Networking

Cable certifier: An essential consulting tool

Erik Eckel believes most consultants will find that a high-quality cable certifier is an indispensable and essential toolkit device.

I admit when I'm wrong. Despite resisting running cable, I've come to see the light. My consultancy's developed a crack infrastructure team because that's ultimately what clients require. Gone are the days of hoping clients possess proper physical networks.

My office completes a minimum of two to three cabling projects a week. No single factor drives the need. Sometimes it's a VoIP upgrade; other times it's a restructuring that's resulting in more staff working from a single location. Office moves and renovations are another leading factor.

Regardless of the reason, it's clear there's much demand for cabling work, yet many technology consultants carry just simple probes and toners. Those network tools no longer cut it. Even a basic continuity tester is not sufficient for technology consultants to carry. Consultants who are increasingly finding themselves installing and terminating Ethernet cabling should consider packing a full-fledged cable certifier, such as a model from Ideal Industries or Byte Brothers (PDF).

Why a cable certifier?

As telecommunications and data networks converge into a single entity, or as interconnected networks traverse carefully architected VLANs and VPNs, there can be no link in subpar physical cabling. In many cases, consultants need to do more than demonstrate to clients that a set of runs are properly terminated and labeled; many clients now require you to provide datasheets demonstrating every cable run has been tested and certified. A capable cable certifier is the only thing you can use to collect testing data and print certification reports.

Features to seek

Not all cable certifiers are created equal. While most cable certifiers test Category 5e and Category 6 standards, some test fiber connections, too. Others possess longer battery life, while a competing brand might boast faster certification test times.

Be sure to review a model's specifications before making a purchase. By selecting a model that meets your organization's needs, you can ensure this critical tool isn't soon replaced by a newer model that offers features you should have considered when making the original purchase. If you have a good relationship with a local cabling parts warehouse, the supplier's staff can likely make recommendations and might even enable a free field try. It doesn't hurt to ask.

Network testing

A better quality cable certifier possesses yet another distinct advantage: Better models, while pushing the purchase price higher, can test existing network traffic. When called to troubleshoot slow network performance, instead of potentially proving dependent upon a laptop and third-party network testing software, you could leverage the cable tester and certifier to track down the source of problematic packets.

Also read: Essentials to take when visiting a data center and 10 essential items for onsite tech jobs

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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