IP Camera Cable Labeling Guide

By John Scanlan, Published on Sep 14, 2018

Labeling cables can save a lot of money and headaches. While it is easy to overlook, taking time to label runs during installation significantly speeds up troubleshooting and maintenance.

In this guide, we examine this practice and the ways that it is accomplished and then analyze the financial case for making it a part of every cable job. 

  • What should I label?
  • What should be on each label?
  • Labeling methods
  • Machine printing labels demonstrated (video screencast)
  • Inkjet/laserjet labels demonstrated (video screencast)
  • Pre-printed labels
  • Why not handwritten labels?
  • Cost/benefit analysis in installation/troubleshooting
  • Related standards

This continues our network cable installation for IP cameras series and builds towards our upcoming Video Surveillance Installation Course.

Readers should also see our other installation training guides:

What To Label

The question of what should or should not be labeled is mainly left up to preference or best practice since codes typically do not require devices/ cables to be labeled. Additionally, labeling is often written in bid specifications, with varying degrees of information required.

At a minimum, it is generally recommended that cables be labeled at both ends, generally at the camera and on the patch panel. In small systems, this may be as simple as a single digit numeral (such as "8" to indicate port 8) to indicate which port the cable terminates in at the head end.

In more complex systems, users may label every device (camera, jack, patch panel, installed cable, and patch cable) but this is normally only required in large systems with demanding bid specs.

Many IP surveillance/security systems will fall somewhere in between.

Label Information 

How much information should be included in a label depends on the system. Common items include wire number, port or device termination ID, and IDF location. 

For example, many label each cable with the following information:

IDF/MDF Room Number — Patch Panel Identifier — Port Number

So a cable serving a camera in a hallway in the C wing of a school may be labeled:

C110–B-37 (Room C110, Patch Panel B, Port 37)

If a label is a composite of several pieces of data, then a legend explaining the nomenclature used should be hung at access points and MDF/IDF locations.

Labeling Methods

There are several ways of labeling cables, varying in usability, legibility, and professionalism:

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  • ***********:*******, ****** ********* *** preferred, **** ********** ****** hand ***** ****** ******** onto *** ***** ** onto * **** **** label. **** ** **** often **** *********** ****** installation, *** *** ** left ** ***** ** smaller *******.

** ****** **** ** these ***** *** ***** use *****.

Machine ********

******** ****** '***** ******', this ****** **** ********* ******** ******** ***** ******** that *** ** ******* to ***** *******, ** demonstrated ** **** *****:

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Use *** ****** ******

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Laserjet/Inkjet ******

********** *** **** ******** sheets ** ****** ***** may ** ******* ** any ****** ** ******** printer ***** * ******* template (********* ********* .*** or .***). ***** *********** is ****** **** *** template *** *******, **** installed ** *** *****. This ****** ****** * lot ** ****** ** be ******* **** *******, faster **** ********* ******* printers. *******, ** ** less ********, ** *** errors ** ********* **** be ********* ***** *** same ******, ****** **** time **** ****** ********** a ***** ** *** field.

Pre-Printed ****

** ******** ** ****** printed, ***** *** ******** types ** ***-******* **** markers ********* ** ****. However, ***** ******* *** generally *** ********* ** they *** **** ******** than ******** ****** ***** numbers *** ********** *** fixed.

***-******* **** ****** *** the **** ****** ****, numeric/alpha-numeric ******** **** ** wrap ****** ******. ***** these *** ******* *** sold ** ******** **** eliminate *** **** *** a ***** *****, ******** cost, *** *** ** more **** ********* ** install. ******** ** **** markers*** ** ***** ****** for ~$**.

preprinted wire labels

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number tags

Hand ******* ********* ****** / *******

*** ******** ******, *** most ***** ** **********, is ***** ** ********* ink *** ** **** write ****** ** ***** jackets ** ***** ****. With *** ********* ** handwriting *******, **** ***** may ** ******** *** others *** ** *********, and **** *** ** torn ** *******. ***** the ****** ****** ** creating ***** ****, **** method ***** *** ******* amount ** **** *** is *** ******* ******** method ** ***** ** tools *** *********. ******* and ***** ***** *** be ********* *** ***** $5. *** ***** ***** shows ** ******* ** this ******:

Cost/Benefit ********

***** *** ********'* *** cost, **** ********** ***** projects *** *** **** the ********** ** * single *************** ********. *** instance, ** * ** camera *******, ******** ****** cost ~$** ***, * small ***:

  • $*.** *** ***** + 30 ******* ** ***** (0.5 ****** * $***/** = $*.**) = $*.** per *****
  • * ****** *** ***** = $*.**
  • ** ***** * $*.** per ***** = $**.**

** **** ****, * single ******* **** ** even ** ******* **** back *** $**.** ***** on ********. *********** **** technicians *** ***** **** working ***** *********** ******* of **** ****, **** effort *** **** ***** after *** ******* ****. Certainly, *** ****** **** for ****** **** *** span ** * ***** by ****** *********** **** hunting **** ******* ******.

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Related *********

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  • **** **/**: ******* ******* ******** requirement ** "**** *********** and ******* **** *** low ******* ** **** cabling" *** ****************** *******.
  • ****/***-***-*: ********* ********** ** color ****** ***** ******* based ** *** ******* *** clarity, *** *************** ** cable ********. ** ******** format ** ******** *** no *********** ** ****, beyond ****** ***** ******** as '**** ********'.
  • *****: *** **** ****** recognized ******** ************ *** the ******* ******** ********** TIA/EOE-606-C [**** ** ****** available] as *** ******** ******** for ***** ********.

*********** **** ** ***** resources *** ******* **********, which ******* ***** **** attributes, ********* *****:

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  • **** ** ****: ****** must ** ***** ****** that **** *** ** read ** *** ***** eye.
  • **** **** ** ******: At * *******, **** ends **** ** ******, but ******* ****** ** common ****** ****** ** encouraged.
  • ********: ***** ****** ****** be ************ *** ******* in *** **** *** to ***** *****.

Comments (16)

So along this line, what label maker to use?   It needs to be easy to use, have label cartridges readily and inexpensively available and durable. 

We use various models of Dymo's Rhino line.  Overall they are ok.  Our consistency in print quality with them varies (fully charged printer battetry or not) and I've seen some of the actual cable labels start to unpeel on occasion.   

Anyone have a label maker they love?

I used multiple Dymo Rhino printers over the years. I found the nylon tape to hold up the best. However, that gets rather expensive for the little amount they include. I searched for a different printer and have been using the one from Epson. They seem to provide a lot of tape and I purchased everything from Mitchell Instruments. They had an offer to get free tape with the printer. After receiving the printer, I found it was wasting tape on a certain setting. I complained and Epson sent me new tape and a firmware update. You can set the tape edge to 1mm so you can make it waste very little tape.

I like the fact that it is easy to use and has a lot of options. It also tells you how long the label is going to be before printing. It does serial printing really well. It can print long rolls with half cut labels so you can tear as you go. If you switch between different types of tape such as wire wrap and a basic label, it remembers the last text and formatting for each. I didn't buy the printer for all these features but have discovered as I go.

I took a chance on it without finding many reviews, but so far I've been happy with it. I've always had good luck with Epson receipt printers.

Epson LW-PX900

BMP 21 Plus

We opt for the machine printed labels using a CAD program (export the label ID's generated from the program).  we use a Brady BBP81 and other series in other branches Printer. Having all of the design done before deploying help keep costs down. In the event that you need to make a change on site and cannot wait for the new label, opt for something that can be plugged in (but also battery powered) as noted below if the batteries are weaker, the label doesn't always come out well- Portable printer, but the most important item in all of this is ensuring that the labels are the same on both sides of the wire, and the accompanying documentation (decryption key for the formatted ID on the label) outlining the signal flow for the system(s). Without this, a label is not helpful at all.

Another reason that we opt for a system-generated label, and is not consistent with rooms staying the same- principle stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of the building change and rooms change. One day the room may be an office, then changed to storage, and then once more to an open gather area capturing fewer rooms.  Now, with these changes, how do you approach numbering, if fewer rooms do you then have to remove others from the patches and rename each one to keep order?  Or how do you identify classroom C110–B-37 in the TR room, when it's gone and now the new friendly name on the room is now a file room listed as C110-B-32 (yet the data plate inside the room hasn't changed but the room has?  IMO, random generation from a program like CAD electrical provides the best long-term value. Other programs I have also included, can be  Stardraw, Wirecad, Vidcad, D-tools, Autocad, Visio.  Some are better than others, and others cost less, so you deal with the issues that program may have until you have had enough. 

I happy if the cable is just LABELED!!!! let alone neatly. All to many times there is no label. 

Agreed, and if all cabling were labeled clearly I would have a lot less miles on my tone generator and wand:

For clarity: The device on the bottom can be connected to a network jack then the other end of the drop is located with the wand. When powered on it the lower device generates a tone. The tone is transmitted via the alligator clips and the mod tip which can be connected to a network jack. The tone traverses network cabling and then is located with the probe - when you hear the tone you have located the other end of the cable. This is helpful when a jack is not labeled and you need to locate the patch panel port it goes to.

Somebody needs a cable mapper for Christmas. :-P

LOL, I know- I can't tell you how many times, I've been doing the hunt and peck through the bundles of cables, only to find out it's missing a label, illegible, or in the wrong room. (the hours wasted, sigh....)

Techs get one pass, but otherwise its a fireable offense in our organization. Its a hard stance in our company, which has cut down countless hours in troubleshooting and service, which I strongly agree with labeling all cables- being on both sides of the office. 

NOTICE: This comment has been moved to its own discussion: Should You Fire A Tech For Repeatedly Not Labeling Cables?

I personally was a Rhino user. I have a few of the 5200,& 4200 systems. About a year and half ago I switched to epson LW-PX400 & Epson LABELWORKS PX LW-PX700PC. I use these everyday and like them much better. I use the heat shrink, general labels and die cuts and barcodes. The PX400 has great apps Epson iLabel and Datacom which makes the labels easy to make in the field and professional looking. 

I'll pass on pre-printed wire labels unless they are for temporary use. I've had them fall off.

I've seen number tags in control panel wiring on DIN rails for equipment I service not related to surveillance. However, the tags go all the way around the cable. I wouldn't use the the ones displayed in the photo.

Handwritten labels and sharpie labels/write on cable are only temporary. I relabel at the end of the project with printed labels. I want others to be able to read the label. I will generally write on the cable, but for black cable I have been using the Write-On from 3M. Between writing directly on the cable and using the 3M, it's about the same. However, you can use a ballpoint pen to write on the 3M lables which allows for finer printing.

I like the idea of machine printed labels, but often times requires a lot of pre-planning and isn't worth it for smaller jobs.

Generally the label scheme I use is PP0X-PXX and label the patch panel. Most smaller jobs won't have multiple IDF's around the building. Using a room number sounds like a good idea until that changes. I noticed that jacks on a wall called out a room number on the plate. I'm sure this matched the construction prints, but the room was simply called a name and had no number on it. Or the room could have been changed from the prints right after construction. 

For what is defined as "Structured Cabling" (permanent cabling) :

Instead of labeling the patch panel id, I find it best to just keep the patch panels in series, so the second patch panel starts with #49 (assuming 48 port panels). Then on your labeling scheme, you just label IDF # and then your port number. And if you only have 1 IDF, then you only need the port number. 

You can get 960 ports into a single rack of patch panels. 

Very simple. But you must label the patch panels because you can't rely  on the pre-marked port numbers that will start over at 1-48 with each successive patch panel. Very important step! 

 

Patch Cabling:

Labeling the patch cord from the patch panel to the switch is what really should have the self-laminating labels with switch name, slot, port, jack id. Although in some scenarios, it's best to not label the patch cables at all. If it is the kind of environment where multiple people are coming in randomly and moving cables around and doing moves/adds/changes, usually a junior network engineer, you are better off not even labeling them because he'll move someone without changing the label. Then you've got incorrect labeling which is, in my opinion, worse than no labeling. In most idf environments, it's not hard to tug out an unlabeled patch cord to see where it goes in the room, usually the same rack or next rack. When you see a label is switch2 port 22, you are probably going to verify that anyway, right? 

I only use patch cable labels in data center scenarios where accidentally unplugging the wrong thing could cause big time problems, and you have tens of thousands of cables running everywhere, and tugging or toning them out isn't practical. These environments are also usually controlled such that you don't have random people coming in and touching things they shouldn't be touching. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This method sounds good in theory but I think would be difficult to sustain unless the customer has someone where this is their job is. A cabling department. There is no guarantee the next patch panel installed is going to be in order.

I have a customer that labels both ends of a patch cable and I have found no benefit in it because A. I don't trust the label is accurate (high upkeep) B. If one tiny thing changes eg. Different port, then the label on both ends in invalidated.

What is TIA/EOE 606-A? The latest labeling standard I've seen is ANSI/TIA-606-C. Not familiar with the EOE. If this is just typo and intended to be EIA rather than EOE, I believe the EIA acronym was dropped from the standard with the 606-B revision.

Thanks Chris. We have that updated.

Great job addressing the labeling guide BTW! 

Common items include wire number, port or device termination ID, and IDF location.

This will sound stupid, but I have used date/time with no other info, like 10/31/18 9:30 written on both ends.  I kept a x-ref on my phone with the ports/devices.

Usually I just need to find the other matching end, so it’s enough to do that.  And the date keeps a rough grouping by project.

Reason for not putting port# etc?  I invariably would need to move a plug on a switch or panel and would have to relabel.  Which means I wouldn’t relabel.  So they would get all out of whack and be more confusing with the wrong info.

I wished that someone would make patch cables with pre-printed UIDs, but no one does that I’m aware of.

This degenerate line of thinking led me to my current folly/quest:

Who Offers The Most Distinct Colors For Category Patch Cables?

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