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Upgrading your home network is a simple process that requires a few tools, connectors, and a pack of bulk cat6 cables. If your network has been up for some time, you may need to add a few computers, a new printer, or extend network connectivity to a nearby room to expand the system.
You can upgrade your network by doing the cabling yourself. Of course, you can always have a professional do the job, but if the work involved is just the addition of a few units to the network, you might as well do the job and learn something new in the process. In future, this knowledge will come handy because of the way technology advances in leaps and bounds, you may decide to do another upgrading in a year or two.
Networks are wired with Ethernet cables to connect devices such as desktop PCs, printers, routers, and switches that form the LAN. Most home networks and local area networks (LAN) for small offices are wired using category 5 (cat5) or category 5e (cat5e) Ethernet cable, which is an enhanced cat5 cable. The older cat5 cable provides a theoretical data transfer speed of 100 Mbps and a bandwidth of 100 MHz, while the enhanced cat5e provides a speed of up to 1000 Mbps (1 gigabyte) and a bandwidth of up to 350 MHz. Most home networks and small LANs function efficiently using either cat5 or cat5e cable because the volume and frequency of data transfers are minimal or are way below the network capacity, and the number of network users is usually limited to a few persons.
However, when you are considering the expansion of your network, it may be worthwhile to consider re-wiring your system using bulk cat6 cables. Though many users say that Gigabit Ethernet is excessive for the requirements of average networks, you might as well shift to this higher Ethernet standard when you are in the process of upgrading your system. By future proofing your network with cat6 cables, you will be ready to meet future demands and will not lag behind as the technology advances to faster speeds.
Category 6 (cat6) cables support Gigabit Ethernet, with theoretical data transfer speed of up to 10 gigabit (10 GbE) and a bandwidth of up to 750 MHz. With this capability, the network can efficiently handle the simultaneous transfer of large files to and from a server or file storage bank, and serve the requirements of multiple network users without compromising the speed of transmissions. This means that when the demands on your network increase within a year or two, you will not need to do an upgrade of the cabling.
This said, if some of your network devices are still at Fast Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet standards, your network will continue to function at these speeds because the lower standards dictate the speed of the whole system. However, this should not really concern you at this point, if the current demand on your network is still being met. Cabling your network with cat6 bulk cable is the first logical step in upgrading your system, and you can slowly work your way to upgrading other network devices like desktop PCs, routers, hubs, and switches.
Standard, Crossover, and Patch Cables
The standard or straight through Ethernet cable is used for connecting hardware to a computer through an Ethernet hub or switch, or to put it simply, to patch between different types of equipment, for example when you connect a PC or a printer to a hub. Conversely, the crossover cable is used to connect similar types of equipment, for example a PC to another PC.
Now that you know which cable type is used to connect the different components of the system, you should also know how to identify a crossover from a standard cable. A standard cable has the same layout on both ends, meaning the colors of the twisted wire pairs that you can see through the RJ45 connectors are in the order or position.
Both ends of the standard and the crossover cables terminate with an RJ45 connector, through which you can discern the color of the twisted wire pairs. Thus, using connector 1 as reference, look at the other end of the cable to see the specific colors on each specific pin. If the color layout on the other end is the same as the color layout in connector 1, what you have is a standard cable. If there are differences in the order of the color layouts when you compare both ends of the cable, it means what you have is a crossover cable. As long as you know how to identify each cable type visually and know when to use them, you will encounter any issues from the efficient running of your network. Using a multimeter to probe the ends of the cable identifies if the pin connections are the same.
Patch cables on the other hand, are short leads with connectors on either end that are flexible, and are used to plug one piece of equipment directly into another that is nearby. Patch cables are made of coaxial cables with stranded sheathing that makes them pliable and less prone to breakage from frequent unplugging.
If you want to save on costs, you can make various lengths of standard and crossover cables by learning how to cut bulk cat6 cable in the exact lengths that you need and attaching the RJ45 connector at both ends. You will need a wire cutter and an RJ45 crimping tool to do this. Of course, when preparing the cables, you should take the precaution of ensuring that the color layout at both ends of the cable are the same for standard cables, or with crossed or different color layout for crossover cables.
Of course, you can purchase standard and crossover cables of various lengths that are ready to use, but these are quite expensive when compared to the cost of 1000ft cat6 bulk cable. You will save a substantial amount when you learn how to cut and prepare the cables, particularly when you do frequent rearranging of your network devices and when you purchase additional devices from time to time.
Updating with bulk cat6 cable is a good option to take when upgrading your network to make it future proof and ready for any increase in the volume of data that you handle, and you save on cable costs by purchasing cat6 cable in bulk, learning how to prepare standard and crossover cables.