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.
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.