One of the most critical elements of running a business today is having high-speed Internet service. It helps your employees be productive, it helps you manage your business, and it’s an effective way to communicate with your customers, vendors, and other important associates.
Once you’ve selected a reliable high-speed Internet Service Provider (ISP), your next decision is what kind of network to use to deliver the service throughout your facility.
Wireless networking is one choice. Wi-Fi is now available everywhere. Hotels and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi to attract customers. Many of us have Wi-Fi in our homes, so it seems logical to put Wi-Fi in your business as well.
Use a hard-wired network to maximize speed and security.
Even though it’s convenient to use Wi-Fi for casual communication, a hard-wired network helps contribute to the speed of your network and is far more reliable. For your important business processes and communications — including your VoIP telecom service — a cabled network is also less vulnerable to interference and is far more secure.
If you are choosing a cabled network, however, it’s important to be careful what kind of cable you use.
Cables can come from many sources and are available in many different quality and price ranges. What you choose for your business can mean the difference between having an efficient, reliable network or none at all. You want cabling that is less likely to fail and one that fits your type and size of business.
Fortunately, choosing cable today isn’t as complicated as it once was. In the earlier days of the Internet, the most common cable was built on Category 3 standards. These cables consisted of an unshielded twisted pair running at 10 Mbps. Category 5 cable was available then, but very costly, so only large businesses were able to buy it. Fiber Optic Cable was also available, but for a very high price. These choices limited network speeds and were built on varying standards.
Today, the Building Industry Consulting Service International, Inc. (BICSI), an industry association, helps develop the ANSI/EIA/TIA 568B structured cabling system standards for cabling that cover the design, installation and integration of information communications technology — including optical, fiber, copper and wireless-based distribution systems.
As an ANSI-accredited, consensus-based standards development organization, their measures help businesses like yours confidently choose safe, efficient and effective products, systems and services. Choosing network cabling that meets these standards is essential.
Answer these five questions to help determine your needs.
Here are the issues you’ll need to determine before you can decide which cabling is the best choice to support your business and its network needs. Below this chart are some guidelines to help you accurately answer these questions.
- How many workstations are currently connected to your network?
- How many more workstations might you need to add as your business grows? 3. What is the volume of data your network needs to handle?
- What is the distance the cable needs to travel?
- What material best fits your budget?
There are many applications available to help you quickly monitor your network’s usage over several days to determine how much bandwidth you need. Then you should add extra bandwidth. By adding more bandwidth than you currently need, it’s easy to add workstations or expand data usage without having to upgrade your cabling.
Choose the best type of cable for your environment.
Measuring the length of cable needed is more than just a distance consideration. That’s because some cable materials are designed to transmit data a farther distance than others. Your options are fiber optic or twisted pair cable. Review the main differences between these two cabling options to find out which is best for your situation:
As the most advanced cabling material, optical fiber can deliver the fastest speed (up to 100 gigabits), is the most durable, and can go the longest distance (up to approximately 6500 feet). Optical fiber is also the best option for rapidly growing your business, as it can deliver more bandwidth. It is also more secure. The one downside to optical fiber is its higher priceTwisted copper (Cat5e or Cat6)
Twisted copper cable can run up to 328 feet and deliver speeds of up to 1 Gigabit for Cat5e and up to 10 gigabits for Cat6. It is far more affordable than fiber and should work for most businesses unless your environment is within the range of any kind of electrical interference or cable lengths exceed 328 feet. Interference appears when the cable runs too close to electromagnetic equipment or radio waves from such sources as medical CAT scanners or military installations. If you purchase twisted copper cabling that has been properly jacketed, however, it can reduce some of this interference and be almost as durable as optical fiber.
Choose cables from a source you can trust.
You may be surprised to find dramatic differences in the pricing of cable. That’s because every element in a cable contributes to how well it performs: the jacks, termination process, and jacketing. Most bargain-priced cables tend to cut corners on materials and construction and will not perform as well as higher quality cable. Purchasing cable by well known, industry leading manufacturers will help insure highest performance and reliability.
We have heard many stories of cheap cabling not performing even close to the specifications listed on the packaging — and causing interference because they are not properly constructed.
As stated earlier, a network run on cables is faster and more secure than a wireless one — so choosing cables is smart. But it’s important to remember that, when selecting cabling for your business, cables can be stepped on and bent, stretched and spilled on. They run inside walls, around corners, under floors, and through ceilings. Having well-made cables that use quality parts and deliver on their listed specifications is key to reducing replacement costs and keeping your network and your business running smoothly.
Once you have selected the proper cable type for your application it is imperative the cable is installed correctly using industry best practices and techniques. The best quality cable and connectors will not perform well if not installed properly. Be sure that your cabling vendor tests each cable to be sure that it meets or exceeds industry standards. Require that your vendor provide you with written certification results. This is the only way that you can be insured that the cabling you purchased will meet your performance requirements.