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I have worked a few different places, each one with a different solution, so I would like to hear your suggestions and ideas.

I am looking at a situation with multiple server-rooms. We have a mixture of copper (both ethernet and telephone), multi-mode fibre and single-mode fibre. We have all types of connectors: RJ-11, RJ-45, LC, SC, FC, SMA and several I probably forgot about. We have a lot of people working in the area, and keeping track of cables is turning into a full time job.

So, here are a the questions:

  • What types and lengths of cable do you keep in stock on site?
  • Do you make your own or buy pre-made?
  • Adapters? Dampeners?
  • How do you manage cable inventory?
  • How do you label the cables?
  • Any other tricks to stop this from driving me crazy?
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6 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The type / number and length is going to be affected by what you tend to use a lot -- if everything's cabled up to a switch (or patch panel) in that same rack, you're going to stock shorter cables than if everything has to run to a dedicated network rack. I do always try to keep a couple of insanely long cables (that can go across the room with some slack) for those times when you just need to put something in temporarily.

Labeling's only useful if you have tight control over the people allowed to run cables -- someone goes and recycles a cable without cutting the old labels off of it, and you're screwed ... I tend to trace out the cables by hand.

As for inventory management -- it probably depends if you're the only person, or have a large team; when I worked at a university, with nine people in our office, and you'd go to get a (whatever), and there'd be none left, it would really piss me off. (If it was cables, I could borrow something from the networking or windows admins, but for cards and sun-specific stuff, we were screwed). I had suggested something that I saw in a hospital room -- a checklist of 'this cabinet should be stocked with ...', and have someone responsible for checking it each week, and making sure there's enough of everything in there.

We just had cabinets sorted by general type (network cables, disks & scsi cables, power cables & power supplies, console adaptors / network cards / everything else)

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  • Buy pre-made - you get a decent price if you dont buy on the shop around the corner, and it is not worth the effort.
  • inventory management - mostly not at all. Box with cables of different lengths. DO NOT FORGET POWER CABLES - sometimes they turn sour, too.
  • Adapters: yes, some - not a lot, tough. Dont use many at all these days, as most motherboards have enough.
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To answer this point :How do you manage cable inventory?

Musicians use these...but I saw a friend using them in his network closet ...Great for organzing Ethernet cables by length, USB cords...anything really.. very useful

alt text

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Where would you buy one? –  Warner Mar 15 '10 at 13:33
    
There's a link in my post above ... goes to Amazon... They are made by a company called Raxxess I believe...You can also get them at places like Guitar Center.... –  CaseyIT Mar 15 '10 at 14:02
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What types and lengths of cable do you keep in stock on site?

We keep a variety of cables in different bins depending on type. Cat 5 in one bin, power cords in another, and USB / other cables in a third.

Do you make your own or buy pre-made?

We buy pre-made cables, but have a reel of cat 5 for areas where our pre-mades dont work and we need it done today.

Adapters? Dampeners?

I have a box of various adapters.

How do you manage cable inventory?

Small shop with me and my boss, but mostly me in charge of cables, so no need. Just order more when I am running low.

How do you label the cables?

Some of our patch cables are labeled on both ends with data jack number, but not all. This will be fixed when we move in the next few months.

Any other tricks to stop this from driving me crazy?

I don't use zip ties on cables and use hook & loop to keep them together. In the bins / boxes I just wrap them up around them selves.

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At my place, we keep our cables in labeled boxes - motherboard boxes to be precise, we had a lot of them around after a large upgrade, and since they fit nicely in a free cabinet we started keeping them there. The boxes are big enough to keep a reasonable amount of (properly tied) cables, but not large enough to be cumbersome. We used to keep them tied with zip ties, but it became clear soon that technicians couldn't be bottered with putting another tie after using the cable, so now we use twist ties (hint: doesn't work either, so don't bother).

Pre-made cable has proven to be a blessing - that said, you should keep some extra connectors and a crimper (or any kind of plier your connector needs), because... well, just because - not having one when you need it sucks. About the lengths, for instance, when it comes to ethernet cable we keep three lengths: (really) short, for switches and computers located really close to the wall; medium, for ip phones, and (really) long, for... well, so far we used only one, but we have some anyway.

Finally, about the inventory part, we don't keep any - while is true our cable management will never get an ISO certification, we found it easier to treat cable as supplies: take as much as you need.

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Ideally, I'd like 1m, 3m and 5m pre-fabricated Ethernet copper cables. Also some cross-over cables, though you'd normally only need a few of each. One or two rolls of twisted pair cable, connectors and some tools, for when you need a bespoke cable.

As far as fibre goes, you'll probably want some couplers and whatever lengths are handy for your situation (I've mostly been fine with 3m, 15m and 25m fibre lengths, as they almost always was from one rack to the next, along a row or a few rows down the data centre).

Ideally, I prefer having a few straight RJ-45 couplers at hand, invaluable for trouble-shooting and for (temporary) cable extensions, but should never be left in production, as they introduce a short bit of non-twisted cabling.

The only cable inventory I've had need for is for installed cables. For un-installed stock, it's always been sufficient to eyeball the stores once in a while and buy more cables if you seem to be short on any specific length.

If you can get labeling discipline among all who work with your cabling, I'd suggest labeling each cable end with "this end plugs in" and "other end plugs in". It does require a bit of discipline, but I've found that the time saved in fixing faults is well worth the extra minutes it takes on install.

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