We talk about structured cabling all the time but when a newbie asks about it how do you explain it? While presenting to a small group of new employees one of them presented me with this Wikipedia definition. I have now added it to my general training materials. Feel free to use it but be sure to give credit to the source.
These standards determine how to wire a data center, office or apartment building for data or voice communications, using Category 5(CAT 5E) or Category 6 cable(CAT 6E) and modular sockets. These standards define how to lay the cabling in a star formation, such that all outlets terminate at a central patch panel (which is normally 19 inch rack-mounted), from where it can be determined exactly how these connections will be used. Each outlet can be 'patched' into a data network switch (normally also rack mounted alongside), or patched into a 'telecom???s patch panel' which forms a bridge into a private branch exchange (PBX) telephone system, thus making the connection a voice port.
Lines patched as data ports into a network switch require simple straight-through patch cables at the other end to connect a computer to the network. It is normal to see different color patch cables used in the patch panel to help identify which type of connection is being carried, though the structured cabling standards do not require this, except in the demarcation wall field.
Cabling standards demand that all eight connectors in Cat5/5e/6 cable are connected, resisting the temptation to 'double-up' or use one cable for both voice and data. This is generally a good thing as it means that they fully support features such as Power over Ethernet (POE) which require the so-far unused brown cables.