What is a Patch Panel and When Should I Use It

What Is A Patch Panel?

A patch panel is a mounted hardware unit with multiple ports. It is used to provide organization and easy management of incoming and outgoing cables. It is usually kept in a central location such as a networking data center, server room or wiring closet. This mounted hardware allows you to connect each port, via a patch cable, to other locations in the building. 

There are many different types and sizes of patch panels. This hardware can either be rack-mounted or wall-mounted depending on your needs. Network Patchpanels can be utilized for fiber optic cables, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6A ,Cat7 and Cat8 cables, and many more.

How Does A Patch Panel Work? 

A patch panel brings multiple network ports together to connect incoming and outgoing cables such as local area networks, communications, electronics and electrical systems.  It directs signal traffic sort of like a static switchboard, using cables to interconnect network computers within a LAN and to outside lines, including the internet or wide area networks. Using this hardware gives you greater flexibility to add or change your cabling infrastructure or equipment when upgrading or troubleshooting a problem.

Does A Patch Panel Decrease Signal Quality?

The good news is that patch panels, when implemented correctly, have literally no effect on the speed or data transmission. Just ensure that when installing, you use the proper patch panel rated for the cable category you are using and that you’ve terminated the cables correctly. Doing this will create a good working network without any problems with signal quality.

Patch Panel Types: Fiber Optic, Ethernet RJ45 and Coax

Typically, there are three kinds of patch panels that are used in data center infrastructures; fiber optic , Ethernet and Coax. These panels come in fixed or modular form aspects. A fixed patch panel has connectors that cannot be changed or altered.

Modular panels have connector types that can be swapped out. Modular panels allow greater flexibility when it comes to terminating different types of fiber optic, twisted-pair and coax cabling.

Fiber Optic

A fiber optic patch panel is used for connecting multiple optical fiber cables and optical equipment. They are available for both single and multimode fiber cabling and can have different connector types.

Ethernet RJ45

Ethernet RJ45 patch panels, are designed for twisted-pair cables such as; Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6A, Cat7 and Cat8 cables. When choosing a patch panel, it’s important to note there are different types of patch panels for unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) and shielded twisted-pair cable.

These include Cat5e/Cat6/Cat6a Ethernet patch panel, blank keystone patch panel, 110 punch down Ethernet patch panel, just to name a few. You will find in a typical office environment, UTP cabling is most often used.

12 port cat5 patch panel24 port cat5 patch panel48 port cat5 patch panel
12 port cat6 patch panel24 port cat6 patch panel48 port cat6 patch panel

However, in a larger environment such as a warehouse or manufacturing plant with higher levels of electromagnetic interference, shielded cabling is used to help protect against adverse effects. 

It’s a good idea to pay attention to the cabling you are running to your data center, server room or wiring closet and use the proper specification of patch panel to match it.


Coaxial cable is commonly used for audio/visual (AV) installations. A Coax panel connects the AV components such as television media players and video cameras to a centralized AV switching and mixing system. AV panels and network patch panels are often installed in the same data center, server room or wiring closet. 

Patch Panel Ports

Ports provide an entry and exit for all of your data. Typically, a single panel will have 12, 24 or 48 ports. Some larger panels can accommodate anywhere from 96 to 300 ports but it is not recommended. 

Big patch panels can be more difficult to replace if there is a problem because you will need to remove all wires before putting them in a new panel. Most professionals prefer smaller panels since they are easier to maintain.

Advantages To Having A Patch Panel

Most professionals would say that patch panels are a very important piece of equipment in a data center and that there are many advantages to installing a patch panel. Here are some of the benefits:

Flexibility and Scalability – Once you install a patch panel, it’s easy to add new devices without the need to run new cables end-to-end. This allows your network to grow and change on-demand.

Reduces Clutter – Typically, patch panels are conveniently located near the equipment. Being closer makes it possible to use shorter patch cables, thereby, reducing cable slack and creating less clutter. This makes it easier to manage and organize.

Cost-Effective –High-density and very easy maintenance provide for a low initial investment cost. You can buy what you need now and leave room to expand later.

Easier Maintenance - A patch panel makes it easier and quicker to perform any maintenance tasks such as; monitoring, testing, switching, routing etc.

Patch Panel Cable Management

Creating a good patch panel cable management system is essential to having a well-organized network data center, server room or wiring closet. With all those cables coming into and out of a patch panel, things can quickly get pretty tangled and messy.

 Having an unorganized room will make it much more difficult to troubleshoot issues and can even cause unnecessary problems if the wrong cable is unplugged. It’s good to have a plan from the beginning before installing your first plug. Here are a few suggestions to keep your patch panel organized:

Label your cables – It is suggested to label each of your cables at both ends as well as in the middle. This will help your technicians confirm they are working on the right cable lines in the future.

Patch Cable Organizers – A Patch panel organizer lets you run your lines neat and even to each port allowing you to see exactly where your cable is coming in from and going out to.

Color-Coded Cables – Creating a system of color-coded cables allows you to quickly locate and identify what cable is in each port. Most technicians like this organization system best because it is easier to differentiate the cables when working on them.

Zip Ties - Zip ties help organize bundles of cables whether they are going to the same server rack or in another location. This keeps the area looking much neater, more organized and less of a hazard.

Overall, the patch panel is one of the few hardware units used in both fiber optic and Ethernet cabling networks today. Almost all businesses use patch panels for cabling installations in their network setups. 

If you are looking to setup a network system with a good infrastructure, then a patch panel is the way to go. At SatMaximum, we offer a variety of patch panels to accommodate your needs. Whether it is for your home office or business network, we always got you covered.