Know your Tech: Molded Patch Cables

Jan 20, 2023 | Tech Tips

If you’re familiar with setting up an IT network, you may have heard the term, “patch cable,” thrown around. Patch cables are essential for organizing and connecting every part of your IT infrastructure. Understanding patch cables can be a little bit confusing, and knowing the best option for the use of the cables is essential. Let’s discuss knowing your patch cables, molded patch cables, and finding the best choice for your needs.

What are patch cables?

A patch cable (also called patch cord) is a general term for the cables used to connect devices together, such as your VoIP phone to ethernet. Compared to a typical wire, such as a phone charger, patch cables are typically stiffer and bulkier. They may also seem more durable and thicker than your standard cable, and that’s intended for a longer cable lifespan. Think about what a patch cable does: it essentially needs to send signals from one device to another. Having a thicker wire ensures that there is less interference and greater longevity for your cable. Patch cables are made with a variety of wire types, like UTP (unshielded twisted pair), STP (shielded twisted pair), coaxial, and fiber patch cables. They have RJ-45 connectors at both ends, which is commonly used to connect devices to LAN (local area network).

Patch vs. Ethernet

If you take a look at a patch cable and an ethernet cable, you might think they are the same sorts of cables with the same functions. However, that’s not exactly the case. Ethernet is a type of hard-wired connection. Your organization may use ethernet instead of wireless internet connection because ethernet is typically safer, more reliable, and creates minimal interference. To use the internet, you would need to physically connect an ethernet cable to a device. The “ethernet patch cable” you use to connect your computer. Ethernet cables are a type of patch cable, which is why you might come into contact with them pretty often.

A patch cable is meant to, “patch,” a connection from a switch or hub. Therefore, you can, “patch,” your device to your LAN or internet connection using an ethernet cable. Ethernet cables are organized by different, “cats” (categories), each of which have their own specifications including speeds and transmission. Some types of ethernet cables are Cat6, Cat7, and Cat5. 

What do Patch Cables look Like?

Patch cables are typically shorter than a normal cable you may be used to seeing, as they are meant for in-office use over shorter distances. Patch cables come in any color and are usually no longer than 2 meters. However, some patch cables might be longer or shorter. You might need a different length of patch cable depending on the use. For example, ethernet connection to your local area network (LAN) may require a shorter cable. This ensures faster speeds, minimal interference, greater convenience, and overall, a better experience. 

Patch cables are usually made with coaxial cabling, but might consist of fiber optic or shielded/unshielded wires especially when working with ethernet cables. As mentioned above, patch cables will typically have two RJ-45 (also known as 8P8C RJ45) connectors. 8P8C stands for eight position, eight conductor, referring to the type of plug located at the end of the connector. These RJ45 ends are basically a piece of plastic with golden contacts inside and a plastic latch that allows you to connect to a port. 

Molded Patch Cables

Molded patch cables are the most widely used type of patch cable, and is often a part of tech closets, patch panels, and hard-to-access places. They are more durable and reliable because of the way they’re constructed. The tips of these cables are “molded.” During production, the molding pushes the material into the connector and around the individual wires. This allows for integral strain relief and creates for a more long-lasting, reliable cable. Additionally, there will be less interference, offering a more stable connection. 

“Snagless” patch cables have a small flap to protect the RJ45 connector latch from being snapped off. Without a cover, the hook can easily catch onto things and get snagged off. 

Patch cables can be both snagless and molded, including locking tabs to cover the RJ45 connector. These are probably the best options for frequent use, as they are a reliable and sustainable option. A cable boot creates a “snagless” cable so that the RJ45 connector will not fall off. The “modeled” cable ensures that there is a secure connection and that your wire will never come out of the mold. With lots of movement and wear and tear in spaces like an office, you might choose a molded and snagless design for durability and reliability. Overall, it is a more “trouble free” choice. 

Patch cables
Molded and unshielded Cat6 cable, Tripp Lite

Why a cable boot?

As mentioned before, patch cables have a little “boot” to cover the flap on the RJ45 connector. These flaps essentially allow you to lock your patch cables into whatever ports they are being positioned in. Without these “retention clips,” you can easily disconnect from your network; having these clips makes for a more secure connection with less interference. The lock is a small piece of plastic that might be fragile if overused or not properly placed into the port. The boot is there to protect the lock from being picked off. It also creates a more manageable installation for IT technicians and networkers. In tight areas with lots of wires, having this lock and boot will prevent the wire from being pulled out and creating a wiring mess. Patch cables are also easier to connect with the boot and will protect your nails. 

What’s the best option?

Depending on the uses for the cables, you may choose standard patch cables over molded cables, and vice versa. These types of cables offer the same performance, but one may be more optimal over the other. In the office, many individuals find themselves often unplugging and plugging in their cables, which brings a lot of wear and tear to your patch cables. As with all of your tech infrastructure, you want your accessories to last long. It can be annoying to have to replace wires or cables after using them for a long time. 

Tripp Lite Cables

Tripp Lite is a company that provides cables and connectivity for network systems. They sell a variety of patch cables for whatever your networking needs, including Cat6 or Cat5 ethernet wires, snagless molded patch cables, and more. You or your managed IT service provider can select the necessary cable type, length, shielding, color, and compatibility, making them a great choice for your ethernet cable connection. At Computero, we trust Tripp Lite for their reliability and durability. Their wires ensure the best quality and minimal interference and strain on your wires. Having good patch cables is necessary for your IT closet, device connections, and more. Tripp Lite is the best option for the best performance. 

Computero can help you sort your wiring mess, along with setting up your IT network. We work with many small and medium sized businesses to create an organized and well-maintained wiring connection using the IT infrastructure mentioned earlier. Contact Computero today to get started. 

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