How I label network cabling

Recently, I was asked what the best way is to label your cable plant within an office/building/campus environment.  Of course, my answer was, “it depends”.

Scenarios

The first thing I think about is “scalabililty”.  When you come up with your own “scheme” to label your cables, it needs to expand well.  It also needs to handle changes easily, and with the least amount of time to do.  For example, lets say you have 1 wiring closet, and you start labeling your cables starting from 1 (or 001, if your OCD requires you to pad your numbers).  After 3 months, you have 2 racks full and your cable numbers go up to 300, and had to start a new wiring closet on the other end of the building.

Lessons Learned:

  1. It takes time to relabel each port of the patch panels with the new cable number.
  2. You have to remember what cable number you left off at when terminating new cables.
  3. No easy way to find out which wiring closet a jack goes to.
  4. You spend more time labeling, than actually terminating the cables.

You modify your approach to include office and cube names, to make it easier to identify the location of the cable.  You also setup a system, so that each new wiring closet will start with a number.  (i.e. Wiring Closet 1 = 1xx, Wiring Closet 2 = 2xx, etc).  You also start labeling your server cables at the switch ports, to identify which cable goes to which server / switch.

Lessions Learned:

  1. Each wiring closet is limited to 99 cables.  Ooops.
  2. Office changes forced the removal of 3 cubes that were labeled.  1 office is now a conference room.  The location labels no longer are accurate.
  3. After installing a Cisco 6509 with 7 48-port blades, you can’t even see your labels in the big blur of color.  Even the best cable management can’t seperate the cables far enough to see the labels you put on.

Conclusion

Here is how I do it.  My way may not be the best way, but it has worked for me this long.  Here are my stipulations:

  • Don’t label the patch panel.  Too many ports and it wastes too much time.
  • Try and be as generic as possible, while still being accurate.  Using “Server1″ or “Cube2″ is too specific, and can change.
  • Count Patch Panels from top down.  Each Panel that has a “Port 1″ gets a count of “1″. (Had to add this, because some places had 24-, 48-, and 96-port panels, and they didn’t know how to count them).
  • When labeling cables at servers and switchports, bring the label back 3-6 inches from the end.  It will make identifying the cable much easier in dense environments.  But stay consistent.  It is not very aesthetic to see some cables at 3 inches, and some at 6 inches.
  • Use a cable labeler, like Dymo or Brady IDXpert.  IDXpert is my favorite, because it can print on heat shrink tubing (the best for labeling cables), or wrap-around labels.

Here is how I label.

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