Broadband optimize

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...

8 comments
Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I read the comments about those two words and had flashes back to conversations with SanteeWelding. I can hear him clear as a bell: "No one can know what another is thinking or believes. Assuming so is sheer arrogance."

Siradam255
Siradam255

For my self the cost is just to much... Now if there was a iPhone accessory, that had an accompanied app, for a 200-500 dollar range it would help us iOS users imencely for small time use. Especially since I am a one man operation.

Erik Eckel
Erik Eckel

Kudos is due to my editor for the Takeaway, but I agree "believes" and "most" are best. We complete so many cabling projects, now, that there's no way my office could get by without such devices. Just recently we had several engineers troubleshooting a network issue for several hours that proved due to a looped network connection in an office. The resulting network issues prompted us to first check the routing, DNS, stacked switching and server operations before walking the rather large client site. That's when we found the network loopback. Had we begun by taking a powerful network analysis tablet on site, we'd have tracked down the offending issue within minutes. Over the course of a year supporting multiple enterprise-size clients, such capacity becomes incredibly helpful and pays for itself. But you have to be careful. Tool expenses must be carefully budgeted and justified.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I appreciate the restraint in your takeway, too: "believes" and "most" are much better than "is" and "all". While a device like that might prove handy even for a software development consultant such as I am, it looks from a quick google that they're a bit outside my budget for conveniences. It would be nice to get a comparative review of the most available models, though.

Justin James
Justin James

I worked at a place that had a lot of iPaqs when they first came out, and with the right accessories they did some truly cool things with them (like barcode scanners for inventory). It was a LOT easier to code for Windows Mobile than the old hardware-specific systems. I see something like this as similar. Android is open enough to make it happen, and the APIs will probably let you tap into the USB port. J.Ja