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.
Black Box IntelliPass Biometric Access System: Authorized Cabinet Access That Takes Nothing More Than a Fingertip Scan
There was a time when critical server access control meant only one thing: an enclosure with locks – the kind that require keys. Keys that could easily be misplaced, or even worse, stolen. Keys that could fall into the wrong hands, or force you to call a locksmith if they couldn’t be found. Keys that made that heavy, jingling mass of metal in your pocket look and feel more like a jailer’s keyring than a collection of door-openers belong to a tech-savvy pro. Keys suck. It’s time to kiss them goodbye, and say hello to the future of computer cabinet access.
Meet Black Box’s Intelli-Pass biometric cabinet access system. If you ever thought that biometrics were way too James Bond or Mission Impossible for your humble data center, think again. Server room biometrics are here, accessible, and in the hands of Black Box, really, really good.
The Intelli-Pass installs right where an enclosure’s handle would normally go, and at first glance, actually looks like a handle. But zoom in on it, and you’ll notice that there’s a small fingerpad at the top, which is precisely where the magic happens. It’s “unlocked” with the most convenient, least duplicable keys of all: the fingerprints of you and your most trusted IT staff members.
One thing that I really like about the Intelli-Pass (aside from the biometrics) is that it’s designed with tamper-resistance in mind. While the fingertip scanner is very necessarily located on the outside, unsecured portion of the device, all of the most sensitive inner-workings are safely stashed on the other side of the enclosure door, where they can’t be vandalized or otherwise damaged. It also has the very cool feature of alarm system compatibility – tie it into your building’s existing emergency alert system, and the Intelli-Pass can be configured to automatically open server enclosures when the alarm sounds, so that equipment can be accessed or removed instantly.
I know that I totally ripped traditional keys before, but sometimes you may want them as a backup, so Intelli-Pass is available in an optional keyed version in the event that you’d like to have standard key access in the event of a power outage. It’s pretty convenient, really. They think of everything.
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.
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.
Talk about having an arsenal on your hip. No, I’m not talking about firearms or any other family of weapons. I’m talking about cable installation tools – just about every major type you could need, all packed into a compact holster that you can clip right onto your belt. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no pro cable installer, but I have learned quite a few basic cable terminations, and in doing so, used all of the required tools firsthand. And just from my hands-on experience in class, sitting at a table, I can imagine that searching for, and then juggling, tools in the field can get pretty annoying. That’s why, today, I’m turning the spotlight onto the Black Box Professional Technician’s Kit.
I love smart kits like this. All too often, combination-type items (everything from compilation CDs to candy mixes) seem to fall short on the things you really want, but load you up with other products you could do without. But with the Professional Technician’s case, that isn’t even an issue. It’s got everything that you need, and nothing you don’t. Enough said.
Included in the kit are must-haves like a punchdown tool, a reversible Type 110/66 puchdown blade, a combination cutter/stripper for UTP and STP cables, utility scissors, a mini flashlight (AA batteries included), a multi-use spudger, and even a Sharpie marker – all packed into a molded PVC holster that holds it all in place, and perches securely on your belt. You just pull out the tool you need, when you need it, and put it back in its place when you’re done, so it’s ready to go for next time. Nice.