learn about cable management techniques, patch panels, and punch-down block options.
If you’re working with cabling in a large office, then you’ll notice that there is a well laid out and well-designed way to manage all of these cable connections. Often there will be users at their desks. You can see all of these users out on the floor, and there is a direct cable connection, usually going under the floor or over the ceiling, back to a closet. And in that closet, there’s usually a patch panel. Those wires from the desks are usually punched down into that patch panel using something like a 110 block.
On the other side of that patch panel is commonly an RJ45 connector, and that RJ45 connector allows us to plug in from the user’s desks and extend that connection into switches that we might also have in that same closet. One of the keys with this design is that the wire from the desk will always connect into the 110 block, and once you’ve run that cable and punched it into the patch panel, you generally never need to move that wire again. All the wiring changes occur on the other side of the patch panel.
For example, if you had this last connection on this patch panel and you wanted to move it from one switch to the other, you don’t change any of the wires back to the desk. You simply unplug the connector that was plugging into the top switch and you plug it into the bottom switch. You can then, of course, add other users to that switch out on the floor, but again, you’re not touching any of those runs between the user’s desk and the patch panel.
Patch panels can have RJ45 on one side and punch-down connections on the other, or the patch panel might have punch-down connections on both sides. This allows you to make moves, adds, and changes to the network by plugging into the front of those patch panels, rather than changing any of those wires that go back to the desk. Here’s a better view of this patch panel in use.
The patch panel is here on the bottom and the switch is on the top. This is the run going back to the user’s desk. We’ll simply extend that wire by adding a patch cable between the patch panel, and we’ll plug that patch cable into the switch that’s also on the same rack. Now the user has a connection that has been extended all the way to the switch, and they should be able to use the resources on the network.
We don’t tend to run fiber connections from someone’s desk, generally due to the expense associated with installing fiber, but we will commonly run fiber between floors of a building or between separate buildings themselves. On both sides of that fiber run, we will often install a fiber distribution panel. That’s because we rarely run a single pair of fiber between connections. If we’re going through the cost and expense of running that fiber optic connection, we will generally run more than one fiber at a time.
This distribution panel is designed with these loops on the inside, because there is a maximum bend radius that you have to associate with fiber optics, and you don’t want to bend this fiber too tightly. So when you installed them into this fiber distribution panel, you’ll notice these large loops that are being used in order to prevent any of that bending. You’ll also notice there’s a little bit of extra fiber inside of these loops and distribution panels. That’s because there may be times when that panel needs to be moved. And instead of rerunning the entire fiber connection, you can simply extend that fiber using the slack or additional fiber that you have wrapped up inside of that service loop.
Once you start connecting and using different types of patch panels, you’ll notice that some patch panels are using different blocks to be able to punch down those wires. One of the very early types of common blocks is a 66 block. We very commonly use this for analog voice communication, and if you have a lot of analog telephones in your facility, you may have a lot of 66 blocks that are on the wall with lots of wires plugging in to those blocks. With many of these blocks, you would connect one side of the connection on the left side and the other side of the connection on the right to be able to extend that.
You would plug in the wire into these very tiny connectors using a punch-down tool. You don’t have to have any type of connector, like an RJ45 connector. You simply put the wire right on top of the connector, and you would punch it into the block using that punch-down tool. We don’t generally use 66 blocks any longer. They were usually focused on analog voice, and as we move to digital and high speed ethernet connections, we tend to use 110 blocks.
The 110 block is not a dramatic departure from the 66 block, but it does have a different style of connection on it. But it’s effectively the same type of physical connection. This supports category 5 and category 6 cables, and you would have a punch-down tool that allows you to punch the wire into those 110 block connectors. Usually there is another connector you can put on top of this block that might give you access to an RJ45 connection or additional punch-down connections that you can use to extend the copper connection.
Here’s a close-up of the wires that have been punched into the connectors on the block. You can see the wires still have the insulation around them. You don’t have to remove that insulation. You simply push them into the block and the connectors on the block bite into the insulation, making a solid connection to the copper that’s inside. Here’s another view of a 110 block from the top. This is one side of a patch panel. And you can see all of those individual wires have been punched down, and you can even see the metal that’s used to bite into the insulator and make that solid connection to the copper that’s inside.
If you’re in Europe, you may be using a Krone block. This is a similar type of punch-down block, but it’s one that was specifically made by a company called Krone. You’ll see these used for analog and digital communication, and there’s many different models of Krone blocks that can support different speeds and different types of communication. The Krone block has the same basic function as a 66 block or a 110 block, where you plug the wires in, you have a punch-down tool that completes the connection, and now you’re able to have this modular extension of the copper wire.
Another type of block you might find is a BIX block, or a building industry cross-connect. There have been updates to these BIX standards over the years, and the most modern BIX blocks can support category 6 and better connections, allowing you to run very fast ethernet over a BIX block. Here’s a closer view of that BIX punch-down block, and you can see it’s the same basic function as some of the other blocks, where the wire is inserted into the block, it’s punched down, and the block makes that connection with the copper inside of that wire.