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Data Cabling Guide #1: For the Procurement Professional

This Procurement Professional's guide is from our series of structured cabling guides with appropriate editions for differing professions and sets out to answer many of the questions we are frequently asked. It will hopefully help you to avoid some of the pitfalls many organizations fall into when buying a service that is not their core expertise. This series includes Structured Cabling Guides for: ·Procurement Professionals ·Facilities managers / Building owners ·Specifiers & Designers ·IT Project Engineers. We hope that this leaflet series will enable you to better understand the product that you are about to install, its implications to the long term value and rental yield from the building and to help you to correctly specify your requirements.

Introduction

Contents

Below are a list of sections in this leaflet. To jump to a particular section, click the link. At the bottom of the page is a brief summary of the other leaflets in this series, to help you select the correct leaflet for your position and level of experience.

Structured Cabling - What is it? Cost Implications - Present and Future Value So it is Standards Based... What does that mean? What Category Should we be Choosing? Why did the requestor specify more outlets than actually needed? Installation - Why price should not be the prime selection criteria Cost elements / opportunities for savings taken by low quality installation companies and short cuts that might be taken on your premises if you don't select wisely · Suggested Specification Criteria: As a minimum your tender request should request the following... · Suggested Quote Evaluation Criteria · Final Quote Evaluation / Revision

· · · · · · ·

Slightly more technical than leaflet #1, the Structured Cabling Guide for Building Owners discusses the difference between cabling standards as well as including a brief description of the main points in the installation process for you to be aware of.

Other Leaflets in this Series: #2: For the Building Owner

#3: For the Specifier & System Designer

The Guide for the Specifier & System Designer goes a step further than the Guide for Building Owners in it's description of the installation process. This leaflet also includes a detailed and comprehensive list of specifying tips to help you get the most out of the space that you have, depending on building capacity and the requested size of the project.

#4: For the IT Manager

The most technical of our structured cabling leaflet series. This leaflet discusses cable types and standards in more detail, describes the installation process, includes sample test results and provides examples of what may go wrong if you don't select the right people for the job!

Structured Cabling - What is it?

A structured cabling installation is part of the building fabric that allows office equipment to communicate with other bits of office equipment. The most common application is the interconnection of desk-top computers with central servers, closely followed by telephones. However, the cabling also allows Closed Circuit TV, alarm systems and will allow future products not yet invented to be easily installed when the time comes.

Cost Implications - Present and Future Value

A good quality structured cabling system comes at a cost. However, this cost is more than offset by the future value of the real estate operated by a company. Generally, it is only possible to replace this cabling during a major refit with builders etc involved; replacement in an occupied building is rarely feasible. If you are about to embark on a structured cabling refit, will your company still be using the building in 5 years time? In 10 years time? If your company owns a long lease or the freehold to the building in question, when it comes to let or re-let a building, a prospective client looking at buildings will be looking at total costs; the cost of a building rewire being a significant factor. You should be making the decision knowing that a 10 or 15 year installation life is not unreasonable.

20 years ago, so-called category 1 cabling was used for domestic grade telephones but was totally unsuitable for computers and digital equipment. Consequently, every manufacturer had their own non-standard systems all of which were incompatible with each other. Internationally agreed standards have since been introduced, to which all manufactures work. The abbreviation Cat (for category) is used. Standards you might hear about for copper data cable are Cat3, Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6. In addition, a range of standards for fibre cabling exist, but are not discussed here. Cat5e (Cat5 enhanced) is the current entry level and is now an "end-of-life" standard. Cat6 is used where future proofing is required and is usually specified for new builds. The Cat5 standard was ratified in 1995 and was later updated to the now current Cat5e. It is only just adequate for the computer networking systems now being installed. Hardware companies are now delivering products which will only work with Cat6 cabling and Cat6 will in due course become the "defacto standard". You might also hear of Cat7, which is still in the experimental stage.

So it is standards based... - What does that mean?

Which category should we be choosing?

Cat5e is the cheapest; Cat6 will last the longest so it's a simple choice. Within 5 years, people will start replacing / stripping out Cat5 as it will not support the ethernet protocols which will have become "plain vanilla" by 2010, although no doubt many buildings will be stuck with Cat5 and be unable to use what will be the `norm' in 2010.

Installation; why price should not be the prime selection criteria

The cost of adding additional sockets to an existing installation in an occupied office is prohibitive ­ upgrading a single outlet to a double might have a x20 cost implication if done as a retrofit exercise. At the time of installation, installing doubles over singles, or triples over doubles might only add a few pounds to the job. Consequently, it is better to over-provide rather than under-provide. Installing 3 outlets per desk is a common standard, one for the PC, one for the phone and a spare for a printer / scanner / other future requirement.

Why did the requestor specify more outlets than actually needed?

· Unskilled East European labour is cheaper than experienced UK labour and the cost of labour is a significant element of the overall price. · Use of low quality materials; the price differential between the "gold plated" Systimax cable and low grade non-compliant materials is nearly a factor of eight. · Quality assurance; this is only possible when digital test equipment is used to test an installation. Because this equipment costs many thousands of pounds, many cabling companies take a shortcut on testing1 and quite simply don't. A quick way to assess the quality of workmanship you are likely to obtain is to ask for sample test results; if it is not forthcoming you are unlikely to obtain a tested installation and the risk of having a faulty installation are significantly higher. · Lack of proper cable management/leaving cables draped over ceiling tiles, thus preventing easy removal and impeding future maintenance of other building services that run through roof voids etc. · If time is money, finishing on time is vital. Disruption to the business can be minimised by out of hours working. What price can you put on 2 weeks of dust, noise, staff unable to work, computer / telephony system downtime? Weekend & Night working comes at a premium, but does improve your staff productivity during the working day ­ the likelihood is that their wage bill is greater than the saving made using daytime working.

Cost elements / opportunities for savings taken by low quality installation companies and short cuts that might be taken on your premises if you don't select wisely.

The materials manufacturing standards for cat5e / cat6 cabling are high...so are the demands on installation technicians. If Cat6 cable is poorly installed, expect Cat1 performance!

Suggested Specification Criteria: As a minimum your tender request should request the following...

Details of certifications held by the installer Many manufacturers certify installers. In practice installers select the better quality brands when they look for certifications (why become certified with a 3rd class company?). Selecting only certified installers will eliminate some of the fly-by-night companies. At this stage one should allow the contractor to propose a brand (any brand will do) - stipulating alternative brands will be possible later. When the customer proposes a brand it usually results in brands being picked on the strength of advertising campaigns and undermines the whole procurement process. You should however be asking for evidence ­ e.g. a photocopy of any certificates. Why do cabling manufacturers certify installers? Obviously, it helps them ensure that their products are correctly installed. However, it also gets used to manipulate the market. The manufacturers set sales targets which if not met leads to certification cancellation which discourages installers from selecting brands appropriate to the customer - he simply needs to hit the target and sell accordingly. The smart buyer ought to be aware of this. Details about test equipment & sample copies of project QA files The ITT should request details of test equipment used by the company be supplied with the ITT return. The ITT should state that printed test results will be required, but not specify any specific brand of equipment. Companies providing lower quality installs will not offer to test; those that follow the high standards set by the TIA and required by certifications programmes will be able to supply details of equipment. A further worthwhile step is to request a sample QA file (which can have client details removed) from a recent installation. The quality of documentation will speak volumes about the installation company.

Suggested Quote Evaluation Criteria:

Remember, companies that didn't complete quotation returns won't complete project documentation! - Did the respondent supply the information requested? - Does the respondent have any manufacturer certifications? - Does the respondent supply details of test equipment? · Common brands of Test equipment include Fluke & WaveTek or Wirescope. If other brands are proposed, do a quick internet search. The equipment typically costs £5,000 so the market sector has very few manufacturers, all of whom are very competent. If you don't find the equipment, or it's offered for sale for a few hundred pounds or less, it simply won't do the job! · Does the respondent supply a sample QA file? It should contain some technical results which might be presented as graphs or in tabular form. It should provide evidence of a labelling scheme. · Respondents should be able supply photgraphs of recent jobs. (However, issues sometimes arise due to commercial confidentiality.) You are looking for evidence of tidy cabling, clear labelling etc.

Final Quote Evaluation / Revision

So far the process has focused on selection of an installer. Hopefully you will have a short list by now of one, maybe two companies with whom to discuss specifics. For example, Answers & Solutions are a certified Siemon installer, but can install over ten brands of cabling systems. If you particualy wanted Krone or Systimax systems this is an appropriate time to review why this brand was suggested, and the cost implications of changing. Having found your prefered installer, changing detail such as product brand or other minor details is easy. At this stage, most installation companies will be willing to discuss / review other project details etc.

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