Patch panels are large panels that look similar to a switchboard. There are many cable connections; shorter cables are plugged into the front panel and longer cables are plugged in on the back panel. This set-up allows patch panels to be used instead of switching equipment that is considerably more expensive. Patch panels are used for many different purposes, including telephone connections, video applications, audio applications and data transfers.
Patch panels have various cable lengths plugged into the front and back of the panel. However, electrical connectors used may vary as well. An example would be a breakout box that has compound connectors on the back of the panel with the front using individual connectors. The compound connector on the back allows for all the cables to be plugged in. In most cases, a breakout box will have an even amount of individual connectors, but that is not a hard and fast rule. The cables allow for data and signals to be transferred seamlessly.
In computer networks, patch panels are used to connect network computers to each other as well as to the internet. Patch panels also work by connecting a WAN (wide area network) to a LAN (local area network). Regardless of how patch panels are used, they are able to transfer signals to all other cables without losing data or signal. The cables on the front of the patch panel may also be interchanged. The back side of the panel has compound connectors, so they are not able to determine what port is sending what signal.