At TSAChoice’s Asheville office, we’ve built a physical network that meets our needs. We have a server room, where our Internet service comes in and is thereby distributed through inside-rated copper cabling to all kinds of technologies:
- Wall outlets
- Wireless access points
- Security Cameras
- Lighting systems
- and the list goes on
But what if we ever wanted to extend that network to another building nearby? Maybe we decided we needed more office space, or a garage, or even cameras out on light poles?
Many businesses and organizations have multiple buildings that need access to a central network. And no one wants to have to pay a service provider to set up a completely separate network in each additional building they own.
And so the options that organizations have before them are threefold: Copper, Fiber, Bridging.
What are my options for connecting buildings with copper cabling? First, I could try aerial cabling. This is probably my least expensive option, although it wouldn’t be very aesthetically pleasing. Also, because copper is a conductor of electricity, I really would have to be concerned with lightning and power surges. Not only could this damage the cable, but it could also damage my network switches in the data rooms in both buildings. Also, if cabling across roadways, consideration must be given to the height of vehicle traffic passing underneath.
I could also try burying the cabling. Some copper cabling is made to be directly buried without a conduit, and directly burying cable could also keep the cost down. However, as with aerial cabling, copper is still a conductor, and power surges can just as easily travel through the ground. Moreover, once I bury this cable, I won’t have the ability to add cabling down the road without digging again, making maintenance a chore.
Lastly, I could have an underground conduit installed and run my cabling through that. This is a more expensive solution, but much easier to add to and maintain down the road. Unfortunately, even the conduit is not immune to lightning.
There is one more BIG caveat to using copper connectivity: Your connection can NOT exceed 295 feet.
If you have a bigger budget and want a rock-solid connection between buildings, look to fiber. Not only can you run fiber for up to many miles without losing any bandwidth, it’s non-conductive, meaning it is immune to lightning and electrical surges. Like copper, you can run fiber aerially, bury it directly, or run it through an underground conduit. It’s also a much smaller diameter cable, which helps when cabling through small spaces or undersized conduit, or when trying to connect multiple devices at the far-end location.
Although this is the recommended solution, the cost is can be an issue. Not only is fiber optic cabling more expensive, but it is far more time-consuming to terminate at switch locations. And the switches themselves must have optical adapters and the ability to convert the signal from fiber back into your internal copper networks.
The third option is wireless bridging. This is ideal for situations where aerial and underground methods to connect via fiber and copper are going to be prohibitively expensive.
Wireless bridging is a technology that uses network devices to communicate wirelessly via line-of-sight to extend networks. Not only are the bridges themselves inexpensive, but lots of money can be saved by avoiding the installation costs of aerial or underground deployments. Bridges are easy to maintain, and although still susceptible to lightning, can be inexpensively replaced. And as long as buildings and trees are not in the way, you can communicate over quite long distances.
Of course, any wireless solution is not going to be as rock-solid as a hard-wired install, so expect to experience intermittency and network outages every once in a while. But in a pinch, these are proven, reliable solutions when wired connectivity just isn’t feasible.
Give TSAChoice a call to discuss these options in more depth and for help in determining which solution is right for you.
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