Cable management refers to the installation of equipment to secure cables for electrical services in a building. The term is used for products or workmanship. Cable management is important in information technology (IT), communications, and power distribution.
Cable management both supports and contains cables during installation, and makes subsequent maintenance or changes to the cable system easier. Products such as cable trays, cable ladders, and cable baskets are used to support a cable through cabling routes.
The IT industry needs data cables to be added, moved, or removed many times during the life of the installation. It is usual practice to install "fixed cables" between cabling closets or cabinets. These cables are contained in cable trays etc., and are terminated at each end onto patch panels in the communications cabinet or outlets at the desktop. The circuits are then interconnected to the final destination using patch cords.
Cables can easily become tangled, making them difficult to work with, sometimes resulting in devices accidentally becoming unplugged as one attempts to move a cable. Such cases are known as "cable spaghetti".
Computer data cabling, structured cabling, LAN cabling
Generally, one end of a cable is terminated in the data cabinet. The other end of a cable ends at the desk. The cable management needs at either end are different.
Buildings and office furniture are often designed with cable management in mind; for instance, desks sometimes have holes to pass cables, and dropped ceilings and raised floors provide easy access. Some cables have requirements for minimum bend radius or proximity to other cables, particularly power cables, to avoid crosstalk or interference. Power cables often need to be grouped separately and suitably apart from data cables, and only cross at right angles which minimizes electromagnetic interference.
The organized routing of cables inside the computer case allows for optimal airflow and cooling. Good cable management also makes working inside a computer much easier by providing safer hardware installation, repair, or removal. Some PC mod enthusiasts showcase the internal components of their systems with a window mod, which displays the aesthetics of internal cabling as well as the skills and wealth of the modder.
The choice of cables is also important; for instance, ribbon cables used to connect Parallel ATA drives to the motherboard can disrupt the airflow inside of computers, making case fans less effective; most SATA cables are more compact and therefore do not have this problem.
Color-coding of cables is sometimes used to keep track of which is which. For instance, the wires coming out of ATX power supplies are color-coded by voltage. Documenting and labeling cable runs, tying related cables together by cable ties, cable lacing, rubber bands or other means, running them through cable guides, and clipping or stapling them to walls are other common methods of keeping them organized. Above drop ceilings, hooks or trays are used to organize cables and protect them from electrical interference
In hospital situations, cable management can be critical to preventing medical mistakes. Emergency room nurse manager Pat Gabriel said, "My wish is that we could somehow not have spaghetti on the bed. When you look at all those wires and those IVs, it's just spaghetti".
Cabling in healthcare facilities must be grounded, shielded and routed in accordance with life safety codes to minimize interference with medical equipment.
Cables are managed by four methods in commercial buildings:
- Concrete trenching - a trench is dug into the building's concrete. Cabling and floor boxes are installed and the trench is sealed with concrete.
- Floor decking - cables are installed on the ceiling of the floor below. Holes are drilled through the floor and outlets are installed on top of the floor.
- Overhead cabling - cables are installed on the ceiling. Cable drop downs give users access to outlets.
- Access flooring - cables are installed below a raised floor.
Cord concealers (also called cord protectors) are commonly used in offices to prevent accidents while protecting the cord and the appliance its attached to. Office furniture can sometimes have built in cable management solutions.
In moving equipment
Cable management is particularly important in powered equipment which must move large distances while tethered to a power source and control cabling. There are several common methods of cable management.
With a suspended sliding coil, the cables are coiled like a spring, with each loop of the coil attached to a sliding shoe on a track. As the cabling is played out, the shoes slide individually along the track and the coils expand. When sliding the other direction, the coils fold back together into a compact spiral.
Folded linear cable uses either a flexible backbone shell, or a flat cable folded into an arc along its long axis. This style of cabling is very common in computer printers to connect the printhead to the circuitry, but is also used in very large linear moving gantries. The cables are flexed only in a small region in a tight radius and so need to be very flexible.