Data network cabinets are required to house and connect the incoming broadband connection for your school, with your school IT network and the associated equipment.
It is an essential piece of equipment. A data network cabinet stores networking equipment (such as a router) securely, in one place.
Data network cabinets keep network connections tidy. Good cabinets ensure ease of upgrade and maintenance, security and efficiency.
Data network cabinets are required to house and connect the incoming broadband service for your school with your local school network and the associated equipment. They will also house your school’s building services connections – such as CCTV.
A suitable, well-maintained cabinet helps to manage your school IT network more efficiently, as well as help to identify issues with your network more easily.
Data network cabinets are also required to house your school’s building services connections – such as CCTV – but where possible these should be housed in a separate data network cabinet to the one being used for your broadband and wireless service.
The Standard is envisaged as a best practice solution for schools to best meet their digital needs. However, it is accepted that schools are operating on limited resources and have to plan for attaining the standard over time.
Periodic measures to meet this Standard include:
- Schools ensure that the core router is housed in an appropriate data network cabinet and is clearly labelled; and
- All core networking resources housed in cabinets and clearly labelled
The data network cabinet should be big enough to house all currently required networking equipment and should be sufficiently future-proof to be able to accommodate growth.
They need to be able to adapt to ensure that the school’s requirements continue to be met in the future.
The data network cabinet should be of sufficient size to allow for the installation of the networking equipment (router; switches; etc.) needed for your school.
It should allow room for expansion as the requirements of the school changes (e.g. increased pupils on roll; greater demand for online resources, cloud services; BYOD; etc.).
Schools should discuss this with their IT support partner so that they are informed about any potential limitations of existing data network cabinet(s), especially if it cannot accommodate newer technology to support increased bandwidth.
Advice on minimum sizes for cabinets can be sought through the local authority.
Recommended minimum dimensions are:
- Main floor cabinets should be 48u high x 800 mm wide x 800 mm deep; and
- Edge based cabinets should have a minimum depth of 600mm.
They should also have lockable doors, removable sides and with appropriate power and ventilation.
Cabinets should be fully accessible for support and maintenance.
Data network cabinets should be located far enough away from teaching and learning spaces so as not to disturb lessons. They should be soundproofed, cooled and well ventilated.
Ideally, the cabinet should be located in a Communications Room which should be lockable and have appropriate cooling and ventilation in place to ensure the equipment does not become damaged.
Data network cabinets must be located accessibly so that subsequent measurements, repair, expansion or extension of the installed cabling can be undertaken in safety with minimal disruption.
The data cables and equipment in data network cabinets are essential components to your school having connectivity to deliver digital services. Therefore, the location of your data network cabinets should allow for appropriate air conditioning and/or ventilation to be installed. The location should also provide physical and environmental protection for both the cabinet, and the equipment housed within it.
This protection can be met by choice of appropriate location and/or by specific design that addresses the following aspects:
- Temperature – data equipment can create a lot of additional heat and so where possible, you should consider a well cooled and ventilated room as an ideal location;
- Exposure to ultraviolet radiation;
- Ingress of dust, fluids or other contaminants;
- Physical damage (accidental or malicious);
- Electromagnetic interference; and
- Presence of other hazards.
Where air conditioning is not deemed to be a reasonable option – either due to the constraints of the school or due to concerns over environmental impact – you should ensure that the location is as well cooled and ventilated as possible to support the effective running of the network cabinet devices.
As the equipment housed in a data network cabinet can be very noisy, the cabinet should, wherever possible, be located in a Communications Room which does not cause noise issues or which has been soundproofed.
The use of noise isolating server racks within data cabinets may also be considered where applicable and available.
Data network cabinets must be located so that subsequent measurements, repair, expansion or extension of the installed cabling can be undertaken in safety.
It is accepted that schools are operating on limited resources and that for some schools, with limits on space and suitable accommodation there may be constraints on where the data cabinet can be housed. In this case, schools should consider carefully where data network cabinets are housed in collaboration with their local authority.
Radio Frequency (RF) interference can cause problems for the school network. It is therefore important to remove this potential issue, where possible.
Common sources of network interference include: car ignition systems, mobile phones and microwave ovens. Data network cabinets should not be located near these or else classroom internet connections can be affected, and work lost.
Equipment with radio frequencies, such as microwave ovens, are a potential source of interference with the networking equipment housed in the data network cabinet. Therefore, where possible, you should not situate such items in the same location as the data network cabinet.
Schools should seek advice from a local authority when making significant additions or changes to the room holding data network cabinets.
An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is effectively a large battery.
Having an UPS on your network can help prevent data loss in the case of a power cut - particularly when using mobile devices like tablets or laptops in classrooms or around the school.
An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can provide a short-term (measured in minutes) source of power in the event of an outage. This can afford data network equipment time to shut down safely, reducing the risk of data loss and damage.
A UPS is heavy, so should always be mounted low in a cabinet. A UPS should never be installed in a wall mounted cabinet without first confirming the maximum wall loading weight with local authority engineers.
The Standard is envisaged as a best practice solution for schools to best meet their digital needs. However, it is accepted that schools are operating on limited resources and therefore have to plan for attaining the Standard over time.
- Secondary schools should have UPS in all cabinets but where this is unaffordable, core cabinets should be prioritised.
- Small schools with limited space and resources should agree an approach to UPS with their local authority or IT support partner. They should also ensure that senior leaders are aware of the risk/benefit analysis behind not having a UPS in place.
To ensure all devices receive the optimum connectivity and to prevent bottlenecks and differing speed experiences in classrooms around the school, it is critical that the correct type and length of cable is used between cabinets.
They should always be professionally installed and warranted; and always use Fibre if the distance is greater than 90m (metres).
Links between cabinets (such as between two school blocks) can carry significant amounts of data and may be over 90metres.
Fibre links are recommended for use in these circumstances as they offer greater bandwidth and data rates; immunity to electromagnetic interference; are more space efficient; lighter; and can be quicker to install.
Fibre cabling between cabinets in schools should be a minimum of OM4 – this is a multi-mode cable which is optimised to support 10Gbps Ethernet connections up to 400 metres. Shorter runs of up to 100 metres can support data flow of up to 100Gbps.
This supports network traffic without any degradation in service over the length of the connection, reducing pinch points, and allowing for greater data management. It is unlikely that single-mode fibre is necessary within a school environment, even when linking buildings within a school boundary.
Single-mode fibre is traditionally used where longer distances are required (multiple kilometres not tens or hundreds of metres). Additionally, single-mode optical interfaces on network devices tend to be more expensive than equivalent multi-mode optical interfaces.
Where single-mode fibre is already in place, you will need to continue to ‘light’ this using single-mode interfaces as multimode optical interfaces cannot inject sufficient light into a single mode fibre.
Cat5e or CAT6 cable should never be used for any run length of 90m or more as performance substantially degrades at this point.
Where cable runs are over 90m, schools should consider whether an additional edge cabinet is needed to support the overall network infrastructure.
Cabling should always be carried out by suitably qualified personnel using the appropriate materials, and ensuring that correct protocols for working and appropriate containment for materials are being followed.
Schools should consult their local authority for guidance when undertaking links between cabinets, especially when these are links between buildings.
Having an up to date list and clearly labelled equipment makes adding new devices to the network, and finding faults, easier and helps with your planning when you want to invest in your future technology infrastructure.
Documentation is key to understanding how your school IT network operates, identifying faults, unused/ redundant resources, and when items might be due for upgrade or replacement.
Documenting high-value equipment may also be a key requirement for school insurance providers.
Key documents, such as a Disaster Recovery plan / Business Continuity plan, key contacts etc. should always be stored in hard copy, both in the communications room and in the head teacher’s office.
Documentation of the overall network topology will assist with managing the school IT network and planning for the future. School leadership teams will also have the insight they need to prioritise where spending needs to be directed and also where issues are likely to arise in the network as a whole.
For health and safety reasons as well as for ensuring classroom devices stay connected to the network, it is essential that all data cabinets and IT equipment are all electrically safe.
This is done through earthing data network cabinets or ensuring that they are bonded through to an earthing point.
Data network cabinets need to be earth bonded in order to render them electrically safe and provide protection to persons coming into contact with them.
The installation of an earth drain point must be in accordance with the regulations set out in the latest version of BS7671 IET Wiring Regulations, which sets the standards for electrical installation in the UK. Work carried out should also be in accordance with applicable local and national installation codes.
Schools should consult with their local authority to ensure that correct procedures for earthing and bonding of cabinets takes place.
It is essential that all data network cabinets and network equipment have stable power supplies to prevent power fluctuations and data losses.
This should be checked and maintained in accordance with relevant electrical regulations.
Data network cabinets need to have a dedicated power supply which is tested regularly to ensure that there is no overloading and that the power supply remains appropriate to the demands of network equipment as the school expands.
It should also comply with the latest version of BS7671 IET Wiring Regulations.