Few people label (or desire to label) all the ports of their patch panels. The result is you having NO clue what cable goes where. If you are lucky you know which ones are connected to something and which ones are not.
I used to be in the same position myself at our old building. I had a normal patch panel and a bad habit of not labeling (or remembering) which cable went where. When a new workstation was added it was quite frustrating for me to have to figure out what port on the patch panel went to that data port at the workstation so I could connect it to the data switch. As bad as it may sound, usually I would just plug each port of the patch panel into the switch until the light on the switch came on. But once when the light came on it wasn’t the new workstation that I was trying to add, It was a decommissioned server that had never been shut down .. too bad it was configured with the same IP address as the new server! Both servers shut down their Ethernet interfaces causing all work in the office to come to a screeching halt. That was the end of the “plug it till you get it” method.
When I started to design the network for our new building before moving in back in late 07 I started looking for a solution to this problem. One of our vendors had just started offering the neatest thing I had ever seen. It was so simple yet so amazing. It is a patch panel that has a little LED light above each port. Using a handheld signal generator at the other end of the network drop (at the keystone jack/data port near the workstation) a signal is sent over an unused pair of wire in the Ethernet cable to illuminate an LED light on the patch panel directly above the port. Amazingly simple, amazingly handy. If you want to add a new workstation you plug the signal generator into the wall and go see what light is lit on the patch panel, that’s your port! You can also plug Ethernet cables that are fished through your rack into the signal generator to see which port on the patch panel it is connected to.
If you are installing new patch panels or wish to upgrade your existing panels, simply purchase the LED patch panel in the desired rating and capacity (Both CAT5e and CAT6 are available in 24 and 48 port versions), and one or more Signal Generators. The signal generator is not required to install and use the patch panel. It is only used to illuminate the LED lights on the patch panel when desired, so you can purchase them now, later, or as needed in case you need an extra or lose one later.
The patch panels install in the exact same manner that a standard patch panel would install, no special installation or wiring considerations are required. An Ethernet cable consists of 8 conductors (4 pairs) and only 2 of those pairs are actually used for an Ethernet connection between devices such as a PC and a network switch, although all 4 pairs are always wired at each end. This system uses one of the unused pairs of wire to transmit the signal that illuminates the LED light on the patch panel. It is completely safe and causes no harm whatsoever to any device on the network.
Learn more about these LED patch panels on our site here. As always, if you have any questions about this or any other item please give us a call!