Let’s Get Physical
While a huge fan of Olivia Newton John am I; that is not what this is about.
Today I want to visit with you about networking stuff, in short the physical layer of the OSI model.
Network cable is not wire!
Well technically it is wire, you cannot simply have “Jake the handyman install it!”
More than a few of my many network installations that I have troubleshot for people involved such installations.
Company A calls me out because they have many computers simply dropping off the internet, dropping off the file servers, losing files, e-mails not downloading and the list goes on and on.
The OSI model (open system interconnect) is a hierarchical model representing the sum of how data gets from one point to another.
Layer one or the lowest layer is what I am addressing today because let’s face it, without this, ain’t nothing happening!
Bringing up a protocol analyzer it is obvious that there is trouble in river city!
Not only were there many dropped packets, tons of broadcast packets using the most basic of routing protocols looking for this or that but, there also appeared to be 5250 traffic getting into the data stream! No 5250 emulators in the day, there were separate terminals.
As the company grew the “cheap information officer” did not want to spend money on silly things like “hiring someone that did this for a living so…” he got one or two of his employees to improvise.
They did indeed. In the computer room the cable went up into the ceiling as cat5. At the wall socket to the desktop it was cat 5. Somewhere in the ceiling during the time of expansion someone spliced cat 5 onto cat 3 “electrical tape glob” and then back to cat 5 going to the wall.
I forgot to mention that they also shared a pair for the phone, even after they went to a digital phone system.
It is important to also keep in mind that unless you are using STP or “Shielded Twisted Pair” the cable has to be elevated away from sources of RF, EMI or other types of noise hence, the signal will be effected. It is a good idea to use J hooks anyway, just to keep the cable from getting in the way of future work.
The CIO was still not convinced that he should spend thousands of dollars to replace the mess so he allowed a one off repair for the most affected users. His reasoning was that in the next few years they were going to expand and at this point they would “do it right.” Never mind that screwed up packets from other workstations effected the network as a whole.
Soft dollars meant nothing to him as he was not the one experiencing the pain and if the President of the company complained he just simply blamed the people under him.
To be fair, some of the fault was theirs as they, did make the mess in order to gain favor with this idiotic boss and secondly they did stupid things like used silver satin cables as patch cables right next to each other. Yep the terminal for the AS400 and the computer.
Layer one is the bedrock. Everything must be solid or you are wasting your time.
“I have this huge internet pipe and it is slow to the desktop, look at this!”
Indeed surfing the web was a nightmare.
Another Jake the handyman installed cable along the same paths as the electrical lines, zip tied to fluorescent lights and put switches everywhere at the end points as they got tired of running cable as the company grew.
If that were not bad enough the switches in the computer room were all daisy chained together in the back with fiber and then, someone had patched the switches together up front as well.
A quick look with the protocol analyzer showed routing loops, lost packets and the list of networking nightmares went on and on.
This was an RF technology company so there were live RF transmissions in the building around the UTP or unshielded cable. When expansions were needed the cables were tied together in the wall in much the same fashion as the previously mentioned company.
This company would have been better served to simply go all Wi-Fi with one of the many solution provided by different providers. If you don’t know what you are doing, humble yourself enough to seek help! Mistakes are costly; one of the largest dangers to company’s data today is arrogant, uninformed IT people who think that they know it all and refuse to seek help from a VAR.
In my business of disaster recovery, most of the disasters are self-imposed by “No Toes MgGrew.” Ready-Fire-Aim!
Company C is pretty much indicative of a company that does not want to pay to hire it done so they hire “Jake.” Good ole Jake has a ladder and truck and some tools to fish cables down the wall.
Jake simply bundles the cable up and pulls it from point A to B and wherever it lies it lies. Again using the cheaper UTP he simply pulls it to the final destination and then leaves it where he is told so someone else can come in and terminate it.
The owner “has a friend” who has done this before, somewhere.
Cable plants are the bedrock of your data center and the highway with which all of your data will traverse. Do you want multi-lane highways or alleys?
A word about soft dollars.
In the business world there is such a thing as soft dollars. If your employees are not able to function because of impediments of any kind it cost you money. If there are time deadlines and they are not met because of impediments of any kind, it could cost you customers.
Business today in order to stay competitive must do as much as they can with as little as they can and that means staff, product, and infrastructure and so on.
That means that everything must perform like a Swiss watch.
Not only do policies and procedure need to be in place and proper management of your IT assets but for the rest of the business as well.
The company that waste the least in time and material will be the one that survives over the competition and if publicly traded, the one that has the highest earnings for their stock holders.
Inefficiencies in organizations like, let’s say our government cannot exist in business. Unlike the government who simply prints more money to pay their bills; business cannot.
Whoever your CIO is should not only possess a high degree of technical savvy but, also a high degree of business acumen.
I will spare you the conversation about the differences between cat5 and cat 6 and cat6a and so forth, I am certain that a google search will give you more than you could ever want.
The bottom line is use STP or shielded and use the higher speed rated cable as we have no idea what the future will hold as far as data. This cable must be terminated properly, and that is an art all of its own.
Doing it right the first time may be a little more costly than hiring Jake and ordering cable off of Amazon and switches from New Egg but, the results will be far more satisfactory.
VARS do this every day so they know what to get, and why?
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