Whether you are planning to upgrade your IT network or build an entirely new infrastructure, you must have encountered the term network cabling or wiring along the way. If you’re confused by the technical vocabulary and need help understanding what it’s all about, you have come to the right place.
What is network data cabling, what is it used for, what types of cables can you choose from, and how to plan a scalable solution that will support the ever-growing needs of your enterprise?
Read on to learn more about all there is to know about data cabling for your business.
Why is a good cabling system important?
Unorganized data cabling makes your business prone to unwanted network and operational workflow downtimes. Structured cabling helps reduce the risk of equipment damage and human error to avoid workflow and network disturbances.
Cabling is one of the least visible components of a network, so it’s often one of the most underappreciated. However, disregarding its influence is a huge oversight. Here are why keeping your cabling is essential to a healthy network.
Good cabling makes troubleshooting easier
When there’s a problem with your network, the cabling is typically the first thing you should inspect. If your cabling has been improperly installed or has become tangled, you could look at many hours added to the troubleshooting process.
Professional cabling installation and maintenance guarantees your network cables are accessible and well organized, making troubleshooting as easy as possible.
Good cabling facilitates future network upgrades
Even if your current network setup won’t experience a speed boost from using the most up-to-date cabling, installing the best cable available will help future-proof your network and save money in the long run.
Network technology is constantly evolving, and so is the cabling that keeps it all connected. Choosing the right cabling will allow for optimal performance now and in the future when the time comes for a system upgrade.
The right cabling boosts your Internet speed peed
Your network can have the most advanced equipment on the market, but it won’t make any difference if you’re using the wrong type of cable. For example, CAT-5, the industry standard in the 1990s, is now more than a hundred times slower than the latest fibre optic cabling, which can be run for miles without sacrificing speed or connectivity.
Before deciding on the right cabling, let professionals assess your network’s capabilities and recommend a cabling system that will provide the highest speed possible within your budget.
Structured cabling helps improve network safety
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, having professionally installed cabling is essential for protecting the security of your staff and anyone else using your network. Not only can using the wrong cable damage your equipment, but it can also pose a serious risk of electrical problems and fire.
To have total peace of mind regarding your cabling, only choose and hire experienced engineers to work on your network installation.
What is a data network?
Simply put, a data network involves two or more devices connected to share resources. Depending on the nature of your business, these devices could include computers, copiers, surveillance cameras, audio equipment or other units.
Network cabling enables these devices to share an Internet connection, audio files, surveillance footage or other resources that are integral to your operations.
If you own a club, bar, pub, lounge or restaurant, you likely have state-of-the-art surveillance, telecommunications and entertainment system. Identifying the components that make up your business’ data network is a valuable skill.
Even if you’re not responsible for the system’s infrastructure, understanding its elements can help to diagnose any problems and prevent accidental user errors.
Components of data network cabling
A Data network cabling system consists of several components: a network interface card, a hub, a switch, a router, and various cables and connectors.
Ultimately, your data network will include variable components selected for your unique business needs. However, the backbone of any network system relies on efficient network cabling. If you’re using the wrong type of cable or if your cabling has been improperly installed, you risk compromising the speed and security of your setup.
Network interface card
A network interface card (NIC) enables your devices to be connected to the other elements of your network. Some NIC cards support wired connections (Ethernet), and others are wireless (Wi-Fi).
Data networking hub
A hub is best described as a distribution centre that splits your network connection among different devices. This wired component receives information requests from one device and broadcasts them to the others.
These days, hubs are being replaced by more modern switches and routers. However, understanding what hubs are could be very useful if you plan to upgrade an outdated system.
Data network switch
Like a hub, a switch is responsible for transmitting information within your network, but it does so more efficiently. It identifies each message received and knows exactly where to send it. Unlike a hub, it connects the source and destination, resulting in an increased network speed.
Data network router
A router is used to connect more than one network and share an Internet connection among more than one device. Similar to a hub and switch, it directs (routes) network traffic to the right destination but can be programmed to understand, manipulate and act more intelligently upon the data it transfers.
Network cabling and connectors
Cables and connectors enable your devices to transmit media and communications. Depending on the system size and components, CAT-5, CAT-6, fibre optic and coax cables are the most common types used in network cabling projects.
Different types of network cables
To know which type of cabling is right for your network project, you must learn about different types of available cabling: coaxial cables, twisted pair cables, and fibre optic cables.
A coaxial cable, also known as coax, is most recognizable as the connector between older TVs and their antennas. However, it can also be used for computer network connections, digital audio, and radio signals.
The cable consists of an inner conductor surrounded by an insulating layer and conducting shield. However, it’s not as fast as the more modern forms of cabling, one benefit of coax is the possibility to be installed next to metal objects without causing power loss, which sometimes occurs with other types of cables.
Twisted Pair cables
Twisted Pair cables are considered the standard for all Ethernet connections. Twisted Pair cables like CAT-5e and CAT-6 consist of up to four pairs of wires twisted together to prevent electromagnetic interference.
The main classifications of twisted pair cables divide them into Shielded Twisted Pair (STP) and Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) cables, each with its benefits. UTP cables are generally lower quality, while STP offers more protection against outside interference and maximizes network bandwidth.
Fibre optic cables
Fibre optic cabling is similar in structure to electrical cabling, but instead of metal wiring, it contains one or more glass optical fibres that transmit data through light pulses. Optical fibres are usually coated with layers of plastic and contained within a protective tube.
Thanks to its physical flexibility and potential to support extremely high speeds, fibre optic cabling are ideal for high-traffic, long-distance cable runs.
What are CAT-5 and CAT-6 network cables used for?
CAT-5 and CAT-6 cables are mostly used to connect network components such as computers, servers and modems. They’ve seen significant enhancements in recent years, enabling greater performance.
CAT-5 Ethernet cables
CAT-5 cables are becoming obsolete in recent years due to enhancements in other cabling. This cable can process up to 10/100 Mbps at a bandwidth of 100MHz, a speed that was once fast enough for most businesses. These days, newer CAT cables can process at faster speeds.
CAT-5 cables are divided into two categories: CAT-5 and CAT-5e. Specifically, CAT5e cables (the “e” stands for “enhanced”) became the new standard over the past decade with remarkable performance compared to the old CAT-5 cable, including up to 10 times faster speeds with minimal crosstalk.
CAT-6 Ethernet cables
CAT-6 cables can handle up to 10 GB of data, but their bandwidth is limited to 164 feet. Beyond that distance, they will only process 1 GB, like their predecessor—the CAT-5e cable. CAT-6 cables also have a tighter twist in the wiring, which allows for two-way communication on each pair of wires—something that isn’t possible with CAT-5e cabling.
CAT-6e cables are the most recent development with a thick, plastic casing to eliminate crosstalk. They can also maintain a 10 GB data transfer speed of 328 feet.
What is cabling crosstalk?
Electronics emit electromagnetic signals, which occur when many cables are close to each other, creating signal interference. This interference in cabling is referred to as crosstalk and can amplify errors and lost data.
Newer CAT cables can reduce the amount of crosstalk with a twisted cable design and better shielding.
Which CAT cable should be used for a business network?
The most future-proofed businesses will require a CAT-6e cable, but many smaller companies will find that CAT-5e and CAT-6 cables are sufficient. However, with many businesses moving their servers to the cloud, internal networking is shrinking, and companies require higher Internet speeds to access and store their files instead.
CAT-5 and CAT-6 cables use the same end piece, meaning they can plug into the same ports. This is an RJ-45 end, which can be plugged into the same Ethernet jack on all your computers, routers and switches. This feature isn’t predicted to end soon, so the difference in these cables lies in the performance alone.
Ultimately, network cabling isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Each commercial user has different demands regarding Internet speeds, system requirements and performance.
How to set up a scalable data network?
Flexibility is essential in setting up a data network for your restaurant, pub, club, bar or office. As you select the networking hardware that will build your system, it’s important to consider items that can be upgradeable as your business grows.
Components that work well now might be unable to keep pace with your enterprise development. Network scalability is essential to making the most of your technological investment.
Building a scalable data network for your business requires a balance between supporting the system you have in place today and anticipating the requirements you may have tomorrow. To effectively manage this growth, it’s important to consider scalability and flexibility in both hardware and functionality as you build your data network.
Understand the difference between switches and routers
Two of the most essential pieces of network equipment are switches and routers. While they might look similar, they each have separate functions.
Switches connect the devices on the same network within the same physical building. This could include multiple computers, printers, audio systems, surveillance cameras and more. Once connected, these devices can communicate and share data.
Routers tie these individual networks together and connect them to the Internet. They dispatch information and protect your data from external security threats.
Build a scalable network foundation
Your network needs to keep up with the demands of the business. That’s why investing in business-grade equipment that will withstand time is important, versus smaller solutions designed for home use.
Professional hardware will also enable you to add functionality where and when needed, such as video surveillance and wireless applications.
When selecting a switch, consider the number of its Ethernet ports. The number of ports should outnumber the devices within your network. Plan ahead in your business’ life cycle so that you don’t have to invest in another switch (to add more ports) before your existing one reaches its end of life.
A scalable network is a network driven by performance for long-term growth. If your business requires large files to be transferred through the system, such as HD video files, you’ll need a switch that can perform this task quickly.
Consider wired vs wireless networks
When reliability and speed are your main network concerns, a wired connection is usually preferable. However, expanding your network when wired down may prove difficult for some businesses experiencing growth.
Since wireless systems don’t require a physical network, they provide a simpler foundation for expansion.
Rely on expert installers to handle your data network cabling
Good cabling is the backbone of any strong network, and all cabling-related projects require field experience and technical knowledge to be handled efficiently and securely.
If your business needs assistance in configuring the server room that houses your network components, wiring, or operational IT services, reach out to Panopticon and place your project into our capable hands.
We have almost a decade of experience installing, updating and maintaining cabling systems. Our expert technicians will ensure your network’s cabling is reliable, organized, and secure.
For more information about network cabling and all your cabling needs, call us at 416-613-8828.