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  1. #1
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    Four (relatively) painless small-network upgrades




    BEST HARDWARE

    Four (relatively) painless small-network upgrades


    By Becky Waring

    It's a sad fact of computing life that we obsess over upgrading to the latest smartphone or laptop while allowing key supporting hardware to languish until it's dead or obsolete.

    Your network, for example, is only as good as its weakest link. Save time and money with these often-overlooked yet relatively easy upgrades for home or small-office networks.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/best-hardware/four-(relatively)-painless-small-network-upgrades/ (opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.
    Last edited by Tracey Capen; 2011-08-03 at 16:50.

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    Cable length for Gigabit copper links

    I saw the comment that Gigabit Cat6 runs allow 1000baseT runs of 700 ft, but that is not supported by any major manufacturers as they recommend a maximum 100m length for copper connections. Part of the restrictions on cable length are due to legacy Ethernet timing (see slot time, collision detection, etc)  Typical maximum length is closer to 95m (allowing 5 m for patch cord use). Cable runs that require more than 100m are reached using fiber links. If I was having any problems with a link, stability, link loss, etc, and I found out the cable length was greater than 100m, then problem determination would end and the customer would be enlightened about the maximum cable length for that speed of cable. I work for a  company that manufactures 801.11 wireless infrastructure and have a bit of experience with wireless and wired Ethernet connections. One point that wasn't made in the article, is that to fully utilize any 802.11n wireless connections, it requires a connection faster than 100mbit (typically gigabit) between the access point and the infrastructure. Using a 100mbit connection may allow single stream operation, but to use any multistream (aka mimo) to any infrastructure requires a faster connection.

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    ethernet

    My external hard drives which serve as back-up drives have USB cables rather than ethernet cables. I assume they are capable of the higher speeds and that is why Seagate and Western Digital used them. True? Also, I do have a 10/100 ethernet cable from my Comcast modem to my D-Link 424 router and then from my router to my Dell Studio XPS 9000. What I get from your article is that I should upgrade my router to a 1GB and use the correct CAT6 cable. Should I also work on changing the modem? I don't know much but I do know about "bottle-necks" and I am trying to figure out where it will be (because there is always a bottle-neck).

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    BTW: Great article, Becky. It had to be to get me to post rather than just read and read. heheheheh....

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    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lindyp330 View Post
    My external hard drives which serve as back-up drives have USB cables rather than ethernet cables. I assume they are capable of the higher speeds and that is why Seagate and Western Digital used them. True? Also, I do have a 10/100 ethernet cable from my Comcast modem to my D-Link 424 router and then from my router to my Dell Studio XPS 9000. What I get from your article is that I should upgrade my router to a 1GB and use the correct CAT6 cable. Should I also work on changing the modem? I don't know much but I do know about "bottle-necks" and I am trying to figure out where it will be (because there is always a bottle-neck).
    First, welcome to The Lounge!

    The article is aimed at business networks, where most of the drives are network attached storage (NAS) or other network drive types. (Or, massive amounts of data need to be transferred to remote servers or other destinations.) This is not home user stuff. However, if a home user wants a business-class backup system, there are some considerations:

    First, Gigabit Ethernet gets throughput of 1000MB/sec, compared with USB 2 at 480 MB/sec. The actual throughput is actually a lot better over a network than with a computer communicating with a local USB hard drive, due to inefficiencies in the USB hardware and software interfaces. The raw numbers break down like this:

    (Source: This article.) The text in the article was published in 2005, so it is very out of date. But the table is just about right today, except that "High Speed" USB 2 is now the standard speed.




    (You may have to zoom in to see this table more clearly, or reference the original article. )

    As can be seen, Gigabit Ethernet with NAS is much more efficient than USB 2 with a single computer. E-SATA is even faster than Gigabit Ethernet, but not by much.

    But the cost of NAS is significantly higher than USB external hard drives. Which is why home networks do not use NAS very often. Unless you have very large media collections or are operating a home-based business, chances are that the added efficiencies will not be necessary and do not justify the added costs. For business networks, the efficiencies are well worth the costs, as usually much more data needs to be transferred. And when updates come along, they may need to be deployed to many computers at a time.

    For a single computer, backups do not reach the levels of a business-class workstation, and there are not many computers to back up and restore (or upgrade) at any given time. So once again, the choice is usually made to go with the slower but much cheaper USB local hard drives, or a Windows Home Server, for backup and recovery needs.

    One thing in this article may apply to some home networks. Placing a Gigabit Ethernet Switch between the router and the various computers on a home network may improve network performance if someone is watching movies on Netflix, while someone else is doing online gaming, and another person may be watching YouTube videos in High Definition. Under such demanding conditions, load balancing is better handled with a managed ethernet switch than with a wireless router. Everyone gets better results, provided you can convince everyone to connect to Ethernet wires instead of having the mobility of wireless connections.

    For home users, upgrading the modem (unless you also upgrade your service level to AT&T's UVerse, Comcast's XFinity, or something similar) would be a waste of money and effort. The modem is owned and supplied by your ISP in most cases, and they choose modems which are optimized for their levels of service.
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2011-08-05 at 04:11.
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    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    EdKeating said:
    "
    I saw the comment that Gigabit Cat6 runs allow 1000baseT runs of 700 ft, but that is not supported by any major manufacturers as they recommend a maximum 100m length for copper connections."

    I too was suspicious of such claims about maximum cable length.
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2011-08-05 at 15:46. Reason: Moved from another thread. Quote offset more clearly by bobprimak.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobprimak View Post
    The article is aimed at business networks, ... This is not home user stuff.
    Not according to the introduction: "Save time and money with these often-overlooked yet relatively easy upgrades for home or small-office networks."

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    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceR View Post
    Not according to the introduction: "Save time and money with these often-overlooked yet relatively easy upgrades for home or small-office networks."
    I think you misread that text. It was a combination of "Home Office or Small Office networks", not "Home networks or Small Office networks", as I read it. Usually, Becky Waring and Susan Bradley are writing with a Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) audience in mind, and this article seems in balance to be no exception.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobprimak View Post
    I think you misread that text. It was a combination of "Home Office or Small Office networks", not "Home networks or Small Office networks", as I read it. Usually, Becky Waring and Susan Bradley are writing with a Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) audience in mind, and this article seems in balance to be no exception.
    What's the distinction between a Home Office network and a Home network?

    Bruce

  10. #10
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceR View Post
    What's the distinction between a Home Office network and a Home network?

    Bruce
    Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) refers to an actual network with a server (not just a Windows Home Server). Any network which does not have a server beyond Windows Home Server or a "print server" would be classified as a Home Network. Larger business networks are classified as Enterprise Networks by the IT community. It is the SOHO market tier to which Becky and Susan address their columns.
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