Network resilience: Is your infrastructure able to cope with emergencies?

Network resilience: Is your infrastructure able to cope with emergencies?

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Building a resilient network should be a priority for any cabling installer, especially in today's data-driven environment, where reliable connectivity is an essential part of how many firms do business.

But ensuring companies are able to keep trading 24/7 without disruption is only part of the reason why this is important. Even with the best-laid plans, sometimes the unexpected happens, whether it's a power outage or something more serious like a fire that puts people within a building in danger, and building owners and operators need to be able to respond.

In emergencies, having a resilient physical infrastructure is one of the most important safeguards any location can have when it comes to protecting both lives and property, so it's important these situations are considered right from the start of a deployment, however unlikely they may be.

Why your LAN is your first line of defence

In a recent article, global marketing campaigns manager for CommScope Ricardo Diaz noted that the physical infrastructure layer will connect everything a business needs to stay safe, so ensuring this is able to keep functioning whatever the circumstances is vital.

"The diversity of connected devices and systems gives us more tools than ever when it comes to safeguarding lives and property," he explained, noting this is true for almost any emergency a location may face.

For example, in-building wireless can enable anyone who is trapped or endangered to call for help, while connected security cameras can quickly identify and locate intruders, and environmental sensors alert building occupants at the first signs of issues like fire.

Mr Diaz said: "From the structured cabling network to the multiple connected systems - like in-building wireless, building security and lighting - virtually every aspect of your building’s physical layer infrastructure plays a role in protecting lives and property."

However, these systems cannot make a difference unless they are robust enough to endure and withstand the stresses that might be placed on them in an emergency. Therefore, ensuring resilience and effective coverage should be top priorities for any installers when adding physical infrastructure to any building.

Key factors in ensuring resilience

The best way to tackle emergencies is to minimise the risk of them occurring in the first place, and in this regard the enterprise LAN has a key role to play, especially in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT). Security cameras and smoke detectors are now just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to connected devices that can monitor crucial aspects of a building's environment.

Even if they cannot prevent an emergency, keeping them up and running is essential. Many of these will need low-voltage systems in order to function, so laying down Power over Ethernet or powered fibre cabling will be hugely important. CommScope noted that because these draw their power from the switches, which are typically supported by UPS backup batteries, they can continue to serve crucial IoT devices even if a building's main power supply is knocked out.

Installers should also ensure their networks can withstand fire as well as power outages, so it is critical that all parts of a building's physical infrastructure should meet - or ideally exceed - minimum fire safety ratings. Mr Diaz observed these can vary significantly by location, so it is important to be aware of local regulations and applicable industry standards.

Fire ratings for data and audio visual cables vary. Some ratings are based on the cable’s survivability in fire conditions, such as what temperatures it can endure, as well as what kind of chemicals are released when it burns. Other ratings indicate that the cable meets the minimum requirements for use in specific applications.

Finally, it's important not to overlook in-building wireless services, especially when it comes to reaching locations such as lifts, underground parking garages and basements. These places can be difficult for outdoor macro networks to penetrate, which can pose difficulties for emergency services when they are attempting to communicate. 

In-building solutions are therefore increasingly expected to be able to support the frequencies used by first responders, so it's important that installers are aware of what requirements are in place.

These are just some of the key factors that must be taken into account when planning a resilient physical infrastructure layer. Specific requirements may vary from place to place, so it's important to understand what the minimum requirements are, and to go above and beyond whenever possible, to ensure your building is as protected as possible in the event of an emergency.

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