System Audits: Providing Certainty for Signal Transmission
How do you know if the physical layer of a network is performing like it should?
You perform a system audit to ensure that it complies with specific needs and expectations. Here’s what you need to know to start your audit off right. (P.S. The word “audit” may make you nervous—but, in this case, audits are your friends!)
What Is a System Audit?
A system audit verifies the compliance of the installed cabling infrastructure with our certification requirements. It’s a way to identify design or installation issues that could affect performance.
Auditing the physical layer involves close evaluation of workmanship quality and installation processes. It also makes sure that the work and installed systems align with the requirements and needs of the customer.
What’s the Purpose of an Audit?
In addition to evaluating compliance, audits are a good way to pinpoint discrepancies.
For example, most standards recommend Category 6A cabling or better for commercial office spaces. But, upon auditing an existing site before new work begins, perhaps you discover that Category 6 or 5e cabling was used to support office Wi-Fi 6, which isn’t suitable in terms of performance.
The purpose of the audit isn’t to determine why this decision was made, or to point out the ramifications of it—rather, it’s simply a way to uncover, report and document the discrepancy. In this case, the audit would indicate that the cabling system may not match requirements. Audits stick to reporting the facts based on what is seen. There is usually no speculation, advice or opinion involved.
When Should Audits Be Conducted?
Sometimes industry professionals believe that audits are conducted only when something is wrong, or when a project is complete. But audits are beneficial in a variety of situations.
Audits can be conducted at the beginning of a networking project, at the end of a project, before a new project begins or during a project.
Audits may also be a good idea if you’re doing infrastructure work for a new client whose network has been managed by different vendors in the past. In this case, an audit can help you understand what’s been done, the current network performance status and how well existing resources serve the customer.
End-users can request spot audits on their projects to track progress or verify the quality of work being done.
Belden often conducts its own spot audits to confirm and validate the performance of our trusted partners. Partner Alliance partners can also request that Belden conduct an audit of their work or of a customer site at any time.
Installers and integrators can even recommend audits as a service to clients. It provides a new revenue source for them, and it offers peace of mind for their clients by verifying that work is completed correctly.
How Can You Ensure a Successful Audit?
If you’re going to put time, effort and resources into conducting an audit, then you want it to be a success. Here are three suggestions to accomplish that.
1. Have a purpose
Before the audit begins, it’s important to determine its purpose. Define your objective. What do you hope to accomplish with the system audit?
Is your goal to evaluate installation compliance? A previous contractor’s performance? The network design?
For example, if you’re auditing work done by another installer in an existing facility before your project begins, the objective is likely to determine whether the existing infrastructure suits the customer’s new application or solution—or whether upgrades will be necessary.
2. Be prepared
Before you conduct an audit, make sure you have the resources you need before the process begins. This could include:
- Design documents
- Specifications or drawings
- Tape measure
- Specialty tools (anemometer, optical temperature gauge, etc.)
3. Document everything
While audits are a way to describe what you see, you should also use pictures and video to visually document it whenever possible.
When you take a picture of what you see, make sure you note on the audit form that you took a picture of that specific space or component.
Take pictures or videos of things that seem to be deficient, as well as work and systems that look and function well, too. These images can act as a single source of truth when needed.
For example, we worked with a team of installers that did a wonderful cabling installation job in an industrial facility.
After that, however, another contractor came in to terminate the cable drops. This group of installers did a very poor job, and the customer was rightfully upset—but they weren’t sure when the problem had occurred.
By sharing documentation captured during the audit, we were able to show the customer how the initial installers left the jobsite. There was visual proof that the work done by the first contractor was of high quality, and that the problem was created after they were gone.
Completing Your Audit Process
If you are interested in conducting system audits as part of your brand standard, Belden can help you connect with our Partner Alliance for help at every step of your project lifecycle.
To help you conduct thorough and comprehensive audits, Belden has a checklist available for Partner Alliance partners. If you need a copy, you can contact our team.