To Gig or Not to Gig

By Michelle Romeo, Product Manager


Burger King or McDonald’s, Pepsi or Coke, Kirk or Picard? Choices are part of life. Like anything else, your network also involves a lot of choices.

Manufacturer, speeds, interfaces, and maintenance. Speed is a particular hot button topic. With all of the increases to 40G, 100G, and beyond, it can be difficult to decide which speed is the best option for your organization.


Many users are still using 100mb to the desktop. Is that such a bad thing? Why is it that your network becomes less significant for moving at slower rates, if that is what your users need?

No one will point and laugh, certainly not to your face. So how much of a difference does it make?

Well, if 100mb is a one-lane highway than 1G is a 10-lane highway – the latter will move a lot more traffic! That’s what it’s really about right?

Let’s face it, a 10-lane highway doesn’t help if you’re only moving a handful of cars. It’s overkill. It’s like hunting with a howitzer. While fun, it doesn’t leave you any meat. 

How much bandwidth do you really need?

In most cases, applications will not consume all of the bandwidth of fast Ethernet. You can discover that quickly enough by looking at the port status on the switches in your environment. Is it unusually high? Or is it barely breaking a sweat? That could make the decision for you.

Do you have any high throughput applications in your environment? CAD and medical imaging are both good examples. Locating spots that might need more speed could mean only having gig switches in those locations.

When being pushed to upgrade before your organization is ready, it’s important to work with a vendor who understands your organization’s unique needs so that you can be properly pointed in the right direction before making a purchase. 

Here are some additional factors to consider:

  • Cost of Gigabit to the Desktop: What is the price per port? How does that differ from 100mb?
  • Cabling: If you are using CAT5 or lower you will need to upgrade!
  • Upstream Speed: What are your 1G switches all feeding back to? Is it a core/distribution switch? Is it fast enough to aggregate all of that speed?

But I Want to Upgrade!

Sometimes improved performance is just a necessity, or it could be forced on you based on the product you buy. Let’s face it, Gig ports are becoming more commonplace and you may find yourself purchasing them without a real need to get other features you want. However, if you or your purchasing folks are on the fence, there are certainly some upsides.

  • Speed: More speed can’t hurt you if it’s something you can afford
  • Greater selection: More and more devices come standard with Gig ports
  • Future-proofing: New wireless speeds, and voice requirements, could push the issue and force you into upgrades
  • Warranty: Newer switches could mean a new warranty!

Regardless of which way you go, Burger King or McDonald’s, Pepsi or Coke, Kirk or Picard, find a vendor that can work with your needs and within your budget. The rest can be easily sorted.

Find someone willing to speak with you and help you select switches that work for you, and perhaps offer maintenance on legacy products if needed, so that you can rest easy knowing your network has the power it needs with room to grow.