In many cases, entire businesses rely on a single, shared business-class Internet connection through a copper-based DSL, cable, or t-line service. Unfortunately, this means that mission-critical systems are sharing a single connection with their provider, which limits bandwidth available to each system during normal operation. Improving your primary connection through fiber from the ISP to your door is a great way to make sure your entire operation has the bandwidth it needs to carry out mission-critical tasks.
Fiber and copper differ in many ways. A single fiber cable can carry as much data as a thick copper cable containing thousands of different copper wires. Where copper uses electrical signals that degrade over large distances to transfer data, fiber uses light.
One clear advantage of copper is that it’s cheaper. Over short distances, copper is still a very capable technology. To cut costs, many IT departments choose to go with copper-based networking equipment. For medium and large companies, this may not be the most efficient options.
While it’s never advised to run your company’s Web servers off of a shared connection with your operations systems (for security reasons in addition to stability and reliability), many companies are running internal databases and intranet systems through a copper-based internal networking infrastructure.
This is where a solid and reliable internal connection is a must-have. By replacing traditional copper cable with fiber, you eliminate several key factors that can degrade your connection. Electrical interference, a nuisance in many cramped IT closets and data centers, doesn’t degrade signal quality on fiber as it does with copper. In addition, fiber cable is capable of withstanding more physical pulling than copper. A standard fiber cable can withstand between 100-200 lbs. of pulling pressure, while a copper ethernet cable is usually rated at a mere 25 lbs.
Fiber also gives your business a more consistent and predictable amount of bandwidth as it doesn’t matter how near or far you are from the ISP exchange. You’ll receive exactly what you pay for, where bandwidth may vary depending on network usage on a copper connection. When deciding on an ISP, you may want to see which one has fiber available to the door. Many providers still rely on copper for the “last mile” of the connection, limiting your external connection’s capabilities by what copper can provide.
While it may be impractical to run fiber to every workstation, your database and intranet servers would greatly benefit from a solid fiber connection. Gigabit ethernet to workstations would be quite sufficient to deliver the relatively minor amount of information to and from your employee’s systems.
As your company grows, so does its infrastructure. Giving your infrastructure a better backbone early will prevent potentially expensive problems down the road.
That’s my take on the question, what’s yours? Comments welcome.