Installation Pro Bob Dolph Shares Indispensable Testing Tools of the Trade
Many things can go wrong during the cabling installation and maintenance process, which is why it’s important technicians keep abreast of the latest testing equipment and related training to maintain today’s sophisticated networks.
Cabling infrastructures in modern-day systems are more complex and refined than ever before in the history of the information and communications technology (ICT) community.
This can range from voice, data, electronic security, fire/life-safety, project management and A/V technologies.System installers and technicians have always carried the burden of actually making the systems work.
So, do your technicians have the proper supporting resources in place for the high-tech demands of modern cabling infrastructures?
Cabling system specifiers and designers need to be up-to-date on the latest industry standards, supporting software and rapidly evolving technology.
Due to today’s newer technology demands these key specialized technicians need to have updated training and a true mastering of such testing implements as a handheld time domain reflectometer (TDR), LCD verifiers, labelers, network analyzers and more.
Read on to find out about these and other indispensable tools and how these devices are playing a vital role in keeping end-customer networks online and running at maximum capacity.
Lean on Organizations for Support
Look no further than Building Industry Consulting Service Int’l (BICSI), an organization noted for specializing in cabling infrastructures.
Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., BICSI has been servicing the industry since the break-up of AT&T in 1984. BICSI has membership in more than 100 countries and certifies cable installers and designers.
Some of the group’s popular certified professional credentials are Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) and Registered Telecommunications Project Manager (RTPM).
Technicians should also check out other BICSI certifications, such as Installer 1, Installer 2 (Optical Fiber or Copper), and Technician (TECH).
Here’s a tip for military veterans too: Are you someone who can benefit from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ GI Bill? Then you may be eligible to receive up to $2,000 per BICSI certification test. Learn more by checking out the BICSI Credentialing 2020 PDF.
Are You Geared Up?
At some point an integrator, installer or technician will realize to properly navigate the sophisticated world of cabling they will need to get serious about proper and dedicated test equipment.
While test equipment comes in many levels of cost and expertise, selecting these instruments can be based on personal choice and consideration. Once certain test equipment is decided upon it is now the responsibility of the technician and company to make sure testing performance is accurate and timely.
Since this education may be specific to the test equipment, the manufacturer providing the product is often best suited for special skills training and product certification.
Following is a sampling of cabling test equipment manufacturers:
Ideal Industries — A 100-year-old, family-owned business. The company is best known for its line of electrical connectors, but also recognized for a competitive line of cabling test equipment.
The Ideal Networks division includes an impressive line of test equipment, including some of the following:
VDV II Cable Verifier: Simply put by one user of this device, “‘Punch and pray’ is no way to go through life.” The Ideal R158003 kit is the ultimate verifier package as it comes with VDV II Pro verifier, remote units and multiple plugs and connectors.
SureTrace Circuit Tracer: This is an essential part of any technician’s or installer’s kit. The device avoids disruption or downtime by tracing UTP cables in live data racks without disconnecting cables.
Installing security contractors should also check out Ideal Network’s education website for additional whitepaper and application notes. In an effort to further promote the important role of technicians and electricians, Ideal has created the Ideal National Championship for elite tradesmen with offerings of more than $500,000 in cash and prizes.
This year’s national competition will be held Nov. 10-11 at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Fluke Corp. — The word Fluke and testing have always gone hand-in-hand. The company is known as a worldwide leader in certification, troubleshooting and installation tools.
The Fluke Networks website is another great place to check for network cabling testing solutions. Some good choices to consider are:
DSX-8000 Cable Analyzer: This is the latest addition to the Versiv Cable Certification family. Fluke claims it is the world’s first certifier for Cat-8 cabling.
Advanced test equipment like this will be necessary to support 25Gb and 40Gb Ethernet networks.
FiberInspector Mini Fiber Inspection Scope: A popular video microscope inspection device, this handy tool enables end-face inspection inside ports and on patch cords — a common weak link.
Programs such as the Certified Cabling Test Technician Training Program (CCTT) are testament to the dedication Fluke has made over the years to ensure technicians truly understand the advanced test equipment they are using in the field.
A.G. Smarthands — A new company with a new and handy network testing product. Simply plug the AG Smartbot device into your client’s network and in 90 seconds a single comprehensive report is ready and emailed to your office.
Some features identify devices on the network, whether automatic port forwarding (UPNP) is supported, outbound/inbound port testing and wireless networks.
Wholesale distributors also play a key role in supporting technicians and integrators with valuable test equipment support and services. They are often the key between referring the correct equipment and introducing customers to the appropriate manufacturing support personnel.
Additionally, distributors make sure that quality cabling products are provided to customers through their quality assurance programs. You can learn much more about products and services offered by wholesale distributors in SSI’s June publication, “The Distribution Issue,” which includes a company directory.
Meantime, following are two examples of distributors specializing in test equipment support and services.
Anixter — A distributor that over the years has gained a great reputation for placing a special emphasis on cabling and services support. Globally, Anixter has more than 1.6 billion feet of cable inventory.
Even with the best test equipment, technicians and integrators need to know about and understand cabling standards, performance parameters and best practices.
This can only be learned from experienced support personnel. Important information like this is provided through the Anixter University. The university campus is organized into various colleges and on-demand courses like its Data Center, Physical Security, Building Technologies, and Industrial Infrastructure colleges.
The courses are provided at no cost and most are certified for BICSI continuing education credits. Be sure to check out Anixter’s technical reference library. It offers some of the best free cabling technology reference guides in the industry.
ADI Global — Here’s another distributor with a great track record for dealer support and services. ADI is highly regarded for its presales support specialists and training resources.
More than 11,000 dealers are trained each year at both ADI distribution branch training rooms and via online coursework. The trainings bring the knowledge of ADI’s represented manufacturers directly to technicians and integrators.
Provide Client With Test Results
One of the advantages of many of today’s network cabling testers, including those presented herein, is the capability to document the testing and provide a date stamped report.
This is particularly important for system and equipment installations. Test devices fall into three categories:
- Verification testers provide basic diagnostics, are good for troubleshooting and can cost around $500.
- Qualification testers are good for checking existing cabling, troubleshooting and documenting. These devices test against network performance standards including determining category cable type. They can cost around $1,500.
- Certification testers do everything the qualification testers do, plus offer fast performance and advanced diagnostics. This testing may be needed for warranty reporting. The devices come with a significant price tag of around $10,000.
Today’s network landscape is constantly changing and it will change again after you leave that installation. You may or may not have control over these changes.
One of the best ways to complete an installation is to provide the customer with a copy of your network testing results. The document will show not only the system’s performance characteristics, but the present system configuration.
A copy should also be cataloged by the in-stalling company. If you are ever called back to service the system again, you have important reference data to justify the system was modified beyond your control by others.
This will help support any possible additional expenses the customer may incur. Without this report data, it can be difficult to reference the original system configuration and testing parameters.
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