Have you ever tried to get something accomplished only to end up in a worse place than you were before?  The old “one step forward and two steps back” scenario.  Sort of like a game of Chutes and Ladders, you finally land on a ladder and make your way up only to land on that darn chute the very next turn.

Trying to implement network upgrades can feel that way sometimes.

A common scenario these days is a simple internet speed upgrade.  Ultra-high-speed internet is very popular with affordable options up to 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps).  So, when your internet provider calls to let you know there is an upgrade available that is only going to cost you $20 more per month, of course you sign up right away.  Ten times the speed for a few more dollars a month…who wouldn’t want that?  That’s the ladder.

As a security-conscious business, you of course have a proper business-class firewall in place.  Well, what I bet you didn’t know is that firewalls have a speed limit.  And while firewall manufacturers are constantly releasing faster units, they just don’t seem to be able to keep up with today’s ultra-high-speed internet.  That’s the chute.  You order the internet speed upgrade, the provider completes the install, but your speed doesn’t get any faster.  This may be due to the speed limit of the firewall.  Even though the speed from the provider may be superfast, you will only realize the gain up to the limit of your firewall.  So, before you place the order for that superfast internet, make sure your firewall can keep up.

Another common upgrade is a faster network switch.

Almost all of today’s network switches support gigabit network speeds, compared to the 100 megabit speeds of switches only a few years old.  With the low cost of a new network switch and the significant speed increase, this one sure looks like a no brainer.  Again, that’s the ladder.

What you may not be thinking about is what kind of network cabling is hidden within the walls of your office space.  You see modern network cabling, typically rated as Category 6 or Category 5e, is fully capable of handling the enhanced performance of a gigabit network switch.  However, offices with older cabling, typically rated as Category 5 (not “e”) or worse Category 3, are not rated for gigabit speeds.  What make this chute a real doozy is the switch is usually not smart enough to detect the type of cabling you have.  Therefore, all your devices will connect at the higher speed.  But since the cabling cannot support it, the connection will be error-prone and unreliable.  Not only will you not see any speed gain, you will have actually made your situation far worse by installing this upgrade.

So, what’s the moral of our little “Chutes and Ladders” saga?   It’s best to consider all your network systems when considering any type of upgrade.  You never know what the overall impact of your upgrade might be.  If you’re not sure how you will be impacted by climbing the ladder of a network upgrade, why not give IT Radix a call.  We will help you avoid the chutes and keep you network moving in the right direction.

First published in our January 2018 IT Radix Resource newsletter