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.

 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. 

 

 

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

 

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).

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.