IP Camera - Direct Attached vs Jack & Patch

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Jan 11, 2016

An ongoing debate rages about how the IP camera cables should be terminated.

This argument surrounds two common options:

  • 'Direct Attached', where the first terminates the field cabling with an RJ45 modular plug, and connects it directly to the camera.
  • 'Jack & Patch': where the cables are first terminated to a jack or patch panel, and then connected to security devices by patch cord.

In this note, we explain the options, tradeoffs, and elaborate on the pros and cons of each method.

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Comments (15)

Thanks!

Question about this part:

According to the 12th Edition of BICSI's TDMM and prior, all horizontal cabling should be terminated in the closet end on a patch panel, and in the field, on a jack. Starting in later editions, this requirement was relaxed for security equipment and other installations where accessibility may be difficult or tampering may be a risk.

Isn't this only for the device end, not the head?

When only the device end is done, should this be condsidered a third option, a hybrid of #1 and #2?

BICSI TDMM does not require use of patch panels, if that is the question.

You are correct that BICSI classifies the variants as 'hybrids', and 'semi-permanent' links, but those distinctions are academic.

As I understand the "Direct Attach Method", in either the BiSCI or TIA/EIA sense, it doesn't mean

Cables are run directly to a switch and to a camera or controller in the field, using an RJ45 modular plug at both ends of the cable.

but rather a patch panel. As the article, UTP Cable Termination for Cameras, says:

Direct Attach Method:

In this method, cables are run from a patch panel as normal, but instead of terminating the cable to a jack in the field, and patching to the camera, an RJ45 modular plug terminated to the end of the cable is connected directly to the camera.

Has the definition of Direct Attach method itself changed?

Nor do I think most feel the difference is academic. IMHO, Even those that support Direct Attach would agree that the head end panel is best practice.

Can you provide the exact language in the spec that allows devices to be connected directly to a switch?

IMHO, Even those that support Direct Attach would agree that the head end panel is best practice.

I'll remain agnostic. Do using patch panels make better video/access networks?

Can you provide the exact language in the spec that allows devices to be connected directly to a switch?

The distinction is between 'permanent link' and 'channel' segments. You typically cannot classify a length of cable sans patch panel as 'permanent' or 'semi permanent' per ESS 005, but provided it meets performance test parameters it can be accepted as 'channel'.

Even then, 'permanent links' may not require a patch panel. For example, you can plug cable directly into a PoE midspan, and in turn patch directly into a switch and have it be accepted as a 'permanent' connection.

Fiber/copper media converters can be accepted as 'permanent' as well, ie:

These classifications are academic. Not to say they aren't important to define, but for a typical end user or even system designer, there is no reason to prohibit using one over the other.

Brian, the point is that when the patch panel requirement was "relaxed", it was only relaxed on the device side, NOT on the head end side.

I always use a patch panel at the head end. I prefer a jack and patch cable at the camera end. I have never had an issue with that. There are times when you can only use a modular end plugged directly into the camera. Those connections are the only ones I have ever had to revisit, although not that many and depending on who crimped the end. The one that really changed my mind, was on a tower 60' up.

I used to come down firmly on the "jack and patch" side of this argument, but for the device side I've seen enough situations where that isn't practical that it's hard to stick to it.

I haven't heard/seen a logical argument for not using a patch panel or jack-and-patch style termination in the headend for general cases (eg: equipment in some sort of room or closet.) There are some cases, IMHO, in cases where you have equipment in a location like a power substation, where there is no "room" and everything is just in some sort of NEMA enclosure. In those cases a direct-termination approach is probably not a mortal sin, though you *should* probably have a decent service loop in the enclosure, just in case... For scenarios where you only have very limited number of cables (4-10), I've personally used single and double gang keystone setups, where instead of a patch panel the backbone cable is terminate to an outlet that sites in a keystone jack on a 1 or 2 gang outlet box.

Many of the BICSI standards seem to be rooted in cases of general purpose IT equipment (phones, printers, access points, PCs) installed in a typical commercial environment. Runs are of moderate length and solid-core cable is the better choice. Being that solid core cable doesn't like to get flexed a lot, a termination to a non-moving outlet allows for ongoing M/A/C reconfigurations via flexible patch cable and makes "everyone happy".

For security devices, they're not commonly being moved or serviced. An unplug/plug cycle once every 5 years on average is probably the median time frame, and unlikely to cause a premature failure of the cable or connection as long as basic care is exercised.

While we are on the topic, I would like to see more devices incorporate some sort of locking mechanism on the pigtail, if a pigtail is being used. I think this helps prevent the connection from being pulled out (and possibly stuck in a wall or ceiling) when servicing those devices. If the camera has an RJ-45 jack directly on the body or in the housing, I think this mostly solves the same problem of ensuring that the network drop to the device doesn't become orphaned in a ceiling/wall easily.

Brian, I agree. As a consulting engineer, I am responsible for designing security, BAS, IT, AV and any other system that rides on the consolidated IT infrastructure. My preferred approach is to have division 27 (telecom) provide the appropriate horizontal runs to a local jack from a patch panel in the telecom room. I also require that ALL permalink and channel cabling (regardless of who installs it) must be tested and must pass all appropriate TIA testing requirement and be certified. This puts the testing burden on the division 27 contractor that division 25 and 28 contractors do not have to worry about. The work area jumper is provided by division 25 and 28 and must match exactly the specifications of the horizontal cabling. For example if the permalink uses 23 AWG UTP or STP then the work area jumper must be the same. This means division 25 and 28 must review the division 27 specifications at bid time, but I put notes in their divisions to do this. Failing to do this will likely cause channel test failures due to high insertion losses especially at longer horizontal run lengths.

This division of labor seems to work pretty well. Patch cables in the telecom rooms (for example security CCTV) may be installed by division 28, division 27 or in may cases the owner's network engineering team. This approach also allows for designs to be optimized using components such as consolidation points if desired. TIA standards (as interpreted by BICSI) allow for only 4 connections in a channel (this does not include the plug into the switch or the plug into the NIC). Having more will cause a test failure. Total channel lengths exceeding 100m will cause a failure. There are lots of gotcha's in horizontal cabling design that non-division 27 contractors must pay attention to that will often be expensive to fix if ignored.

Would those in the "Jack and Patch" crowd make a variance for cameras that have internal female RJ45 jacks, where you must pass an un-terminated cable through a water tight grommet? The distinction lies in the ability to terminate stranded patch cables.

Fundamentally, no.

There is no clear consensus that those camera form factors are "correct". Are manufacturers building cameras that terminate cables in that way because it's cheaper? Because they've seen/heard of direct-terminations being preferred and so they are catering to market trends, even though those trends may be "wrong"?

It may be out there, but I haven't seen a BICSI-style document that describes how a device should be built to allow for proper attachment of a network cable. Is this camera form-factor endorsed by a standards body related to structured cabling?

I'm not saying those designs are inherently bad or wrong, and in fact they may be excellent for a number of reasons. But the existence of those kinds of cameras does not, IMO, validate any particular approach.

One of us is probably misunderstanding what Jon means, and it's probably me, because before I read your response I thought he meant:

U1 is correct. What I'm asking is if those who adhere to the "Jack and Patch" philosophy would make exceptions to the stranded patch rule if it meant re-terminating in the field. The above Avigilon example shows what I mean.

We try to put biscuit jacks at the camera end and patch panels at the head end if possible, but will run into situations that make a terminated RJ45 connector more practical.

On the above illustration:

Depending on what camera manufacturer you are using, the above situation is a non-issue. You can pass a terminated RJ45 through the gasket using a prefabricated cap without an issue.

What would be your thoughts on punch downs within the camera body rather than a RJ45, to specifically support solid core termination.

Either with or without the RJ45 to accompany it. Of course for the manufacturer having both uses more space and adds cost.

The standard inboard 8P8C/RJ45 female jack is good enough for me. There isn't a reason I'm aware of that precludes terminating solid wire with a modular plug. If the camera body is watertight, a modular connector should last many years.

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