If you are experiencing issues with your fiber network, the issue is likely related to cleaning in some way. Those who fail to clean their fiber network equipment will often find that a simple cleaning of both hardware and fiber cabling (don’t overlook fiber patch panels) does the trick. Take a look at your cables every now and then to ensure that they have not accumulated dirt. If they are dirty, grime will be pressed right into the optics. For hardware fiber inputs, you can use the same canned air that cleans off your computer keyboard to blow the dust, dirt and grime out of the optics.
Common Issues that Might Cause Fiber-Optic Cable Problems
If you run your fiber-optic cables through areas that receive a lot of foot traffic, they might have been compromised by someone’s misstep or a rolling chair. The little bit of pressure provided by a footstep or chair caster can severely compromise fiber integrity. Even a cleaning crew member scooting a desk out from a wall by a few inches to vacuum can damage cables. Cables will also malfunction when handled in an inappropriate manner. Minor twisting or bending can compromise cable integrity. Office workers should also take care to avoid touching fiber-optic cable connectors with their bare fingers.
In other instances, fiber-optic cable issues are caused by totally unexpected sources. If your building has received any visits from the telephone company or an electrician, it is possible that a technician cut or disconnected cables.
Fiber-optic cables are incredibly sensitive pathways made of fragile glass. If there are any issues with stress, pressure or tension, the fibers within the cables might experience irreversible problems. Take a look at the length of your fiber-optic cable. If there are bends, straighten them out as gently as possible. Also, eliminate all objects that are resting on the cable. Even the slightest bit of pressure can impact the cable’s functionality. If you notice extra tension in the cable, slacken it so that the tension does not stress the fibers.
Sometimes, it is necessary to replace fiber-optic cables. If you find that the cables are physically damaged, frayed, ripped, split or torn you likely won’t be able to troubleshoot them. These physically compromised cables must be replaced. You might be able to tell that your cables are completely dead by shining a laser pointer through the connector at one of the cable ends. If you can’t see light shining through from the other end, the cable is likely dead and should be replaced. If the light shines on through the cable, do not automatically assume that the cable is in perfect working condition. The unimpeded transmission of the laser pointer light merely indicates that the fiber within the cable has not been fully destroyed. The general rule of thumb is that laser pointer light that shines through cable running less than 100 meters means that the cable will not have to be replaced.
The most accurate way to test cables is by using an Optical Power Meter and Optical Time-Domain Reflectometer (OTDR). There are general-purpose power meters, semi-automated ones, as well as ones optimized for certain types of networks, such as Optical Power Meters, which measures the power of the fiber signal. If there is a problem anywhere along a fiber link, an Optical Time-Domain Reflectometers (OTDR) locates it by sending a series of high speed pulses into the fiber and then the back scatter that returns is measured as a function of time and distance.
Troubleshooting the Connectors
Find the location where the fiber-optic cable joins with your router, modem, TV or other electronic device. Inspect the connection. If it is loose, tighten it up. Sometimes office workers will disconnect their PC and fail to properly reconnect the cable. A quick tightening or disconnection and re-connection of the cable might correct the problem. It is also possible that the cable became contaminated during the disconnection and requires a cleaning.
While it is ideal to apply alcohol when cleaning the connector, many offices don’t have alcohol on hand. Those without alcohol can move the fiber connector face along their cotton shirt in one direction for a quick clean. Be sure to connect the connectors in the proper manner. ST connectors must be pushed in, however, it is easy to forget to turn its connector so that it locks in place. SC connectors are designed with threads to ensure the ceramic ferrule is correctly aligned.
Keep in mind that even upgrading a computer’s hardware can raise issues. It is quite common for cables to become damaged when not disconnected in the midst of a hardware upgrade. Sometimes, it is prudent to temporarily remove new hardware and bring the system back to its former state to determine if the new hardware is the source of the problem. New hardware can easily cause the NIC (Ethernet network interface controller) to malfunction. Troubleshooting the NIC will differ by operating system. Those using Windows XP, 2000, ME, 8x or above will be able to rely on the Device Manager to analyze the system’s devices and determine where the problem lies. Also, take a look at the fiber cable access points on the home’s exterior as well. Remove any objects that appear to be blocking or stressing the cable.