I am in the very early stages of planning a network cabling upgrade in our office, mainly to upgrade the old cables from Cat5 to either 5e or 6. I am also planning on upgrading all of our 10/100 switches to 10/100/1000 switches.

I would like to have three small wall mounted cabinets spread around the building, each with a patch panel and switch. These would all lead back to our server room.

The question is; should I have two patch panels in each wall cabinet, one with 24 or 48 ports that are connected to a matching patch panel in the server room. The second patch panel would then link to each device in that cabinets area. Then I wouldn't put a switch in the small cabinets. All switching would be done in the server room. Or, should I have one main cable from the server room to each of the cabinets - plugged straight into the switch and the patch panel is for devices in the cabinets area?

I hope that makes sense!

  • 1
    how far away from the server room would each of the patch panels be?
    – Zypher
    Nov 23, 2011 at 22:24
  • Well, two would be one the same floor but at least five rooms away. The second is on the floor above right at the other end of the building.
    – dannymcc
    Nov 23, 2011 at 22:26
  • 9
    A 'floor', and 'room' are not standardized units of measure. Can you give us an estimate in meters about the distance the cables would go?
    – Zoredache
    Nov 23, 2011 at 23:50
  • If you are replacing cables anyway, fiber might be an option, at least for the "backbone" connections. Nov 24, 2011 at 9:49

4 Answers 4


If you're able, just bring all the wiring back to a central location (a "main distribution frame", or MDF). The typical reason you wouldn't be able to do this would be because of distance limitations between the MDF and the client. It sounds like that might not be a factor for you. You might also have a concern that the building could be split up into different suites later and you might want separate wiring closets ("independent distribution frames", or IDFs) to that end.

If you don't have a reason to split the wiring up into multiple cabinets, though, don't do it! That's just adding complexity. You're also potentially adding a bottleneck between the IDF and the rest of the network. You also have to consider physical security, power protection, and cooling in all the IDFs, too, potentially. A single switch or "stack" of switches in one location is typically easier to deal with in the long run (single locked door/cabinet, UPS, etc). Keeping the traffic in a single switch or switch stack is the least likely way to create bottlenecks, as well.

Typically you would not just patch the copper runs from the IDF-to-client into an IDF-to-MDF copper run. If you can do that then that implies the run length from the client-to-MDF is below the maximum for your networking technology (typically 100 meters, since most people are using Ethernet today) and there's no reason to even have the IDF!

If you do have to have IDFs because of distance limitations between the client and the MDF then the typical methodology is to run a group of "trunk" cables (either copper or fiber) between the IDF and the MDF. The switch in the IDF (typically called an "edge switch") connects to the wiring runs to the clients and one or more ports on that switch connect back to the MDF (typically called "uplinks"). It may make sense, depending on the bandwidth needs for the clients in the IDF to communicate with resources at the MDF or in other IDFs, to "bond" multiple connections from the IDF to the MDF or to use a higher bandwidth uplink technology (like 10G Ethernet for uplinks to IDFs with 10/100/1000 edge switches).

Sometimes IDFs are used because of a perceived savings on cabling expense (by using less physical wire). These savings need to be offset by the increased complexity of having a switch in the IDF and the potential bottleneck of the uplink port in the IDF becoming saturated with traffic from clients communicating outside the IDF.


I'm going to provide an answer (of sorts) counter to the other answers here:

10/100/1000 Ethernet will run happily on Cat5 cable so I'm going to ask: Why are you replacing your current cable? Cat5e and/or Cat6 do nothing for you in regards to 10GbE so when you make that jump you'll need to replace all of this proposed new cabling with new cabling... again.

My suggestion would be to not replace your current cabling unless there are specific problems that you've identified that will be resolved with new cabling. Wait to do a cable replacement until you're ready to move to 10GbE.

  • 1
    +1 - Gigabit Ethernet does run just fine on Category 5 cable, provided the cable and terminations actually meet the spec. Don't replace cable unnecessarily. Nov 24, 2011 at 0:48
  • Running Gigabit Ethernet over a long Cat5 cable with 4 connectors is, from what I gather, somewhat stretching the spec. Nov 24, 2011 at 9:47
  • If I am not replacing the cables then I wouldn't move our switches etc. into the server room. As is stands almost all of our switches and patch panels (or MDF) are in a room upstairs. We have servers etc. in our new server room. I wanted to consolidate everything into the dedicated room for obvious reasons. It looks like I will be leaving the patch panels in the original location and then running double the cables I need to the new server room. The reason being - if I am not replacing the cabling then all existing cables go to the original network cabinet.
    – dannymcc
    Nov 24, 2011 at 9:56

@Evan Anderson's answer has most of what you need. A few additions.

There's really no reason to spread out your patch panel locations unless you have a specific requirement to do so (such as subdividing the floor and renting to separate tenets). Keeping everything in one location drastically simplifies things. In my experience, it almost always preferable to home run your stuff back to a central cabinet.

The other thing I really wanted to add is to over-provision! If you (or a contractor) are rewiring provision for the future. We often spec out twice as many network drops in a room than the requirements originally qualify for. And almost always we end up filling them in a few years.

I'm not sure how you do your phones but here's another neat trick. If your phone company can relocate their demarcation area to your new network closet, have them terminate their phone lines in 8P8C connectors (i.e., RJ-45s). Then all you have to do to relocate someone's phone is just patch from the telco's panel to the appropriate wall jack. As a bonus, if you ever go to a VOIP phone system in the future you won't have to pull new cable. This will of course require cooperation between your phone service provided, your cabling contractor and you, but it is well worth the effort as it greatly simplifies dealing with phone service.

  • Yeah I completely agree with your over-provision, I have only been here for around 1 year and have already had to run at least 20 new cables to existing locations.
    – dannymcc
    Nov 24, 2011 at 9:58

You can do many builds.

Best option is to have 1 switch in any cabinet with 2-4 bond/lacp uplinks in order to avoid long cables and distances(Long distance = less signal). This option has the less cables since you need only 1 cable of 25pairs to make the uplink and not 1 for each patch. But... you will only distribute LAN or Telepone too ?

Each Wall Clip has to be ended in your pach panel and splited to lan/phone

Forgive me for my bad bad bad english :(

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.