How do I connect my managed switch to a patch panel that's labeled to wall outlets for phone and data? Do I just...
have to use a port that's not in use? Should the cabling guys have allocated a port for my server?
Connecting a switch to a patch panel that's wired specifically for data is a quite simple process. Since the cabling has been done by an electrician or technical person who is aware of the correct cabling specifications, you shouldn't need to worry about it.
You will require a few patch panel cables, which are essentially straight-through CAT5/5e/6 cables, no longer than a meter in length. You connect one side of the cable to the patch panel and the other into the required port of your managed switch.
As you haven't provided any information about your phone cabling, I'll assume it is not an IP phone telephony system, and therefore more likely to be done using CAT 3 type of cable. You can double check this with the person or company who performed the installation of the wires and if this is the case, then you'll need to ensure you don't mix the phones patch panel with your data's patch panel and wire them to the switch!
The switch can only be used for network data, unless you are specifically using an IP phone network, in which case, you can use the same type of CAT5/5e/6 cable for your data and telephony services.
In closing, if your server is located close to the switch, you can simply use a short UTP cable to connect it to the server, otherwise you'll need to use the newly wired network to patch it through to the switch.
Also, keep in mind that there are some very neat tools which will automatically show you if a UTP cable is wired correctly, and if not, where the problem is! A quick visit to your local electronic/computer store should convince you.
If you require further information about network cabling, I'd highly suggest you visit my website, www.Firewall.cx, and check out the dedicated Cabling section under the Networking menu.
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