Data drops in Academic and Administrative Buildings

Michael A. Crowley
January 1998, Revised December 1998

For 10 years, Mount Holyoke College as treated data drops in academic and administrative buildings as an essential part of the infrastructure. One thinks of these as one thinks of electrical outlets -- they should be placed where they might be needed, not where they are needed at a particular moment in time.

Unlike electrical, we do not make all of these data drops "live" on the network since the proportion of these in use at a particular moment is low. In our experience, providing sufficient data connectivity has enabled us to handle moves and changes (including minor building renovations) with a minimum of rewiring and with minimum latency to get the individual up and running in the new location.

Offices that are large enough for multiple desks or which have locations for multiple computers were provided with data drops for the various possible locations, not the location of the current occupant. Again, our experience with this method has shown that these alternate drops are often used, sometimes by an office rearrangement, but also when an individual obtains a second computer or even on office-mate.

Providing data drops in locations that are more public such as lounge areas and sometimes even storage areas has been valuable. We have found that a number of these areas have been used. Some have been used temporarily, but others have had offices put up or have had public access computers installed.

We have also found that alcove spaces are often used for printers and machines that have special purposes. For example, in financial services there some systems for macrofiche, electronic data transfer, and special printers.

Recently we have also found that our having pulled "dual data drops" (two separate data connections per data receptacle) has been essential. More and more individuals are requiring a printer on the network near the computer.

Guidelines for data

A data drops consists of two ethernet ports and a telephone port. In some cases, video is also present at the data drop. We have not, to date, pulled fiber to the desktop data ports.

Guidelines for offices

Guidelines for classrooms and labs

Classrooms have usually been provided with a data drop at each end of the room. In larger rooms and auditoriums, there are multiple drops in the front area of the room.

Labs are treated similarly to classrooms, but they often are provided with additional data drops depending on the general size and topology of the lab area.

A new classroom or lab should be provided with a wiring cabinet so that data connection electronics and wiring can be local to the room, thereby reducing wiring costs and increasing flexibility. The classroom or lab may also require video capability for reception or both reception and origination.

If fiber is not brought to the wiring cabinet, the design of the runs from the main closet to the remote area should make it extremely easy to add the fiber optic cable.

Guidelines for public areas and storage areas

This accounts for the rest of a building other than the offices, classrooms, and labs. We are not extravagant in providing data drops in these areas, but certain things are considered: The answer "yes" to any of these questions does not guarantee that a data drop will be installed, but if there is a positive answer, a data drop should be seriously considered.

Beyond data

In addition to data, current data drops often contain one or more phone circuits. In classrooms, labs, and some other locations, video cable has become a requirement.

For major building projects, one should consider locations where fiber (both single and multimode) should be pulled from the central wiring closet to the remote location. This is especially important to consider for classrooms and labs.

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