The past 10 years have brought us the iPad, the birth of augmented reality and the widespread adoption of cloud computing — and meanwhile, network cabling has been quietly advancing as well. Instead of awkward, ad hoc solutions, today’s businesses rely on sophisticated cabling designs to build efficient connections and robust networks that can handle the next technological invention. But none of that can happen for you if your infrastructure remains stuck in the past.
Is It Time to Upgrade Your Existing Cabling?
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is not a great policy for your technological infrastructure. Aging, poorly structured wiring systems may be slowing network performance and making it more difficult to use for high-data applications or even ordinary day-to-day online tasks. More specifically, older cabling suffers from many of the following limitations.
- Network interference. Older cabling is more susceptible to interference from nearby devices.
- Poor data speeds. Category 5 (Cat5) and above cabling is rated for much higher transmission speeds than its predecessors.
- Distance limitations. Aging cabling simply cannot transmit data over long distances.
- Poor cable placement. Haphazard cabling design can limit network performance. Electromagnetic interference from nearby electrical cables, fluorescent lights and other fixtures slows transmission rates and may result in noise on the network.
- Crosstalk. Network interference can also occur inside the separate strands of wire that make up the interior of older cables.
Upgrading to new cabling allows you to correct for these issues for a faster, more efficient network. It also supports power over ethernet (PoE), so systems like VoIP and access controls can be powered directly through your cables.
New Standards for Copper Cabling
The newest thing isn’t always the greatest thing, but the cabling advances we’re talking about have been available for years, allowing them to stand the test of time. Standards for Cat5 cabling have been in existence since 1995. New standards for category 5 enhanced (Cat5e), category 6 (Cat6) and category 6 augmented (Cat6A) build off these specifications, making them a reliable way to transfer data.
Cat5e cables, for instance, are rated for higher speeds than original Cat5 cables. Cat6 and Cat6e are even more efficient, often reaching gigabit or even multiple gigabit speeds, with additional advances that eliminate crosstalk and improve heat dispensation in PoE installations.
Copper vs. Fiber Optic: A Tale of Two Wires
Above, we discussed some of the differences between various copper standards. But copper is just one part of the cabling story. Today’s businesses can also opt for fiber optic installations, where signals are transmitted using modulated light. Fiber optic has advantages that make it more durable and robust than conventional copper: It’s not affected by moisture and isn’t subject to electromagnetic interference.
However, fiber optic cabling is not currently in widespread use, meaning these installations are much more expensive — and the devices you rely on every day may not be compatible for power over fiber (PoF).
As you can see, the decision to upgrade network cabling is a big one, with many nuances to consider. That’s why we created a resource to aid you in the process: our free e-book Structured Cabling Ahead of Technology. Download it today to learn how new cable standards can help you future-proof your business and gain a better, stronger network. With robust structured cabling, you’ll be ready for whatever comes next!