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Why You Shouldn't Implement Gigabit Networking

If there is one absolute truth of networking, it would seem to be this: faster is always better. Since the days when Novell Netware and Banyan Vines were synonymous with state-of-the-art networking and only NASA had 2400 bps dial-up, the conventional wisdom has held that network nirvana is only a megabit-per-second around the corner.

One hundred Mbps Ethernet has given way to Gigabit Ethernet as the demands of video, audio and other rich media traffic raised the bandwidth ante. With all of the exciting things that you can do over IP -- from IP television (IPTV) to voice over IP (VoIP) -- the rule that "faster is better" seems as absolute today as ever. But maybe it isn't. In this age of gigapipe IP, faster might not necessarily be better, says Info-Tech Research analyst Curtis Gittens. There is after all, a lot an organization can do to realize the benefits of higher bandwidth without the expense -- and they might not need it anyway.

Before shelling out for a super-fast infrastructure, it's worth keeping some additional truths about networking in mind:

Network upgrades can be expensive: "The thing to remember is that it can cost a lot of money to upgrade an enterprise network from, say 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps," Gittens says. "It isn't just a question of dropping a faster switch into the network, either. You have to be prepared to upgrade every device on the network to take full advantage of the speed boost."

One of the biggest reasons for cranking up network speeds is to accommodate the delivery of rich media like video and voice. However, Gittens says that, if you have no immediate plans for VoIP, or a need for video, then you probably don't need to be looking for a faster network.

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