Fiber optic based systems are quickly becoming the predominant architecture for telecommunications and related networks. Fiber has many advantages over copper based systems, and the disadvantages are slowly becoming irrelevant. To make the most of these systems, a well planned system of documentation is essential.
Fiber optic documentation has two basic components: the data related to splicing and the visual depiction of the network in the form of maps and/or site drawings. The data component details how the fibers are actually spliced, as well as describing the function of each fiber. Data can also include any active or passive devices within the fiber network, and how they’re connected. For the visual component, maps are used to depict the routing of the aerial and underground network and the fiber cables contained within those routes. They should not detail the splicing data unless the system is a simple one. Most fiber networks contain more fibers than can be realistically portrayed on a map meant to convey routing and geographic data.
If the base components are accurate and regularly updated, then the construction, maintenance, and troubleshooting of the network will be more manageable. The next question is how can all this be accomplished? For the graphics part of the documentation, most telecommunications system operators already maintain a set of CAD (computer aided drafting) based system maps that portray routing information overlaid onto streets and property boundaries. The fiber network then becomes an additional layer of information on this existing land base.
For splicing data, a database program is the ideal solution. This can be anything from a simple do-it-yourself database to a sophisticated all-in-one integrated software solution. These systems combine database functions, a CAD engine, and engineering tools into a seamless environment. They have lots of functionality, but are very expensive and time consuming to learn. Along with them comes the necessity of employing specialists in these systems, or using contractors who employ these specialists. For a smaller company, or one that maintains limited networks within data centers, campuses, and office buildings, this solution may not be cost effective. In these situations, a customized database is more appropriate. This customization can extend to fit each client’s wants and needs.
Finally, the most important element in all of this is keeping the data updated. As a network grows, ongoing changes must be incorporated into the documentation in a timely manner. This documentation is literally the inventory of the fiber network and your system. It can only be understood and dealt with properly if the correct information is available.