Is It Time to Rewire Your Outdated Store Networks?
If you’re experiencing a noticeable drop-off in network reliability or slower speeds, it may be time to upgrade outdated cabling. Here are some key considerations when installing new wiring at your stores.
Growing data demands are putting added strain on older store networks. If you’ve noticed a drop-off in network reliability or slower speeds, it may be time to rewire. Here are some key considerations when upgrading an in-store network.
When was the last time you updated the network at each of your locations, if at all? Hopefully, your dial-up connection is long gone, but If you’re noticing a significant drop off in network speed and reliability, it may be time to install new wiring at your affected stores.
Rewiring may sound like a daunting task. The simple fact is that the growing consumer demand for new data services and a greater reliance on digital technologies to manage store operations may require it. In today’s highly competitive environment, you can’t afford to inconvenience customers who have little patience for slow network connections or service disruptions.
Whether you handle your network in-house or rely on a partner like Acumera to manage your PCI compliance and network security and monitoring, you need fast, reliable connectivity.
So if you’re thinking about rewiring your stores, here’s an overview of some of the top issues to consider.
How Fast Is Your Network?
Your network “pipes” need to be continually upgraded to meet growing data needs. Each new generation of twisted pair Ethernet cable increases network speeds and allows for more transmission of data.
It’s less frequent these days to still find networks that deploy Cat3 cable. The same is increasingly true for Cat5 Ethernet which can transmit 10/100 Mbps over distances of up to 100 meters.
For better broadband speeds, today’s networks routinely deploy Category 5e which reduces crosstalk interference or Category 6 cable. Cat 5e supports speeds of up to 1000 Mbps (1 Gbps/100m) over 100 meters. Cat6 wiring is a more expensive option, but it can support up to 10 Gbps and frequencies of up to 250 MHz for even faster speeds.
Making the Upgrade
Upgrading your stores’ network is a time-consuming project.
Your primary consideration is how rewiring your network will impact your business. That means keeping your payment processing up and running. So what are your options?
One approach is a whole new build. It’s easier to start from scratch though that’s not always possible given cost considerations. Alternatively, you can remodel an existing store to replace wiring and set up a wiring scheme that will accommodate additional devices and evolving digital technology.
Remodeling is not without its drawbacks.
Existing stores (especially older buildings) may have hard to reach areas, lack of space for runs or wiring that resembles a “birds nest.”
There are also potential labor requirements and limitations. Using a third party can be expensive with some companies charging $100+ for each cable run. In-house can be cheaper, but your employees may not have the bandwidth (pun intended) or needed skills.
And there is the question of scheduling, especially if rewiring causes service disruptions during business hours.
Home runs are the best way to connect devices at individual locations. As opposed to daisy chain wiring, home runs are single, dedicated connections between a device and a router, hub or say Acumera’s Merchant Gateway. They provide the strongest possible signal to accommodate the ever-increasing demands for data and the increased number of applications and services added to your network.
Daisy chaining (connecting several devices together in a linear series or ring) can decrease connections speeds between devices and the Merchant gateway via a ‘dumb switch” (a router). It can also reduce your ability to monitor devices and applications connected to your network. For example, devices are not visible in the AcuVigil™ real-time monitoring Dashboard.
A Home Run:
- Removes dumb switches
- Reduces equipment costs
- Removes potential points of failure
- Allows for future growth
When installing cable:
- Always have additional cable runs available for future growth. (If you need 1 run, run 3, etc.)
- Include “pull wires” when running cable in hard to reach places for future runs
- Allow for re-labeling wires on the patch panel or physically on each end
- Determine if a patch panel is a good solution (enables wire management),
- Be aware of potential risks in dirty environments because they rust or corrode your devices and cables.
When deciding the right time to undertake a rewiring comes down to what extent your current network is negatively impacting your business’s ability to grow. And your tolerance for less than optimal network performance.
In our experience working with companies, avoidance is not a viable option. The long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term disadvantages.
One member of the Acumera NOC team put it this way, “I’m not going to sugar coat it; it’s time-consuming work, but after you’ve completed the project, you’ll wonder why you waited.”
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