What are Patch Panels & When to Use Them?

Patch panels are the ‘unsung heroes’ of the data center. When you need to connect a large number of devices to a central server, switch, or other piece of hardware, it is important that you plan everything out properly. You want to make sure that you are not only setting things up for today, but also planning for any potential future growth. For many companies, the use of patch panels is a great way to keep their data center or server room organized as well as make it much easier to add in new devices in the future.

Regardless of the size of an organization, it is almost always smart to install a patch panel near your main computer equipment. Whether you’re aware of what patch panels are or not, read on to get a good understanding of how they work and why they are such an important piece of hardware for virtually every organization.

What Are Patch Panels

48 Port Patch PanelFor those who don’t know, a patch panel is a passive device that has a set number of ports on the front that all converge into one or more ports coming off the back. The ports in the back will lead to a server, switch, or another type of device.  Each port in the front will have a cable coming from a PC, phone, fax, or any other device that needs to be networked together. A patch panel will typically be mounted inside a server rack, physically near the hardware that it will be connecting to.

Why Use Patch Panels

There are many advantages to using patch panels compared to attempting to just running cables from each device directly into the central piece of hardware.  The most important reasons to use patch panels include:

  • Organization – A patch panel will be each to reach and see, and every cable is going into one central location. Having all the cables connected to one panel helps to keep cables from becoming tangled and messy.
  • Troubleshooting – Each port on the panel is clearly labeled, making it much easier to replace cabling should it become necessary.
  • Expanded Connectivity – Most servers and other devices have a limited number of ports available. A patch panel can be used to dramatically increase the number of devices that can connect to a specific piece of hardware.
  • Reduced Risk of Outage – Whenever adding or removing devices there is always a risk of damaging the surrounding cables, especially when you have to reach back into a server rack. Having a patch panel helps reduce the risk of unplanned outages by making it much easier to add and remove cables without touching the main hardware.
  • Affordable – Patch panels can serve a similar function to a hub or even a switch in many cases. Since patch panels are entirely passive, however, they are far more affordable than these other types of equipment. This can help to keep the overall costs of expansion significantly lower.

Choosing the Right Size Patch Panels

When shopping for a patch panel you will see that there are many different options in terms of the number of ports in the panel. Choosing the right size for a given project is typically going to involve looking at how many connections you require today, and whether or not additional connections will be needed in the future. The more ports that are available, the more growth potential there will be. Of course, you will also need to factor in any limitations on the server or other hardware that the patch panel will be feeding into.

Some companies prefer to get a patch panel that has just enough ports for their specific needs, and others like to get a panel that leaves plenty of room for growth. There really is no right or wrong answer here, and the decision should be based on the overall IT strategy for the company. Of course, larger patch panels are not significantly more expensive than smaller ones, so on a cost per available port basis, it is typically going to make sense to opt for the larger models.

Contact Us for Help

Whether you are ready to purchase a patch panel, or you still have some questions, Lone Star Racks is here to help. Our team of customer service professionals will be more than happy to discuss all your options, and help you to choose the correct patch panel for your specific needs. Get in touch with us by dialing 972-201-3993. We look forward to helping you soon.

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