Data Network Connections

One of the most stressful times for a business is when a sudden failure in data connectivity results in lost revenue and customer dissatisfaction. But why does such failure occur? The phrase “cables and connectors” is often repeated in network-engineering circles because faulty cables and connectors are the two most common reasons for connectivity loss in computer networks and systems.

Common Connector Types

There are several main types of copper and fiber-optic cable connectors, though the complete list of of connectors is quite extensive:

  • RJ45 (Registered Jack 45): an eight-pin, eight-position plug or jack usually used to connect computers to Ethernet-based local area networks (LANs)
  • BNC (Bayonet Neill–Concelman): a connector used for older computer networks
  • ST (Straight Tip): a connnector often seen on the end of a multimode cable
  • SC (Subscriber Connector): a connector usually seen on on Multimode Fiber (MMF) or Singlemode Fiber (SMF) cables
  • FC (Ferrule Connector): a connector used in settings with high vibrations

Connector Problems and Solutions

Connectors wear down over time when connected and disconnected — and may lose connectivity with the medium that provides data transport. As a result, businesses experience an intermittent or complete disconnect even though the connector may appear tightly fastened to the cable. In such cases, a network engineer can use a professional-grade cable and connector tester to determine whether connectivity is acceptable, or complies with industry standards. More often than not, the engineer may require connector replacement to restore reliable network operation.

Types of Cables

  • UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair): consists of four different pairs of unshielded copper cables twisted together; the most widely used type of cable
  • STP (Shielded Twisted Pair): a shielded cable that protects the copper twisted pairs; sometimes used in newer Ethernet systems
  • MMF (Multimode Fiber): a highly used fiber cable with a large core diameter; not affected by electrical interference because it utilizes light to convey signals; ideal for shorter cable runs of up to two kilometers
  • SMF (Singlemode Fiber): similar to the MMF but with a smaller core diameter; better for longer cable runs of up to 40 miles

Cable Problems and Solutions

Cables in data centers and server/wire closets are typically terminated to a “punch-down block” without connectors; bare wires connect directly to fasteners on the back of a connection panel. The front of the panel features RJ45, BNC or fiber-optic connectors that connect switches, routers, servers and other networking devices in the data center or IT closet to the network with relatively short “patch” cables. However, over time, as administrators work on systems, the connections terminated to the back of the punch-down blocks can become loose and cause intermittent or complete disconnection. Locating the source of such a disconnect is difficult since there are many interconnections along the network paths between network devices. Tools such as the aforementioned professional-grade cable and connector tester, TDRs (Time Domain Reflectometers), and expert troubleshooting techniques employed to pinpoint the problematic connection can determine how to restore reliable connectivity.

For assistance in troubleshooting and resolving your organization's intermittent network-infrastructure connectivity and performance issues, contact TelWare at 1-800-637-3148 or TelWare is a national leader in the installation of voice, video, data and unified communications solutions. TelWare is an authorized Avaya, Star2Star, SimpleWAN and 3CX dealer.

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