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Cable Requirements for Your Data Network

Posted by Justin Stackawitz on Mar 15, 2012 12:02:00 PM

I am going to veer a little bit away from the normal business telephone system theme that typically is addressed in The New England Business Phone Blog...because another large part of Granite Communications' work involves doing voice and data cabling for corporate infrastructure, today I am going to write about data networks.

A couple months ago, I wrote a blog explaining the importance of a business proactively planning for their cabling infrastructure, mostly because it is much easier logistically to implement early on in the process of building out a new space. Once those details are successfully worked out, one of the other most important things to consider is the speed at which you need your internal data network to operate. This is something that needs to be determined prior to doing the cable work, as higher data speeds will require a higher rated grade of data cable.

If I were to investigate a company's network that was designed in, say, 2002, I would find data switches whose maximum capacity is 100 megabytes of through-put, and end-user computers whose ethernet data connections support that same maximum speed. Most importantly, though, I would also find data cables running through their ceilings and walls connecting those switches to those computers rated as Category 5 Cable. Many organizations today require speeds higher than 100 MB for their data network, and as a result they have upgraded their network hardware (switches & computers) to equipment which will support speeds of up to 1 Gigabyte of through-put. However, if the company whose data network is 10 years old decides that they need to do such an upgrade, not only will they have to replace the equipment that has a slower capacity, but they would also have to replace their entire cabling infrastructure so that they have data cables connecting said equipment with a rating high enough to carry the 1 Gigabyte speeds from the switches to the computers. In this case, that would require Category 6 cable.

As you can see, this means that any organization with plans on setting up a data network designed for Gigabyte speeds needs to account for the type of cable that would be required to support such a network. For example, Granite Communications has installed many cable plans for brand new office locations utilizing Category 6 data cables, and in MOST cases the decision to do so was made by the customer not because they are planning to immediately implement a Gigabyte-speed network, but because they see that as an eventuality that they would much rather be prepared for, than to have to completely change their internal cabling when it comes time to increase their network speed.

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