When the need arises to connect a network from one physical building to another, what options do you have? You’ve decided that you need a dedicated, hardwired connection to pass reliable and consistent data for the operation of network-based equipment at the secondary building. Wireless bridging is not going to be enough, and you certainly can’t rely on copper connections due to electrical conductivity and distance limitations. Lastly, it’s crucial that everything in both buildings is on the same local area network, so simply paying for two different lines of service isn’t going to work either.
Fiber’s the answer.
It’s at this juncture that most of us get a little stuck and confused. Fiber optics can be a complicated topic. Let’s narrow things down to 6 easy questions. Answer these six questions, and you’re well on your way to developing a successful fiber plan as you continue to grow your organization’s physical network infrastructure.
Question 1 • WHAT ARE MY IDEAL DATA RATES?
Making sure that your fiber connection supports enough bandwidth for all of your business technologies is critically important. Will your fiber connection be able to support all of your cloud applications? Or your voice-over-IP phones, web conferencing, or other forms of unified communications? It’s essential to calculate all of this carefully when deciding on fiber. Very generally, you need to decide whether your network needs data rates in the megabytes, gigabytes, tens of gigabytes, or hundreds of gigabytes per second. This will enable you to select a fiber type and sufficient switching hardware to accommodate your choice.
Question 2 • HOW MANY FIBER OPTIC CABLES DO I NEED TO INSTALL?
It’s important to remember that each tiny fiber optic cable is like a one-way street. One fiber will transmit a signal, and another will receive. Given that, fiber optic cable needs for a particular installation are often calculated in pairs because one pair of fiber optic lines will ensure a send and receive network connection.
So how many pairs are needed? Lots of possibilities here. Some pairs may be used for different networks that need to be separated, such as an IP surveillance network vs. a general network. Other pairs are spares for future use. And additional fiber pairs may extend to different telecommunication rooms or other nodes in the building. Again, do your homework and calculate a larger number than you might initially think is necessary. Running fiber can be expensive–better to do it once and be done with it!
Question 3 • HOW FAR IS MY FIBER RUN?
This might seem easy, but it’s critically important, as most fiber types are limited to various distances. So measure your distance carefully, then look back at your bandwidth needs.
This fiber type comes in four flavors OM1, OM2, OM3, and OM4.
As the OM number increases, your data rates also increase, from 155mbps to >100 Mbps, depending on the length of your run (app. 30 meters to 2000 meters).
2 types of fiber exist under the single-mode heading. OS1 and OS2. Based on smaller core size, single-mode cabling is excellent for long-haul runs. You can maintain data rates of 10gbps to 100 Gbps over distances greater than 10,000 meters!
Question 4 • WHAT ARE MY SWITCHING ENDPOINT TYPES?
Once your fiber type is selected, along with your fiber adapters for your endpoint switches, choose the right connector. SC, LT, ST.
These connectors all have their pros and cons, and some are a little older than others. Still, regardless, it’s important to match your switching technologies to the correct terminal connectors to ensure a lossless connection to your network.
Question 5 • WHERE AM I RUNNING MY CABLING?
When measuring the length of your fiber run, you should walk the whole thing off and determine where exactly all of this cabling is going.
- Are you strictly running the cabling through conditioned indoor space?
- Or are you running outside? Underground? Aerial?
- Or perhaps in a rugged area where the cabling could be easily damaged?
Many types of cabling exist to accommodate the harshest of conditions. You can choose standard indoor fiber. Or you could use more versatile indoor/outdoor cabling. Lastly, you have strictly outdoor cabling, called OSP (outside plant) fiber, which can be very resistant to water, heat, and pressure. For more extreme conditions – consider armored cabling for underground or other rugged applications.
Question 6 • AM I RUNNING THROUGH PLENUM SPACE?
This is an unfamiliar question, but it’s an important consideration when procuring your fiber cabling. And not considering this question can lead to possible failed building inspections, fire hazards, and health concerns.
A plenum is the space in a building between the hard ceiling and the dropped tile ceiling or between the hard floor and the raised floor system. If air moves freely in those areas without being ducted as part of the HVAC system, you will likely have a plenum space. If your fiber optic cabling is going through those spaces, you will need plenum, or CMP, cabling. Running the proper cabling through plenum spaces decreases the risk of spreading toxic fumes during a fire from melting cabling.