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Protected Ethernet Cables Offer Better Network Performance

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 8/15/2008

Cables need to be handled with reasonable care and installed with certain cautions in mind. There are certain things you just can’t do with Ethernet cable and still expect your network to perform at top speed. Here we explain why protected ethernet cables can improve your wired network performance.

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    Protecting Ethernet Cables

    When you send an e-mail, transfer files to another PC, or download utilities from the Internet, that data is sent and received in what are referred to as “data packets" All mainstream communications among PCs is packet based. Data sent over a network is broken up into chunks of data called packets, which are usually about a thousand bytes long. When those packets reach their destination, they are reassembled.

    Damaged or badly installed Ethernet cables will cause data packets to be corrupted, as will the influence of motors, fluorescent lamps, and electrical mains too near the cables. Bad packets are detected by the Ethernet system, which is then forced to retransmit them. The more bad packets detected and retransmitted, the slower your network will be. This is referred to as the network’s “error rate." You won’t see these errors in a Windows error dialog. Ethernet handles them transparently; what you’ll notice (in a network with bad cables) is that throughput slows down considerably.

    To make sure your network is as fast as it can be, take good care of your Ethernet cables. Here’s how:

    · Do not kink or bend network cables at sharp angles, and especially do not bend it 180 degrees; for example, to store cable in a center-tied hank. To store cables, carefully gather them into circular rolls no tighter than 8 inches in diameter.

    · Do not stretch network cables, even to remove a kink. Once it’s kinked, a network cable will never carry data as quickly again. Stretching cable changes the electrical relationships of the twisted pair conductors, increasing the error rate and reducing its throughput.

    · Don’t just leave Ethernet cables on the floor to be stepped on, and certainly don’t put them under a carpet! Stepping on the cable will distort the twisted pairs inside and increase the error rate.

    · Do not run Ethernet cables in parallel with electrical wires. 120V power lines induce currents in network cable that radically increase the error rate.

    · Do not pull Ethernet cables through conduit that already carries electrical service wiring! Not only is this a safety hazard that breaks every electrical code in the world, but the close proximity of network and electrical conductors will induce noise in your network cable and render the cable almost useless.

    · Network cables must never rest on, or cross over, florescent lamp fixtures or ballast transformers. If you’re running cable above a dropped ceiling, give fluorescent lights a wide berth. They are electrically very “noisy."

    · Keep network cables away from motors and things that contain motors, like fans. Motors are electrically “noisy" and can induce that noise in network cables, increasing their error rate.

    · If you must use wiring staples to hold Ethernet cable in place, don’t hammer them down so tight that they pinch the cable. Leave the cable some wiggle room. Pinching the cable is akin to kinking it, and it will raise the error rate.

    · Keep cables away from hot pipes or vents carrying hot air.