Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Ethernet Over Copper (EOC) ..... Good Choice For A Network Architecture?

Assuming that Ethernet is a constant, which may or may not be valid, your other choices are fiber or freespace, meaning optical or radio. I prefer fiber for all backbone runs for a few reasons:

1) It's more future-proof, allowing scalability in bandwidth as well as entirely new technologies. (FC, ATM, SONET, TDM, CWDM, and others can all run on the same fiber bundle) Glass is faster than metal for digital transmission.

2) It's somewhat more immune to the Oops factor. Lots of people are in closets and racks playing with copper connections. Fiber is usually more isolated and folks think twice, or maybe at least once, before messing with it.

3) Distance is much less of an issue.

4) Fiber doesn't conduct electricity, which eliminates a lot of odd errors due to grounding, lightning, surges, offsets, RFI, and other things that go bump in the night, particularly in industrial settings or between buildings.

5) There is a perceived security advantage to fiber. It costs more to tap it.

Optical and radio have their place as well. The most obvious is getting across public rights-of-way where getting a fiber or copper connection is both expensive and time consuming (although I have done it). Both are technologies of last resort, and neither is as robust as a fiber (or copper) connection. I refer here to point-to-point backbone type connections. Wireless for client connections has it's own issues, and I wouldn't touch it with a 10 meter stick as an alternative to copper to the desktop. That's a whole discussion to itself, with lots of opinions, but wireless has been bread and butter for some for over a decade .... and there are more ways to do it wrong than you can imagine. If you are in IT, on call, and value sleep, don't do wireless to the desktop as a primary connection.

Remember that Copper doesn't just mean plain old Ethernet over Cat5. There is a lot of DSL derived technology that can extend Ethernet over significant distances at quite reasonable speeds. It is a good alternative where copper exists and fiber doesn't and would be cost prohibitive to install.

In summary, copper from closet to desktop, fiber between closets, buildings, and backbone equipment, wireless PtP where you have to, and wireless to the client as a convenience and special case, not as a primary connection.

If you're looking for assistance in finding the best network solution for your situation .... we'd be happy to help. Our assistance is free by the way .... just submit a request with your details via: Bandwidth Solution

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