May 9 2012

Network Cabling – Why it Matters

Posted on the 09:43 am under Network Management by Darren Boyer

(Those network cables and wall jacks may be a big bottleneck in productivity or functionality.)

Getting the right network cabling and the little components that connect to the cabling is a commonly overlooked key to getting the best performance out of a network.  In summary, there is a strong business case to use Cat6 cabling and Cat6 rated connections as a minimum standard.  This will help any organization ensure they are ready for technology needs today and those just around the corner.

Cat 6 cabling as of the spring of 2012 looks on the surface to be a money drain compared to Cat5e.  The cabling is roughly $100 or more per 1000 m extra and the connectors are roughly double at $11 compared to $5.50.  So what is the big deal because Cat5e is rated for 1000MB\s or Gigabit speeds the same as Cat6 is rated for 1000MB\s?    Both have significantly more throughput capability than Cat5 cabling which is rated for 100MB\sec.  Cat 6 is still a much better buy than Cat5e because of how effectively it handles Gigabit transmissions.  There is less cross talk, faster data transfers, and twice potential bandwidth of Cat5e cabling.  The difference may be only incremental today but there is a difference.  In summary, both Cat5e and Cat6 can handle Gigabit speeds but Cat6 does it better.

Voice and Video- Be a Leader

The other key consideration is how much streaming and especially video traffic applications are improved when building a Cat6 rated network.  The difference can be substantial.  Even though many organizations in Northern Alberta don’t leverage video conferencing yet this technology is being adopted at a very high rate worldwide.  Building any new network cabling that is ready to handle this technology can prevent performance and compatibility problems down the road.

Watch the Details

To ensure the extra money spent on Cat6 isn’t wasted all of the wall jacks and connectors at the patch panel also have to be rated for Cat6.   Though this can add to the budget of any project specifying the type of connectors used isn’t the biggest cost to any cabling project.  The much bigger cost is the installation labour. 

No Difference?

In an ideal situation, over short distances, the maximum bandwidth throughput between the two cable typesCat5e and Cat6 the realistic throughput may be the same at 350 Mbps.  (Though a cable is rated for Gigabit speed a lower value is what is normally achieved.)  However, with longer distances or electrical interference present the Cat6  cabling can achieve better results.  In other words, the performance differences between the two cable types are more likely noticeable in a slightly adverse environment.  Since the quality of the environment can be an unknown and can also change over time purchasing the higher grade cabling can ensure peak performance now and eliminate troubleshooting or performance issues down the road.  Proper network management includes a quality review of current cabling performance and a cost\performance analysis of the upgrade costs.  Our recommendation would be to gather this information annually or at least every three years.

Written by Darren Boyer

Darren Boyer

Darren Boyer is the founder and president of pcit.

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