Zone cabling for smart offices - what network pros need to know

Zone cabling for smart offices - what network pros need to know

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As communications technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, modern offices are having to overhaul and update their approach to network infrastructure design in order to keep pace with the accelerating need for always-on connectivity.

Creating a network setup that accommodates the ever-growing number of connected devices in the context of an open-plan office can be a challenging ask for network professionals, but many are finding that zone cabling represents a promising solution to many of their current problems.

How does zone cabling work?
The term "zone cabling" describes an approach to cable architecture that involves running cables from the telecommunications room to consolidation points in the ceiling within specific areas or zones of a building, with every device or system within a specific zone connected at the corresponding consolidation point.

This contrasts with the traditional approach of using structured cabling systems that connect from telecommunications rooms to patch panels, and then to horizontal cables linked to Ethernet ports or other IP devices, and reflects the fact that a wider range of devices than ever before require internet connections in the modern smart office.

Many smart offices go a step further by utilising Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology to power their devices, with Cat6 or Cat6a cabling replacing older coaxial or twisted pair cabling, ensuring that the infrastructure supports PoE wherever it may be needed.

What benefits does zone cabling offer?
Whereas previous cabling approaches often resulted in tangled nests of wires that proved difficult to manage and expand, a zone infrastructure eliminates the need for thousands of individual cables connected to the telecom room, replacing them with an orderly system of connection points with shorter-run cables to devices in each area.

Jason Bautista, technical marketing engineer for network technology provider CommScope, has highlighted a number of potential benefits that this approach provides, noting the ease of maintenance that comes with no longer having to run additional cables through the walls every time a new device needs to be connected.

He also pointed to the fact that this allows shorter, more manageable and more economical cables to to be used, making setup processes quicker and saving companies money on labour and materials. 

How can zone cabling help to future-proof your business?
All of these are benefits that zone cabling can provide right off the bat; however, perhaps the most significant advantage it provides is the fact that it can help an office to account for future needs as well as current ones.

By including around 30 or 48 connections in each consolidation point, businesses can ensure new applications and systems can be added to the network as needs demand, without any need to reorganise the office or fit extra cables. Moreover, the logical, minimalist layout of the cabling architecture will make it easier to manage and upgrade over time as needs demand.

Mr Bautista said: "By adopting zone cabling, a building is prepared to tackle current connectivity needs while making itself ready for the challenges of the future."

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