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10 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Ethernet

  • Ethernet has been with us for quite a while. In fact, the history of Ethernet goes all the way back to 1973. Despite it keeping its original name for more than 40 years, Ethernet continues to evolve to meet the needs of even the most demanding enterprise networks. But in many cases, IT professionals either aren’t using the most Ethernet has to offer, are using it improperly or are unaware of what new features can be implemented. Simply put, many aren’t getting the most performance and capability out of their Ethernet LAN investment that they could be.

    In this slideshow, we'll show you how to squeeze more performance out of your existing Ethernet investment. Sometimes all it takes is a few minor physical changes, configuration modifications or software updates to make a significant performance impact to your network. A few small changes can make a big difference.

    And don’t forget that Ethernet offers more than just transport across a LAN; it also is used to provide things like redundancy, capacity planning and as a replacement for electrical outlets. Additionally, there are new advancements in Ethernet technologies happening all the time, so it's important to keep on top of the latest and greatest improvements when looking at your enterprise LAN architectural roadmap.

    Yes, Ethernet indeed is an old dog,  but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn some new tricks. Click ahead to find out how you can get more out of your current or future Ethernet investment.

    (Image: blickpixel/Pixabay)

  • Use better cables

    All Ethernet cabling is not made equal. If you are running over older Category 5 or 5e cabling, especially at longer distances, you may be losing signal at 1 Gbps speeds. Upgrading to Cat 6, Cat6A or even Cat7 may give you better performance;  it also allows you to run 10 Gbps using 10GBASE-T Ethernet.

    (Image: blickpixel/Pixabay)

  • Avoid external electricity along cable runs

    When cabling from a device like a PC or server back to the network switch, it’s important to avoid running cables parallel to power lines and florescent lighting above drop ceilings. The low voltage transmitted across the Ethernet connection can be disrupted and significantly impact throughput.

    (Image: meta2011/iStockphoto)

  • Verify you are getting optimal speed/duplex

    One often overlooked troubleshooting step when investigating slow performance on an Ethernet connection is to verify that the speed and duplex on both the device and switch port are the same. If you hard-code either of these features on one end and not the other, a speed/duplex mismatch can occur, which can slow any connection to a crawl.

  • Ethernet adapter maintenance

    Another quick and easy way to make sure you are getting the best performance between your end device and the Ethernet switch is to download and update your PC’s Ethernet card drivers on a regular basis. Not doing this can cause connectivity issues, degrading performance.

    (Image: bykst/Pixabay)

  • Watch for collisions/discards/errors

    If you are experiencing sluggishness on an Ethernet connection, one thing that should be checked is your port interface counters. Here, you can verify that the counters on issues like collisions, errors, and discards are not incrementing. If they are increasing, there is something causing these errors. Common causes include cabling issues, incorrect configurations or bad hardware on the switch or end device.

  • Configure jumbo frames appropriately

    By default, Ethernet frames are set to a maximum payload size of 1,500 bytes. This means that each frame sent can send up to 1,500 bytes of data. In some situations, it may be beneficial to increase this payload size as it makes transmissions more efficient. Any frame with a payload larger than 1,500 bytes is known as a jumbo frame. When configuring jumbo frames, make sure you understand that they must be configured end to end. For example, if two servers must traverse four switches to communicate, then jumbo frames must be configured on all four switches. Without end-to-end configuration, jumbo frames  may end up causing more harm than good.

    (Image: ClkerFreeVectorImages/Pixabay)

  • Monitor link throughput to identify and eliminate bottlenecks

    If you really want to get the most out of Ethernet, you must pay attention to how much it’s being utilized. One way to do this is by using SNMP network monitors to gauge utilization along all critical paths such as switch uplinks. Once your monitors identify links where utilization surpasses a specified threshold, it’s time to upgrade the link.

    (Image: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay)

  • Build redundancy

    When you are connecting critical devices such as servers using Ethernet, I highly advise that you build out some redundancy along all critical paths. Common methods include NIC teaming, load balancing, and port channeling/virtual port channeling. Your goal should be that any Ethernet link can fail, while still keeping the system online to end-users.

    (Image: Alexandr Mitiuc/iStockphoto)

  • Powering devices

    One of Ethernet’s most useful capabilities to come out in the last decade is the ability to use a Category 5 or higher cable to transport not only Ethernet frames, but also to power devices up to 30 Watts using 802.3at Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) technology. Using a single cable to both power devices and connect them via Ethernet opens up a world of opportunities for network connected devices such as wireless access points, IP phones, IP cameras, and more recently, a slew of IoT devices and sensors.

    (Image: Unsplash/Pixabay)