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The difference between unmanaged, managed, and Web-smart switches

With regard to management options, the three primary classes of switches are unmanaged, managed, and Web smart. Which you choose depends largely on the size of your network and how... more/see it nowmuch control you need over that network.

Unmanaged switches are basic plug-and-play switches with no remote configuration, management, or monitoring options, although many can be locally monitored and configured via LED indicators and DIP switches. These inexpensive switches are typically used in small networks or to add temporary workgroups to larger networks.

Managed switches support Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) via embedded agents and have a command line interface (CLI) that can be accessed via serial console, Telnet, and Secure Shell. These switches can often be configured and managed as groups. More recent managed switches may also support a Web interface for management through a Web browser.

These high-end switches enable network managers to remotely access a wide range of capabilities including:

  • SNMP monitoring.
  • Enabling and disabling individual ports or port Auto MDI/MDI-X.
  • Port bandwidth and duplex control.
  • IP address management.
  • MAC address filtering.
  • Spanning Tree.
  • Port mirroring to monitor network traffic.
  • Prioritization of ports for quality of service (QoS).
  • VLAN settings.
  • 802.1X network access control.
  • IGMP snooping.
  • Link aggregation or trunking.

  • Managed switches, with their extensive management capabilities, are at home in large enterprise networks where network administrators need to monitor and control a large number of network devices. Managed switches support redundancy protocols for increased network availability.

    Web-smart switches—sometimes called smart switches or Web-managed switches—have become a popular option for mid-sized networks that require management. They offer access to switch management features such as port monitoring, link aggregation, and VPN through a simple Web interface via an embedded Web browser. What these switches generally do not have is SNMP management capabilities or a CLI. Web-smart switches must usually be managed individually rather than in groups.

    Although the management features found in a Web-smart switch are less extensive than those found in a fully managed switch, these switches are becoming smarter with many now offering many of the features of a fully managed switch. Like managed switches, they also support redundancy protocols for increased network availability.

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    Black Box Explains...Solid vs. stranded cable.

    Solid-conductor cable is designed for backbone and horizontal cable runs. Use it for runs between two wiring closets or from the wiring closet to a wallplate. Solid cable shouldn’t be... more/see it nowbent, flexed, or twisted repeatedly. Its attenuation is lower than that of stranded-conductor cable.

    Stranded cable is for use in shorter runs between network interface cards (NICs) and wallplates or between concentrators and patch panels, hubs, and other rackmounted equipment. Stranded-conductor cable is much more flexible than solid-core cable. However, attenuation is higher in stranded-conductor cable, so the total length of stranded cable in your system should be kept to a minimum to reduce signal degradation. collapse


    Black Box Explains...Insertion loss.

    Insertion loss is a power loss that results from inserting a component into a previously continuous path or creating a splice in it. It is measured by the amount of... more/see it nowpower received before and after the insertion.

    In copper cable, insertion loss measures electrical power lost from the beginning of the run to the end.

    In fiber cable, insertion loss (also called optical loss) measures the amount of light lost from beginning to end. Light can be lost many ways: absorption, diffusion, scattering, dispersion, and more. It can also be from poor connections and splices in which the fibers don’t align properly.

    Light loss is measured in decibels (dBs), which indicate relative power. A loss of 10 dB means a tenfold reduction in power.

    Light strength can be measured with optical power meters, optical loss test sets, and other test sets that send a known light source through the fiber and measure its strength on the other end. collapse


    Black Box Explains...USB.

    What is USB?
    Universal Serial Bus (USB) is a royalty-free bus specification developed in the 1990s by leading manufacturers in the PC and telephony industries to support plug-and-play peripheral connections. USB... more/see it nowhas standardized how peripherals, such as keyboards, disk drivers, cameras, printers, and hubs) are connected to computers.

    USB offers increased bandwidth, isochronous and asynchronous data transfer, and lower cost than older input/output ports. Designed to consolidate the cable clutter associated with multiple peripherals and ports, USB supports all types of computer- and telephone-related devices.

    Universal Serial Bus (USB) USB detects and configures the new devices instantly.
    Before USB, adding peripherals required skill. You had to open your computer to install a card, set DIP switches, and make IRQ settings. Now you can connect digital printers, recorders, backup drives, and other devices in seconds. USB detects and configures the new devices instantly.

    Benefits of USB.
    • USB is “universal.” Almost every device today has a USB port of some type.
    • Convenient plug-and-play connections. No powering down. No rebooting.
    • Power. USB supplies power so you don’t have to worry about adding power. The A socket supplies the power.
    • Speed. USB is fast and getting faster. The original USB 1.0 had a data rate of 1.5 Mbps. USB 3.0 has a data rate of 4.8 Gbps.

    USB Standards

    USB 1.1
    USB 1.1, introduced in 1995, is the original USB standard. It has two data rates: 12 Mbps (Full-Speed) for devices such as disk drives that need high-speed throughput and 1.5 Mbps (Low-Speed) for devices such as joysticks that need much lower bandwidth.

    USB 2.0
    In 2002, USB 2.0, (High-Speed) was introduced. This version is backward-compatible with USB 1.1. It increases the speed of the peripheral to PC connection from 12 Mbps to 480 Mbps, or 40 times faster than USB 1.1.

    This increase in bandwidth enhances the use of external peripherals that require high throughput, such as printers, cameras, video equipment, and more. USB 2.0 supports demanding applications, such as Web publishing, in which multiple high-speed devices run simultaneously.

    USB 3.0
    USB 3.0 (SuperSpeed) (2008) provides vast improvements over USB 2.0. USB 3.0 has speeds up to 5 Gbps, nearly ten times that of USB 2.0. USB 3.0 adds a physical bus running in parallel with the existing 2.0 bus.

    USB 3.0 is designed to be backward compatible with USB 2.0.

    USB 3.0 Connector
    USB 3.0 has a flat USB Type A plug, but inside there is an extra set of connectors and the edge of the plug is blue instead of white. The Type B plug looks different with an extra set of connectors. Type A plugs from USB 3.0 and 2.0 are designed to interoperate. USB 3.0 Type B plugs are larger than USB 2.0 plugs. USB 2.0 Type B plugs can be inserted into USB 3.0 receptacles, but the opposite is not possible.

    USB 3.0 Cable
    The USB 3.0 cable contains nine wires—four wire pairs plus a ground. It has two more data pairs than USB 2.0, which has one pair for data and one pair for power. The extra pairs enable USB 3.0 to support bidirectional asynchronous, full-duplex data transfer instead of USB 2.0’s half-duplex polling method.

    USB 3.0 Power
    USB 3.0 provides 50% more power than USB 2.0 (150 mA vs 100 mA) to unconfigured devices and up to 80% more power (900 mA vs 500 mA) to configured devices. It also conserves power too compared to USB 2.0, which uses power when the cable isn’t being used.

    USB 3.1
    Released in 2013, is called SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps. There are three main differentiators to USB 3.1. It doubles the data rate from 5 Gbps to 10 Gbps. It will use the new, under-development Type C connector, which is far smaller and designed for use with everything from laptops to mobile phones. The Type C connector is being touted as a single-cable solution for audio, video, data, and power. It will also have a reversible plug orientation. Lastly, will have bidirectional power delivery of up to 100 watts and power auto-negotiation. It is backward compatible with USB 3.0 and 2.0, but an adapter is needed for the physical connection.

    Transmission Rates
    USB 3.0: 4.8 Gbps
    USB 2.0: 480 Mbps
    USB 1.1: 12 Mbps

    Cable Length/Node
    5 meters (3 meters for 3.0 devices requiring higher speeds).
    Devices/bus: 127
    Tier/bus: 5
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    Black Box Explains...How a line driver operates.

    Driving data? Better check the transmission.

    Line drivers can operate in any of four transmission modes: 4-wire full-duplex, 2-wire full-duplex, 4-wire half-duplex, and 2-wire half-duplex. In fact, most models support more... more/see it nowthan one type of operation.

    So how do you know which line driver to use in your application?

    The deal with duplexing.
    First you must decide if you need half- or full-duplex transmission. In half-duplex transmission, voice or data signals are transmitted in only one direction at a time, In full-duplex operation, voice or data signals are transmitted in both directions at the same time. In both scenarios, the communications path support the full data rate.

    The entire bandwidth is available for your transmission in half-duplex mode. In full-duplex mode, however, the bandwidth must be split in two because data travels in both directions simultaneously.

    Two wires or not two wires? That is the question.
    The second consideration you have is the type of twisted-pair cable you need to complete your data transmissions. Generally you need twisted-pair cable with either two or four wires. Often the type of cabling that’s already installed in a building dictates what kind of a line driver you use. For example, if two twisted pairs of UTP cabling are available, you can use a line driver that operates in 4-wire applications, such as the Short-Haul Modem-B Async or the Line Driver-Dual Handshake models. Otherwise, you might choose a line driver that works for 2-wire applications, such as the Short-Haul Modem-B 2W or the Async 2-Wire Short-Haul Modem.

    If you have the capabilities to support both 2- and 4-wire operation in half- or full-duplex mode, we even offer line drivers that support all four types of operation.

    As always, if you’re still unsure which operational mode will work for your particular applications, consult our Technical Support experts and they’ll help you make your decision. collapse


    Black Box Explains...Digital Visual Interface (DVI) and other digital display interfaces.

    There are three main types of digital video interfaces: P&D, DFP, and DVI. P&D (Plug & Display, also known as EVC), the earliest of these technologies, supports both digital and... more/see it nowanalog RGB connections and is now used primarily on projectors. DFP (Digital Flat-Panel Port) was the first digital-only connector on displays and graphics cards; it’s being phased out.

    There are different types of DVI connectors: DVI-D, DVI-I, DVI-A, DFP, and EVC.

    DVI-D is a digital-only connector. DVI-I supports both digital and analog RGB connections. Some manufacturers are offering the DVI-I connector type on their products instead of separate analog and digital connectors. DVI-A is used to carry an analog DVI signal to a VGA device, such as a display. DFP, like DVI-D, was an early digital-only connector used on some displays; it’s being phased out. EVC (also known as P&D) is similar to DVI-I only it’s slightly larger in size. It also handles digital and analog connections, and it’s used primarily on projectors.

    All these standards are based on transition-minimized differential signaling (TMDS). In a typical single-line digital signal, voltage is raised to a high level and decreased to a low level to create transitions that convey data. TMDS uses a pair of signal wires to minimize the number of transitions needed to transfer data. When one wire goes to a high-voltage state, the other goes to a low-voltage state. This balance increases the data-transfer rate and improves accuracy. collapse


    Black Box Explains...Media converters.



    Media converters interconnect different cable types such as twisted pair, fiber, and coax within an existing network. They are often used to connect newer Ethernet equipment to legacy cabling.... more/see it nowThey can also be used in pairs to insert a fiber segment into copper networks to increase cabling distances and enhance immunity to electromagnetic interference (EMI).


    Traditional media converters are purely Layer 1 devices that only convert electrical signals and physical media. They don’t do anything to the data coming through the link so they’re totally transparent to data. These converters have two ports—one port for each media type. Layer 1 media converters only operate at one speed and cannot, for instance, support both 10-Mbps and 100-Mbps Ethernet.


    Some media converters are more advanced Layer 2 Ethernet devices that, like traditional media converters, provide Layer 1 electrical and physical conversion. But, unlike traditional media converters, they also provide Layer 2 services—in other words, they’re really switches. This kind of media converter often has more than two ports, enabling you to, for instance, extend two or more copper links across a single fiber link. They also often feature autosensing ports on the copper side, making them useful for linking segments operating at different speeds.


    Media converters are available in standalone models that convert between two different media types and in chassis-based models that connect many different media types in a single housing.




    Rent an apartment

    Standalone converters convert between two media. But, like a small apartment, they can be outgrown. Consider your current and future applications before selecting a media converter. Standalone converters are available in many configurations, including 10BASE-T to multimode or single-mode fiber, 10BASE-T to Thin coax (ThinNet), 10BASE-T to thick coax (standard Ethernet), CDDI to FDDI, and Thin coax to fiber. 100BASE-T and 100BASE-FX models that connect UTP to single- or multimode fiber are also available. With the development of Gigabit Ethernet (1000 Mbps), media converters have been created to make the transition to high-speed networks easier.




    ...or buy a house.

    Chassis-based or modular media converters are normally rackmountable and have slots that house media converter modules. Like a well-planned house, the chassis gives you room to grow. These are used when many Ethernet segments of different media types need to be connected in a central location. Modules are available for the same conversions performed by the standalone converters, and 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 100BASE-FX, and Gigabit modules may also be mixed.

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    Black Box Explains...Choosing cabinets and racks.



    Why cabinets? Why racks?


    A cabinet is an enclosure with a door (or doors); a rack is an open frame. There are several things you... more/see it nowshould consider when you’re deciding whether you need an enclosed cabinet or a rack.


    First, what equipment will you be putting in it? The extra stability of a cabinet might be important if you’re installing large, heavy equipment like servers. But if you need frequent access to all sides of the equipment, an open rack might be more convenient. And if your equipment needs a lot of ventilation, you’ll have to be more careful about the air supply if you enclose it in a cabinet.


    Second, in what environment will you be installing it? If the environment is open or dusty, for example, you might need the extra protection of an enclosed cabinet. On the other hand, a rack might be perfectly adequate in a well-maintained data center.


    Don’t neglect aesthetics. Will customers or clients see your installation? A cabinet with a door looks much neater than an open rack. When you’re trying to create a professional image, everything counts.


    Finally, there’s security. An enclosed cabinet can be locked with a simple lock and key.


    On the other hand, there are advantages to open racks, too. It’s easier to get at all sides of the equipment. But you’ll have to take other steps to keep the equipment secure-keeping it in a locked room, for example.


    Both cabinets and racks come in all sizes and in many different installation styles. Some are freestanding; some are designed to be mounted on a wall. Others sit on the floor but attach to the wall for more stability.


    If you need to set up your installation in a hurry, you can order a preassembled cabinet. You’re ready to load your equipment as soon as the cabinet arrives.


    Choosing the right server cabinet.

    Consider this quick checklist of features when choosing a server cabinet:

    • High-volume airflow. The requirements for additional airflow increase as more servers are mounted in a cabinet. Additionally, manufacturers are making servers narrower to increase available space. But with more servers in the same amount of space, heat buildup is frequently a problem.
    • Extra depth to accommodate newer, deeper servers.
    • Adjustable rails.
    • Rails with M6 square holes. Although 10-32 tapped and drilled holes are sometimes still required, newer hardware has M6 square holes. Know which type of mounting equipment you’ll need.
    • Front and/or rear accessibility.
    NEMA 12 certification.

    The National Electrical Manufacturers’ Association (NEMA) specifies guidelines for cabinet certifications. NEMA 12 cabinets are constructed for indoor use to provide protection against certain contaminants that might come in contact with the enclosed equipment. The NEMA 12 designation means a particular cabinet has met the guidelines, which include protection against falling dirt, circulating dust, lint, fibers, and dripping or splashing liquids. Protection against oil and coolant seepage is also a prerequisite for NEMA 12 certification.


    Organizations with mission-critical equipment benefit from a NEMA 12 cabinet. Certain environments put equipment at a higher risk than others. For example, equipment in industrial plants is subject to varying degrees of extreme temperature. Even office buildings generate lots of dust and moisture, which is detrimental to equipment. NEMA 12 enclosures help to ensure that your operation suffers from as little downtime as possible.


    Choosing the right rack.

    Before you choose a rack, you have to determine what equipment you need to house. This list can include CPUs, monitors, keyboards, modems, servers, switches, hubs, routers, and UPSs. Consider the size and weight of all your equipment as well. The rack must be large and strong enough to hold everything you have now, and you’ll also want to leave extra room for growth.

    Most racks are designed to hold equipment that’s 19" (48.3 cm) wide. But height and depth may vary from rack to rack. Common rack heights range from 39" (99.1 cm) to 87" (221 cm).


    Another measurement you should know about is the rack unit. One rack unit, abbreviated as U, equals 1.75" (4.4 cm). A rack that is 20U, for example, has 20 rack spaces for equipment, or is 35" high (88.9 cm).


    Understanding cabinet and rack measurements.

    The main component of a cabinet or rack is a set of vertical rails with mounting holes to which you attach your equipment or shelves. When you consider the width or height of the rack, clarify whether they are inside or outside dimensions.

    The first measurement you need to know is the width between the rails. The most common size is 19 inches with hole-to-hole centers measuring 18.3 inches. But there are also 23-inch and 24-inch cabinets and racks. Most rackmount equipment is made to fit 19-inch rails but can be adapted to fit wider rails.


    After the width, the most important specification is the number of rack units, abbreviated “U.” It’s a measurement of vertical space available on the rails. Because the width is standard, the amount of vertical space is what determines how much equipment you can actually install. Remember that this measurement of usable vertical space is smaller than the external height of the cabinet or rack.


    One rack unit (1U) is 1.75 inches of usable vertical space. So, for example, a rackmount device that’s 2U high will take up 3.5 inches of rack space. A rack that’s 20U high will have 35 inches of usable space.

    Because both racks and the equipment that fit in them are usually measured in rack units, it’s easy to figure out how much equipment you can fit in a given cabinet or rack.



    Do you need a fan?

    Even if your cabinet or rack is in a climate-controlled room, the equipment in it can generate a lot of heat. You may want to consider adding a fan to help keep your equipment from overheating. It’s especially important to have adequate ventilation in an enclosed cabinet.


    Getting power to your equipment.

    Unless you want to live in a forest of extension cords, you’ll need one or more power strips. Some cabinets come with power strips built in.


    If you need to order a power strip, consider which kind will be best for your installation. Rackmount power strips come in versions that mount either vertically or horizontally. Some have outlets that are spaced widely to accommodate transformer blocks-a useful feature if your equipment uses bulky power transformers.


    Surge protection is another important issue. Some power strips have built-in surge protection; some don’t. With all the money you have invested in rackmount equipment, you’ll certainly want to make sure it’s protected.


    Any mission-critical equipment should also be connected to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). A UPS keeps your equipment from crashing during a brief blackout or brownout and gives you enough time to shut down everything properly in an extended power outage. You can choose a rackmount UPS for the most critical equipment, or you can plug the whole rack into a standalone UPS.


    Managing the cables.

    Your equipment may look very tidy when it’s neatly stacked in a cabinet. But you still have an opportunity to make a mess once you start connecting it all. Unless you’re very careful with your cables, you can create a rat’s nest you’ll never be able to sort out.


    There are many cabinet and rack accessories that can simplify cable organization. We have Cable Management Guides, Rackmount Cable Raceways, Horizontal Covered Organizers, Vertical Cable Organizers, Horizontal Wire Ring Panels, and Cable Manager Hangers-all designed to help you manage your cables more easily.


    Plotting your connections in advance helps you to decide how to organize the cables. Knowing where the connectors are on your equipment tells you where it’s most efficient to run cables horizontally and where it’s better to run them vertically.

    The important thing is to have a plan. Most network problems are in the cabling, so if you let your cables get away from you now, you’re sure to pay for it down the road.


    Asking for help.

    When you’re setting up a cabinet or rack, you have a lot of different factors to consider. Black Box Tech Support is always happy to help you figure out what you need and how to put it together. For cabinets and racks solutions, call our Connectivity Group at 724-746-5500, press 1, 2, 2.

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    Black Box Explains...What to look for in a channel solution.


    Channel solution. You hear the term a lot these days to describe complete copper or fiber cabling systems. But what exactly is a channel solution and what are its benefits?... more/see it now

    A definition.
    A channel solution is a cabling system from the data center to the desktop where every cable, jack, and patch panel is designed to work together and give you consistent end-to-end performance when compared with the EIA/TIA requirements.

    Its benefits.
    A channel solution is beneficial because you have some assurance that your cabling components will perform as specified. Without that assurance, one part may not be doing its job, so your entire system may not be performing up to standard, which is a problem — especially if you rely on bandwidth-heavy links for video and voice.

    What to look for.
    There are a lot of channel solutions advertised on the Internet and elsewhere. So what exactly should you be looking for?

    For one, make sure it’s a fully tested, guaranteed channel solution. The facts show an inferior cabling system can cause up to 70 percent of network downtime — even though it usually represents only 5 percent of an initial network investment. So don’t risk widespread failure by skimping on a system that doesn’t offer guaranteed channel performance. You need to make sure the products are engineered to meet or go beyond the key measurements for CAT5e or CAT6 performance.

    And, sure, they may be designed to work together, but does the supplier absolutely guarantee how well they perform as part of a channel — end to end? Don’t just rely on what the supplier says. They may claim their products meet CAT5e or CAT6 requirements, but the proof is in the performance. Start by asking if the channel solution is independently tested and certified by a reputable third party. There are a lot of suppliers out there who don’t have the trademarked ETL approval logo, for example.

    What ETL Verified means.
    The ETL logo certifies that a channel solution has been found to be in compliance with recognized standards. To ensure consistent top quality, Black Box participates in independent third-party testing by InterTek Testing Services/ETL Semko, Inc. Once a quarter, an Intertek inspector visits Black Box and randomly selects cable and cabling products for testing.

    The GigaTrue® CAT6 and GigaBase® CAT5e Solid Bulk Cable are ETL Verified at the component level to verify that they conform to the applicable industry standards. The GigaTrue® CAT6 and GigaBase® CAT5e Channels, consisting of bulk cable, patch cable, jacks, patch panels, and wiring blocks, are tested and verified according to industry standards in a LAN environment under InterTek’s Cabling System Channel Verification Program. For the latest test results, contact our FREE Tech Support. collapse


    Black Box Explains...DIN rail.

    DIN rail is an industry-standard metal rail, usually installed inside an electrical enclosure, which serves as a mount for small electrical devices specially designed for use with DIN rails. These... more/see it nowdevices snap right onto the rails, sometimes requiring a set screw, and are then wired together.

    Many different devices are available for mounting on DIN rails: terminal blocks, interface converters, media converter switches, repeaters, surge protectors, PLCs, fuses, or power supplies, just to name a few.

    DIN rails are a space-saving way to accommodate components. And because DIN rail devices are so easy to install, replace, maintain, and inspect, this is an exceptionally convenient system that has become very popular in recent years.

    A standard DIN rail is 35 mm wide with raised-lip edges, its dimensions outlined by the Deutsche Institut für Normung, a German standardization body. Rails are generally available in aluminum or steel and may be cut for installation. Depending on the requirements of the mounted components, the rail may need to be grounded. collapse

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