Structured Cabling: Basics & Benefits

Even if you’ve never given structured cabling a moment’s thought before, you probably rely on it every day. Visit almost any modern facility — be it an apartment complex, data center, large office, multi-use building, or sometimes homes and residential construction — and there, behind the walls, is a network of cables and wiring working behind the scenes to keep communications going.

Structured cabling systems support a building’s phone lines and telecommunications. They transfer data across computer systems. They connect individual rooms and offices to fiber optic networks. They make audiovisual communication possible. And they do it all with fewer interruptions and less downtime than an ad hoc network. Structured cabling is so vital to seamless communication and networking, in fact, that it’s been called  In short, it’s the most important networking tool you’ve never heard of.

So why is a structured cabling installation so critical to your business’s operations? And how does a structured cabling installation work, anyhow? Well, that will take a little bit longer to explain. Sit back, relax and let us take you on a tour through the basics of structured cabling networks.

A Brief Overview of the History of Networks

To really understand structured cabling, you need to know a little bit about the history of communications — and some predictions for its future, too. You can skip the origins of the printing press and all that, though. What we’re interested in are the first internet telecommunications networks. This part you probably already know. As the internet grew to mainstream prominence in the early 90s or so, hosting communications over telephone lines started to become too sluggish and onerous. Enter cabled networks like ethernet. Wired to a single campus or building site, these networks allowed for faster communication and internet connection in large commercial buildings.

And as more business operations went online, wiring needed to grow even more sophisticated to accommodate hosting, uploading and downloading, and other high-speed communication. Meanwhile, we all know that modern business isn’t conducted in a single office, so business leaders needed more advanced networks that were robust enough to support modern enterprise. At the same time, these older networks had no industry-wide protocol, making them hard to scale up as operations grew.

That’s when the  stepped in and introduced the TIA standards for wiring structured cabling systems. These standards encouraged network conformity across industries and made it easier to expand as businesses blossomed. It also ensured that buildings were networked with the most efficient and faultless organization.

And now, with smart devices beginning to make their entrance onto the scene, more advanced wiring systems are even more crucial to day-to-day operations. Structured cabling installations are emerging as the groundwork that will see today’s businesses through to the future, supporting the eventual development of smart businesses and networked interiors.

Structured Cabling: Its Strength Is in the Sum of Its Parts

Cardiovascular, endocrine, digestive. Engine, drivetrain, braking system. All the best machines in the world are divided into individual units that oversee different functions. Similarly, structured cabling works because networks are organized into manageable subsystems. Organizing networks this way ensures a consistent design — meaning that fewer flaws and inefficiencies will be introduced. It also offers a basis for system expansion in the future.

Specifically, structured cabling systems typically fall into six subsystems.

  • Entrance facilities. This is where the telephone wiring or internet access provider connects to the business’s network.
  • Equipment rooms. Large networks have this environmentally controlled room that houses wiring equipment and consolidation points.
  • Backbone cabling. These systems facilitate communications between the equipment rooms and entrance facilities.
  • Horizontal cabling. This cabling connects telecommunications rooms to individual outlets and work areas on each floor.
  • Telecommunications rooms. These connect between the backbone cabling and horizontal cabling.
  • Work-area components. This hardware and cabling connects end-user equipment to outlets, dialing them into the network.

Every Building’s Structured Cabling Design Is Unique

Structured cabling designs are as individual as fingerprints. In fact, every site has its own unique set of challenges that govern its cabling installation. Although each setup features the six basic areas mentioned above, how that design takes shape inside a building or a collection of buildings depends on a couple different factors.

Here at Taylored, for instance, our installers work with customers to adapt the design so it fits the site’s architecture and the network’s purpose. They reconfigure it to suit the types of end-use equipment destined for that space. They also take into account specific requirements suggested by customers as well as the manufacturer’s guidelines and warranties for each product. And they leave room for future growth and expansion. In the end, each site has a unique cabled network designed to take its business into the future — wherever that future may lead.

What’s in It for You?: The Benefits of Structured Cabling Systems

Aside from leaving room for expansion, what are some of the other benefits of structured cabling? The design consistency reduces management oversight. Any certified structured cabling installer can come in, any time in the future, and make adjustments to your network. They’ll know where to start and understand implicitly the basic configuration of your system. That means you’ll also have uniform documentation. If you’ve been in business for a while, you understand the important role documentation plays in passing down proprietary knowledge. It’s the same way with your networks.

But uniform configuration also translates directly to productivity. Faulty cabling and inefficient connectivity are the leading causes of downtime across commercial networks. Cabling planning typically represents a mere 5% of your company’s infrastructure costs, but it adds up to a whole lot of rescued output and invigorated potential for your operations.

Of course, even on the best networks, outages occur from time to time; but a professionally planned structured network saves IT time in diagnosing the problem. They know exactly where to go and can implement a standard procedure for troubleshooting. Overall, that can lead to a happier and high-producing employee base.

Achieving Better Results with Consistent Standards

Consistency is a great goal—but how is that kind of cohesion achieved? To drill down into those details, we first need to introduce you to the Building Industry Consulting Service International, or BICSI. BICSI is an internationally-respected professional association that governs structured cabling requirements. Information and telecommunications technology professionals like ours use the BICSI’s International Standards Program as a best practices guideline when we design and install cabled networking systems. Employing their standards helps us ensure that each installation is performed in accordance with international specifications. And it guarantees that we know how to integrate the latest and greatest technologies and methods.

How do we know our installers follow their guidelines? Training and more training! We have several technicians on the Taylored team that are BICSI certified, and two engineers who hold a Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) certification. The RCDD certificate is an acknowledgement of an ITC professional’s excellence and dedication to their field. Their program integrates standards set forth by the BICSI and TIA, as well as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) In fact, it’s such a highly-revered standard that it’s often required by state boards and private corporations before even initiating a building design program. When professional know-how meets industry best practices, the result is a network you can count on.

Structured Cabling’s Role in the Buildings of Tomorrow

Now you understand why structured cabling makes sense for today’s industries. But how can it better prepare your business for your needs tomorrow? Ever since that pivotal moment in 2014 when the number of devices eclipsed the number of people on the internet, the fate of communication was clear: The future is automated. You see this today in the emergence of smart homes outfitted with automated devices, but it’s not just residential homes that will feel the impact of the internet of things.

In the years to come, by all predictions, IoT technology will shape all kinds of industries: It will make more refined marketing and sales possible by harvesting big data. It will open up all sorts of new retail avenues and sales channels. It will make inventory tracking second nature. It will revolutionize industrial processes. And it will be a windfall for productivity, efficiency and connectivity.

Just like the change that happened in the 90s, communication is undergoing a transition — and that means businesses will need even more high-speed, flexible and organized networks in order to stay competitive. Yesterday’s ad hoc systems just won’t cut it. The real key to structured cabling is that it positions your business to take on the challenges of an emerging era of telecommunications. And you thought it was just a fancy word for some wiring!