FireFold Blog

All About Patch Panels

Different systems have a functional unit that increases efficiency and the usefulness of such a system. In the case of cabling, patch panels represent the functional unit, and without them, the transmission of data is rendered ineffective. Ideally, patch panels consolidate all the horizontal cabling in any piece of infrastructure. They allow one to terminate long and troublesome cables so that a signal is connected directly through a patch code to its destination.

What a patch panel does 

A patch panel is the major link which collects data and routes it to the intended destination. If a malfunction of a patch panel occurs, the entire system may fail, which explains how crucial they are. Patch panels are found in the telecommunications section of a building, enabling the ease of managing telecommunications networks.

The difference between fiber and copper panels

Patch panels can be used in fiber and copper cabling systems. While some people argue that there is little difference between copper and fiber systems, it is common knowledge that fiber panels are more expensive.

Structurally, copper panels have the 110-insulation displacement connector style on one side and 8-pin modular ports on the other. Wires coming into the panel are therefore terminated to the insulation displacement connector. On the opposite side, the 8-pin modular connector plugs into the port which corresponds to the terminated wires. With the copper panel, each pair of wires has an independent port.

Fiber panels require two ports for a pair of wires. One port serves the transmitting end while the other handles the receiving end. While fiber panels tend to be faster than copper, this does not downplay the role played by the latter. The main function of a patch panel is to direct signal traffic and not move the signal at a particular speed.

Ports are very crucial to the patch panel 

Ports are central parts whenever you think of a patch panel. They are physical connection spots from where data enters and leaves the panel. A patch panel typically has up to four or eight modules, each with eight ports. This brings a total of 32 and 64 ports respectively. However, this limitation is not supreme. Some panels may have up to 1,536 ports, which are mainly used on backbone fiber cables.

Managing cables on a patch panel

Manufacturers are now working around the idea of managing cables effectively as they design patch panels. Some manufacturers have developed front-access panels, which allow users to terminate and manage cables from the front.

Installation of patch panels

While it is relatively easy to install patch panels, professionalism is required. Sometimes terminations are tight, which makes cable management difficult. A particular technique is required to make the installation easy and the entire system effective.

When installing fiber panels, extra caution is needed. If the glass is excessively moved during installation, it may affect the signal in adjacent fibers. During the installation of fiber-optic cables to the panel, one must also pay attention to the bend radius.

Factors to consider when installing patch panels

For ultimate functionality, buy flexible patch panels which have cable management bars too. Consider the labeling, precisely on the face panel because this is equally important. Cost is another essential consideration, and can be highly intimidating when going the fiber way. At all times, however, consider the cost of potential network failure and compare it with the cost of your desired patch panel before opting to buy or decline a particular panel.

Patch panels are highly functional systems, and will not at any point stand in the way of modifying your office or business design. However, you need a basic understanding of patch panels and how they work when installing one.