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Fastethernet vs gigaethernet

Posted on 2013-02-02
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Last Modified: 2013-02-02
I have 20 PCs in my building. Currently it is all Fastethernet non-managed switches. I know that the market is moving toward the gig ports. 100mbps seems a lot to me. Each apartment has a fastethernet port where the tenant uses to plug his/her wireless router to.
How do I get some sort of measurement to make a case that I need to get gig switches? The tenants say that I should upgrade to gigs. But I will not do it until I have all the facts.

My internet connection is 20MB

Thanks
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Question by:biggynet
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CompProbSolv earned 125 total points
ID: 38847448
If they are not using the ethernet for anything but accessing the 20Mb internet, 100Mb (fast ethernet) should not be significantly slower than gigabit ethernet.

One way to measure on a Windows-based PC is to run taskmgr.ext and look at the Networking tab.  I would expect that you will not see any traffic (to or from that PC) faster than 20% of the 100Mb.

If they are accessing files or other local resources over the ethernet, then gigabit could be of value.

Keep in mind also that it MAY require wiring changes to properly run gigabit.
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by:rindi
rindi earned 63 total points
ID: 38847458
If it's just to connect to the internet you won't get any advantage with a faster LAN. As the internet connection is just 20MB that is the top speed you'll get to the internet. Apart from that also wireless LAN is usually 300MB (if you are using a type "n" router) at it's best (and you'll get lower speeds with distance and number of connections), so actual realistic speed you'd get would probably be nearer to the 100MB your switches already provide.

You'd really only be able to get an advantage from GB if your users connect directly to those switches via ethernet cables and actually set up a LAN between themselves to transfer files etc., and also then those files would have to be large or many to make a difference.
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by:Dave Baldwin
Dave Baldwin earned 125 total points
ID: 38847464
I agree.  If it is only for accessing the internet over your 20Mbps connection, then 100Mbps Fast Ethernet is just fine because the 20Mbps is the actual limit on speed.
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by:Lee W, MVP
Lee W, MVP earned 125 total points
ID: 38847473
If your internet connection is 20 MB then your switch is the bottleneck, potentially reducing speeds by about 30%.  If your internet connection is 20 Mb then your switch is not the bottleneck and there is absolutely no point in upgrading the switch to gig.  MANAGED could be useful as it could allow you to perform metrics on who is using what bandwidth and more finely control who gets access to what.

Understanding terminology is important.  MB = MegaBYTE, Mb = MegaBIT - there are 8 bits in one byte.  So a 20 MB internet connection is 160 MegaBITS which is slower than a 100 Mb switch.

If the people in the building are ALSO sharing files with this switch, then your switch is the bottleneck.  Consumer referenced ideas such as how fast it takes to transfer a movie is probably a good way to conceptualize this... If you have a DVD movie you wanted to transfer to your friend over the existing switch, it would take about 8 minutes.  If you have a gigabit switch, then it would take less than a minute.  (This assumes IDEAL conditions on all systems - no one else using the switch, unfragmented drives on both ends, good network drivers on both ends, and other factors.  Realistically, it would probably take 90-180 seconds, still more than 2x faster than a 100 Mb switch.

That said, what are the users using it for?  Are they using it for internet?  Then (assuming 20Mb) there is no need.  If they are opening word documents between each other, then it really shouldn't matter if it takes 1 second to open or 2.  If they are routinely transferring large ISO images and movies around, then a gigabit switch will make a difference SO LONG AS they aren't uploading/downloading those files to/from the internet.
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by:garycase
garycase earned 62 total points
ID: 38847503
I generally agree with the analysis provided in the above comments -- i.e. a fast ethernet connection is far faster than your internet connection speed (assuming -- as is almost certain -- that you meant to say 20Mb, as leew noted) ... so in a home environment it would make no difference.

However ... this IS a SMALL advantage to using a gigabit switch, even in your environment.    The switching speed of a gigabit switch is notably faster than for a 100Mb switch, so the switching latency would be lower in cases where there are a large number of users (i.e. all 20 tenants using the internet simultaneously).    This will result in a slightly better total bandwidth ... i.e. you'll come closer to maximizing the 20Mb of available bandwidth.    But, as I noted, this is a small gain ... almost certainly less than 5% or so.

But what IS very likely true in your situation is that some of your tenants are likely sharing files with each other.    If this is the case, then there would be a BIG gain by moving to gigabit (as leew noted in his examples)    

As for wiring ... If your building is wired with Cat-5e you can simply replace the switches.   If you have Cat-5 (not "e"), then you'll need to replace the wiring as well to get reliable higher speeds.
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by:Dave Baldwin
Dave Baldwin earned 125 total points
ID: 38847512
One oddity I ran into in my network is that 'new' GB network cards sometimes won't talk to really old 10-baseT cards.  There is an incompatibility between the two.  But most people dont' have the old stuff that I do.
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by:garycase
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Interesting -- I have an ancient 10Mb hub ... I'll have to connect it to my Gb switch and see if it works :-)

... although I must say it's been "forever" since I've used a 10Mb device !!
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by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 38847590
You probably don't make any money from DOS software anymore... I do.  WFW3.11 on that machine with Microsoft TCP.
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by:biggynet
ID: 38847708
The tenants are accessing my servers for applications and file sharing. Now how do I measure how much being used by the tenants so that I can make a case for gig ports.
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by:CompProbSolv
CompProbSolv earned 125 total points
ID: 38847742
If you are using Windows Servers, you can monitor it immediately by running Task Manager (start, run, taskmgr) and looking at Networking.  For more detailed views, look at Performance Monitor in Control Panel, Administrative Tools.  You can add counters for all sorts of Network Statistics.  You probably just want to monitor Bytes Received/sec and Bytes Sent/sec.
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by:Lee W, MVP
Lee W, MVP earned 125 total points
ID: 38847753
Without a managed switch this is difficult.  You said SERVERS - PLURAL.  If each server is busy at the same time and you're not monitoring both, then you may get the picture of only one server and you could falsely make an argument that they aren't using all the bandwidth.

If you were using a managed switch with SNMP capability or other built in analysis software, you'd know almost instantly... instead, you're going have to spend time figuring this out.  How much is your time worth?  If your time is worth $50 per hour, then if you spend 2.5 hours trying to figure this out and decide it's not worth it, you've spent $30 more worth of time then you would have if you just went and bought an unmanaged 24 port Gigabit switch.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833162064

Put another way - at least to me for 20 users, a $120 switch that upgrades EVERYONE to Gigabit is a no brainer.  Just do it.

Of course, if you want to do it RIGHT, then go buy a managed switch - that should cost you 2-3X as much.

And someone else mentioned this before - before you go upgrading the switch, find out what kind of cable is run in the building.  If your building uses Cat 5 (and not Cat5e or Cat6) and you try to upgrade to a gigabit switch your users could have serious problems.  You might have to upgrade the wiring in the building which would cost a LOT more than $120-$360.
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