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Black Box Explains...Thermocouples

A thermocouple is a device that measures temperature by using the fact that a junction between two different metals produces a varying voltage related to their temperature. Two common types... more/see it nowof thermocouple are Type J and Type K.

Type J thermocouples use iron paired with a nickel-copper alloy. Type J thermocouples may cover a temperature range of up to -40 to +1382° F (-40 to +750°C), and offer high sensitivity.

Type K, the most common type of thermocouple, uses nickel-chromium and nickel-aluminum alloys. Because Type K is an early specification, its characteristics vary widely; individual thermocouples may cover a range of up to -328 to +2462 °F (-200 to +1350 °C). collapse

Black Box Explains...10-32, 12-24, and M6 rails.

The rails on cabinets and racks typically come with one of three mounting options: 10-32, 12-24, or M6.

The 10-32 and 12-24 options are round holes found on drilled and tapped... more/see it nowrails. You’ll find 10-32 openings on cabinets, while 12-24 holes are more commonly found on relay racks and frames. However, exceptions do exist. It’s very important to find out which type of mounting option your equipment requires before you order a cabinet or rack.

M6 holes are square, rather than round. M6 rails were developed to hold rackmount equipment, and you will find them on most server cabinets.

What makes M6 rails so popular on server cabinets? They’re adaptable. With just one cage nut, you can change a square hole into a round one. That gives you much more versatility in your equipment and mounting choices.

If you have a wide array of equipment, such as rackmount servers, hubs, routers, and patch panels, your best bet is a cabinet with M6 rails. It will accommodate the rackmount servers, and the other equipment can be mounted on those same rails using cage nuts.

If you’re unsure what type of cabinet, rack, or frame is best for your application, contact the experts at Black Box Tech Support. They’ll be glad to help you find the right enclosure for your equipment. collapse

Black Box Explains...Link loss.

Media converters solve the problem of connecting different media types in mixed-media networks. In order to comply with IEEE standards, they implement IEEE data-encoding rules and the Link Integrity Test.

For... more/see it nowa twisted-pair segment, a link is a signal sent by the converters when the cable is in use. If no Link Integrity Test signal is received, the connected device assumes that the link is lost.

With fiber cable, a connected device checks a line by monitoring the Link Integrity Test signal from the converter and the power of the light being received. If the light’s power drops below a certain threshold, the link is lost. In either case, link loss usually results from a broken cable, which is the cause of approximately 70% of all LAN problems.

Link loss is often indicated by an LED on a connected network device. You can also monitor a link with network-management software, such as SNMP, which sends a TRAP (alert) to the management workstation when the link is lost.

Media converters actually function as two separate Multistation Access Units (MAUs). For example, one monitor is a twisted-pair segment and one monitor is a fiber segment. If a fiber cable is broken and the link is lost, a network manager on the twisted-pair end won’t know there’s a problem until users on the fiber side report it.

To solve this problem, Black Box® Modular Media Converters feature a unique Link-Loss capability. This enables the link status on one segment to reflect the link status of the other segment. So if the link is lost on the fiber side, the link is disabled on the UTP segment as well. And the converters will send an SNMP TRAP indicating the loss of link to the management workstation. collapse

Black Box Explains... Speaker wire gauge.

Wire gauge (often shown as AWG, for American Wire Gauge) is a measure of the thickness of the wire. The more a wire is drawn or sized, the smaller its... more/see it nowdiameter will be. The lower the wire gauge, the thicker the wire.

For example, a 24 AWG wire is thinner than a 14 AWG wire. A lower AWG means longer transmission distance and better integrity. As a rule of thumb, power loss decreases as the wire size increases.

When it comes to choosing speaker cable, consider a few factors: distance, the type of system and amplifier you have, the frequencies of the signals being handled, and any specifications that the speaker manufacturer recommends.

For most home applications where you simply need to run cable from your stereo to speakers in the same room—or even behind the walls to other rooms—16 AWG cable is usually fine.

If you’re considering runs of more than 40 feet (12.1 m), consider using 14 AWG or even 12 AWG cable. They both offer better transmission and less resistance over longer distances. You should probably choose 12 AWG cable for high-end audio systems with higher power output or for low-frequency subwoofers. As a rule of thumb, power loss decreases as the wire size increases.

To terminate your cable, choose gold connectors. Because gold resists oxidation over time, gold connectors wear better and offer better peformance than other connectors do. collapse

Black Box Explains...Cabinet accessories.

Once you’ve chosen your cabinet, whether it be a customized Elite or an energy-saving ClimateCab, it’s time to add accessories for even more function.

Cabinets have two sets of rails,... more/see it nowfront and back, where you can mount shelves, trays, cable managers, and power strips.

Shelves are an easy solution for storing things that aren’t rackmountable. The shelves attach to the rails; servers or other equipment sits on the shelves. Make sure the shelf has the weight capacity you need—some can hold hundreds of pounds. For easy access to components in your cabinet, choose a sliding shelf. There are also vented shelves that improve air circulation within the cabinet.

Although most shelves fit 19" rails, there are shelves that go on the less-common 23" rails. There are also brackets that can adapt many devices intended for 19" mounting to 23" rails.

Keyboard trays
Keyboard trays are space-saving solutions that also keep your data center organized. They slide neatly into your cabinet or rack—and out of your way—when not in use. And they usually fit into only 1U of rack space.

KVM trays
Further reduce clutter in your server room by using KVM trays that are 1- or 2U high mounted in your cabinet. Special features of Black Box® KVM trays include rock-solid construction, LEDs on the front panel for easy location in a darkened data center, and integrated KVM switching.

Front-panel controls enable you to use the buttons on a monitor bezel without pulling out the keyboard. Some trays have USB ports for access.

Cable managers
Cabinets usually have built-in troughs for cable routing, knockouts for cable pass-throughs, and tie-off points for cable management. You can also add horizontal or vertical cable managers to the cabinet’s rails to manage and route cables more efficiently. Cable managers control bend radius to protect cables from hidden crushes, kinks, and snags, and reduce maintenance time by keeping your cabinet neat and organized. Plus, properly managed cables help to improve airflow.

If you’ve got no room to spare in your cabinet, think SpaceGAIN. You might not think of a patch panel as an “accessory,” but SpaceGAIN angled-port and angled patch panels are not your average panels. They free up valuable space and eliminate the need for horizontal cable managers. You save time and money by routing cables directly into ports. And SpaceGAIN high-density feed-through patch panels enable you to fit 48 ports into only 1U of rack space, with no punchdowns needed.

To save even more space, use SpaceGAIN 90° Right-Angle CAT5e/CAT6 cables. Their up, down, left, or right angles save up to 4" of space in crowded cabinets.

PDUs and UPSs
Control the distribution of power in your cabinet with a power distribution unit (PDU). A PDU can be basic or “intelligent,” with surge protection, remote management, or power and environmental monitoring. Integrate a PDU directly into an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for extra reliability.

Fans and blowers
Ventilation in your cabinets is critical for keeping vital equipment cool.

An enclosure blower draws cool air from a raised floor at the bottom of the cabinet and delivers it right across the front of servers or other network components. It fits on standard 19" rails and uses only 2U of mounting space. This high level of ventilation lowers the temperature of cabinet hot spots by up to 15° F. Lowering temperatures protects your electronics against failure caused by overheating, which may enable you to install more equipment.

Fan panels or fan trays direct maximum airflow with very little noise to heat-sensitive rackmounted equipment. Position them in your cabinet wherever you need them the most.

Most network devices take in air through their front panels and expel it out the back. Filler panels in unused rack spaces help keep cool air in the front of the cabinet where it can be used by the equipment.

Most cabinets come with a lock and key, but more advanced options are available to provide a higher level of security. Keyless options include combination locks and biometric locks that read fingerprints. collapse

Black Box Explains...Multicasting video over a LAN: Use the right switch.

In KVM extension applications where you want to distribute HD video across a network, you need to understand how it works and what kind of networking equipment to use with... more/see it nowyour extenders.

Think of your network as a river of data with a steady current of data moving smoothly down the channel. All your network users are like tiny tributaries branching off this river, taking only as much water (bandwidth) as they need to process data. When you start to multicast video, data, and audio over the LAN, those streams suddenly become the size of the main river. Each user is then basically flooded with data and it becomes difficult or impossible to do any other tasks. This scenario of sending transmissions to every user on the network is called broadcasting, and it slows down the network to a trickle. There are network protocol methods that alleviate this problem, but it depends on the network switch you use.

Unicast vs. multicasting, and why a typical Layer 2 switch isn’t sufficient.
Unicasting is sending data from one network device to another (point to point); in a typical unicast network, Layer 2 switches easily support these types of communications. But multicasting is transmitting data from one network device to multiple users. When multicasting with Layer 2 switches, all attached devices receive the packets, whether they want them or not. Because a multicast header does NOT have a destination IP address, an average network switch (a Layer 2 switch without supported capabilities) will not know what to do with it. So the switch sends the packet out to every network port on all attached devices. When the client or network interface card (NIC) receives the packet, it analyzes it and discards it if not wanted.

The solution: a Layer 3 switch with IGMPv2 or IGMPv3 and packet forwarding.
Multicasting with Layer 3 switches is much more efficient than with Layer 2 switches because it identifies the multicast packet and sends it only to the intended receivers. A Layer 2 switch sends the multicast packets to every device and, If there are many sources, the network will slow down because of all the traffic. And, without IGMPv2 or IGMPv3 snooping support, the switch can handle only a few devices sending multicasting packets.

Layer 3 switches with IGMP support, however, “know” who wants to receive the multicast packet and who doesn’t. When a receiving device wants to tap into a multicasting stream, it responds to the multicast broadcast with an IGMP report, the equivalent of saying, “I want to connect to this stream.” The report is only sent in the first cycle, initializing the connection between the stream and receiving device. If the device was previously connected to the stream, it sends a grafting request for removing the temporary block on the unicast routing table. The switch can then send the multicast packets to newly connected members of the multicast group. Then, when a device no longer wants to receive the multicast packets, it sends a pruning request to the IGMP-supported switch, which temporarily removes the device from the multicast group and stream.

Therefore, for multicasting, use routers or Layer 3 switches that support the IGMP protocol. Without this support, your network devices will be receiving so many multicasting packets, they will not be able to communicate with other devices using different protocols, such as FTP. Plus, a feature-rich, IGMP-supported Layer 3 switch gives you the bandwidth control needed to send video from multiple sources over a LAN. collapse

Black Box Explains...The difference between the SurgeArrest and power strips.

It says UL® listed, so it must be okay, right? Don’t be fooled. The $5.99 surge suppressor you picked up for your home PC may be nothing more than a... more/see it nowmultiple outlet extension cord.

UL® listed means that a product has been submitted to Underwriter’s Laboratories® for safety testing in certain categories. The strip protector you just bought is probably listed in the extension cord category. It won’t stop harmful surges from destroying equipment data.

The UL® listing for surge suppressors is UL® 1449. APC® SurgeArrest® products received the best UL® 1449 rating. Some vendors rate surge protection on the basis of joule energy. But let-through should be compared.

Basically, let-through is a measure of how much of a spike or surge each protector will let though to your electronic equipment. The lower the let-through rating, the better the suppression. And the SurgeArrest is guaranteed forever—even if it takes a catastrophic hit. It may be the last surge protector you buy. collapse

Black Box Explains... Digital Optic Cable

Many new, high-quality Mini Disc, pro-audio, DAT (Digital Audio Tape), CD, DVD, and laser disc players, as well as digital amplifiers, DSS satellite receivers, and computer sound cards, are manufactured... more/see it nowwith digital optical output connectors.

These connectors attach to optical cables, which are constructed with a PVC jacket and a plastic core. The cables transfer information accurately over short distances via digital light signals with low loss and no distortion.

Digital optical cable with plastic-core construction is less expensive than fiber optic cable with a glass core, but it still provides the benefits of optical transmission over short distances.

Digital audio makes it possible to use high-quality digital-to-analog converters, which help to maintain the integrity of sound signals from high-end electronic devices.

The two types of connectors associated with digital optical transmission are TOSLINK®, a Toshiba® trademark, and the 3.5-mm Mini Plug connector. collapse

Black Box Explains…Component vs. channel testing.

When using a Category 6 system, the full specification includes the testing of each part individually and in an end-to-end-channel. Because CAT6 is an open standard, products from different vendors... more/see it nowshould work together.

Channel testing includes patch cable, bulk cable, jacks, patch panels, etc. These tests cover a number of measurements, including: attenuation, NEXT, PS-NEXT, EL-FEXT, ACR, PS-ACR, EL-FEXT, PS-ELFEXT, and Return Loss. Products that are tested together should work together as specified. In theory, products from all manufacturers are interchangeable. But, if products from different manufacturers are inserted in a channel, end-to-end CAT6 performance may be compromised.

Component testing, on the other hand, is much stricter even though only two characteristics are measured: crosstalk and return loss. Although all CAT6 products should be interchangeable, products labeled as component are guaranteed to perform to a CAT6 level in a channel with products from different manufacturers.

For more information on cable, channel, and component specs, see below.

Buyer’s Guide: CAT5e vs. CAT6 Cable

Standard — CAT5e: TIA-568-B.2; CAT6: TIA-568-B.2-1

Frequency — CAT5e: 100 MHz; CAT6: 250 MHz

Attenuation (maximum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 22 dB; CAT6: 19.8 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 0.4 dB; CAT6: 0.2 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 24.0 dB; CAT6: 21.3 dB

NEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 35.3 dB; CAT6: 44.3 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 43.0 dB; CAT6: 54.0 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 30.1 dB; CAT6: 39.9 dB

PS-NEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) — 32.3 dB 42.3 dB

EL-FEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 23.8 dB; CAT6: 27.8 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 35.1 dB; CAT6: 43.1 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 17.4 dB; CAT6: 23.3 dB

PS-ELFEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) — CAT5e: 20.8 dB; CAT6: 24.8 dB

Return Loss (minimum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 20.1 dB; CAT6: 20.1 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 20.0 dB: CAT6: 24.0 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 10.0 dB; CAT6: 12.0 dB

Characteristic Impedance — Both: 100 ohms ± 15%

Delay Skew (maximum per 100 m) — Both: 45 ns

NOTE: In Attenuation testing, the lower the number, the better. In NEXT, EL-FEXT, and Return Loss testing, the higher the number, the better. collapse

Black Box Explains…Sizing a UPS

The power delivered by a UPS is usually expressed both in volt-amps (VA) and watts. There’s often confusion about what the difference is between these figures and how to use... more/see it nowthem to select a UPS.

VA is power voltage multiplied by amps. For instance, a device that draws 5 amps of 120-volt power has a VA of 600. Watts is a measure of the actual power used by the device. VA and watts may be the same. The formula for watts is often expressed as:

Watts = Volts x Amps

This formula would lead you to believe that a measurement of VA is equal to watts, and it’s true for DC power. AC power, however, can get complicated. Some AC devices have a VA that’s higher than watts. VA is the power a device seems to be consuming, while watts is the power it actually uses.

This requires an adjustment called a power factor, which is the ratio of watts to VA.

AC Watts = Volts x Amps x Power Factor


Watts/VA = Power Factor

Simple AC devices, such as light bulbs, typically have a power factor of 100% (which may also be expressed as 1), meaning that watts are equal to VA like they are with DC devices. Computers have had a much lower power factor, traditionally in the 60–70% range. This meant that only part of the power going into the computer was being used to do useful work.

Today, however, because of Energy Star requirements, virtually all computing devices are power factor corrected and have a power factor of more than 90%.

Which brings us around to how to use this information to select a UPS. The capacity of a UPS is defined as both VA and watts. Both should be above the power requirements of the connected equipment.

Because of the computers that had a low power factor, UPSs typically had a VA that was much higher than watts, for instance, 500 VA/300 watts. In this case, if you use the UPS with a power factor corrected device that requires 450 VA/400 watts, the UPS won’t provide enough wattage to support the device.

Although UPSs intended for enterprise use now normally have a high power factor, consumer-grade UPSs still typically have a lower power factor—sometimes even under 60%. When using these UPSs, size them by watts, not VA, to ensure that they can support connected equipment.

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