Network Infrastructure

A look into resolving today’s Technology Infrastructure challenges of
monitoring and documentation of the physical network infrastructure.

by William B. Buckingham, RCDD

It is a fact that Information Technology professionals are being asked to provide more
capabilities than ever before, on smaller budgets and with fewer people. Internet Protocol (IP)
convergence has enabled voice, data, video, building automation and security to be provided
over a single network infrastructure.
Research shows that half of all network problems arise from issues in the physical
infrastructure. Yet the physical infrastructure is largely overlooked. Developers are slowly
embracing the idea of technology infrastructure as an integral part of building design, a practice
that is routine in some parts of the world but still an after-thought in many construction projects
today. I embrace the challenge of educating Architects, Building Owners, Information
Technology Managers and Facilities Managers about the importance of including in the early
stages of planning and design, the coordination of this infrastructure and setting the guidelines
for commissioning to ensure that the client’s needs are met. As a member of architectural
design teams, working with healthcare organizations during the past two years, I saw the
challenges of the IT Professionals and when I mentioned looking at automating and managing
the infrastructure, staff resistance, and no funding for changes or adopting automation surfaced
as the top reasons for not considering this approach.
Now, more than ever, to meet the demands of communications, life-safety and building
automation, the cabling infrastructure is truly an important system utility within the building. We
are rapidly reaching the point where most every medical device today is built on electronics, in
one form or another. In recent years, several factors have forced the healthcare industry to
move towards the use of computer networking and the development of electronic health (ehealth)
strategies to improve the efficiency of their operations. The healthcare industry is, at its
core, a complicated information-management industry with a number of challenges, but let’s
narrow them down to reliability, security and manageability. Risk assessment is tailored to the
covered entity—its size, complexity and capabilities. In addition, risk and cost are both taken
under consideration when determining whether an “addressable” standard applies or how to
best meet a “required” standard. Along with “required” Administrative safeguards which focus
on workforce training and contingency planning, “Physical safeguards,” are concerned with
access both to the physical structures of a covered entity and its electronic equipment.
“Required” technical safeguards include but are not limited to:
  • – Establishing policies limiting software program access to only those with authorized
  • – Activity logs (“audit logs”) of all systems that contain electronic protected health
    information (ePHI) must be maintained.
  • – Policies to protect ePHI from alteration and destruction must be established and must
    be maintained.
  • – Procedures as required to verify the identity of those seeking access to ePHI.
  • – Transmission of ePHI over a network must be protected by technical security policies.
    Encryption is an “addressable” standard.


Behind every security compliance measure is a documentation requirement. Failure to comply
with HIPAA can result in civil and criminal penalties. Documentation is a major part of the
compliance challenge and with managed infrastructure solutions the audit documentation would
easily include the physical layer.

There are some common threads among the managed infrastructure solutions available from
major telecommunications cabling and connectivity manufacturers. For the purpose of this
article, I reviewed the product documentation and spoke with the technical representatives
from six of the major connectivity manufacturers.
As IT networking serves as a nerve center for successful facilities management, control, and
patient care, the physical infrastructure provides the foundation that supports medical advances
and patient services. With managed and automated infrastructure solutions, your physical layer
does more than provide a reliable, high performance communications foundation. It gives you
the vision and knowledge you need to be in control. This type of automation mitigates the
impact of IT operational complexity and results in significant cost savings. Through process
automation and product integration, it also delivers efficiency gains for IT staff, so they may
spend more time on more strategic or innovative projects.

These intelligent managed infrastructure solutions are more than just hardware. They are
comprehensive, fully-supported solutions that give you control of your physical infrastructure.

These systems show in real-time, all connections on the physical channel from the switch to the
work area device regardless of whether powered on or off. The intelligent infrastructure
immediately senses when there is a physical change in the channel and what specific devices
are affected by the change while pinpointing the exact location of the device on a building map.
Following an earthquake or other disaster, it would be great to know instantly if patient
monitoring or life supporting equipment was affected.

Reporting of network status is made easier than ever with a variety of report templates,
definable reporting parameters, and the ability to view reports on the screen or export report
files in PDF, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Excel formats.
Integrating supplemental software is suggested by most Intelligent Infrastructure Solutions
providers. It provides accelerated disaster recovery and additional insight that verifies the
continuity of the horizontal cable to the work area outlet, detects broken connections or
disconnects and identifies faults in the transmission room.

The day to day compliance documentation is enhanced by simplified work order management
and process flow, plus work order verification. Maps and floor plans are provided to turn new
and comprehensive physical layer data into valuable information. Some of the key benefits
include enhanced network security, proactive management of potential threats, instant threat
identification, improved asset management and the detailed records of technician involvement
drives accountability and compliance to audit logs.

In reviewing several companies that provide software solutions that can simplify the automation
process, most impressive is a company providing a solution that deploys quickly, discloses the
information including how to fix the problem. This is presented in a useful, plain-English format
and does not require the programming and configuration of traditional network management

Intelligent infrastructure solutions provide several benefits such as problem prevention by
insuring that all network devices and links are healthy and won’t incur any problems. Equally of
importance is faster more efficient trouble resolution as it discloses exactly when, where, and
why network problems occur. It automates highly manual processes which assist both IT
operations and IT service management teams in delivering IT services.

There is no room for error or downtime in the healthcare industry, regardless of the cause.
Adopting a proactive approach to problem solving with the use of these solutions can only
benefit both network administrators and patients alike.

bill Buckingham - network cabling engineer William B. Buckingham, is a Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD). Over 24 years of knowledge and experience in the telecommunications industry, with a broad background in cable plant design, project management and installation.
William B. Buckingham, RCDD
(916) 616-9598