Over the past 20 years, electronic technology has radically changed the way organizations conduct their daily business activities. In some, computers and digital telecommunications have become absolutely essential for the accomplishment of even the most mundane of daily tasks. Can you imagine trying to communicate and conduct business with associates, customers, and visitors without the internet or cell phones? Innovations such as smartphones, tablets, WiFi, and laptops have released us to be very mobile, which allows almost anyone to conduct business from almost any location at any time.
All of these computer and wireless networks, video conferencing, data streaming, and large data transfer capabilities, have created a fast-paced world in which we all depend on the digital for a wide variety of personal and professional tasks. Even our daily chit-chat around the water cooler has gone digital and global with the rise of super-connected social media
Recent advances continue to raise expectations of our data infrastructure’s performance. And yet, to be consistently efficient and effectively invisible, there are many parts of the system that struggle to keep up. One area of electronic technology that is always in catch-up mode is the design and capacity of wired computer networks.
In the early days of the technology revolution, in the mid to late 1970s, the personal computer was making its introduction. Shortly afterward the need for computer networking capabilities became obvious as governments, businesses and homes acquired these marvelous machines, but initially, the limited networks connecting one computer to another were only able to handle basic transmissions such as small data files. It was mostly academics, scientists and computer people exchanging brief written messages. However, through the 1980’s and 90’s, new hardware and software developments were occurring at breakneck speed as people began to understand and use the potential of networked computing. Demand drove innovation (and not a few financial fortunes) but many organizations began to run into serious network transmission challenges. The first generations of computer network cabling technology and bandwidth designs could not properly support some of the newer technology in the marketplace.
One of the most important moments for computer network design was the sudden popularity of the Internet and its exploding possibilities for the delivery of multimedia messages such as audio, video, either streamed live or stored and downloaded later. Of course we didn’t know we needed online movies, music and long distance video chats until we saw it in action. Eventually we got past the miracle of multimedia communication and began to demand MORE speed and volume. New approaches to network transmission speeds and file size accommodation arose because audio, video, live streaming, and large files such as high resolution images tended to move very slowly using traditional network cabling.
For all our wireless capabilities, there is still a need for a LOT of cables. And for the levels of quality and efficiency for transferring multimedia files, cables need to handle much faster speeds and larger files. Now it’s normal to evaluate one’s in-house computer network not on today’s demands, but those of five to ten years in the future. While many organizations find it easy and justifiable to invest in new computers or handheld devices, the network cabling, switches, hubs and routers used to move and transfer data between those machines can be forgotten.
In many instances, the network bandwidth available is not sufficient to operate new technology like bandwidth-eating multimedia. Therefore, a lot of offices are now more attuned to considering an update to their cable network Modern cabling types such as fiber optics or newer CAT twisted pair strands can do a lot to increase bandwidth and transmission speeds. In fact, engineers continue to labor over both copper and fiber optic cabling, squeezing every last electron or photon of capacity out of these materials.
For example, the “first” generation of copper cabling (copper data transmission cables go as far back as the telegraph), CAT3 was something like our endangered home telephone wire, shown here. It could handle a paltry 10 Mbps, while the latest CAT8 cable standards in development can handle up to 40 Gbps. That’s 39,990,000,000 bits per second more. And still it’s a challenge to handle the amounts of data flowing around the world every day.
There are other factors to consider, like the fact that speeds tend to erode over distance. What may be extremely high volume over 20 feet might be just average at 40 feet. Fiber optic cables tend to have higher capabilities over longer distances, and in fact many cabling infrastructure projects are investing in fiber to “future-proof” their connections.
Now that the data transfer “cat” is out of the bag, we’ll only see higher demand for more bandwidth as time goes on. Are you prepared for the kinds of loads that multipoint video conferencing or long distance collaboration will put on your systems? Are you considering moving to some telecommuting or faster data-sharing with field staff?
For organizational leaders looking for more information or assistance regarding the use of multimedia technology on their networks or connecting to networks utilizing multimedia technology, we will be glad to provide additional information or assistance. We are NetQ Media Solutions.