A colleague recently asked if I had any recommendations for software to manage lists of patch cables and ports, and I think my answer might have surprised him...
There are a variety of Visio add-ons and standalone tools available, and while I've often found tools like that useful for planning initial installations, they haven't been so useful for ongoing maintenance. The problem is, whatever documentation you create gets out date pretty quickly, unless you're very disciplined about it, which almost nobody is...
Instead, I've found it most useful to simply follow good cable management practices:
- Labelling both ends of all cables with a unique identifier, but not what it's currently used for (because that will inevitably change, and the only thing worse than no label is an incorrect one)
- Always taking the time to dress cables in neatly, rather than draping them haphazardly.
- Removing cables when you disconnect one end, rather than just leaving them hanging.
- Using easy-to-change physical cable management systems, like clips and velcro, rather than hard-to-change systems like cable ties, so that it's easy to "do it right" (see the above 2 points).
- Using cables of just the right length, rather than too-long cables that you then somehow have to manage the excess for (or too-short cables with a patch hidden somewhere inaccessible in the middle of the run). This means keeping a selection of cables available in various lengths, so that the right one is available when you need it.
- Having and religiously following a color coding scheme.
As usual, Limoncelli and Hogan offer good advice on this topic in their indispensable book The Practice of System and Network Administration (chapter 17, especially sections 17.1.7 and 17.1.8).