Have you ever heard anybody complain that their network connection was too fast? Most internet service providers (ISPs) cap out their service at 1 Gigabit, which does the trick for most people. However, local area networks (LANs) can always benefit from more bandwidth. This is true both at the office and at home - basically anywhere where large amounts of media need to be stored remotely and accessed in real-time. With multi-gig Ethernet networking equipment becoming increasingly affordable, more and more home users and businesses alike are looking to get more out of their network. Whether you’re looking to upgrade your network to 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet or 10 Gigabit Ethernet, there are some things you’ll want to consider.
Does your existing cabling support 10 Gigabit Ethernet?
These days, a standard final step for new-construction buildings is running cable. Running Ethernet cables through the building before the walls are all sealed up saves the eventual inhabitant a lot of trouble when they inevitably want to build out their network. Most buildings are cabled with either Cat5e or Cat6 cable, but rarely Cat6a, which is bad news for those who want to establish a 10 Gigabit Ethernet network. Cat6 can technically support 10GbE but only up to 55 meters in ideal conditions. The extra shielding in Cat6a cables makes it the far better choice for reliable 10GbE bandwidth up to 100 meters.
If you’re lucky enough to be in a building wired with Cat6a or are willing to spend the money to upgrade, then you’re just a 10G Ethernet switch and NAS platform purchase away from having a blazing fast network. Oh, and don’t forget to make sure you can actually access that network at 10 Gig speeds from your computer. Most desktops come standard with a Gigabit Ethernet card and the same goes for laptops (if they even have an Ethernet port). You can easily upgrade your desktop with a 10 Gigabit Ethernet PCI Express card. If you have a laptop, however, you’ll need to utilize a Thunderbolt 3 to 10 Gigabit Ethernet adapter. Make sure that the computer actually has Thunderbolt 3, and not just USB-C. Now, with the proper NAS setup, you’ll be taking full advantage of new storage systems that can transfer files at up to 1250MB/s, whereas you were capped at 125MB/s through a gigabit connection.
You’re not wired with Cat6a - now what?
Until 2014, you either had Cat6a cabling and were able to set up a 10GbE network, or you had Cat6 or Cat5e and were relegated to a gigabit network- there was no in-between. The thing is, Cat5e & Cat6 cables can both support far more than gigabit bandwidth, but there was just no official protocol nor equipment to support it. An alliance of networking vendors pushed for this bandwidth to be useable and IEEE 802.3bz was released in 2014, supporting 2.5G and 5G speeds over 100 meters of Cat5e or Cat6 cable, respectively. This is also referred to as 2.5GBASE-T and 5GBASE-T Ethernet.
Though a far-cry from 10GbE, this new standard allows users to have 2.5 or 5 times the bandwidth on their existing Cat5e or Cat6 cabling. It is a huge win for businesses and home power-users, as it allows for a cost-saving alternative to re-wiring with Cat6a for a faster network. And a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet network is nothing to shake a stick at. With a 2.5G or 5G network, a NAS setup becomes a viable solution for storing and accessing mass amounts of media remotely. At those speeds, 4K videos can be streamed or edited with no problems. Engineers are able to access demanding CAD and other design files, and gamers will never have to worry about lag.
Gaming at 2.5G
Did you just get your new Netgear Nighthawk xr700 or other high-end gaming router and are looking to take full advantage of it? These routers often feature multiple gigabit Ethernet ports to allow for plenty of connections for your next LAN party, while a 10 Gigabit Ethernet port provides a ridiculously fast connection to your network. However, as mentioned above, if you’re not wired for 10Gb Ethernet then you can at least take advantage of a multi-gig connection. With a Cable Matters USB-C to 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet Adapter, you can remove any bottlenecks you might experience with your old Gigabit Ethernet card and ensure that bandwidth limitations or lag aren’t the reason you lose your next match.