How to Check Your Network
Even in a world of Wi-Fi, it's always important to make sure the wired portion of your LAN is working. There are so many problems that you can solve by simply taking some time and testing your wires.
How Does a Cable Tester Work?
When it comes right down to it, using a cable tester isn't really all that much different in principle from taking a wire and putting a battery at one end and a light bulb at the other. If the bulb lights, the wire's good. It's a similar system to a fiber tester but using electricity over copper rather than light over fiber. The majority of testers come with two components: the main unit itself and a remote that handles termination and then connects wirelessly to the primary unit. All testers check two primary factors:
- Continuity: Can the wires run continuously to the far end of the cable? A Fluke Networks cable tester sends a current down each pair of wires to make sure that every connection in your RJ45 connector is good as even one bad wire pair can doom a line.
- Current: Some testers also measure the current flow to determine exactly how much connectivity you get from each pair, which can impact network performance significantly.
What Features Should You Look For?
While everyone should pay attention to basic cable continuity, there are a number of other factors that all network technicians should pay attention to when installing or maintaining ethernet. It's a very useful device for any technician to have in their kit:
- Automated Testing: Where a manual network tester requires that the technician check each pair of wires individually, an automated model runs through all eight pairs before spitting out test results.
- Wiremap: With a wiremap feature, which is found on the Fluke Networks CableIQ tester, you get a visual representation of everything from pair lengths to splits and shorts.
- Fault Detection: Many models also include a tone generator so that you can not only figure out which cable has the fault, but where along the cabling link the problem actually lies.
Network maintenance is more than just about making sure there are no gaps in the wires; you also need to make sure that even the cables you know are good can carry the traffic you need. Intelligent testers like the CableIQ can also tell you how much bandwidth you actually have for everything from video to voice over IP traffic. After all, it doesn't help if your tester shows all the wires connect but you still can't get your traffic through.