As I’ve kept a close eye on every new product to join our lineup, one thing has become abundantly clear: if you need to oops-proof your data connections, keep vandals away from patch panels, save space in a server enclosure, or otherwise add a combined element of convenience and genius to your data center, Black Box® products are the ones to turn to. If you’ve ever thought, “hey, you know what would be great?”, they’ve probably already come with it, or have it in the works.
I thought they had already hit the height of revolutionary patch cord design when they came out with one that had a 90-degree angled connector, but it gets better: they just introduced the LockPORT™ locking patch cord, a network cable that, once plugged in, can’t be yanked out of its port accidentally or purposefully. Thanks to special little locks that slide into each connector and require actual effort to remove, they perfectly embody a little concept that I like to call “removal only with approval.”
LockPORT™ patch cords are available in Cat5e and Cat6, and give you the choice of two different levels of protection: security lock, and keyed lock. The first, involving a green security lock, is designed to guard against accidental unplugs, the kind that might happen if you were to inadvertently tug on a patch cord that’s adjacent to another cable you’re working on, or if a moving object snagged onto a cable and pulled it out of its port. You release the security lock by pinching its two sides together and pulling it out of the connector.
The other (keyed) lock type is red, and while it slides easily into place like the green lock, it takes more effort and a special tool to disengage and remove it. This lock style prevents both accidental unplugs as well as tampering by vandals or other unauthorized users.
What’s very cool about LockPORT™ patch cords is that their locks can be interchanged to create any type of locking configuration you need. This feature is extremely convenient, because in many cases it will allow you to customize as needed, without necessarily having to purchase a slew of new patch cords. Very nice.
Filed under: Network Products, Tools and Cases
I recently hopped onto an airplane to go visit family, and as I got ready to leave, I realized how frighteningly calculated my carry-on packing and preparations have become. It’s a pretty serious case of TSA-induced OCD. There’s the clear cosmetic bag filled with 3oz (or smaller) bottles, the cell phone, the camera, and the ID and boarding pass, all strategically positioned in the oversized handbag in such a way that they can’t fall out or get swiped, but are ready to whip out (in the order needed) as soon as I get to the security checkpoint. Forget the people who bumble with their shoes, belts and laptops – I have a flight to catch, and I haven’t been sent to the x-ray machine yet.
Not to go on about my travel-induced neuroses; the point is that when you have to take your show on the road, things are always more complicated, and it can be a little disorienting when you have to repeatedly juggle your stuff. It’s one thing to do that when you travel home for the holidays, but when your job depends on it every single day, well… you’ve gotta have a way to keep your act together. Especially if you’re an on-the-go phone or network installer who works on the road, and has to truck around all of the tools and parts needed to tackle each job.
That’s why I really like the IDEAL Telemaster Kit for RJ11 and RJ45 cable terminations. Whether you’re dealing with RJ11 or RJ45, this all-in-one kit has a multipurpose crimp tool that works for 1, 2 and 3-pair RJ11 plugs, and 4-pair RJ45s, as well as assorted stranded modular plugs (45 total) that come separated into their own compartments, so you never have to guess which kind you’re grabbing for. One of my favorite things about the plug compartments is that they make it easy to keep track of inventory – they let you see, at a glance, how many of a certain plug type you have left, which definitely beats scrounging around the bottom of your tool kit for just one more RJ45 connector.
Okay, okay, I know that I’m technically supposed to be talking about the awesomest products out there, but today I came across a service that’s so cool (literally) that I have to tell you about it. If you’re in the data center/IT world, then you know that thermal management is a pretty hot topic (wow, I have to stop with these temperature puns). Between the current push toward energy efficiency and the ever-increasing density of server room equipment, it can be a real balancing act trying to keep things cool and functional without being slapped with the dreaded “anti-green” or “Naughty, Naughty Energy Waster” labels. If adequate yet efficient thermal management is keeping you up at night, you might want to bring in a professional – and now, it turns out, you can order one online.
Yes, you heard me. By doing nothing more than filling out a super quick online form, you can get the ball rolling to have a real, live thermal analysis pro from Panduit visit your actual facility, to evaluate what you’re doing right, and determine where your thermal management plan could use a little improvement. We’re talking guidance – sound, professional guidance. Advice from someone who can see your data center firsthand, instead of general guidelines given by someone who’s never even set foot in your state. It’s tempting, I know.
When your own personal thermal management pro shows up, they’ll map out airflow patterns, make sure that cooling equipment is correctly installed, locate possible hotspots, and determine how efficient your rack/enclosure configuration is. And yes, they’ll talk with you. Of course they’ll leave behind maps and charts for you to refer to later, but while they’re on your turf, they’re available to answer questions, demonstrate and explain, so that you can be confident in the information you receive and how to implement it.
It seems like everywhere you turn, someone’s trying to defy gravity. Take a look around – we have aircraft, spacecraft, supportive undergarments that are more heavily-engineered than aircraft and spacecraft combined, and industrial epoxy-strength hair products, without which we wouldn’t have Snooki, Pauly D, or the rest of Jersey Shore, for that matter.
Sometimes the gravity defiance works, sometimes it doesn’t (see “Jersey Shore”). The point is, it’s always there. But what about working with gravity, for once? Novel idea, right? I think so – especially when it comes to things like patch cords. Everyone worries about strain relief, because patch cords that plug into patch panels at 90 degree angles tend to, thanks to gravity, sag under their own weight, which can lead to signal attenuation and other damage. But instead of reinforcing network cables, why not let them just go with the flow? This epiphany courtesy of the pros at Black Box, who have developed the SpaceGAIN patch panel based on that very same “just go with it” principle.
SpaceGAIN patch panels, unlike the common garden variety, have ports that tilt downward at a 45 degree angle, so that once plugged in, patch cables can just flow gently (and naturally) downward, instead of jutting out at 90 degree angles and then dropping downward in tight (and possibly signal-damaging) arcs. Nice and easy – no attenuation, no bend radius issues. And because of the downward slope, the cords don’t stick out as far, leaving you with a little extra room in your rack or enclosure… and in a densely-packed server room, that never hurts.
If it’s common knowledge that a data cable is pretty much no good if you do anything to cramp its bend radius, then why is it that we’re always stuffing patch panels and the cords that connect them into restrictive enclosures? It’s pure logic, right? Lock your server equipment up in a nice, secure cabinet so it can’t get damaged, and then connect everything with patch cables that end up getting so cramped and smooshed in that tight space that they can barely do their job. Come on, people – wake up!
Luckily, the pros at Black Box saw the light before the rest of us, and came up with a brilliant new style of patch cord that lets the connector do the bending instead of the cable. Nice. It’s so crazy that it actually works, and it’s called the SpaceGAIN Angled Patch Cord.
Here’s how it all works. Every data cable has a “bend radius,” or a maximum angle that it’s safe to bend the cable to before it becomes damaged and the signal starts to disintegrate. If you exceed the bend radius, you have trouble on your hands. But here’s the thing: conditions can get really cramped in the back of a server enclosure, and it’s pretty easy to kill a patch cord’s bend radius when you don’t have enough room to plug in.
That’s where the SpaceGAIN angled connector comes in. It safely and efficiently takes care of the bend right off the bat. Need your patch cord to angle up or down at a 90-degree angle? Done. Right or left? No problemo! These low-profile connectors not only make the bend without signal degradation, they also save you up to 4 inches of space, which any other type of patch cord would have eaten up in a traditional bend radius situation.
One of my favorite things about these patch cords is that they’re available in tons of different configurations. Need one with two “up” connectors? They’ve got it. Need one with a “down” connector on one end, and a “straight” (traditional) connector on the other? It’s in the bag. Sigh. I love it when bend radius nightmares have a happy ending.
Filed under: Network Products, Power and Data Distribution
It seems like the topic of computer and data security keeps popping up in conversation lately, and I just realized that up to now, I’ve tended to look at things from a strictly “computer protection” angle. You know, computer locks, USB port blocks, laptop security screens, lockable CPU cabinets, that kind of thing. It’s pretty obvious that no one wants a thief taking off with their laptop or stealing personal information off a hard drive, but what do you do when you want to secure an actual network infrastructure?
There are always passwords, firewalls and other software-based preventive measures that can be taken, but if you’re running a fairly large facility that receives a lot visitors or is frequently accessed outside of normal business hours, it’s smart to have physical protection in place as well. This is the part where I tell you about Panduit® RJ45 Jack Blockouts.
If you’re worried about viruses and worms being uploaded to your network or sensitive data being stolen from it, then you’ve got to think about limiting network access points. I’m talking about actually controling the number of RJ45 jacks that can be plugged into. Take a walk around your company’s offices, and you’ll probably find a pretty high number of data ports that are just sitting there, unused and not doing a darned thing. Remember that old saying about idle hands being the devil’s playground? Well, in the same way, idle RJ45 jacks can be a network vandal’s playground. Ruin a data thief’s fun by cutting down on the possibility of illicit network access - just snap Panduit’s RJ45 blocking devices into the empty jacks throughout your offices or facility.
Jack blockout devices work just like plugs, except they don’t just pull out when you want them to. In order to be removed, they need to be “unlocked” with a special tool, which can be left in the hands of your IT people for safe keeping. Insertion and removal of the data port block is completely safe for the jack, and won’t wear down its contacts or cause other degradation, even though multiple uses.
If you’re a Bluetooth veteran, you’re probably already dongle-savvy, and can both read and speak the word without giggling or wrinkling your forehead in confusion. But if you’re a bit of a tech rookie and find your mind spiraling downward, imagining all sorts of fun and colorful definitions, let me interrupt your train of thought before it gets too out of hand, and set the record straight. A dongle is a type of hardware that plugs into a computer, and basically unlocks a particular software program and allows it to be used. In the case of these particular Black Box USB dongles, the technology in question is Bluetooth.
Designed to look almost identical to a standard USB flash drive, a Black Box Bluetooth dongle plugs into your computer’s USB port, and enables it to interact with other Bluetooth devices located within a certain range. It lets you create an instant, wireless personal network – pretty cool. And in these days of data theft paranoia, these dongles are safe to use, thanks to their built-in encryption and user authentication programming.
Depending upon what type of range and how much security you want your Bluetooth network to have, these USB dongles are available in two models: Class I, which has a 100 meter range (great for covering an office or your entire home), or Class II, which enables a contained, hacker-protected network within a tighter 10 meter range. They’re also conveniently compatible with just about any computer: whether you’re a desktop or laptop, Mac or PC, Black Box has you covered.
I know it isn’t my usual bag, but today I’m going to shake things up a bit and talk about a recent experience rather than a product. Did you know that CableOrganizer.com is a woman-owned business? On Friday, November 13th, our President and CEO, Valerie Holstein, was up for a Stevie Award for Women in Business (for Best Entreprneur), and since she wasn’t able to travel to the awards ceremony, I got to go to Manhattan in her place. Not too shabby.
Both the Stevie Awards ceremony and accommodations were at the justifiably-famous Marriott Marquis, just off of Times Square. I remember the first time I stepped in there as a kid, during an NYC outing with my Dad (I grew up about an hour away). We rode the glass elevators for a few minutes (popping ears!) and then went on our merry way, but the place was so unlike any hotel I had ever seen that I never forgot it. Fast-forward 20 years, and I finally got to check in for an actual stay. I have to say, Times Square itself seemed gaudier and more grotesque than ever, but it’s pretty sweet to stand in a silent, well-appointed hotel room looking down at the theater district from 37 floors up. Well done, Marriott Marquis. Well done indeed!
Being that I was attending the dinner stag (can you say that if you’re a woman?), I was a little nervous about striking up conversation with my mystery dinner companions, but needn’t have been at all. I end up sitting between a very friendly PR rep for Cargo Cosmetics (with whom I enjoyed lighthearted chatter about makeup, sushi joints, and our mutual annoyance with poor e-mail grammar), and a very lovely and comfortable-to-converse-with couple, Susan and Scott, who were not only the heroic parents of 5-year-old triplets, but also in high hopes of Susan walking away with a much-deserved Blog of the Year award. At the end of the night, neither Susan nor I got to take the stage and accept a Stevie Award in our respective categories, but I did find out that not only were she and her husband based in Florida (like CableOrganizer), but that Scott had actually formerly been in IT, and had blogged about what a terrific source CableOrganizer.com was for network equipment. That’s still a win in a my book, and just goes to show that even in the Big Apple, it’s still a small world after all.
Filed under: Network Products, Power and Data Distribution
Waaaaaaaaaaay back in the day (okay, so it was only this past February), I talked about an EZ RJ45 plug that saved tons of time for installers because you slide all 8 wires into a wide, unpartitioned slot, instead of inserting each wire into its own individual channel. Believe me – I did a couple of comparison terminations myself, and the EZ version was practically fun compared to the standard RJ45 plugs. The hands-down winner. Well, I’ve just met the EZ RJ45′s soul mate: Platinum Tools’ EZ-SnapJack™, otherwise known as the keystone jack that’s about to rock your world.
If I remember correctly, I actually giggled with glee as I witnessed my first demo of this product. Now, I’m no jaded, punchdown-weary telecom tech, but I have done a few jack terminations at work and in the Learning Lab at CEDIA Expo 2008 (just a quick aside – if you get the chance, go). And while keystone punchdowns are no big deal, they definitely land on the time-consuming side of things.
Not anymore – well, not as long as you’re using EZ-SnapJacks™. These things work exactly the same way as the EZ RJ45 connector, in that you just arrange the 8 wires into the correct sequence, slide them into an alignment sleeve, and then trim the ends. From there, all that’s left to do is pop the prepped cable into the open jack, snap the top down (which, by the way, is the action that acts as the actual “punchdown”), and you’re done. It’s complete and utter laziness, but in the most positive and productive sense of the word. All I have to say is: way to save time on the job.
Filed under: Cable Identification, Network Products, Power and Data Distribution
Don’t get me wrong – labeling network data ports and phone jacks is a great thing, especially if you have a situation where the two are grouped together. Unless you want to stick to the old phone and data jack color codes (which many people don’t do anymore for decor reasons), the two can be just about impossible to tell apart at a glance, so labels can be pretty important. But then again, they can look so, well… networky. That is to say, extremely technical. Let’s admit it – there are probably times, now and then, when you just don’t want to see printed labels all over your wall jacks. And do you know what? I can’t blame you for that. Neither can Panduit®, which is why they developed Mini-Com® Snap-In Port Identification Icons.
Instead of relying on bold lettering to tell you which jack is which, Panduit’s® Mini-Com® port ID plates rely on subtle icons to clue you in. A computer means “data,” and a phone means “voice.” Super easy. And since the icons are molded-in and not printed on, they don’t scream for the attention of people who are passing by – they just sort blend in until you need them. Another nice thing about Mini-Com® snap-in icons is that they’re available in 12 different colors – neutrals to further blend in with your room’s color scheme, or brighter hues that fit in with just about any color code. And have I mentioned that they’re fast and inexpensive to use? No labels to print, no backings to peel off – you just snap a plate into the icon slot of a Mini-Com® module, wall plate, surface mount box or patch panel, and your work is done.