Modern computing environments often require the rapid transfer of large amounts of data. High end video editing, desktop virtualization, remote application distribution, cloud computing and the heavy use of network attached storage can quickly bog down the fastest wireless networks. Hardwired gigabit Ethernet networks do not fare much better. The next level of performance is the 10 gigabit Ethernet network (10GbE). 10Gb speeds are sufficient to eliminate the majority of bottlenecks seen in modern network intensive environments. Until recently, setting up and connecting to a 10GbE network required switching from copper based wiring to fiber optics. This change is cost prohibitive for all but the largest of corporate users. Recent advances in protocols and hardware now allow a network to be upgraded to 10GbE while retaining existing Cat 6/6a infrastructure.
The prevalence of copper-based infrastructure in business computing has kept gigabit Ethernet as the fastest standard networking integrated into most new PCs. In order to connect to a 10GbE network and take full advantage of the increased bandwidth, most PCs will need to be upgraded. The easiest upgrade is to add a single port network adapter card designed for 10Gbase-T networking to one of the expansion slots in your computer. Installation of this type of card typically requires that your system has an available PCI express (PCIe) slot, and that the card manufacturer has drivers available for your operating system. If those basic requirements are met, installing the card is generally no more difficult than installing any PCI expansion card.
Once the card is installed, any necessary drivers will need to be installed. Instructions for installing them should be included in the card’s documentation. Once the drivers are installed, connecting to the network will be a familiar process. This type of card connects to the network through standard RJ45 connectors and Cat 6/6a twisted pair copper wiring at lengths of up to 100 meters. This is the same type of wiring and connectors used in 100base-T and gigabit Ethernet. If you are upgrading, it should be just a matter of moving your network connection from the old networking port to the one located on the new card.
In addition to higher networking speeds, choosing this type of networking upgrade has several advantages. First, it extends the life of older computer hardware by allowing it to work in a modern environment. Also, with the use of existing wiring and auto speed sensing, partial upgrades are possible. Partial upgrades save money by allowing selective upgrades to areas where the extra speed is needed. And finally, the protocols used by this type of card are designed to be more energy efficient. Decreasing energy usage in the networking hardware will directly lower energy bills. It will also result in less generated heat, which will decrease secondary utility expenses associated with climate control.
Upgrading your PC to connect with a modern 10GbE network is now a simple and cost-effective process. These upgrades can be done by anyone with basic computer maintenance skills. Once completed, the upgrade will improve efficiency, lower operational costs and allow for the expansion of data intensive applications for years to come.