What Is A Patch Panel?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn how a patch panel can help you organize and manage cables.

[Featured image] A learner is researching different patch panels.

A patch panel is a piece of networking hardware that contains multiple ports to connect different Ethernet cables. Patch panels allow you to label individual ports and organize your cables in a central location, making it easier to manage. Patch panels simplify the process of separating your different networks and troubleshooting problems when needed. 

The wires at each port on the patch panel will lead to a different location in your home or office setting, making it easier to connect a number of devices without worrying about the wires becoming tangled. If you are an IT technician, you may want to consider utilizing a patch panel to organize your company’s technological equipment and improve the corporate network. The patch panel will reroute signals from various devices, making it a central location you can assess and troubleshoot if any problems occur. 

Read more: Information Technology (IT) Terms: A to Z Glossary

Types of patch panels 

Three common types of patch panels are coaxial, fiber-optic, and twisted-pair copper. 

Coaxial patch panels: These are commonly used with audio or visual installations like televisions. They can work with fiber-optic and twisted-pair copper panels to connect computers to other types of equipment. 

Fiber-optic panels: These patch panels focus on data and image transmission by the passage of light through thin fibers. A fiber-optic patch panel is best for supporting different optical fiber connections. 

Twisted-pair copper patch panels: These accommodate specific Ethernet specializations and use copper wiring to enable connections and a larger bandwidth to hold a greater number of devices. 

Once you have installed a patch panel, you can attach new cords and devices to the panel. It is a more cost-effective solution for companies that rely heavily on technological equipment to operate. 

TIP: As an IT technician, you will be responsible for installing and maintaining the patch panel. Using color-coded cables and zip ties and labeling the cords on the different ports can help you organize the patch panel and make cables easier to locate. 


Get started in IT support

If you’re ready to start a career in IT, consider the Google IT Support Professional Certificate on Coursera. This course is designed for beginners to gain in-demand skills for their first entry-level IT job. Some topics covered include technical support fundamentals, operating systems, and IT security. Upon completion, gain exclusive access to career resources like resume review, interview prep, and more.  

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