Cable laying

Which Network Cabling Solution is Right for your Business?

Which Network Cabling Solution is Right for your Business? 150 150 Simon Randall

Most businesses today, especially those with several employees, all of whom need to access a common database and/or bespoke programs, and/or access the Internet, have a computer network in place. It’s generally accepted that a cable network is better than a wireless one, although this is something that can be said to be swiftly changing. However, for larger firms cable networks are usually faster, more stable, and more secure from external interference.

No two Businesses are the same

But which network cabling solution is best for your business? What are the various factors you should be considering and what are the main decision drivers? Here in this article we will lay out the various options open to you and guide you as to which are more appropriate for a given set of circumstances.

Important Prerequisites to Take on Board

Whatever option you decide is appropriate for your business, there are two important prerequisites to consider. The first is looking to the future. Where will your business be, or where do you hope it will be, in terms of size and personnel, in the foreseeable future?

What Does the Future Hold for Networks?

Most business owners will be hoping that their businesses will grow and prosper. After all, it seems pretty pointless to start an enterprise in the first place if there is no potential for growth and expansion. So it’s important when you are considering installing a wired network, to build in sufficient spare capacity to be able to allow more users to connect, as and when required. If you don’t, and you end up having to modify a cabled network at a later stage, it could prove expensive, and may even require a complete re-cabling solution, which would be not only more costly, but time-consuming and inconvenient too.

Cheap and Cheerful or Cheap and Woeful?

The other important consideration is quality. When considering a project such as this, it’s important to obtain several quotations from various contractors. However, you shouldn’t just plump for the cheapest. It often turns out to be the case that the cheaper quotation, the more inferior the quality. Asking your employees to work on a substandard quality network may cause more problems with speed and downtime than you realise. It could end up costing you more in terms of inefficient operation, and time lost.

The Types of Cabling Available

There are essentially five different types of network cabling available that we will discuss here, and they are:

  • ·         Category 5 (Cat5)
  • ·         Category 5e (Cat5e)
  • ·         Category 6 (Cat6)
  • ·         Category 7 (Cat7)
  • ·         Fibre Optic cable

Cat 5 Cable

Cat5 cable used to be the industry standard. It was originally designed to cope with speeds of 10 Mbps to 100 Mbps (Megabits per second). If you’ve only got a short run of cable, you might even be able to squeeze a speed of one gigabyte through it, but that’s in no way guaranteed. With today’s vastly increased data handling requirements Cat5 is rapidly becoming a thing of the past and any innovative company wouldn’t make this choice.

Cat5e Cable

The “e” in Cat5e stands for “enhanced”; so in other words, Cat5e is an enhanced version of the old Cat5. It has been designed to support speeds of 1000 Mbps (1 Gigabit), so is much faster than its predecessor. In addition to being faster, it also minimises something called “crosstalk” which is basically the name given to the interference that can be generated between wires inside the cable itself.

Cat6 Cable

Cat6 cable is a further improvement on Cat5e. This little chap is not only capable of handling speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second, but its screening capabilities to shield against both external interference and crosstalk, have also been enhanced. Cat7 is again an upgrade to earlier versions and is also intended to allow 10Gbit/s over 100 metres of copper cabling.

Fibre Optic Cabling

Fibre optic cabling, is “the daddy”. But it’s also quite an expensive daddy too. When it comes down to the four different types of cabling options, optical fibre is by far the most expensive, but it does have some tremendous things to offer, if indeed you are in a position to be able to take advantage of them.

The Speed of Light

Instead of using good old-fashioned electricity to transmit its signals, fibre optic cable uses light instead. We all know about the speed of light of course – it’s the fastest thing known to man, excepting Gene Roddenberry’s warp drive (thank you Star Trek). Fibre optic can transmit signals at more than 10 Gigs per second, which is pretty fast in anybody’s language. But that’s not all.

Interference Safe

Fibre optic cable is not subject to any outside electrical interference, nor does it generate any electro-magnetic-fields that could interfere with other electrical equipment. In other words, it can be run almost anywhere. In fact, where critical sensitive equipment has been installed, like MRI scanners in hospitals for example, fibre optic is the only way to go.

Distance is no Object, but Cost is

Another big advantage that fibre optic cabling has, is that because it is not sending its signal down physical wiring, but is using light instead, it meets virtually no resistance. This means that the signal strength does not noticeably weaken. In fact, the signal can travel over 5000 miles before you have to start thinking about boosting it.

But choosing fibre-optic may be taking that one step too many, because as we’ve already said, it’s more expensive. Then there’s the cost of the cable itself to consider, plus the cost of installation too. Saying that, depending on the size and nature of the business using it, there’s ROI to be had when choosing fibre as it can handle significantly more bandwidth and is ideal for large organisations or those that use a huge amount of network bandwidth, such as CAD companies (architects, for example).

Cable Choice Influences

Having taken a look at the various cable options that are available, let’s now look at what other factors you need to consider in order to decide which type of cable go with.

What Bandwidth do you need?

The first thing that you need to consider when trying to determine which choice of cable to go with, is the size of your current bandwidth requirements. But, bearing in mind what we talked about earlier, you must also consider what size of bandwidth you may require in the future.

Size Matters

The size of your current network (also taking into consideration any future expansion) is your prime consideration. For example, a small network of only 10 workstations would normally be expected to have a lower bandwidth signature than one of say, 50 stations. But it’s not just that. It also depends on the nature of the data that being pushed around too.

Type and Volume of Data

The nature of the data that is expected to be carried by the network is of great importance. For example; a design studio operating only three or four PCs or Macs, but dealing with and creating graphics, will generate a far larger data requirement than an office running 20 PCs, simply working on MS Word and or Excel files.

Multifunctional Disciplines

Often businesses are often multifunctional in terms of the disciplines that staff are dealing with. Office staff will be working with Microsoft Office software, design staff with graphics software, and publishing staff creating PDFs and such like. Forecasting how each department may evolve in terms of personnel and their associated data requirements is no easy task. In fact it’s all about guess work and exceptional business planning. But when made by the right people with a finger on the business’ pulse, at least it will be an educated guess.

Erring on the Safe Side

Generally speaking, if the budget can be stretched, it’s far better to overestimate the future bandwidth requirements than to underestimate them. Underestimation will adversely affect the business’s functionality and efficiency, and it will cost more again if the need arises to update or re-cable the network at a later date. Future proofing and scalability are vital in today’s connected world.

Working to Budget

In many instances, IT managers may simply be given a budget and told to get on with it. Hopefully, if the company is a forward-thinking one, the bosses will have consulted the IT department before finalising the budget.

In terms of cost, cable prices become progressively more expensive, rising up through the ranks from Cat5 to Fibre Optic. However, two things are clear. One is that Cat5 is outdated and as such should never really be considered for a new cable network installation.

Overkill or Prudence?

At the other end of the scale, fibre optic, although much faster, and safer in terms of interference and the need for shielding, is overkill for some businesses. They may even find that legacy hardware is not up to the job of taking advantage of the speed that fibre optic cabling can offer.

Then of course there’s the cost. It’s the most expensive of the options. But having said that, providing the equipment can be kept in a reasonable dust free environment, and the budget is flexible enough, it is undoubtedly the best way to go. Future capacity-wise, it will handle most things that will be thrown at it.

The Middle Road

For the majority of smaller network installations, Cat 5e – Cat7 will be sufficient. But as there is not a huge cost differential (and the labour cost for installation would be the same, whichever one is chosen), then fibre offers that extra speed, meaning that businesses can opt for more bandwidth to allow for a good margin of expansion in the future. In terms of looking forward, getting it right now, first time, can save an awful lot of aggravation and possible extra expense.

Good planning is vital and it pays to choose a supplier that can cover all bases, from initial design of the network, to installation and testing. There is also another option that we haven’t mentioned here and that is Air Blown Fibre Optics, so check out our page for this for more information.

At Quadratek, we provide the full solution, whatever your cabling needs and networking needs, so get in touch to see how we can meet all of your networking needs, from Ethernet cabling to wireless, support and Break-Fix SLAs.

Are Wireless Networks as Safe and Stable as Wired?

Are Wireless Networks as Safe and Stable as Wired? 150 150 Simon Randall

By                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Wireless networking has revolutionised the way that most
LANs (Local Area Networks) are set up and used, but is it as safe and stable as
a conventionally wired network?

The majority of SMEs have multiple PCs on site – the more
personnel, the more computers they need, and usually, these computers have to
be linked or networked. This is done in order to enable the PCs to share
software programs and utilities that are essential and specific to any
particular organisation’s business, and/or to be able them to get onto the
Internet via one central point.

Wired LAN Cabling

Most of the new business premises that are built today often
have
network cabling
preinstalled. Where premises are not prewired, then cable-trunking or “raceways”
have to be installed to deliver the cabling neatly and safely, (trailing cables
are a health and safety hazard) to the point of service. 

This obviously involves a cost, albeit not an overly large
one. The biggest failing of many companies is short-sightedness. If cheap
cabling is used in order to keep the cost down, or not enough outlets are
included in the cabling, it can mean costly upgrades, or, in a worst case
scenario, a complete rewiring may be necessary. Future proofing is always
necessary when it comes to IT infrastructures.

Wireless LANs v Wired LANs

The advent of wireless
networking
, (commonly referred to as Wi-Fi), has given businesses a new
option, and a way of avoiding having to have cabling in place, or having to
have it installed. But many business owners are concerned as to which
methodology is more stable, and more safe – wireless or wired.

Hard Wired into Stability

Wi-Fi has come a long way since it first came onto the scene
back in 1991. It was designed by NCR and intended for use in its cashier system
business. It is now much faster than it was in those early days; it’s had to be
in order to handle the huge amounts for data we now push around.

But when it comes down to stability, you cannot beat an
actual physical connection – unless that physical connection breaks of course.
Then, depending on the nature of the break, locating and fixing it can be
difficult, time consuming, and expensive.

However, serious, costly, breaks are few and far between.
There are no moving parts to go wrong, other than the connectors on the spur boxes,
and the PCs ports, and these only move when they are physically connected and
disconnected.

Improved Wireless Stability

Most people would agree that a wired network is more stable
than an unwired one. However, wireless technology has come a long way since it
was first introduced, and so has PC/Laptop design and performance.  All of these factors mean wireless LANs are
now much more stable than they once were. So whilst a wired network solution
has an edge over unwired – that edge is now a fine one, depending on the size
and nature of your intranet and organisation.

One of the biggest problems with wireless is the number of
people sharing the wireless signal. The more there are, the slower the speed.
But even that can be addressed by using or upgrading to more powerful, state of
the art, routers that utilise 802.11ac
protocols
.

The Security Aspect of Unwired v Wired

Of all the debates that take place as to the pros and cons
of wired or wireless LANs, the safety versus security argument is the one that
gets the most airing. In the cold light of day, wired is more secure than
unwired. It’s entirely logical when you stop to think about it. The only people
who can tap into a hard wired network are the people physically there on the
premises; and even then, they normally have to enter some sort of password
depending on the security protocols that the IT support department imposes.

What’s good enough for the Pentagon….

But with a wireless network, potentially anybody within
range of the signal can tap into it, and once they do, they may be able to
access sensitive or confidential data. But as with anything to do with
electronics, and computing in particular, things move pretty quickly. There are
always new technologies being developed, and expertise marches on apace. The
latest encryption for deployment on Wi-Fi or wireless networks is WPA2. Even the
Pentagon relies on WPA2 encryption, (or so I’m told), and what’s good enough
for them is probably good enough for anybody else.

The Best of Both Worlds

What most businesses tend to do today is to operate both
wired and wireless delivery systems for their LANs. It’s an entirely logical
decision. One of the biggest problems with having only a hard wired delivery
system is – what happens when businesses take on addition staff, or have to
deal with lots of visitors? This will depend on bandwidth and again, the size
of organisation and cabling solution. With the increasing use of fibre optics and air blown
cabling, options for the enterprise just keep on getting better.

Wireless also deals with the issue of mobility. BYOD schemes
have enabled workforces to be much more productive as workers can connect to
the office network via an internet connection using their own devices and
access any data on the network, with the correct permissions and logins.

The Big Dig

The Big Dig 150 150 Simon Randall

Quadratek dig 3.5km trench to install a 24 Core Fibre Optic Cable and DON 10 Cables, across an airfield site.






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