There is a huge ongoing debate amongst IT Pros and Sysadmins across the internet. The controversy? Whether it is better to use zip ties or hook-and-loop for structured cabling projects such as cable management in a server rack. Each has the capacity to pull together cabling projects. They both have their individual strengths and positive attributes, but when do you use what? The RackSolutions marketing team investigates the ongoing controversy and settles the debate of how you should be wrapping it up once and for all.
Zip ties are a perennial favorite among those in the structured cabling world. They are fast, sturdy, super easy to use, and can be purchased in large quantities for dirt cheap. They were first intended for airplane wire harnesses, but now we’ve expanded their usage for other cabling needs, including your data centers and IT closets.
Another reason people use them is just many cabling products are designed with zip ties in mind and include small holes, lances, and tie-down points for securing the cables in place. Because of these reasons, zip ties are the most common solution used by cabling professionals, IT pros, and sysadmins alike.
While they are certainly a desirable option in most use-cases, they don’t come without drawbacks. Over-tightening can cause damage to the cables over time, and they can’t be re-used. Once they are done, they have to be cut, and that’s not always easy to do. Because of this, some pros have opted for other cable tie solutions.
When it was invented, VELCRO® Brand’s hook-and-loop was intended to be the “zipperless zipper” in the fashion and textile industry. (Side note: VELCRO® is an actual brand, and the actual product that is commonly referred to is called hook-and-loop. VELCRO® Brand’s marketing and legal teams really want you to know that, so they made a video.) Today, the scratchy, hairy, hook-and-loop fasteners we have come to know and love have gone beyond the fashion industry, and now can be found in your IT guy’s tool-kit.
Hook-and-loop straps continue to gain popularity, with some technicians swearing by them. Hook-and-loop wraps are preferred by many due to their reusability. In other words, you don’t have to carefully cut them off using a cable-tie tool or whatever sharp object you have on you at the time. Just add or remove cables as needed and re-wrap, making it a great option for more temporary cabling jobs. Some hook-and-loop straps are designed with cable management in mind, like these cinch straps. Even though hook-and-loop cable ties are more costly than zip ties, many consider the extra cost worth it because they are able to reuse it. Here is what our very own cable guy had to say about hook-and-loop:
“I prefer hook-and-loop when trying to organize/manage a mass of cables. Zip ties take longer to work with because if I had to add in more cables, I would have to cut the zip tie, which risks cutting the wire, and then start over with a new zip tie. With hook-and-loop I have a reusable tool that is not as harsh on the cables and is more user-friendly.” – Johnny Honeycutt, RackSolutions IT Extraordinaire
The downside to hook-and-loop straps is that, as stated before, they can cost quite a bit more. However, many professionals consider the extra cost worth it, because of the straps re-usability. Some IT professionals have also complained that they just can’t get them to tie down as tight, or that they aren’t as easy to slip into tight spaces or those lances and tie-down points.
And the Winner Is…
Both! With slight favoritism toward the hook-and-loop straps… It really comes downs to personal preference, and more importantly, what exactly you are planning to do with your overall deployment. Given their unique strengths and weaknesses, both are excellent solutions in both large and small server rack deployments. If you know you’re going to have to restructure your cabling often, hook-and-loop straps are probably your best bet. If you know you’re cabling is probably going to stay the same for a while and just really need a cheap solution, and need a lot of ties, zip ties are perfectly fine. In a lot of circumstances, you might find it necessary to use both of them in conjunction with each other.