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Anatomy of an InstallationEDITOR'S NOTE: This is the last of a four-part series that has examined the installation process from start to finish. This month we delve into the importance of an installat...


August 1, 2003  


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Anatomy of an Installation

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last of a four-part series that has examined the installation process from start to finish. This month we delve into the importance of an installation checklist.

GOOD COMMUNICATION IS A CRITICAL COMPONENT OF ANY INSTALLATION

Asuccessful installation can only be achieved when all parties – the end-user, the consultant, the contractor and equipment suppliers — work in sync from start to finish. It’s when communication channels break down that problems arise.

As Robert Horne, president of HorNet Consulting Services Inc. in Carleton Place, Ont., noted in Part Two of this series, it comes down to the basics.

“If you’ve ever seen server farms or data centres that haven’t been done well, it’s just a hodge-podge of cables and bad documentation,” he said. “Sometimes, stuff happens, but it’s not what happens, it’s how you deal with it.”

Chemistry is also important. A good consultant, says Horne, earns trust and is not afraid to challenge ideas and bring in different views. “It’s fine for everyone to say yes to everything all the time, but the role of the consultant is also to be the devil’s advocate. They need to ask questions such as have you thought about this or what about that?”

In order to avoid disappointment or an outright disaster, below are some points to consider, courtesy of three experts in the field and members of Cabling Systems’ editorial advisory board — Keith Fortune, communications facilities manager with the Bank of Montreal, Rob Stevenson, communications division manager with Guild Electric Ltd. and Brad Masterson, product manager with Fluke Networks Canada.

The consultant should review all test results and the certification warranty of the cable manufacture should be in writing;

Documentation needs to be a “living thing” and not something that’s going to be out of date five minutes after the move-in takes place;

The start of an installation is time for all parties to go over all project details, even minute ones;

Make sure everything is put down in writing. It’s too easy for verbal instructions to be forgotten;

Determine who is going to take responsibility for a completed job once everything has been installed, and finally,

Keep all drawings in the hub room so they can be easily accessible.

“LAN administrators need to reference them,” Fortune says of the drawings. “You have to make sure that all the cabling is tagged and labeled going forward so that when people move in, they can pick up and do their job quicker as well as deal with problems and trouble issues faster.

“When you’re closing out a project, you also have to make sure that all the deficiencies have been rectified and there is a good game plan going forward in terms of troubleshooting and maintenance from that day on. That’s a big piece that often gets dropped.”

According to Stevenson the way to avoid a “disconnect” between the installer and the end-user is to hold a project “kick-off” meeting where all specs are reviewed.

“Make sure everything is put down in writing. It’s too easy for verbal instructions to be forgotten.”

Testing is another matter. “Typically I get involved after the user moves in,” says Masterson. “The cabling gets installed, everything looks pretty at that point and everybody is happy. Everyone moves in, they start firing up all their electronics and things don’t necessarily operate the way they had intended.

“Then, the finger pointing starts happening. The installer did it wrong, the tests were fine, the consultants didn’t do their job. You want to be able to avoid the finger pointing by having some clearly defined goals. You have to determine who’s going to take ultimate responsibility for the completed job once everything is moved in.”

So how much buck-passing goes on out there? “I’ll get a call from the contractor who is really under the gun who’ll say this tester is no good because it fails all my results,” says Masterson. “Then I have to go through all the scenarios…. They say it’s not what I did, it must be the cable so then they go after the cable vendor.

“Sometimes it is their test methodology, sometimes it is a tester that’s out of calibration, sometimes it is their install practices, sometimes it is bad cable. It can be any one of those. If you do things right from the outset, you can avoid a lot of problems.”


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