Upgrading your Network, Storage and Workstations to Support 10 Gigabit
Pretty much every business, no matter how small or large, uses an office network to share an Internet service, move around files and to communicate with each other and their clients. An increasing number have also invested in some kind of networked storage device to centralise all their business files, making it simpler to share them and to hopefully secure them from theft and loss. While your standard office documents may not push the performance and capacity of your network, in the creative industries, the size of the files, and the shear number of them, continue to increase exponentially. Higher quality images, videos and audio, paired with higher production values driven by the capabilities of the software and hardware tools available, stretch the limits of traditional gigabit networks and smaller network storage devices. As your business grows, so does the number of staff needing to access the network, further accelerating the increased demand for space and speed.
Thankfully, it is no longer expensive or complex to upgrade your network capacity and capabilities, allowing you and your team to work faster, smarter and more securely. You may not need to replace your NAS devices, computers or even cables, with affordable options now available to add 10 Gigabit support to servers, workstations and laptops that utilise low cost, or even existing network cables.*
New developments in 10 Gigabit technology have not only brought the price down on adaptors and switches, it has allowed for more flexible connectivity options, including the more general use of lower cost ‘CAT’ cabling, rather than just fibre optic or SFP+ direct attached cables. 10GBase-T uses RJ45 connectors and CAT6/6A copper cables to deliver 10 Gigabit speeds over 100m. New chips have allowed manufacturers to release 10GBase-T cards for workstations and storage servers that are surprisingly affordable. New connectivity technologies, such as Thunderbolt 3, mean that even laptops now have ports with the performance necessary for 10 Gigabit networking.
* We recommend quality shielded CAT6 (<50m cable length) or CAT6A (>50m cable length) for 10G, but CAT5E has been known to work over short distances, where cable quality is good and surrounded interference/electrical noise is minimal. You will not likely see optimal performance however.
More frequently, in more businesses (not just creative ones), your network and storage is creating a bottleneck in your business processes. If time is money, this will either result in your business losing jobs to more efficient operators or losing money due to delays in delivery.
What is slowing you down?
- Moving files to and from your network storage and workstations in order to work with them.
- Working directly from your network storage when it is too slow to handle the number of clients and the size of the files.
- One member of the team having to wait for a file from another before they can start working
All of these are common in a lot of workplaces. Whether it’s as a result of old tools, the wrong tools or the right tools implemented wrong, many creative businesses find themselves and their productivity restricted by their storage and network technology. It is easy to under-estimate the potential complexity and subtleties of implementing these tools. Some components may appear to work, but are creating difficult to track errors and failures. Some components seem like they should work together, but for reasons only experience can explain, they have compatibility issues with each other. Just because something is cheaper, does not mean it is also going to be easier. It should also be noted that networks and storage technologies for creative environments have specific demands and different measurements for performance when compared with other, more general business networks.
These issues can be resolved or avoided with affordable components that are suitable to the environment and implemented correctly.
There are almost infinite ways in which the numerous products and technologies out there can be combined to deliver a result – what that result is will depend on understanding your environment and defining your workflow expectations. With a clear and documented list of expectations, a skilled and knowledgeable system integrator can ensure that your workstations, networking infrastructure and storage are all designed to accelerate your creative workflows and deliver faster, better results for your customers. These critical systems must be designed to meet the demands of your workflows first and the demands of your budget second, and just because these tools have become more affordable does not mean that the most affordable option is suitable to meet your needs. While simply dropping in some components that support 10 Gigabit may seem like an easy solution to your network woes, you can quickly create more headaches for yourself or simply be spending money without realising any visible improvements.
Products and technologies will be added below over time to provide some insight into what is out there. They are not guaranteed to work for you in isolation and neither are they guaranteed to work with each other. If you would like to discuss anything you see in more detail and determine its suitability for your environment and workflows, please speak to Broadcast Bruce. Its free to talk first, but may not be after!
Netgear Managed Switches
Netgear have built a name for themselves in the ‘Prosumer’ network market for switches that deliver affordable functionality. While not the most powerful or feature rich switches, they are capable, simple to operate and accessible to small to medium businesses needing port counts in the dozens, rather than hundreds. They have all of the functionality an office may need and, with these new ‘10-Gigabit Smart Managed Pro Switches‘, meet a lot of the demands of creative environments as well. With options for 8, 12, 16, 28 and 48 10GBASE-T ports, plus some SFP+ slots for additional switch up-links or longer distance server / workstation connectivity, they also provide comprehensive L2+/Layer 3 Lite features in order to meet needs for virtualisation, converged networking and mobility. These switches are reliable and economical and, paired with the right supporting tools, allow creative organisations to move content around faster without significant investment in new workstations and cabling.
For professional AV environments you need switching engineered for AV over IP with rear-facing ports ensuring a clean integration in AV racks. Pre-configured for out of the box functionality, the NETGEAR AV Line M4250 series was designed with input from AV Professionals. The result is a line of switches built from the ground up to support audio and video over IP with customised hardware and software.
Sonnet 10G PCIe and Thunderbolt Upgrades for Mac + PC
Sonnet Technologies now have an option to deliver fast, affordable 10GBASE-T support for almost any Mac or PC, whether it’s a desktop or portable workstation. The Solo10G PCIe 10GBASE-T Single Port Adaptor, also supports ‘NBASE-T’ for older cabling/longer runs, and can be installed in any Mac, Windows or Linux computer with a free PCIe slot. It is also fully supported in Sonnet’s Echo Express PCIe to Thunderbolt 3 expansion chassis. The Sonnet Solo 10G Thunderbolt 3 Edition pre-packages similar features into a very compact, bus-powered Thunderbolt 3 enclosure, certified for Mac and Windows. Quickly and easily add 10 Gigabit network performance to your Thunderbolt 3 equipped laptop or all-in-one desktop computer, like an iMac.