Should I Get CAT 5e Cables?

As Category 5 has faded into the past as the networking standard for cables, the emerging debate has been: should I get CAT 5e cables or CAT6? It's a good question, because the price difference between the two is not insignificant. So to decide if you can get by with CAT 5e, you must first ask yourself it there is any compelling reason to spend the extra money for CAT 6.

So how do the two differ? Both cables are rated to work at distances up to 90 meters. The main difference lies in how much data each can carry. The CAT 6 is a gigabit cable, whereas CAT 5e is a 100Mbit/s. While you might not understand all of that, just keep in mind that this makes the CAT 6 about 10 times faster than CAT 5e.

CAT 5e cables are a copper standard for 100 megabit/s data transport speed. Cat 5e replaced the former CAT 5 standard. A CAT 5e cable is capable of carrying 100 Mbit in data per second.

So what about your business network? Is this speed sufficient for you? To decide this, you first must know a few details about the company network. For instance, does your business use an internal server which hosts either databases or other bandwidth intense features? Is your office data connection only for Internet browsing? Or do you perhaps use something such as a VoIP telephone system?

It's not unusual for a business to require a T1's worth of bandwidth--or even more. The average T1 provides 1.5Mbit/s data transfer. Therefore, if your main need for data transform is for browsing the Web, your CAT 5e cable will be more than sufficient.

Some businesses, though, use several bandwidth-intense applications, all hosted on the same server. For this kind of data usage, you'll likely need something more than the CAT 5e.

For an illustration of just how powerful the CAT 5e is, if your office uses a VoIP phone system, keep in mind that each conversation uses just 64kb. This means that the VoIP system would not press the CAT 5e's capabilities until you reach about 1,562 conversations, all taking place at once. Consequently, you can use your network and cables for Internet browsing and Internet telephone, and it is still likely to be sufficient.

However, there are some instances in which your business will want to seriously consider stepping up to CAT 5. For instance, as more companies start using fiber optic connections to the Internet, a higher bandwidth becomes necessary. This is where CAT 6 shines--and in most cases, is actually essential.

But you should not make the jump to CAT 6 unless you're sure this is a necessity. The cable will cost much more for installation, and you'll also need gigabit switches for handling the faster speeds. There are lots of places in Surrey BC where you could find the essential hardware, but not without an additional financial cost. While you could use the same 10/100 o 100 Mbit switches with your CAT 6, your performance will be greatly hindered. For maximum efficiency, CAT 6 cabling will require CAT 6 jacks and patch panels, to work well, and to pass OSHA standards.

So here's the bottom line: Don't upgrade to CAT 6 until it becomes a necessity. Your CAT 5e cables will work just fine for most applications--and will save you a lot of money.

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