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Glossary: Ethernet Networks

In home networking terms, Ethernet is a standard for transmitting data. Each device that wishes to communicate will need to have an Ethernet network port and cabling (see RJ-45).

For home networks, there are, at present, three speeds of Ethernet. 10Base-T is the slowest and oldest Ethernet standard which will communicate at 10 megabits per second (Mbps). Following on from this is 100Base-T, which most modern PCs use this and will communicate at 100Mbps. The newest standard is 1000Base-T which will transfer information at 1 Gigabit per second (1000 Mbps). Most Ethernet devices are marked with the connection speeds that they can achieve. Most are marked 10/100, meaning that that they can communicate at both 10 and 100Mbps. More modern equipment may be 10/100/1000 which will also work at gigabit speeds.

Ethernet is a 1-to-1 connection meaning that a cable cannot be split at random and connected with another device. Ethernet cabling must be run from one port to another. When connecting devices, say a computed and an IP camera, an ethernet “switch” must be placed in between the two to transfer information. Alternatively, an ethernet crossover cable may be used.

One thing to remember when planning an ethernet network is that the network is only as fast as its slowest connection. For example, if you have two computers capable of gigabit transfer speeds, but have a switch in between which is only capable of 100Mbit, the information will only be transferred at 100Mbit. This is not a problem if the network is only being used for small data transfer, say internet access, but should be considered when the movement of large files is expected, for example the daily backup of a IP camera recording server.

Published on August 15th, 2008 by James Drinkwater

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