Running Smooth, Maintaining Your Fiber Optic Infrastructure to Prevent Downtime

Running Smooth, Maintaining Your Fiber Optic Infrastructure to Prevent Downtime


Written by Jeff Dominique, Chief Instructor                                                FNT Training & Consulting Services

Once the fiber has been properly installed, it typically has a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years. This life expectancy is not referring to 25 to 30 years of maintenance free service however, and it is important for the end user to maintain the system once it has been installed.

Worn treads cause a flat tire on the road in the middle of nowhere.  Failure to oil a motor causes engine failure.  A knick in an electrical drop cord gives you a shock when you are retrieving it across wet grass.  A light bulb burns out in the middle of the night just when you need it most.

These are just a few examples of preventable situations if you had just taken a few moments out of your busy schedule to check and maintain.

It’s true that we have become a very disposable society and it often seems easier to buy, use and pitch than it is to take care of something so it lasts longer.  About the only time that we pay attention to preventive care and maintenance is when it is very expensive and we are the ones who are ultimately responsible for its safe and effective operation.

A splendid example is our new car.  It comes with an owner’s manual, a maintenance manual and even digital warning detectors for tire pressure, oil change, failed lights etc. Our telecommunication systems rarely offer us these friendly reminders or come with a handy guide for maintenance.

Imagine your flight being cancelled because the airlines or airport computer systems inadvertently went down or being stuck in a huge traffic jam because an intersections traffic light failed.  Problems like this happen all too often, but are they preventable?

In the world of computer networks and telecommunications, where we are becoming so sophisticated and bandwidth dependent, it has gotten to the point where failure is not an option. One of those high bandwidth components that we have added to networking systems is fiber optics.

Fiber works on the premise of converting analog or digital signals to equivalent light signals for high speed, long range transmission.  It utilizes a glass waveguide that is fitted with connectors on each end in order to connect to light interface units and eventually to conversion equipment that will change the light pulse signal back to analog or digital for the PC or other equipment such as cameras, controllers, monitors and so on.

Since fiber optic connectors are not hermetically sealed, dust, moisture and a host of other contaminants can freely enter the connection area. For this reason, fiber folks generally refer to the fact that the losses that you will first see on a newly installed fiber link, will only continue to grow as the system operates year after year.

There comes a point when contaminated connection losses have gotten so great that the operating system shuts down, intermittently at first and then a total shut down.

A way to avoid a situation such as this, which often occurs when you least expect or can afford it, is to first save the post installation test results provided by your installer and then use this information as a benchmark or starting point for monitoring fiber link losses that will eventually shut down your systems if left unchecked.

At the beginning of each year or when it is convenient to shut down your system during a low use time, retest your fiber link(s) and compare the last twelve months of losses to the original benchmark test.  If this is done annually over a three year time period, you will get a pretty good picture of just how long your fiber can operate without preventive maintenance.

In highly controlled environments such as data centers and conditioned server rooms, dust is very tightly controlled so cleaning frequency will drop off accordingly. However, in spaces where dust is not controlled or is not minimized to a very small particle size, the cleaning frequency will need to increase.  Broom closets, traffic cabinets, open office space and industrial facilities are all subject to high dust conditions and it is important to understand that a single speck of dust, just 1/10 of the diameter of a human hair, can take down an entire system if it becomes positioned on the core of your transmitting fiber.  That is, every connection within the link represents a potential contamination failure point.

With the knowledge in hand of when to clean, our industry has made this task quite simple with convenient click cleaners, rapid drying cleaning solutions and in port inspection devices all available through FNT Fiber Network Tools and Telecom Supplies.  By the way, each time you clean your fiber links, be sure to have them tested again in order to keep your records current.

Now that everything has been made near effortless for you to keep your fiber clean through preventive maintenance, there should be no excuse for your network failing when you can least afford it.

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