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AV vs IT – Who Touched It Last?

As we all know, the IT world is converging with the AV world more and more every day. For most of us, this is quite exciting. For others, this can be daunting. In facilities where the IT and AV world are working together, if something goes wrong whom do you call? If you don’t have a network administrator and rely on outside support, you may end up calling your AV partner for some help. If you are working on a project with a client, as an AV integrator, and the client asks you if you could help clean up the IT closet, what do you say? This could end up going two obvious directions. “Okay, sure I can help,” or “No, I don’t want to mess with the IT equipment.” Both are good answers. But it truly depends on your skill set and what you are capable of working with. If the rack just needs to be dressed up after a couple of years of adding and subtracting things in a rack, that might not be too much trouble for someone who is really good at building sharp looking racks. But to someone who is not comfortable with building good looking, well-organized racks, the task may seem overwhelming. If You Touch It… The old saying, “If you break it, you buy it,” sort of applies here. If you are asked to clean up an IT rack and during the process, you missed labeling a couple of items correctly and now certain rooms or devices are not working properly, it’s your fault! It’s very important to label before unplugging. Maybe even put together a simple line drawing as well, so you know where the wires are supposed to go after you dress them up. This seems obvious, I know, to you! But to the person who should have turned down the task and didn’t, they may have missed the critical step of labeling. The other thing to think about when accepting the task of cleaning up the IT closet is you may end up owning that rack. In other words, anything else the client needs IT-related may end up calling you first. If taking on this task is an add-on to an existing project, be sure to stipulate your role and relationship with the company. Find out why they chose not to bring in their IT contractor to do the job. If you are not already engaged in a project and the request to clean up the IT rack was the client’s only request, that decision would be up to the company and their skill set. If you have gear in that rack from a previous project and your wiring is clean but everything else is not, then you can decide if you want to be the one to clean up the wires and risk another contractor messing with your wiring job. Or do you accept the job and clean up everyone else’s wires while safeguarding your own? How Much IT Should I Know? Let’s take a step back for a moment. The other side of this discussion is more about how much IT-related skills should an AV technician have? This is really going to vary a lot based on the AV company and the typical work they perform. For an AV company that rarely ever even sees a switch and their Category wire experience is connecting point-to-point AV devices, then they may not know much more than setting IP addresses. If the AV company is working with a lot of network audio distribution, streaming video throughout facilities, then I would expect that company has a lot of experience working with switches. They know how to talk to the facility IT department to get the access and addresses needed for their equipment to work properly, or even set up and build their own networks for the AV devices. What We Need to Know We are at that point in the industry where there has to be someone on your team who knows IT and how it applies to the AV equipment you are working with. Audio and video over IP protocols are becoming the norm and more people are figuring out how to maximize the benefits of such systems, making them more and more elaborate, and more IT-centric. If you still question the process plugging a device into a switch and simply do not know what to do next, it’s worth reaching out to find some resources and learning tools and get up to speed. Whether it’s an online course, a local community college or tech school, or old fashion books, it’s time for us AV nerds to fully embrace the IT world and embrace the reality upon us.

Guest Blogger for Tony the Av Guy and Av Bend

Erik Beyer

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