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Black Box Explains...Virtual LANs (VLANs).

True to their name, VLANs are literally “virtual“ LANs—mini subLANs that, once configured, can exist and function logically as single, secure network segments, even though they may be part of... more/see it nowa much larger physical LAN.

VLAN technology is ideal for enterprises with far-reaching networks. Instead of having to make expensive, time-consuming service calls, system administrators can configure or reconfigure workstations easily or set up secure network segments using simple point-and-click, drag-and-drop management utilities. VLANs provide a way to define dynamic new LAN pathways and create innovative virtual network segments that can range far beyond the traditional limits of geographically isolated workstation groups radiating from centralized hubs.

For instance, using VLAN switches, you can establish a secure VLAN made up of select devices located throughout your enterprise (managers’ workstations, for example) or any other device that you decide requires full access to the VLAN you’ve created.

According to Cisco, a VLAN is a switched network logically segmented by functions, project teams, or applications regardless of the physical location of users. You can assign each switch port to a different VLAN. Ports configured in the same VLAN share broadcasts; ports that don’t belong to the VLAN don’t share the data.

VLAN switches group users and ports logically across the enterprise—they don’t impose physical constraints like in a shared-hub architecture. In replacing shared hubs, VLAN switches remove the physical barriers imposed by each wiring closet.

To learn more about smart networking with VLANs, call the experts in our Local Area Network Support group at 724-746-5500, press 1, 2, 4. collapse


Black Box Explains... Printer Sharing with Windows

Unlike the earlier DOS operating systems, Windows® doesn’t check to see if the printer is busy at the very beginning of the printing process. Windows will send out data to... more/see it nowstart a job even if the printer is signaling busy or unavailable. If your print sharer doesn’t have a buffer, critical printer-initialization information can be lost before your job is started. Once the initialization information is lost, the printer cannot interpret the job correctly.

A buffered print-sharing device is the most practical solution. When Windows starts printing to a buffered port, it “thinks“ it’s talking directly to the printer, and the critical initialization information is stored by the buffer. The buffer can send out a busy signal to Windows, so it delays sending more information until the buffer is accessible again. collapse


Black Box Explains...DDS vs. T1.

DDS (Digital Data Service) is an AT&T® service that transmits data digitally over dedicated leased lines. DDS lines use four wires, and support speeds up to 56 kbps; however, DDS... more/see it nowis actually a 64-kbps circuit with 8 kbps being used for signaling. You can also get 64-kbps (ClearChannel™) service. Since the transmission is digital, no modems are needed. Dedicated digital lines are ideal for point-to-point links in wide-area networks.

T1 is a dedicated transmission line operating at 1.544 Mbps. It’s comprised of 24 DSOs, each supporting speeds of 64 kbps. The user sends data at N x 56 or N x 64 over T1 circuits. T1 operates over twisted-pair cable and is suitable for voice, data, and image transmissions on long-distance networks. collapse


Black Box Explains...Upgrading from VGA to DVI video.

Many new PCs no longer have traditional Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) computer monitors with a VGA interface. The latest high-end computers have Digital Flat Panels (DFPs) with a Digital Visual... more/see it nowInterface (DVI). Although most computers still have traditional monitors, the newer DFPs are coming on strong because flat-panel displays are not only slimmer and more attractive on the desktop, but they’re also capable of providing a much sharper, clearer image than a traditional CRT monitor.

The VGA interface was developed to support traditional CRT monitors. The DVI interface, on the other hand, is designed specifically for digital displays and supports the high resolution, the sharper image detail, and the brighter and truer colors achieved with DFPs.

Most flat-panel displays can be connected to a VGA interface, even though using this interface results in inferior video quality. VGA simply can’t support the image quality offered by a high-end digital monitor. Sadly, because a VGA connection is possible, many computer users connect their DFPs to VGA and never experience the stunning clarity their flat-panel monitors can provide.

It’s important to remember that for your new DFP display to work at its best, it must be connected to a DVI video interface. You should upgrade the video card in your PC when you buy your new video monitor. Your KVM switches should also support DVI if you plan to use them with DFPs. collapse


Black Box Explains...Ceramic and composite ferrules.

Cables manufactured with ceramic ferrules are ideal for mission-critical applications or connections that are changed frequently. These cables are high quality and typically have a very long life. Ceramic ferrules... more/see it noware more precisely molded and fit closer to the fiber than their composite counterparts, which gives them a lower optical loss.

On the other hand, cables with composite ferrules are ideal for less critical applications or connections that won’t be changed frequently. Composite ferrule cables are characterized by low loss, good quality, and long life. collapse


Black Box Explains...Gold plating.

Get premium-quality connectors from Black Box. The 24-karat gold plating ensures better signal transmission and no corrosion. The shielding and heavy gold conductors provide improved performance.


Black Box Explains...Giga, Giga2, and Giga Plus—what you need to know.

Our Giga, Giga2, and Giga Plus and systems feature jacks, wallplates, surface-mount boxes, and other accessories. Components of each system are designed to work together. And they all work with... more/see it nowour GigaTrue® CAT6 and GigaBase® CAT5e cable. Here are the differences between the systems so you can make the right decision when choosing hardware.

Giga

  • Giga products are our original line of jacks, wallplates, etc.
  • Giga products, such as jacks and wallplates, are designed to work with Giga products.
  • To meet the needs of existing Giga systems, we continue to carry Giga products.

  • Giga2
  • Giga2 products are a newer line. They offer the same quality but are priced economically.
  • Giga2 products, such as jacks and wallplates, are designed to work with Giga2 products.

  • Giga Plus
  • Giga Plus is our newest line and is entirely made in the U.S. So if you need to buy American-made products, choose this line.
  • Giga Plus products are designed to work with Giga2 products.
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    Black Box Explains...Shielded vs. unshielded cable.

    The environment determines whether cable should be shielded or unshielded.

    Shielding is the sheath surrounding and protecting the cable wires from electromagnetic leakage and interference. Sources of this electromagnetic activity... more/see it now(EMI)—commonly referred to as noise—include elevator motors, fluorescent lights, generators, air conditioners, and photocopiers. To protect data in areas with high EMI, choose a shielded cable.

    Foil is the most basic cable shield, but a copper-braid shield provides more protection. Shielding also protects cables from rodent damage. Use a foil-shielded cable in busy office or retail environments. For industrial environments, you might want to choose a copper-braid shield.

    For quiet office environments, choose unshielded cable. collapse


    Black Box Explains...Designing your wireless network.



    Setting up wireless devices that belong to the 802.11 family is relatively simple, but you do have to pay attention to a few simple factors.


    Ad-hoc or infrastructure... more/see it nowmode?

    The 802.11 wireless standards support two basic configurations: ad-hoc mode and infrastructure mode.


    In ad-hoc mode, wireless user devices such as laptop computers and PDAs communicate directly with each other in a peer-to-peer manner without the benefit of access points.


    Ad-hoc mode is generally used to form very small spontaneous networks. For instance, with ad-hoc mode, laptop users in a meeting can quickly establish a small network to share files.


    Infrastructure mode uses wireless access points to enable wireless devices to communicate with each other and with your wired network. Most networks use infrastructure mode.


    The basic components of infrastructure mode networks include:

    • The radios embedded or installed within the wireless devices themselves. Many notebook computers and other Wi-Fi-compliant mobile devices, such as PDAs, come with the transmitters built in. But for others, you need to install a card-type device to enable wireless communications. Desktop PCs may also need an ISA or a PCI bus adapter to enable the cards to work.
    • The access point, which acts as a base station that relays signals between the 802.11 devices.
    One or many access points?

    Access points are standalone hardware devices that provide a central point of communication for your wireless users. How many you need in your application depends on the number of users and the amount of bandwidth required by each user. Bandwidth is shared, so if your network has many users who routinely send data-heavy multimedia files, additional access points may be required to accommodate the demand.


    A small-office network with fewer than 15 users may need just 1 access point. Larger networks require multiple points. If the hardware supports it, you can overlap coverage areas to allow users to roam between cells without any break in network coverage. A user’s wireless device picks up a signal beacon from the strongest access point to maintain seamless coverage.


    How many access points to use also depends on your operating environment and the required range. Radio propagation can be affected by walls and electrical interference that can cause signal reflection and fading. If you’re linking mobile users indoors-where walls and other obstructions impede the radiated signal-the typical maximum range is 150 feet. Outdoors, you can get greater WLAN range-up to 2000 feet (depending on your antenna type) where there’s a clear line of sight!


    For optimal speed and range, install your wireless access point several feet above the floor or ground and away from metal equipment or large appliances that may emit interference.


    Battle of the bands.

    In addition to sharing bandwidth, users also share a band. Most IEEE 802.11 or 802.11b devices function in the 2.4-2.4835-GHz band. But these frequencies are often congested, so you may want to use devices that take advantage of the IEEE 802.11a 5.725-5.825-GHz band.


    No matter what frequency you use, you’ll want to isolate your users from outsiders using the same frequency. To do this, assign your users a network identifier, such as an Extended Service Set Identifier (ESSID), as well as distinct channels.


    Web and wired network links.

    The access point links your wireless network to your wired network, enabling your wireless users to access shared data resources and devices across your LAN enterprise. Some access points even feature capabilities for routing traffic in one or both directions between a wired and wireless network.


    For Internet access, connect a broadband router with an access point to an Internet connection over a broadband service such as DSL, cable modem, or satellite.


    For connecting network printers, you can dedicate a computer to act as a print server or add a wireless print server device; this enables those on your wireless network to share printers.


    When to use external antennas.

    If you plan to install access points, you can boost your signal considerably by adding external antennas. Various mounting configurations and high- and low-gain options are available.


    You can also use add-on antennas to connect nodes where the topology doesn’t allow for a clear signal between access points. Or use them to link multiple LANs located far apart.


    Additional external antennas are also useful to help overcome the effects of multipath propagation in which a signal takes different paths and confuses the receiver. It’s also helpful to deploy antennas that propagate the signal in a way that fits the environment. For instance, for a long, narrow corridor, use an antenna that focuses the RF pattern in one direction instead of one that radiates the signal in all directions.


    Plan ahead with a site survey.

    A site survey done ahead of time to plot where the signal is the strongest can help you identify problem areas and avoid dead spots where coverage isn’t up to par or is unreliable. For this, building blueprints are helpful in revealing potential obstructions that you might not see in your physical site walkthrough.


    To field test for a clear signal path, attach an antenna to an access point or laptop acting as the transmitter at one end. Attach another antenna to a wireless device acting as a receiver at the other end. Then check for interference using RF test equipment (such as a wireless spectrum analyzer) and determine whether vertical or horizontal polarization will work best.


    Need help doing this? Call us. We even offer a Site Survey Kit that has a variety of antennas included. Great for installers, the kit enables you to test a variety of antennas in the field before placing a larger antenna order.

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    Black Box Explains...50-µm vs. 62.5-µm fiber optic cable.

    As today’s networks expand, the demand for more bandwidth and greater distances increases. Gigabit Ethernet and the emerging 10 Gigabit Ethernet are becoming the applications of choice for current and... more/see it nowfuture networking needs. Thus, there is a renewed interest in 50-micron fiber optic cable.

    First used in 1976, 50-micron cable has not experienced the widespread use in North America that 62.5-micron cable has.

    To support campus backbones and horizontal runs over 10-Mbps Ethernet, 62.5-micron fiber, introduced in 1986, was and still is the pre-dominant fiber optic cable because it offers high bandwidth and long distance.

    One reason 50-micron cable did not gain widespread use was because of the light source. Both 62.5- and 50-micron fiber cable can use either LED or laser light sources. But in the 1980s and 1990s, LED light sources were common. Because 50-micron cable has a smaller aperture, the lower power of the LED light source caused a reduction in the power budget compared to 62.5-micron cable—thus, the migration to 62.5-micron cable. At that time, laser light sources were not highly developed and were rarely used with 50-micron cable — and, when they were, it was mostly in research and technological applications.

    The cables share many characteristics. Although 50-micron fiber cable features a smaller core (the light-carrying portion of the fiber), both 50- and 62.5-micron cable use the same cladding diameter of 125 microns. Because they have the same outer diameter, they’re equally strong and are handled in the same way. In addition, both types of cable are included in the TIA/EIA 568-B.3 standards for structured cabling and connectivity.
    As with 62.5-micron cable, you can use 50-micron fiber in all types of applications: Ethernet, FDDI, 155-Mbps ATM, Token Ring, Fast Ethernet, and Gigabit Ethernet. It is recommended for all premise applications: backbone, horizontal, and intrabuilding connections. And it should be considered especially for any new construction and installations. IT managers looking at the possibility of 10 Gigabit Ethernet and future scalability will get what they need with 50-micron cable. collapse

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