Helpful Strategies for Proper Rack Cable Management

Cable Management: Why Organize your Rack?

One of the the first things that should be taken care of in a server rack after mounting all of your equipment is cable management. If you don’t have a good cable management strategy in place, not only will your racks will look unorganized, but it can make maintenance complicated and obstruct airflow. With this in mind, it is a good idea to learn about effective cable management strategies to help ensure all your cables are run properly to ensure a clean and safe rack environment.

The following pieces of advice have been used by data center professionals for years, and will help you to understand how to properly manage your cables, and what advantages it can provide.

Run to the Side First

One common mistake people make when first using a server rack is running their cables directly out of the hardware to either the top or bottom of the rack itself. This may seem to make sense at first since that is the most direct path to where the cables are going, but over time it will become a big mess. As servers and other hardware are added and removed, the cables will get tangled and difficult to manage.

The solution to this is to always run cables out of the hardware, and immediately over to the edge of the rack. Once the cables are to the edge, they can be bundled together using horizontal rack organizers. These items bundle all the cables together while they are running either down into the floor (in a raised floor environment), or up into the ceiling (in an environment where wires are run through the ceiling), or even just to another piece of hardware.

Keep the Cables Snug

Loose cables can easily be caught on things, tangled up, and cause all sorts of trouble. Running the cables in such a way so that they are kept nice and snug from beginning to end is a great way to ensure everything remains organized. This often means running the cable from the source to the destination, cutting it to the required length, and then adding on the proper cable end. While it will take a little more work up front, it works much better in the long term.

Color Code Your Cables

Whether you have one server rack with one piece of hardware in it, or you manage a major data center, you always want to have color coded cables. There are a few different options when it comes to choosing what each color is for:

  • Cable Type – Having one color for CAT5, one for Fiber, and so on, will make it easy to determine the type of cable with just a glance.
  • Cable Purpose – Using a specific color for internal wiring, wiring to go to user equipment, and wiring that goes outside of the building can be an effective strategy, especially in some larger areas.
  • Cable Destination – For some buildings, it makes sense to have cables color coded based on which floor or office area they are going to.

There is no single correct way to do the color coding, other than making sure there is a set strategy that is always being followed. Think about your specific situation and needs, and try to use color coding to reduce confusion and improve organization within the racks and beyond.

Always Label Both Ends of a Cable

Having a good label printer in the data center or computer closet is absolutely essential to ensuring good rack cable management. Using the label printer to print off small labels that can be attached to both ends of every cable will help to ensure everyone is able to easily see where each cable is going. This can be invaluable when attempting to troubleshoot an outage. It is also very helpful when trying to remove extra cables after a hardware upgrade.

The bottom line for all rack cable management strategies is that it is important to really think everything through ahead of time, and be willing to put in the work during the initial installation. If this is done, a good server rack will remain clean and easy to manage for years to come.

Helpful Strategies for Proper Rack Cable Management
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Helpful Strategies for Proper Rack Cable Management
Without a good cable management strategy in place, not only will your racks will look unorganized, but it complicate maintenance and obstruct airflow.
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