Even in today's world of wireless data, Ethernet cables are still a very important part of home and office networking. Even in situations where Wi-Fi connectivity is readily available, Ethernet cables provide a faster and more reliable connection.

Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet 

There is no denying that Wi-Fi connections are convenient. After all, they allow you to access the internet and even local area networks without any wires. However, Wi-Fi is slower than a cabled connection. First, when more than one device is connected to the network, they "fight" each other for the available bandwidth. What's more, the more walls that are between the router and the connected device, the slower the signal becomes. Gamers and others who rely on fast, reliable connections can attest to the benefits of Ethernet connections. They provide a direct link to the modem, allowing the connected device to operate to its full capacity without competing for spectrum. 

Types of Cables 

The two most common types of Ethernet cables available today for both home and commercial use are Cat5 and Cat6. Each of these comes in a variety of styles, but the main difference between the two is that Cat6 allows for up to double the speed of Cat5. First, shielded cables prevent RF interference from degrading the signal, allowing data to transfer seamlessly over long distances. Unshielded cable, which is the most cost-effective option, is best for connecting devices at short range. Next, Ethernet cables can be solid or twisted wire. Twisted wire is the most common since it is flexible and attaches easily to RJ45 connectors, which are the connectors that plug into various devices as well as the router. Solid Ethernet cable is best in aerial and underground applications, and it is common when installing a network within the walls of a structure. 

Which Ethernet Cables Are Best?

This is a question commonly asked of IT professionals, and the answer depends on the property owner's needs and goals. For starters, Ethernet technologies have a lifespan of about a decade according to most IT professionals and industry analysts, and while Cat5 is still the industry standard since it can carry speeds equal to those offered by most internet service providers for consumer use, Cat6 is readily available. For most applications, Cat5 is acceptable. However, for those who are serious about their speeds, Cat6 is the way to go since it essentially future-proofs the application. One way to compromise involves installing Cat6 behind walls, underground, or through the air, and following up with Cat5 inside the home. This way, the hard-to-access areas will provide ample speeds for the next decade or more and the cables inside the home are easy to upgrade later. 

Although there are many types and styles of Ethernet cables on the market today, with just a bit of knowledge about them, it is easy to make the right buying decision. With properly installed high-quality cable, you can enjoy all of the speed available for many years to come.