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Lost In Translation: Data Cabling Explained By Type

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Not everyone can be a "tech geek." That is why IT pros do what they do, and everyone else just nods their heads when the IT people are talking. All joking aside, if you wanted to know more about any one piece of IT equipment, a good place to start is with data cables and data cabling services. Almost everything you plug into a computer--a modem, a computer system at work, etc., requires some type of cabling, and when something goes haywire, the first thing an IT pro will ask is for you to identify/describe the cables. To do that, you have to first understand what types of data cables there are. 

Ethernet Cables 

Ethernet cables, often categorized by "Cat" followed by a letter and/or letter/number combo, are the cables you could probably recognize most easily. They are similar to old school phone cords with their click-in clear plastic connectors, but the cables themselves are really thick. Sometimes they are a solid color, such as red or green. At other times, they are dark gray or light gray with a single or double stripe of color down the middle (usually yellow, white, or blue stripes). These cables provide a direct connection to the internet via a digital data delivery system. 

Token Ring Cables

Not "Tolkien's Ring" cables, as some people have mistakenly called these, these cables connect computers all to the same LAN. In short, they create the linked computer systems of most businesses, while simultaneously linking all of those computers to the internet. The "ring" that is referenced here is the circle created when several computers are linked together. Token ring cables are the predecessors of ethernet cables, but some businesses still use token rings. If your business uses these cables, they are thick, black, and closely resemble most power cords, except that they will not have the usual wall plugs you would expect at the very ends of each long cable. 

Fiber Optic Cables

Fiber optic data cables can deliver data faster and farther than any of the above cables. They are highly prized for their durability and speedy delivery of information. Dozens of tiny fiber optic strands are bundled together, which then may be bundled with several bundles in a very large, very thick, round cable cord. The exterior of these cables is often silvery and woven in appearance, although that depends on the phone service company providing the connections and cabling.