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What are the Pros and Cons of Fiber-Optic Ethernet?

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  • Written By: H. Bliss
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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Fiber-optic Ethernet can be used to connect a network instead of using metal-based wiring systems, but it is not the right kind of networking equipment for every situation. The pros and cons of fiber-optic Ethernet mostly center around how well it functions and how much it costs to create and maintain. Also, fiber-optic equipment for networking can be more expensive and more difficult to set up than standard metal-wiring network systems. In the field, fiber-optic Ethernet has advantages including high bandwidth speeds and a low tendency to lose information through signal degradation and interference.

Comparing the pros and cons of fiber-optic Ethernet can help a network administrator decide when fiber-optic technology is a good choice for his network. Fiber-optic Ethernet is typically faster than traditional copper-wire-based Ethernet systems. Speed can be one an important characteristic for a network, so online computer gamers, who rely on speed to win their games, might choose a fiber-optic Ethernet connection over other types.

For networks near power lines or flammable materials, using fiber-optic Ethernet can offer more safety and better functionality than metal wires. For administrators running a network near a power plant or in an office with a large amount of wiring, fiber-optic Ethernet helps prevent interference to the signal from electrical signals near the network hardware. In an area where traditional metal wires might spark and trigger an explosion, fiber-optic Ethernet can provide a safer alternative to a metal-wired network.

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In general, fiber-optic signals can travel a great distance without the use of network repeaters, which amplify the signal to make it possible to carry it further. For large offices, especially those with several floors, the long range of fiber-optics can be an advantage. Hardware for this type of network also tends to be conveniently small.

While the pros and cons of fiber-optic Ethernet are largely pros, the cons can be significant disadvantages. One major disadvantage to fiber-optic Ethernet is that network hardware and parts are considerably more difficult to acquire and configure than the kind used in metal-wired networks. While modems and routers for metal-wired networks can easily be found at any basic computer store and some large general merchandise stores, fiber-optic Ethernet equipment must either be ordered online or bought from a computer hardware or networking store.

One major problem with this type of network hardware is that fiber-optics do not have across-the-board compatibility standards. This makes parts that work correctly more difficult to buy, requiring more research on the part of the administrator building the network. When using fiber-optics for an Ethernet network, the network administrator must also worry about finding compatible parts, on top of the difficulty finding any parts for the system in the first place.

When discussing the pros and cons of fiber-optic Ethernet, one strikingly important point to consider is cost. Since they are less commonly manufactured, fiber-optic equipment is also several times more expensive than metal-wired or wireless counterparts. This means that if a piece of hardware goes down, immediate replacement may be difficult or impossible and will inevitably cost more.

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