An integral part of this is the cabling that connects the individual elements of a network to each other and to the outside world.
The speed of today’s computing is governed not only by the processors used, but by the overall infrastructure. An integral part of this is the cabling that connects the individual elements of a network to each other and to the outside world.
When planning upgrades and new installations, there are a number of cabling options to consider:
Cat 6 Gigabit Ethernet cabling offers a step up from Cat 5. With improved performance and greater speed of data transfer it is possible to create networks that are compatible with gigabit speeds. Cat 6 offers more than double the available bandwidth of Cat 5 with data transfers of up to 10,000 Mbits/second possible.
This level of performance is better for handling high quality video streams and highly responsive, media heavy websites that have become the norm.
Cat 6 also offers backwards compatibility, since the plug and port are the same as for Cat 5 and Cat 5e. However, swapping cables does not necessarily mean vastly improved speed, as this will be limited by the computer and cable used.
Cat 5 twisted pair Ethernet cabling is still industry standard for local network use. It’s cost and versatility are its main advantages. It is cheap to buy and options of solid conductor form and stranded conductor form mean that it can be used in a number of applications.
Standard Cat 5 cabling uses two of the four wire pairs available for Fast Ethernet communication. The enhanced version (Cat 5e) uses all four wire pairs to support Gigabit Ethernet communications over short distances.
Perhaps the biggest attraction to Cat 5 cabling is legacy, with a vast number of networks built around these components and a significant degree of hardware compatibility, direct replacement and expansion rather than full upgrade offers companies a simple and straightforward solution.
Cat 5 is ideal if high data speeds are not essential to the business.
However, fibre optics are becoming a more popular data transfer medium in both new installations and upgrades, having several advantages over copper cabling. Firstly, fibres are able to carry greater bandwidth, meaning that more data is carried more reliably, with minimal loss in transmission quality.
Data can be carried further distances without the need for a booster. Copper cables are limited to a cable length of around 100m, whereas distances for fibre optics vary from 550m up to 40km depending on the type of cable, wavelength and network. Fibre optics are also immune to electromagnetic and radio frequency interference, and can transmit signals securely.
Further to this, fibre optics offer benefits in terms of design (taking up significantly less space than copper cables) and cost (which for cables and components alike, has fallen considerably in recent years, while lower running costs make return on investment achievable sooner).
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