Data Centers

RJ-style cable-end patent eliminates random disconnections

RJ-style connectors are normally trouble-free, but finding a loose connection can be a nightmare. Learn how a new patent will help eliminate those nightmares.

 
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 Ethernet RJ-style connectors have a flaw that tends to drive network administrators nuts: They break contact. It's not because someone decided to play tug-of-war using the cable. The plastic locking tab relaxes over time, and the spring arms in the female RJ-style connector are strong enough to push the male connector away, causing one or more of the twisted-pair wires to lose connection.

Whatever the reason, cabling problems are not fun. If it's a cable run to an employee's computer, there will be an irate user. If it's a cable run to a server, there will be many irate users. And of course, the problematic cable run extends from one side of the building to the other, and involves several patch panels because the network admin before you was too lazy to pull a cable run the entire distance.

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 Then there are these gems—RJ connectors with the snag-free protector molded into the cable stress relief. They're great for protecting the locking tab, but the protector exerts downward force on the tab, and that's not what we want.


New patent to the rescue

It appears that John Smith, President of Quality Computer Accessories, Inc., has the same opinion of existing RJ-style connectors and their subtle ability to look connected but aren't. So much so, that Mr. Smith went through the effort to design and patent a new style of cable stress relief that takes care of several problems. His patent, like current snag-proof designs, protects the locking tab from snagging and eventually breaking off.

The ingenious part of US Patent 20130288518 A1 is that with only a slight alteration in design, the snag-free protector now acts as a spring to help keep the locking tab engaged in the female connector by applying tension in the proper direction. 

 

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Image: Google Patents
 

The patent summary is as follows:

"It is a primary objective of the present invention to provide a protective sleeve capable of holding a cable in place efficiently and thereby preventing the cable from swinging."

With just a slight alteration, the just-patented style appears to solve two very real complaints voiced by network administrators and those who lay Ethernet cable.

Secure and key-locked RJ-style connectors

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Image: Black Box Network Services
  Black Box Network Services also has RJ-style connectors that lock in place. One style requires a tool to remove the connector, while another style requires just a two-finger squeeze. In the image of the LockPORT security cable (see left), the connector requiring a removal tool has a red locking mechanism, where the secure connector has the green locking arm. Black Box offers security cables in various lengths and connector combinations (secure/secure, secure/keyed, or keyed/keyed).

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Black Box has a unique gadget called the Secure Port Lock (see right) that network administrators will love. The Port Lock prevents unauthorized use of an Ethernet jack whether that jack belongs to a switch or part of a wall plug in the conference room. A special tool is required to remove the lock.

Final thoughts

Black Box's LockPORT is just one of the available options to keep Ethernet cables correctly inserted in their respective connections. However, these options are more expensive than the newly patented connector, which should cost no more than current snag-free cables. That, plus the improved locking ability, should help the new style find its way into the marketplace.

Do you think Mr. Smith's patented style would eliminate your headaches related to Ethernet RJ-style connectors? Let us know in the discussion.

 

About Michael Kassner

Information is my field...Writing is my passion...Coupling the two is my mission.

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