Cabling and Wiring

Cabling and Wiring

Choosing a Cabling & Wiring Provider

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Need to upgrade or replace the cabling in your office? Choosing the right service provider to handle your networking project is essential. The network infrastructure (the wires, routers, racks, and outlets) should last 15 years, so you'll be living with the results for a long time. In addition, these physical components are the foundation for the entire network. Your telephone system or computer network will depend on the cabling to work as reliably as it should.

Here's a quick guide to help make your decision.

Choosing a cabling company

Choosing an installer is probably the most important aspect installing or upgrading your network. Even the best material will not withstand a bad installation. Here are a few tips to help you weed out the riskier installers.

How will they run your project?

The process starts with a site visit to assess your existing wiring situation and get a sense of the physical requirements involved. If you're upgrading an existing network, the provider should be able to perform some simple tests to see what kind of capacity is available in your current network. That failing, they should be able to give you an idea about what you can gain in speed and stability after an upgrade.

Make sure the cabling provider you choose will provide thorough documentation of the entire network: you should get blueprints for the entire network architecture, and all wires and workstation outlets should be clearly labeled. Insufficient documentation can drastically increase the costs for future changes or troubleshooting.

If not handled with care, installation of a new voice or data network can cause significant disruption to your day-to-day work. Find out how prospective cabling providers will minimize distractions, how well they clean up after themselves, and if they're willing to do particularly disruptive work (e.g., drilling in employee areas) before or after your primary business hours. You should be able to continue working on your old network until the new system is tested and ready for the changeover. At that point, you'll probably experience a short downtime, so plan accordingly.

Cabling and wiring pricing

Installing a new network is a big investment up front. When you divide the costs over the expected lifespan of the wiring, though, you'll find that it actually makes up a fairly small percentage of your overall IT spending over the same time period.

The actual costs will vary dramatically based on both the physical characteristics of the space you're wiring and the type of installation you choose. A rough guideline for data networks is around $100 to $150 per end point or "drop," but extremes can vary even more.

If you're getting more than 100 drops (cable lines installed), and your building has easy-access cable conduits or pathways in place, you may see a per-drop price as low as $75. On the other hand, for a relatively small project that includes voice and data, and has to contend with pulling cables into attics and crawlspaces, you could pay as much as $250 per drop.

Because of this variation, it's important to get comprehensive written estimates from each provider you're evaluating. Don't just compare the bottom line, either: go through each proposal and look for line items that are conspicuously omitted in some cases. Unscrupulous suppliers may try to win your business with a low bid, then "discover" additional reasons to up your costs.

One tip to keep in mind: most of the cost is in the labor. That means it's not worth trying to save money by choosing cheaper cables or racks. In fact, it often makes sense to pull additional lines per workstation - the incremental cost is fairly low, and the excess capacity is there waiting if you need it.

Ready to Compare Cabling and Wiring Price Quotes?