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Cable labelling and 606A by James Pettit Feb09


February 27, 2009
By Anthony Capkun


Network documentation systems, cable labelling and the 606A Standard

How they can save your company time and money


By James Pettit

New Technology. Workplace Expansion. Repairs and upgrades. With every change in the workplace comes a corresponding need to find, move, repair, or add cables to your system. Over time, your telecom closets can become an impenetrable jungle of cables, and any work on your telecom system becomes an exercise in trial and error. Without proper documentation and labelling, any effort to work on your telecom system or do a physical audit can take hours or even days.

Proper
documentation and labelling of your network, using the ANSI/TIA/EIA
606A Administration Standard for Telecommunications Infrastructure, can
save you time and money in many ways:


• Faster, more efficient installation and maintenance
• Easier physical audits
• Aids in troubleshooting
• Helps locate unused cable, which saves money on time and materials
• Avoids network downtime

Keeping
your network up and running is vital to the profitability of companies
that rely upon their telecom systems to conduct business or complete
transactions.


While
many telecom installers may balk at the time they think is needed to
implement a 606A compliant solution, the right labels, printing system
and software can make documentation and labelling a nearly seamless
part of the installation process, saving countless hours in the future.


By reducing network downtime, a 606A compliant documentation and labelling solution can be easily cost-justified.

606A brief overview
The
606A standard is a simplified version of the old 606 standard, and it
has been in use for a few years. The new standard is clearer, easier to
follow, modular, and scalable – so that you can expand to higher
classes within the standard without changing any existing identifiers
or records. While the 606A standard is not a code (there are no
penalties for non-compliance) it is a best practice that will help your
company maintain an efficient telecom system that runs at peak
performance.


The
standard specifies a uniform administration approach for telecom
cabling systems that supports a multi-product, multi-vendor
environment. This means that the labelling and documentations systems
outlined in the standard are independent of any specific applications,
which change as technology changes. The 606A standard works over the
life of your telecom system, no matter what additions or changes may be
made to your technology over time. In fact, with proper documentation
and labelling, these additions and changes are made faster and easier
through consistent cable documentation and labelling.


The
standard is not only for telecom installers. It establishes guidelines
for company owners, end users, manufacturers, consultants, contractors,
designers, installers, and facilities administrators. By using one
standardized system, the documentation created with the 606A standard
will be useful to anyone who needs in-depth information about their
telecom cabling system.

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Classes of administration
The
606A standard is scalable, offering four levels of administration
guidelines depending upon the size and scope of your cabling system:


Class 1 is for systems within a single building with one telecom room (TR) that all workstation cables for that system run to.

Class 2 is for systems within a single building that are served by multiple TRs.

Class 3 is for a system that spans multiple buildings, called a campus environment.

Class 4 is for systems that span multiple campuses. This is also called a multi-site system.

This
structure allows for a clear understanding of what must be labelled and
documented at each class level. Through a consistent labelling
standard, it is possible to know the nature and location of every cable
for every workstation for any compliant telecom infrastructure. This
offers huge advantages to installers, administrators and maintenance
technicians; a compliant labelling system expedites installations and
repairs and keeps end users more productive.


Identifiers and records for the 606a standard
Labelling and administration of your telecom infrastructure is clearly outlined in the 606A standard for each class, as follows:

Class 1
This
level calls for the identification and record of the Tenant Space (TS),
all horizontal links (where the cable is from and where it goes), the
telecom main grounding busbar (TMGB) and the telecom grounding busbar
(TGB).


Practically
speaking, Class 1 identifiers and records focus on labelling and
documentation of cables from the workstation to the telecom room (TR),
including all outlets and grounding points. From a user’s or
installer’s perspective, this allows for easy identification of
application cables for computers, printers, phones, etc. Anyone who has
followed a cable from one end of the office to the other just to see
which cable needs to be moved or replaced can appreciate the advantage
of a clear labelling and documentation standard.


Horizontal
links include identifiers for cable (at both ends), faceplates/outlets,
and termination hardware (patch panels, 110 Blocks and 66 Blocks).


Class 2
These
systems require everything specified for Class 1, plus identifiers and
records for intra-building backbone cable, pair, and/or strand, and
fire stopping points.


Building
on the Class 1 system, these labels and records show connections
between TRs within a building, grounding points throughout the
building, and the locations where fire stopping material has been
installed.


Documentation
also must include dates of fire stopping installation, the name of the
installer, and the service record for each fire stopping location. This
helps maintain a fire-safe work environment and can help make any
building inspections faster and smoother.


Your
system documentation should also include detailed information about the
horizontal links, including the identifier name, cable type, location
of outlet/connector, outlet connector type, cable length, location of
TS, cross-connect hardware type, and service records for the horizontal
link. This complete record of your system provides you with everything
an installer, inspector, administrator or technician would need to know
to keep your system up and running.


In
general, documentation must include complete information regarding the
type of materials or hardware used for cables, location of grounding
points and fire stopping materials, the start and end points for all
cables, complete service records, and access and contact information.
This helps your company on a number of levels, including faster
maintenance and easier inspections and audits. Beyond that,
documentation will show you if there are any gaps in safety protocols
within your telecom infrastructure, which can help your protect your
technology investment and ensure the safety of your employees.


Class 3
Campus
environments require all of the elements specified in Class 1 and 2,
plus identifiers and records for interbuilding backbone cable, pair,
and/or strand, and building records.


A
multi-building environment, as is often seen in universities or
hospitals, is a complex system involving hundreds of workstations,
dozens of TRs, and miles of cable. This is where a clear labelling
format is vital, and documentation essential, since multiple people
will be responsible for installation, upgrades, and maintenance of the
telecom infrastructure.


Class 4
At this level, administration is required for each site as well as for all of the elements already listed for Class 1, 2, and 3.

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Why use the 606A standard?
Because
the 606A standard is not a code, companies are not required to follow
the guidelines in their entirety. But why follow them at all? Why not
develop your own labelling and documentation system?


The 606A Standard has several advantages, making it a best practice for all telecom infrastructure labelling and documentation:

• It is simple enough to be administered and maintained.
• It offers a huge ROI in terms of maintenance and upgrades.
• It is scalable for future expansion, upgrades or new building locations.
• It is intuitive to technicians, contractors and consultants.

Up
until recently, many companies had one person who knew their system’s
ins and outs, and who was in charge of all installations, upgrades, and
maintenance. This leaves the company vulnerable if that person is off,
leaves for another position, or retires. Suddenly you may find yourself
with hundreds of unlabelled, undocumented cables and no idea what goes
where. Or, you may have an idiosyncratic system that makes sense only
to the individual who designed it, making it useless for a new person
or an outside technician. This leaves your company investing more time
to re-locate and re-label your telecom system. By using the 606A
standard, your labelling and documentation can be done once and updated
as your system is updated.


What about unlabelled existing systems?
For
many companies, their telecom infrastructure started with a one TR
containing a few cables for a handful of phones and computers. As the
company added technology and work stations, more cables were added and
outdated technology was disconnected, all without the benefit of a
standardized documentation or labelling system. Now these companies
find that they’ve got multiple TRs and a network of seemingly random
cables, several of which may be entirely unused. Labelling and
documenting such a system can be a daunting prospect.


If
you’re starting or moving to a new location, then of course that’s the
ideal time to start using a 606A-compliant solution. But if not, you
don’t have to label all of your old cable at once. The best time to
begin using 606A compliant solutions is during new installations or
expansions, moves/adds/changes (MACs) in your office, or while updating
technology or adding bandwidth. This will show you the nature and
location of the newest cables, and you can label the older
infrastructure over time and/or as you perform maintenance.


Labelling formats in the 606A standard
The
606A Standard calls for a standard labelling format that indicates the
type, location, and purpose of all cables and endpoints, plus colour
coding for faster and easier identification of all elements.


These labels serve as the key to finding additional information included in the documentation.

Overall
documentation includes materials and maintenance information for
horizontal links as listed above, plus additional access or personnel
information as needed for larger systems. For example, the required
record for a telecom space (TS) as specified in the 606A standard would
include: the TS identifier name, type, room number, key or access card
identification, contact person, and hours of access. This helps
maintenance and repair people do their jobs more efficiently, and gets
all users up and running faster in the event of network problems.

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Label and documentation requirements
A
compliant 606A administration system may be managed through a
paper-based system, through general-purpose spreadsheet software, or
with a special-purpose cable management system. Each has its advantages
in terms of cost, availability and ease of use. While a paper-based or
spreadsheet system may cost less to implement in the short term, a
special-purpose cable management system is faster and more complete in
the long-term, saving time in the creation of both labels and
documentation. This savings of time can translate to dollar savings
very quickly for a medium-to-large telecom system, or for one that
upgrades technology frequently.


All labels used in cable marking should meet the following criteria:

• Labels must be of a size, colour, and contrast to be easily visible and readable.
• Label materials must be resistant to your location’s environmental conditions (i.e. moisture, heat, UV light).

All labels used must have a useful life equal to or greater than the
component being labelled (this means both adhesion and readability).


Printing of labels must be done by a mechanical device and not written
by hand. (Anyone who’s tried to read a handwritten label a year later,
when the ink is smudged, can get behind this requirement.)


Many
people, hoping to save money on labels, will purchase standard office
labels from their office supply vendor, and print them on a standard
printer. They are then surprised to see all of their labels littering
the floor of the telecom closet a few months later.


Non-industrial
label solutions are not designed to stick on wires, curved surfaces, or
powder-coated surfaces. The result is that the labels that work just
fine on file folders simply don’t stick on wires, faceplates, and other
components that are part your telecom system. If the labels don’t
stick, all of your time and effort is wasted. For that reason, it is
essential that you use labels designed for industrial applications.
Additionally, these labels should be available in a variety of die-cut
sizes and continuous sizes to meet the needs of various applications
and equipment without wasting label materials.


The
606A standard specifies that labels “must be printed by a mechanical
device and shall not be handwritten”. Along with the obvious advantage
of improved readability, printing labels vs. handwriting saves time and
materials, and allows for more information to be printed on the label.
Printers designed for industrial environments are ideal for this
purpose, since they offer improved durability, include
industry-specific formatting and printing options, and feature
thermal-printing capabilities for longer-lasting labels. Industrial
printers are also available in portable models that allow installers to
create labels onsite.


The advantage of cable management software
Integrated
cable management and label software systems offer many advantages over
other manual or general-purpose documentation and labelling systems:



Complete documentation saves time in locating and correcting network
issues, providing better internal support and reducing network downtime.


An integrated cable management system with label design software will
allow you to format and import your data for faster and more accurate
label creation and printing, meaning  more efficient use of your
internal and external resources.


Cable management software is designed to document and label as one
integrated function, increasing the speed and accuracy of your
documentation process.

• Simplifies the management of your physical network, and speeds the updating of network documentation.

A special-purpose cable management system will allow you to start your
cable labelling and documentation system with your next MAC and will
help you build and update your documentation as you go—working in the
same scalable/expandable way that the 606A standard does.

• Integration of cable management software with testing and labelling software saves time and money.
• The integrated system allows for direct connectivity between printers and testers.
• Cable management software allows you to easily document your entire infrastructure and generate reports.

Ultimately
you must decide which system is the most appropriate for your company
and your telecom system based on your budget, manpower, time, and the
size or complexity of your system. Whatever method you use for
documentation and cable labelling, following the 606A standard will
simplify installations and maintenance, eliminate conflicting
information, reduce errors, and save time and money for your company.


James Pettit is business development manager with Brady Corp. CLICK HERE to visit Brady Canada and explore its 606A-compliant solutions.