The Big Network Infrastructure Design Change Helping Building Owners Save Money

January 18, 2022|Drew Deatherage

For the last several decades, there’s really been only one option in network infrastructure, and it’s done its job well enough. Network infrastructure design teams have relied on copper cabling as the go-to approach for most applications, with some short fiber optic runs connecting devices that may require large amounts of bandwidth.

Of course, doing something the way it’s always been done is rarely the best strategy for building owners looking to create better, more cost-effective and sustainable buildings.

By flipping the traditional network infrastructure design paradigm—that is, switching to virtually all fiber-based networks with short copper runs—building owners can gain a host of benefits.

The benefits of fiber optic network infrastructure

In recent years, a tremendous number of benefits have convinced network infrastructure design teams to move away from copper cabling and adopt fiber optic solutions. Below we outline the leading reasons organizations are making the switch from copper to fiber optic networks.

1. Fiber optic cable has a lower upfront and installation cost. While this wasn’t always the case, for the last five years or so there has been a strong cost advantage to installing fiber optic cables in lieu of copper. Today, the material itself costs less per linear foot than copper. Moreover, the lighter weight of the fiber optic cabling also makes it easier to install, lowering installation costs somewhat as well. Of course, this is only the beginning of the cost advantage fiber optic cabling offers.

2. Fiber optic networks require less space. Fiber optic network solutions require only 1/10th of the dedicated IT floor space needed for conventional copper-based networks. That’s in part because copper cables impose a 100-meter limit between each switch port and end device, demanding more specialized space for network switches. Not using copper      frees up a valuable amount of real estate.

As a case in point, when a network infrastructure design team convinced the architect of a 180,000-square-foot middle school to consider a switch from copper to fiber network, they found the design shrank from eight communications rooms to two. This simple change in design freed up six rooms that could be converted back to educational space. 

3. It’s more secure. Because optical fiber does not create electromagnetic radiation, it is inherently immune to the security breaches caused by signal snooping. The federal government has embraced fiber optic networks for several years for this very reason. Overall, it makes for a more secure, difficult-to-hack network solution.

4. It allows strong connectivity across more devices. Rather than running separate cables to a room for telephone, video and data needs, fiber optic networks can transmit each of these signals via a single piece of fiber. The hospitality industry has embraced fiber optic networks for this very reason. Hotels can deliver voice, video and data over one conductor, making a strong economic case for a several hundred room property.

Now, with increased demand for smart homes across many high-end multi-residential properties, developers are exploring how they can reap these same connectivity benefits, while reducing the network’s overall cost and footprint.

5. It’s a simpler network to maintain. Because building managers can manage an entire fiber optic-based network from a single computer, there’s less need to run around to troubleshoot issues as they arise. This can be a particularly big time-saver for multi-campus and multi-building campus environments. There are also fewer electronics, meaning fewer devices to attend to and maintain.

For one U.S. government laboratory, a switch from a copper network to a fiber optic network reduced the network maintenance team from 12 technicians to one. The 11 individuals freed up from network maintenance were put to use in more value-added ways than reactively addressing maintenance issues all day.

6. It’s a more sustainable solution. With more corporations and institutions committing to sustainability, fiber optic network infrastructure design provides an excellent opportunity to go green. These networks use less material than copper networks, reducing raw material extraction. They also draw less energy, which helps organizations in the energy footprint reduction that presents a critical first step toward achieving net-zero energy goals.

Evaluating the risks of change

Recognizing all the tremendous benefits offered by fiber optic networks over copper begs the question: Why haven’t more organizations been doing this all along?

One reason, of course, has been a lack of knowledge that a better option exists. Many network infrastructure design teams remain content to design solutions the way they always have.     Another reason is that it can be tough for building owners to make a change.

Fortunately, many manufacturers and network installers understand how difficult it can be to try something new when the existing way of operating has worked for so long. That’s why many manufacturers in the fiber optic space are willing to set up a pilot program to help organizations get a sense of how this solution can benefit them. Consider talking to your network infrastructure design contractor about connecting with a manufacturer for a pilot test of this solution.

Whether you have questions about these benefits or you’re ready to make a change, Crux can help. Contact us today.