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Pay heed to cable

Those responsible for the functionality and profitability of a business unit must pay closer attention to cabling systems. Their businesses depend upon it.

November 1, 2001  

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I am a finance person in a marketing role. I mention this only to help you understand my perspective as you read this column. Over the past 15 years, I have worn many hats: I started in finance, became IT manager for a few years, moved to VP Operations and then to VP of Finance and Administration. I am now enjoying a position as VP of Marketing.

In summary, I’ve “been there, done that.” I know the network, I know the market and I know financial statements. I understand long-term versus short-term decisions. I understand investment. I understand hard versus soft dollars. I understand fixed versus variable costs. I understand opportunity cost. I get productivity loss. I get it already! (OK, I feel better).


What I do not understand is why the Canadian market is slow to understand the impact cable has on the performance of the network. How can I be so bold or brass in saying the market does not get it? I simply note the percentage of low-end cable being sold into our market versus the higher end cable.

For the network, this basically means the convergence of voice, video and data on the same network to improve the communication process. CIOs must think in terms of increased productivity, efficiency and return on investment.

The ratio of devices to users on the network has changed drastically in the last five years. Devices outnumber users by approximately 60 per cent. End users demand access to their network 7×24 from many different devices. The network cannot be a threat to your business — it must differentiate your business.


Businesses depend on their networks for daily operations, competitive advantage, productivity and management of their enterprises. In a nutshell, networks are the tools for productivity and management of the enterprise.

Here are a few statistics on the network that bear mentioning:

Over 50 per cent of network problems are related to cabling systems (this includes passive equipment)

Data cabling accounts for a mere two per cent of your network investment

Two per cent of the cost and more than 50 per cent of downtime and/or slowtime is from cabling

Cable accounts for up to 40 per cent of your IS team’s time

According to LeCroy Corp. of Chestnut Ridge, NY, cost of productivity loss is 31 per cent due to downtime and 69 per cent due to slowtime

A non-tuned cabling system creates slowtime


Cabling standards were created to ensure that all products from different manufacturers perform at the same minimum level. One cannot meet the needs of today and the future by installing minimum or yesterday’s standards.

Standards today do not specify the best-performing system or how well they will work with your networking equipment. This information is crucial to the success of your network.

Standards are to be reviewed and replaced every five years. Interoperability issues are holding up the latest Category 6 standard. (It is currently in its 8th revision). The document that contains the Category 5e standard was just ratified in March of this year. The delay in the review of standards and then the ratification process is too slow — considering the pace of technology.


A network is a key factor in the success of an enterprise. Therefore, businesses expect better performance and a higher quality of service from their networks to meet the needs of new applications. The cable that runs the network significantly influences the network’s performance. Based on the demand from the enterprise, a higher end cable may be the most cost-effective solution overall.

CIOs, CFOs, and those responsible for the functionality and profitibility of the business unit, must pay attention to cabling systems. The significance of cable decisions cannot be underestimated. Cable type is not a mere ‘cost of product’ decision. It is a decision that impacts the overall cost of business, such as productivity and opportunity.

So is this a marketing or finance article? You tell me. All I know is that if it were up to me — if it were my company or my decision — I would need to look at the overall issue, not just one single component.

For information on the costs and cost benefits of a tuned cabling system, talk to the manufacturers, contractors, consultants, distributors and/or RCDDs.

Corinne Corcoran is VP of Marketing and Inventory Management at Anixter Canada Inc. and a member of cabling Systems’ Editorial Board.

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