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Wired for Success: Business Ethernet Best Practices

Wired for Success: Business Ethernet Best Practices

We live in a wireless world.  After all, Wi-Fi is integral to our everyday lives, from our homes to our workplaces and even the hotels where we stay on vacation.  However, it has its limits.  For example, poor Wi-Fi connections in a hospital are a major obstacle for medical staff who must deliver care promptly and efficiently¹.  Notably, any delays in retrieving a seriously ill patient’s medical records from a mobile terminal can literally spell the difference between life and death¹.  Now, you may be asking, “Do I still need wired internet and/or ethernet connections for my business?” 

The answer here is yes.  Even with Wi-Fi, you still need a wired infrastructure in place to support your wireless access points, plus your company’s other internet activity¹.  In this article, we will cover a few best practices for installing business ethernet. 

First, you must select the type of cable you want installed.  You have plenty of options at your fingertips, from category 5e cable with top speeds of 1GB to state-of-the-art category 8 cable, which offers 2,000 MHz of bandwidth and lightning-fast transmission speeds of 40GB at up to 30 meters in length².  It is best to install the highest-speed cables available, in order to accommodate future bandwidth increases.  With new technologies coming to the forefront in recent years, including the Internet of Things (IoT), along with virtual collaboration tools like MS Teams, you must have the bandwidth necessary to handle this increased workload³. 

Even with speed and bandwidth demands growing larger every day, you may still use obsolete cables dating back to the 1990s.  As outlined by Techwalla, Category 3 cables are still popular with some users because of their lower costs compared to newer ethernet connections⁴.  However, they do have their limits⁴.  Category 3 only has a top speed of 10 MB per second, while the slightly newer Category 5 cable can support speeds of 100 MB or greater⁴.  Nevertheless, both Cat-3 and Cat-5 are far below today’s standards⁴. 

Of course, if you still use either of these outdated systems, you will need to replace your business ethernet entirely.  This is also true if you currently run 1GB network equipment but plan on switching to 10GB⁵.  In this case, you must upgrade to at least Cat-6, which can handle the higher speeds⁵.  However, standard Cat-6 cable is not ideal for every business⁵.  If your ethernet runs all exceed 55 meters in length, you should use Cat-6A ethernet cables instead⁵.  This demonstrates the importance of staying ahead of the curve regarding future speed and bandwidth increases. 

Another factor you must consider is where to run your cables.  You must never run cables alongside electrical wires⁶.  The reasoning here is simple: data cables are comprised of twisted pairs of wires, which generate a magnetic field⁶.  If this field is disturbed in any way, the cable will not perform exactly to your desired specifications⁶.  Also, you if run your ethernet cable outdoors, make sure that it is CMX-rated, or suitable for outdoor installation⁵.  If it is not, you must replace it with cable that is CMX-rated, to prevent “serious risk of damage due to exposure” to sunlight and seasonal changes⁵.  

While the type and location of your ethernet cables matter, you should not overlook cable length.  Although you may be tempted to install unlimited amounts of cable in your office, this is impractical⁶.  If you use a standard network cable, it will only provide you with the best performance up to 90 meters or 295 feet in length⁶.  Running these cables for a longer distance can lead to declines in network performance over time⁶.  This degradation slows down your business processes and can ultimately be detrimental⁶.  Therefore, if you need to run ethernet across longer distances, you must invest in cables capable of managing that length⁶. 

Finally, whether you are installing ethernet for the first time or upgrading an existing network, safety is key.  Even if you try to make your network impenetrable, it is not 100 percent safe from hackers⁷.  Therefore, you must take all the necessary steps to keep hackers at bay⁷.  Make sure that all your business’s ethernet ports are in areas that only your employees can access, like a locked cabinet or closet⁷.  Doing so will save you the time, money, and stress associated with malicious network attacks. 


¹Network World – “What are the best practices when cabling for Wi-Fi?” by Dan Peyerle Barrera.  

²Digital Trends – “How to choose an Ethernet cable” by Jon Martindale.  

³N-able Solutions ULC – “How to Design a Network: Design Best Practices”. 

Techwalla – “Cat 3 vs. Cat 5 Cable” by Gary MacFadden. 

trueCable Inc. – “When Should I Replace Ethernet Cable?” by Don Schultz.  

OutsourceMyIT – “5 Tips for Successful Network Cabling Installation for Small Businesses”.  

CyberDot Inc. – “Small Business Best Practices for Wireless Security”.  

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