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How To: Installing a Network Patch Panel and Switch

Published by Cablesys on Nov 13th 2018

Patch Panel vs. Switch

When connecting devices in data centers, two common components include a patch panel and a network switch. A well-designed structured cabling system can make installation of a patch panel and an Ethernet switch effortless. Once mounted on the server rack, the use of horizontal cable management can keep everything neat and tidy.

What is the difference between a patch panel and switch?

While a patch panel and switch may look the same on the front with their rows of ports that is where their similarities end, as each component serves a different purpose in a telecommunications room. A patch panel is a passive component that compliments the switch. The panel is designed to group multiple network ports in a single location which helps organize the wiring. Labeling the cables connected to a patch panel makes it is easier to identify signal flow as well as diagnose and troubleshoot any technical issues. In contrast, an Ethernet switch is an active component that receives, processes, and forwards data to multiple devices such as computers, servers, as well as other Ethernet IP devices such as security cameras. Devices can be networked together by connecting them to the switch through the patch panel. A switch is required in a local area network (LAN) whether a patch panel is used or not.

Patch panel with bundled patch cords and cable management

Steps for Installing a Patch Panel and Switch

  1. Determine where the patch panel and switch should be installed
  2. Evaluate the operating environment, a place where the equipment and components can be maintained well and accessed easily. Unobstructed airflow and vents are crucial.
  3. Build or purchase pre-terminated patch cords
  4. Determine patch cord lengths as well as the quantity needed for the installation. If improper lengths are chosen, cables with excessive slack will not only increase material and installation cost but also hinder cable management.
  5. Map out the ports
  6. Determine which switch port is connecting to which patch panel port, by doing this can reduce installation time.
  7. Mount the patch panel and switch
  8. Ensure the server rack accommodates the size of your components (EIA standard 19" width is most common).
  9. Connect the patch panel to the switch
  10. With the prepared patch cords, follow the port mapping created in step 3 and patch the cables.
  11. Install cable management
  12. Using horizontal and vertical cable management and cable ties to organize cables can help make future changes and upgrades easy.
  13. Label cable
  14. Tag both ends of each cable the same; this can assist in troubleshooting your end-to-end connectivity between the patch panel and the switch.

Cable Management

Horizontal Cable Management

With the use of horizontal cable management, horizontal pathways are created for patch cords to be routed cleanly and easily. Examples of horizontal cable managers include finger ducts, rings, lacing bars, and d-rings.

Vertical Cable Management

Using vertical cable management can help facilitate a proper bend radius for the cables as they run down the rack vertically. Examples of vertical cable managers include finger ducts, channels, and rings.

Cable Ties & Cable Labels

Cable ties can help with cable management as they can help with bundling cables. Compared to nylon cable ties, VELCRO® Brand cable ties have an additional benefit as they are reusable and can eliminate waste. Cable labels can help IT professionals in administrating system maintenance and troubleshooting.


With the installation of a patch panel and switch, a reliable network solution with traceable access points is created. Organization and planning are vital to the installation of a patch panel and a switch which goes concurrently with good cable management.

Using a pre-terminated patch panel is a good way to facilitate installation. Check out Cablesys Pre-terminated Patch Panel System to learn more.