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Should Network Cables Be Replaced?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the depends-where-you-work dept.

Networking 524

Jyms writes "As technology changes, so hubs routers and switches are upgraded, but does the cabling need replacing, and if so, how often? Coax gave way to CAT 5 and CAT 5e replaced that. If you are running a 100Mbit/s network on old CAT 5, can that affect performance? Do CAT 5(e) cables get old?"

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So I got a new sink..... (1, Insightful)

feld (980784) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666413)

Should I have a plumber re-run copper all over my house?

Re:So I got a new sink..... (5, Funny)

brian1078 (230523) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666451)

Should I have a plumber re-run copper all over my house?

maybe if your new sink is capable of 1000 gpm (gallons per minute) and the pipes can only provide 100 gpm. but that's only if you care about using your new sink to its full potential.

Re:So I got a new sink..... (-1, Offtopic)

daybot (911557) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666477)

Mod parent up. Love it!

I have a better reply (-1, Troll)

Hojima (1228978) | more than 5 years ago | (#27667015)

You can use this amazing website [lmgtfy.com] to find out.

Re:So I got a new sink..... (4, Funny)

infinite9 (319274) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666601)

maybe if your new sink is capable of 1000 gpm (gallons per minute) and the pipes can only provide 100 gpm. but that's only if you care about using your new sink to its full potential.

The bathroom stalls where I work are always full. There's not enough toilets for the number of butts. They could certainly benefit from upgraded bathroom bandwidth.

Re:So I got a new sink..... (5, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666687)

its the interfaces, not the bandwidth

Re:So I got a new sink..... (1)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666903)

Exactly - the OP needs more ports.

Re:So I got a new sink..... (5, Funny)

brian1078 (230523) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666761)

The bathroom stalls where I work are always full. There's not enough toilets for the number of butts. They could certainly benefit from upgraded bathroom bandwidth.

yeah, I'm sure the bandwidth (drain pipe) is large enough for all the shit. It sounds more like they need to increase the number of connections allowed.

Re:So I got a new sink..... (1)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666893)

Insert toilet multiplexing reference here.

Re:So I got a new sink..... (5, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666873)

The bathroom stalls where I work are always full.

OF WHAT?! Ewww...

There's not enough toilets for the number of butts. They could certainly benefit from upgraded bathroom bandwidth.

Instead of increasing bandwidth, what about using traffic-shaping instead? I'm not sure if this is something that could be automated, or if it would need to be done manually [shudder].

Obviously, to anyone familiar with overselling is aware of, the problem is not the number of users for the bandwidth assigned. The problem is likely that 2% of your poopers consume (bad word choice, I know) 98% of your bandwidth, resulting in a logjam of epic proportions just after lunch. They key would be to cap their usage, so that everyone else can use the bandwidth in moderate amounts.

Most likely, your excessive users are illegally logsharing anyway. There can't be any legitimate reason for someone to spend 4 hours a workday on the crapper, can there?

Re:So I got a new sink..... (1)

carlmenezes (204187) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666937)

Or route the butts differently :)

Re:So I got a new sink..... (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666803)

Copper pipes actually do lose capacity in normal use, at least with hard water. So I'd replace those cables if you've been running hard bits through them.

Re:So I got a new sink..... (2, Funny)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666459)

Only if you need bigger pipes.

Re:So I got a new sink..... (5, Funny)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666543)

It's not pipes. It's a series of tubes.

Re:So I got a new sink..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27666581)

If you're still using iron pipes, yes.

Turns out there was an apt metaphor after all.

Re:So I got a new sink..... (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27667017)

Should I have a plumber re-run copper all over my house?

If they soldered those pipes with lead... Then yeah.

But that had nothing to do with your sink.

Re:So I got a new sink..... (4, Funny)

mikael (484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27667035)

Yes, but make sure all the connectors are gold plated - it helps to improve the quality of the water.

Cat6 (4, Informative)

I_am_Rambi (536614) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666417)

Just like any cable, cables will break. So, yes, they do get old.

Also, there is cat6 cables out with better specs and can handle at least up 10gb/sec.

Re:Cat6 (4, Informative)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666493)

Yeah, we've had network cables fail. Even patch cables. It's rare, but it happens. If you get the chance you might as well replace your cabling. Besides, regular CAT 5 isn't going to get you over 100Mbs - and that's no fun.

Overkill... (5, Insightful)

volxdragon (1297215) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666829)

Bull - you can do Gig-E (IEEE 802.3ab) perfectly fine up to the 100 meter spec over regular old CAT-5 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gigabit_ethernet [wikipedia.org] . You don't need CAT-5e or CAT-6 unless you have incredibly shitty cable, splices, runs approaching max length, or too many patch panels along the route (IE, a crappy install in the first place).

Now, I personally use shielded CAT-6 for everything, but I believe in overkill :)

Re:Overkill... (5, Informative)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 5 years ago | (#27667029)

While you can link at those speeds with Cat5 you cannot actually get those speeds. Usually it tops out about 200-400mbit for me when I've tried. For most uses that's perfectly fine but in some cases it's not like my entire graphics and video editing departments. Servers are all connected with Cat6 if they use a lot of bandwidth.

I ran into this problem in Vegas as the place only had Cat5 connecting all the rooms to their closets so I had to use LACP trunking to get my bandwidth up.

Re:Cat6 (5, Informative)

Holmwood (899130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666919)

Foresight certainly helps. I wired my home twelve years ago with 622 Mbit/s teflon-coated copper twisted-pair ATM wiring. It was the best I could easily (and cheaply since it was left over from a large commercial project) obtain. Except as noted below, since then, I've detect no material degradation in cable testing, and, needless to say, it handled the leaps from 10 Mbit/s (1997) to 100 Mbit/s (2002) to 1 Gbit/s (2009) with no difficulties.

According to a new (borrowed) cable tester, all the runs look capable of sustained 10 Gbit/s.

At current rate of progress in speed that should take me at least to 2021 before I start noticing that I'm no longer keeping up.

Of course with my luck, in my area, broadband will still probably be 10 Mbit/s and capped at 90 GB/month.

In my (admittedly limited) observations, you can have about four sources for run destruction:
1. Work hardening and breaking due to excessively sharp bending. (Be careful on insulation, and teflon coating = nice -- makes cable much harder to bend sharply)

2. Oxidation problems especially at the terminal. I've had terminal problems with wiring in an indoor pool area (vapour barrier separating it from rest of the home). Salt water + generated chlorine seem not to like metal in general. People unlucky enough to have installed the Chinese contaminated drywall might have similar problems.

3. Tension on cable (especially at terminal). Buildings shift, flex, settle, and twist. And not just in earthquakes. Competent installation helps here, especially if you have to redo a corroded terminal and need more run length.

4. Renovation. Whether it's a nail through the wall, a drill in the wrong place, mistakes can happen.

5. Animals. Squirrels getting into the attic managing to destroy infrastructure in a friend's house.

I've not had problems with (1), (3), (4), (5) but friends have. I would assume (5) is not a big danger in most office environments, but one never knows. As I say, my experience is primarily limited to my home and those of friends who've also wired up. And my sole problems have been at the termination point, not with cabling itself.

My advice is... buy good quality cabling -- better quality than you need. Don't get your installs done by cowboys, and try to think ahead.

Tough advice sometimes to follow when you don't control the budget.

-Holmwood

Re:Cat6 (5, Informative)

arth1 (260657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666611)

CAT6 is a PITA to use residentially. It is much stiffer, due to a "coffee stirrer" embedded in the middle, and doesn't bend well at all. I just downgraded from CAT6 to CAT5e for hooking portables up to my GbE LAN, just because of how unwieldy CAT6 was.
The CAT6 plugs can also be a problem -- they are by necessity slightly thicker (the strands alternate in height when crimped), which can make them a tough fit for some devices.

Re:Cat6 (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666731)

My guess is that you were using crappy Cat6 cabling. I've not experienced any of these problems and it does provided a marked improvement in performance if you're actually using your pipe.

Obviously end-points like regular workstations and portables like you were deploying it matters less that you lose a 200mbit to cabling overhead. I find when crimped it's no different in any device I've used though so I would chalk that up to bad crimpers as they do make a world of difference.

Cat6 in the server room, everywhere else Cat5e seems to be up for the job. This of course depends on the size of your room and how things are cabled.

Yes (5, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666423)

For best performance, replace it with a genuine high performance cable like this: http://www.usa.denon.com/productdetails/3429.asp [denon.com]

Re:Yes (0, Offtopic)

Sir_Dill (218371) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666541)

Flamebait? Really?

C'mon we know that there is NO WAY IN HELL that a $500 ethernet cable is going to be worth it.

I think this is funny personally. If I had mod points I would use them.

Re:Yes (5, Funny)

gavron (1300111) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666559)

They got directional signal markings. It's what cables need.

Brawndo, the thirst-tamer!

Re:Yes (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27666807)

They got directional signal markings. It's what electrons need.

Brawndo, the thirst-tamer!

Fixed that for ya :-)

Re:Yes (2, Insightful)

Dmala (752610) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666945)

I'd love to see the manufacturer's cost of materials for mega priced "audiophile" cables like this. Do they really spend more on "high quality" materials (even if it's useless) or do they just make it out of the same stuff as regular cable and then try to keep a straight face while they take your money?

Re:Yes (1, Funny)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#27667053)

I'd love to see the manufacturer's cost of materials for mega priced "audiophile" cables like this.

I try not to be a grammar/spelling nazi, but I thought you should know that you misspelled "audiophoole."

Yes (1)

Scott Lockwood (218839) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666439)

Cat6 works better if you want Gig-E to the desktop. You may be on 100Mbit/s now, but for how long?

Outdoor or indoor? (1, Informative)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666467)

I'd consider replacing cables exposed to the elements or extreme temperatures (+/- 40 from room temp) every 10 years if you have the budget. Perhaps 2% of your cabling? Drawing from zero experience though.

Re:Outdoor or indoor? (2, Insightful)

linzeal (197905) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666657)

If you install cables outside in pipe with good insulation they should last 10-15 years with few problems.

If it ain't broke,... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27666825)

Don't fix it.

Re:Outdoor or indoor? (1)

Eudial (590661) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666927)

+/- 40 what?

There's plenty of room for ambiguity. You need to multiply or divide by 1.8 to convert C->F or F->C.

So extreme can either mean "sometimes we leave the window open" to "some days we surf in the sauna and other days the cable sticks out the window into the howling Siberian tundra."

Re:Outdoor or indoor? (2, Insightful)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666981)

In industrial settings, cable breakage from mechanical flexing stresses isn't uncommon.

In residential or commercial use though, your typical ethernet cable shouldn't really degrade over time unless it is subjected to frequent connection. My personal experience leads me to believe cables running between patch panels and routers are pretty reliable, but those between cubicle walls and connected to laptop docking stations fail most frequently.

The officials at Monster Cable say.... (5, Funny)

Chas (5144) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666469)

You should replace your tired old CAT5 with brand new, all-gold Monster-CAT6+++++++!

Only $1000 a foot, starting in 10 foot increments!

Re:The officials at Monster Cable say.... (2, Funny)

MoFoQ (584566) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666607)

were those monster CAT6 endorsed by slashdot, engadget, and Dr. Dre?

Re:The officials at Monster Cable say.... (1)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 5 years ago | (#27667005)

Dr dre's dead, he's locked in my basement.

On a practical level . . . (4, Insightful)

taustin (171655) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666501)

I am responsible for a 17 location VPN base WAN for a retail chain. We use Cat5e for everything, but in the end, it hardly matters, because Cat3 at 10 mbps is still over four times faster than the T-1 that it talks to the outside world with.

But we don't work with large files internally, even here in the corporate office. If one is working with gigabyte sized files on a regular basis, on a local network, it would matter.

Re:On a practical level . . . (1)

tsalmark (1265778) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666717)

It does depend on the traffic, if you need internal bandwidth, you need internal bandwidth. I believe in the if it aint broken don't fix it school of thought. We still use CAT3 for a portion of our office network with out degradation, guess short runs are able to handle more than their rating. On the other hand if you need to replace a line or two or are starting to see random errors maybe it's time to upgrade.

Re:On a practical level . . . (1)

taustin (171655) | more than 5 years ago | (#27667089)

I think that what one should keep in mind is that most people have no idea how little bandwidth they actually use. A one gigabyte file across a 100 mpbs connection is not much over a minute to complete. Not instant, certainly, but fast enough that few people would complain. How many people actually work with files over 1 GB on a regular basis? How many even can, for practical purposes. If it takes longer for Windows to open the file because of virtual memory issues than it did for you to pull it across the network, your network is fast enough.

But, as you say, if you need bandwidth, you need it, and there is no decaffeinated brand that tastes just as good.

Re:On a practical level . . . (2, Interesting)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666805)

Think about length. Short runs of Cat3 are probably fine for gigabit ethernet. It's when you are up to the specified maximum length that you are likely to run into trouble.

Back in the day (5, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666509)

Obligatory:

When it was installed, your old cable had to run signals uphill through the snow, both directions. They didn't have electrons back then, they had to nake do with quarks. Time hadn't been invented yet, so the direction and speed of network traffic was hard to estimate.

Re:Back in the day (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666725)

and speed of network traffic was hard to estimate.

You could estimate? We had to KNOW!

"get old"? (4, Informative)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666511)

I'm not sure what would "get old" exactly. It's insulated copper, so I think it should be good so long as they aren't damaged. If anyone knows better, feel free to correct me.

If you want to be sure, though, test them. Transfer files over your network. If the connection is bad, you can try replacing the cable and see if that works. But the fact that Cat6 is out doesn't mean you have to rush out and replace all your CAT5e cables, especially if you're only dealing with normal 100mbps connections. But I use CAT5e for 1gbps connections, and that seems to work fine.

Re:"get old"? (3, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666647)

Coopper can oxidize (turn green) if it isn't protected well. Some cheap old cables may have oxidated to the point that they no longer preform their designed duties, but that would be indicated by the fact that traffic wasn't flowing.

To check the cables for this problem, simply remove the insulation from the cable and check for oxidation. Replacing the insulation after checking is a somewhat harder problem.

If the cables still work, aren't disintigrating, and aren't causing problems; then I wouldn't waste the time, effort, and money replacing them.

Re:"get old"? (2, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666649)

Depending on the exact insulation and the environment (see a previous post regarding outdoor cabling), the insulation could degrade with age.

Also, the physical geometry of the cabling is important for high speed networks. If the cable gets moved around frequently, it could degrade to the point where it no longer works.

There is of course the whole upgradability thing - Cat5 is good enough for 100M, and 5e is good enough for gigabit, but what if a few years down the line you want to go 10GbE? It seems outlandishly fast now, but it's around a 5-8 year cycle between Ethernet generations. What's standard now (GbE) for new installations will be "old hat" in 5-8 years.

It's a lot easier to upgrade networking equipment at the endpoints than to upgrade cabling runs.

Re:"get old"? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666857)

Yes, what you're saying is sensible. If cable is degraded/damaged to the point where it's not working well enough, or if it's too low grade for the speed you need (i.e. wanting to do gigabit ethernet with something less than CAT5e), then it makes sense to upgrade.

But I don't think it's usually the case where you have to say, "Well, this cable is 5 years old. It's still working fine, but we'd better replace it soon."

Re:"get old"? (1)

Ingcuervo (1349561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666669)

so I think it should be good so long as they aren't damaged.

in other words, it should be fine unless it isn't really deep thoughts in here!!

Re:"get old"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27666681)

Electromigration.

Re:"get old"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27666993)

Not a problem because the voltages in Ethernet cabling is relatively low and the wire is relatively thick. Electromigration may be a problem in light bulbs and CPUs, but not in network cable.

Re:"get old"? (0, Redundant)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666753)

Pretty much my thought, how many areas are still using turn of the century copper for their DSL lines? My area in Ontario(Cdn) is, plenty of places in the UK and US as well. The only time there's even a replacement is when the line itself fails and breaks.

Re:"get old"? (2, Informative)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666795)

If your cables are plenum rated and installed appropriately then they will last for quite a long time. Outdoor cabling however doesn't last near as long especially if you're in an extreme climate. I had issues in VT with the freezing and thawing and in AZ I have issues with the sun baking the insulation to the point it becomes brittle. In any case it's easy to test for. Just put a machine on each end, start a ping with progressively larger packet sizes and watch the statistics. If you start getting errors then you've either reached the max spec of the cabling or the cabling has degraded.

check the 100 MB lights on all network ports. (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 5 years ago | (#27667055)

I would make sure that all network devices are showing 100 MB connection, they may have failed pairs that dropped to 10 MB, and never noticed.
I agree copper should be fine as long as it is not fatigued by regular movement, and has never been exposed to over-currents (POE much?.)
the plastic insulation, and connectors would be what I would worry more about. We have all experienced cables with the center latch broken off. As well as cables that have had the plastic insulation chewed off by rodents. basically I would be prepared to replace repair a small percent of cables anytime you are doing a mass un-plug - re-plug. also I wouldn't be surprised if a small percent of the cables don't have some issue like a single grounded wire that has gone un-noticed.

Gold plated baby! (4, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666515)

These people [monstercable.com] should be able to help you.

Seriously though, what strange question. Either the cable works and you're happy with the bandwidth it provides, or it stops working and you replace it, or you want to upgrade it. What's the complication here?

Re:Gold plated baby! (2, Insightful)

Xzzy (111297) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666609)

Because new specs come out for the cables. There was cat 3, and cat 5, and cat 5e, and now cat 6 is out. They are all rated for increasing amounts of bandwidth.

I haven't yet come into a situation where this has been an issue though. I run gigabit over cat 5 constantly (despite claim that cat 5 is not rated for it), and have never had an increase in errors or interruptions. Which is what I think the OP was asking about.. are the new specifications really necessary?

In my experience, the answer is no.

Re:Gold plated baby! (0)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666655)

Yup. Cat5 and Cat5e aren't rated for gigabit... But most people are using shorter runs, and many cables are better than their rating.

It's not like your switch is going to explode when you plug Cat5 into it and jack the speed up. Try it. It might work fine for your application.

Re:Gold plated baby! (1)

eht (8912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666921)

Strange, because from what I have read, gigabit was designed with Cat5 in mind.

Re:Gold plated baby! (2, Informative)

jowilkin (1453165) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666689)

Actually gigabit ethernet was originally designed to run over cat 5 cables, so it's no surprise that yours still work. If installing a new network then it makes practical sense to use cat5e, but cat5 is still perfectly valid.

Re:Gold plated baby! (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666885)

Have you ever actually tested the bandwidth between a Cat5 and a Cat6 cable? Cat5e is quite a bit closer but older Cat5 will leave you with a hard time filling even 400mbit. This is still of course much higher than rated and obviously depends on cable lengths. I've done gigabit links over 750 feet but it will only work with cat5e or higher and at that range Cat6 is the only thing that will get you above 200mbit even though you are linked at a gig.

So the answer to the question is that sometimes its necessary to upgrade your cabling and in most situations it's not as most workstations don't need anything higher than 400mbit at this point. When you actually need gigabit speeds then you will need to upgrade to Cat6 cabling unless you're only going 20 feet at a time. Of course if you are going 10gig then you are better off skipping Cat6 all-together and just going with Cat7 but at that level I'd rather play with glass instead of copper.

Re:Gold plated baby! (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666939)

cat5 is not rated for it, but it works fine. Same as I can run 100Mbps over telephone wire.
what suffers is an exponential increase is BER (bit error rate) over distance. 802.3 specs 100 meters with a nominally low BER, with cat 5 you likely will either not be able to run 100 meters, or you will be able to maintain a link, but have a very high BER.

Depending on the PHY in use I can run as far as 50 meters on goo ol telco cable with 100Mbps (black widow phy on each end). With those same PHYs on cat5 I could pull > 250meters with no BER of notice.
-nB

Re:Gold plated baby! (1)

Old Sparky (675061) | more than 5 years ago | (#27667037)

Slow news day?

Consider things carefully (5, Funny)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666549)

If you do not, then cracks will appear and bits will start to drip from it. Soon, that drip will become bigger and you will have bytes dropping out. Cheaper to replace them now, then to lose all those bytes. I can be over there next week to replace them all for a low low price.

Re:Consider things carefully (5, Funny)

thewils (463314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666755)

Soon, that drip will become bigger and you will have bytes dropping out

then you'll soon be up to your asses in raging torrents.

Re:Consider things carefully (1)

slipnslidemaster (516759) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666811)

I totally agree, you need to get rid of all your old cabling before all the ether is completely gone.

Re:Consider things carefully (1)

jbeale53 (1451655) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666835)

My token-ring network has been down all day. Apparently, the token fell out over by the rear entrance, and we haven't been able to find it. Do you think someone broke in and took it? I'm calling the police.

No (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666553)

Do not replace network cables just to do it. That is a waste of time and money Replace them in two situations:

1) You are moving to a faster signaling speed and need better cabling. 10mbps requires Cat-3, 100mbps requires Cat-5, 1000mbps requires Cat-5e. Do not run higher speeds on lower standards, it works sometimes but often it "works" in that you get link but there's all kind of errors.

2) A cable has a fault. Sometimes they will break because of strain. In this case, you need to replace them to make them work.

Barring that, keep the cable you have. No reason to replace it just for fun. Also no reason to upgrade to new standards without a reason. It isn't as though it makes shit work better. 10mbps is 10mbps no matter if it is on Cat-3 or Cat-6. Also sometimes you get standards that aren't useful. Cat-6 is likley to never be useful for anything. 1gbps only needs Cat-5e, and 10gbps is likley to require Cat-6a. So if you upgraded a Cat-5e network to Cat-6 to prepare for faster speeds, well then you probably wasted your money and will have to upgrade again to Cat-6a if you want 10gbps.

Re:No (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666633)

I'd like to clarify that by "strain" one means physical strain. A properly routed and supported cable has much less physical strain on it than one that dangles, droops, or bends at odd angles.

Do your own "speed test" across your network (1)

Dareth (47614) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666555)

Do you own speed test across your network. The only situation that matters to you is yours.
Test your own setup and use the results to justify the replacement if any is needed.
Keep the longest runs of your network clean so you have a good spine.

If you can, hey, why not (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666577)

I'm inclined to "there's not a problem until there's a problem." I've always seen cat5e and most cat5 do gigabit OK in practice if it's not at ridiculous cable lengths (10 metres or less and you should be fine).

Though moving a server room several years ago, we used fresh cable basically because we could even though the machines were all the same.

as the equipment it depends (1)

Ingcuervo (1349561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666583)

Of course the wires get older, the advantage is that wires are not moved everyday, so its not easy to break them, anyway you have to verify if mices, kids and even accidents have damaged them periodically, and also you have to evaluate if you really need an speed increase, for example if all you need is your users to check mail and you dont have more that 30 users, probably coax would be just fine (of course if its not damaged), but rememeber it will get broken some day, and costs for old technologies repariment use to increase with the time, so keeping old cupper is not always the best way to save bucks.

What a lame question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27666591)

[spoiler]YES[/spoiler]

Maybe? (1)

egyas (1364223) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666603)

As long as your wiring is static, I would say only replace what breaks/fails until you choose to upgrade the network. If you go to Gig-E, I would suggest Cat6.

Several factors will apply (1)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666627)

Environmental conditions. Is your residence in a tropical area? Do you have window AC units keeping your place cool? Do you have problems with humidity control (as in too much)?
You might want to check your NW plugs and jacks to make sure that they look bright and golden, not dull, dark or green. That would tell you if you might have problems up the line with the wall jacks and the cabling you ran.
If you can, repunch with fresh wall jacks and replace your runs where the plugs are poor.
If your wiring was run in high traffic areas, definitely reroute with fresh wiring or replace with an alternative method of NW.
If it's buried and not in PVC pipe, be wary of burrowing rodents. They love the taste and texture of PVC jackets.

Depends... (1)

mariushm (1022195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666629)

Cat5 or Cat5e is more than enough for 100mbps networks so there's no need to replace them with Cat6.

If you have a few dollars to spend it would be worth replacing very old cables with factory made patch cords like these [newegg.com] .

Manually made (and less often factory made cables) can become bad because those copper terminations that are pushed in to make contact with the cable wires can get slightly loose in time and cause the connection to go down to half duplex or 10 mbps or you could get disconnections whenever someone steps on the cable or moves it.

You can fix it usually by using a crimping tool to press the contacts again but it's not worth it as they'll come loose again soon.

As for your last question... besides what I said above, what could get old is the plastic/pvc whatever that wraps the twisted pairs of copper.

That wrapping doesn't get old and dry enough to break in less than a few years, so you're safe.

You know the old adage (4, Insightful)

raddan (519638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666693)

"If it ain't broke, don't replace it with Cat6."

Seriously, replacing cable is gigantic pain in the ass, when you could be doing better things with your time. Not to mention, it's expensive if you have a large enough installation-- this is why people are spending so much to keep Cat5e creaking along.

If it's working, and you're happy with it, keep it. If you need something faster, or it doesn't work anymore, or you need to meet new fire codes, well, that answers your question.

Remember, wires are solid state electronics. There's not much to go wrong there unless you're in extreme environments.

Electron flux (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27666701)

Electron flux will build up in the cables if you don't flush it out regularly. WITH THE CABLE TERMINATED, ie in a device, apply at least 110VDC to each pair to burn the flux off. No reason to upgreydd now, the cables will work like new!

It depends on the situation (1)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666719)

The copper in Ethernet cables that have been sitting for a while can form to the shape it's given. What this means is that the cable can work perfectly fine for a given server from the given port on a patch panel. You can then move that known good working cable over to another server in a different part of the rack and then discover all kinds of intermittent or non-existing network problems.

Cables that run from a wall jack to a patch panel aren't moving even if the cable does move and so may still work perfectly well for you. If your cables are old 100 Mbit ethernet than by all means replace them. However if you have cat5 and it supports gigabit than it arguably may not pay to upgrade. What are your needs and go from there.

Bottom line is that cables to and from a patch panel should be replaced, but the ones in the walls require greater scrutiny.

Full duplex more important (2, Insightful)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666723)

Well terminated cat5 cable will be sufficient for achieving 1Gb/s speeds. What's more important for maximizing your throughput is to ensure that you have your cables properly wired to support full duplex connections. In addition, all passive hubs should be eliminated and replaced with GigE switches, either managed or unmanaged depending on how much control you need.

Simple answer.. (2, Informative)

HerculesMO (693085) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666759)

No.

I'll be here all week.

50% more complex answer.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27666991)

Yes.

Bad Connectors (2, Informative)

ServerIrv (840609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666779)

We had a contractor wire our office and had no problems until we started using roaming profiles. A few of the connection terminators were bad and only allowed a 1mb/s connection. The computers that had these problems normally only transfered a text files from the server, or surfed the internet and weren't really using more than that bandwidth anyway. So, with large file copies associated with roaming profiles, we finally found the problem. At that point, I distrusted the contractors work and had every connection redone (40 total) and retested to the full 1000mbs our network actually supported.

So my suggestion is this. Unless someone kicks the cable every day, there isn't much to go wrong. Monitor for abnormally high number of collisions on one port, and yearly perform throughput tests.

We Replaced Our Type 1 Cable (4, Funny)

slipnslidemaster (516759) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666787)

We replaced all of our Type 1 cabling at my company after the tokens started falling out.

Re:We Replaced Our Type 1 Cable (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666907)

Classic Dilbert [syix.com]

Test it... (3, Informative)

cnvogel (3905) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666789)

Cables don't get "old" by themselves, but they might have been installed incorrectly from the start (too tight bending, swapped pairs/cables, twisted pairs separated for a longer distance, shields not connected properly, grounding done wrong). Furthermore mechanical stress (too much work being done on a patch panel over the course of several years, cables pulled hard while moving racks, ...) might have damaged parts of the cabling.

To cut a long story short: Properly done CAT5 should be good enough for Gigabit, but often what's called CAT5 works well for 100 Mbit networks even though it doesn't meet the specs.

Get a decent LAN tester (not just two computers, using "ping") that prints out attenuation, crosstalk and all the other things... and preferably tells you what "category" your cabling still is compatible with. Replace all the stuff that's out of spec. Then you have hard numbers you can rely on should you ever ponder if your local network infrastructure can handle 100M/1G/10G bit/s. Everything else is guesswork.

Fibre Cables (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27666813)

When your fibre cables get old you can fit them with reading glasses.

No need to thank me.

Copper vs New Materials (4, Interesting)

Nuriko Yanagi (924928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666817)

I kind of took this article more to be suggesting that we should be looking at newer data transmission technologies and materials - not so much continuing in a line, all involving copper.

There are some recent reports released stating that *really* common elements used in technology are about to become exhausted resources - most in the next 10 years, but some as soon as 4 years from now.

For instance, at our current rate of consumption, Indium will be exhausted in four years. Indium is used for current generation LCD displays, among other things.
Gold and copper are in the same boat. The US already has closed down most of its gold mines, and all of its copper mines because they're not economically viable to mine for anymore. Predictions put gold and copper at exhausted in around 10 years.
And none of these projections take into account population growth or new technology demands. It's only at "current consumption rates".

In other words:

Should we be looking to upgrade cabling to fiber optics or other mediums for transmission of data, so that we can begin reclaiming copper to be used in more essential capacities?

Re:Copper vs New Materials (1)

Nuriko Yanagi (924928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666845)

(then again, I could just be looking too deeply)

Cables aren't the issue (1)

ObjetDart (700355) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666869)

Your cables should last forever, don't worry about that. It's the electrons that need periodic replacement. A good rule of thumb is once every 3 months, or every 100 GB, whichever comes first.

Are you really that cheap *not* too? (1)

apparently (756613) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666871)

The answer depends on how many hours you like wasting on the troubleshooting of an issue not knowing that it's just a stupid cable failing you. Add the cost of new cables into the cost of any of your projects; why would management notice or care otherwise?

A car metaphor (1)

Mike Buddha (10734) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666877)

If cables were cars, you would be wise to check the RJ-45 and wall connectors before replacing the cables. Chances are, if the cars (cables) were not moved, then there probably isn't much of a problem with them. A car (cable) tester would be a wise investment. Most of the issues I've had with old cars (cables) had to do with the connectors on the end points wearing out, and not the cars (cables) themselves wearing out. These are not high voltage cars (cables) like the ignition wires on your car (actually a car this time), so their performance degredation is probably minimal. These low voltage cars (cables) are pretty much a radiation path rather than a power transmission path.

gigabit seems most sensitive (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666951)

the quality of the cables definitely affects gigabit. I've seen cat5 (non e) make a computer or a switch refuse to go to gigabit speed. I've also been told that it can still show GB but run at sub-gb speeds if the cable is marginal. (faster than 100bt but slower than gb)

I've also heard from others that the speed of one port being sub-gb can cause other ports on a gb switch to slow down even though it's not common traffic. I don't know if I buy this or not - doesn't sound like a properly designed switch should have that problem.

I have 5(non-e) in my house and in some places I can get gb going. The kind of terminators and jacks (especially) makes a difference too. You have to maintain the twist as far into the connectors as possible to get full gb speeds.

I've also heard (again unsubstantiated) reports that certain models of switches/nics don't get along well at gb speeds and will not run at optimal speeds together. So you might want to try to stick with one brand at the location.

coax ve twisted pair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27666953)

coax should in fact be superior to cat5 or cat5e it was replaces because it costs too much and BNC connectors are inconvenient, as for waveguide and shielding properties im pretty sure its way better than twisted pair cables. as for cat5 cat5e should be superior to it.

bad environment or application change = replace (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666969)

If your cables get a lot of physical stress, either from heat, humidity, chemicals, or being moved around or plugged and unplugged a lot, they can go bad over time.

If they don't, they should last decades. Change them out when they no longer meet your current speed requirements. If you are still using telephone cable you installed back in 1950 in your walls, and you run nothing faster than a serial line over them, and there are no unusual environmental stressors, they should still work for that application. These same cables lying loose in a lab environment, or being unplugged and replugged a few times a year in a test environment, or being used in a building with a bad environment, would probably have been replaced several times over by now. It goes without saying that as soon as you try to put more Ethernet on it for more than a very short distance, these cables will show they are not suited for the task.

Basically, treat your network cables like electrical and phone cables: As long as the application doesn't change, replace them when they break. When the application changes, i.e. shifting from 10Mbps to 100 to 1000 to 10000 and beyond, consider replacing them if they don't meet your new requirements.

Must differenciate fixed vs patch/drop cables (1)

Glasswire (302197) | more than 5 years ago | (#27666973)

Patch and drop cables being used from punchdown blocks to rack devices and from wall sockets to desktop systems take abuse and should be replaced as appropriate.
In-wall wiring going from punchdowns in wire closets and to wall sockets is pretty static and unless there were illegal twists or other abuse applied in the original installation these should last a lot of years (how many is a good question - probably at least 10-15 years I would think). Most likely reason they would be replaced is when cheap 10GE over copper mandates wire a bit better than Cat 6.

Real question (3, Interesting)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 5 years ago | (#27667065)

"Should I make work for myself on a complicated, invasive, lengthy, and hard to stop project so I can continue to justify my job in a recession?"

No.

If you're going to do anything, upgrade to fiber.

All connections fail eventually (1)

jkinney3 (535278) | more than 5 years ago | (#27667067)

The connection is the most likely failure point. They can be mechanically poor and will loosen with vibration and corrode with moisture and become dirt-packed with unplug/replug cycles.

The main body of the cable can become damaged by crushing or sharp bending.

If you have a cable quality tester that can map throughput (very expensive) then use it and check existing cables on occasion when they get rerouted and on all new equipment hook ups.

Replacing patch cables is easy and fairly cheap but not worth the upgrade cost with out the need for a speed boost. A good rule of thumb is to standardize on cat5e and toss old patch cables when the equipment is moved around. the old cables go to desktop use where they will be crushed under a chair in a week anyway.

End point cabling (2, Interesting)

jkliss (1513683) | more than 5 years ago | (#27667101)

I've worked with a handful of LANs in small and large scale and I can't think of a single instance when the cable in the wall caused problems on its own. Jacks? Yes. Cut wires? Yes. Chewed wires (rodents)? Yes. Installed by old-school electricians who put staples every 3 feet? Yes.

Having a good supply of ~6' cables made up for end users who yank the connectors off or fold them over until the internal conductors break or cut them is a good idea, though. That tends to be where the most abuse is.
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