Cables have been a vital part of any network installation. It is vital that you have the right type of cable to connect your equipment together for a successful system. There are different types of network cables and many factors to consider when deciding which one(s) will work best for you.
A network cable is a physical connection between two computers or other devices. There are various types of cables, each with its own set of standards for speed and performance. These different standards, when properly implemented in hardware like hubs, switches, routers, and NICs (network interface cards) can cause major problems in a well-intentioned network. This article gives you an overview of common types of cabling used today to help you select what type will work best for your application.
Types of Network Cables
There are a number of different types of network cables to consider when building or expanding a network. Understanding the differences between each type will help you choose the right one for your application.
- Twisted Pair
Twisted pair cable is the most common type of cable used in computer networks also known as ethernet cables. Twisted pair cable can be very effective when it has high quality wire, high quality RJ-45 connectors and good implementation on both ends. It is important to note that not all implementations of this type of cabling are the same. Some manufacturers use cheap wire and materials that will perform poorly where others will use better components resulting in higher performance. The RJ-45 connector fails frequently if it isn’t made well or doesn’t fit properly into your NIC card (NIC cards do vary, so refer to your documentation). Be sure to test each end of this type of cable before installation to ensure proper connection. This testing requires more than just visually inspecting the connector.
- Coaxial Cable
Coaxial cable is a type of cabling that was once popular for computer networks, but has been replaced by twisted pair. It still has some advantages over twisted pair in terms of performance and signal-to-noise ratio. The disadvantage of this type of cable is cost and the fact that it cannot be installed outside or underground. This type of installation also requires special tools to attach the connectors properly which adds to the overall cost. In addition, coaxial cables degrade quickly compared with other types of media, so it must be tested frequently to ensure proper performance. If you decide to use this type of cabling on your network you should consider how long you plan to keep the system in place before upgrading to a new standard.
- Fiber Optic Cable
Fiber optic cable is probably the most expensive cabling option, but it can have several advantages over other types of media. This type of cabling uses light signals instead of electricity to communicate down the line which makes it possible for this type of cabling to go much further than copper-based cables before signal degradation occurs. It can also handle more information at once making it an effective choice for high throughput applications where data volume is very high. The drawback with fiber optic cable is that care must be taken during installation because damage done to the connectors or fibers themselves are not always immediately visible and performance loss can occur without warning.
Installations of Network Cables
When installing a new network cable you will find that the procedures for installation can vary. In some cases, it may be possible to use a punch down tool which attaches the wire to the back of a modular connector at each end of the cable. Other installations require special tools and skills making it more difficult to terminate cables with connectors on each end. The following are four common techniques used when installing network cables today:
- Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP)
Unshielded twisted pair is by far the most common type of cabling used in computer networks also called Cat 5, Cat 5e, or Cat 6 UTP. Unshielded twisted pair uses pairs of wires twisted together to reduce signal interference from other sources like fluorescent lighting. The most common twisted pair is the Cat 5e cable which has improved specifications over older Cat 5 cabling to reduce signal cross talk and increase speed.
- Shielded twisted pair (STP)
Shielded twisted pair is similar to unshielded twisted pair in the way that it uses wires twisted together to reduce interference, but it also adds a layer of insulation called the shield around each wire to further protect against noise. This type of cabling is usually used in environments where there may be significant amounts of electrical interference like areas near machinery or power sources.
- Coaxial Cable
Coaxial cable was an extremely popular type of cabling for computer networks, but has been replaced by unshielded twisted pair. It is still used for some segments of computer networks where there needs to be increased protection against electrical interference because the shield completely surrounds the center conductor. Although this type of cabling is harder to work with than unshielded twisted pair, the use of coaxial cable requires less expensive tools which offsets some of the cost.
- Fiber Optic Cable
Fiber optic cable was once an extremely expensive type of cabling that required highly specialized tools and skills, but has become more affordable in recent years making it a viable choice for computer networks today. Fiber optic cables are made up two strands which act as light guides instead of metal conductors like other types of media. The tight structure makes it an effective choice for high-bandwidth applications where data needs to be transmitted over long distances.
A lot of different types of computer networks have been developed over the years, but the most popular system is the Ethernet Local Area Network (LAN). A local area network can be a very complex system of cabling and wiring which includes components for everything from connecting a home office printer to sending information across town or around the world. The original concept was to connect computers on a single floor or building together into one large network that could share resources between every device.