Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fiber Optic Networks vs. Ethernet – What You Need to Know

In a world where connectivity and speed reign supreme, consumers are ever more anxious for faster connections, more capability and more security. The cabling industry is largely split between fiber optic networks and the more traditional copper Ethernet cables. With advantages and disadvantages on both ends, we have compiled some data so you can decide the best network cabling option for you and your company.


Speed is usually at the top of everyone’s wish list when choosing a cabling option. If it’s important to you to have higher transmission rates, fiber optic networks are universally accepted as the faster option. A single optic fiber strand can transmit data at a rate of 100 terabits per second, and the number will steadily grow as new research is conducted.

For comparison, certain copper Ethernet cables can support transfer rates of 10 gigabits per second. Ethernet has experienced better speed capabilities with the introduction of Cat6 cables, which also have improved crosstalk, a major security concern which we’ll cover next.


The amount of data transmitted between cabling systems is significant! Protecting this data is crucial for the security and integrity of its users. Crosstalk is electrical interference from outside sources that disrupts the normal flow of data in a cable, mostly in adjacent circuits. Ethernet cables are vulnerable because they do work through electrical signals. This could lead to data overlap or even data interception. Improvements, such as differing twist rates of individual cables and cable shields, have reduced crosstalk but not eliminated it completely.

Fiber optic networks do not present the crosstalk security risk because data signals are transmitted through light and they travel differently than signals sent through copper wiring. There is no conduction of electricity involved with fiber optic cables.

Safety & Design

The cable used in a fiber optic network is made of a lightweight, thin glass in order to successfully carry light. There is little size difference between fiber cords, so they take up less space. Fewer cable bundles makes storage much easier.

Since electricity is not being conducted, non-flammable fiber optic cables are also ideal in a high-voltage location. Their qualities present a lower fire threat than the electricity present in Ethernet cords. Usually, the voltage used in Ethernet copper cables is not high enough to cause major fires.
Since fiber optics are less susceptible to temperature fluctuations and because of their glass casing, they can also be submerged in water.

These basic differences between fiber optic networks and copper Ethernet cables can influence a business’s choice. Consumers can expect speed and data capabilities to evolve through time. If you would like more information on the different communication equipment and networking products we offer, click here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Protecting Your Fiber Optic Cables from the Elements

Fiber optic cables are installed in a wide variety of ways. They can be buried underground, pulled in conduit, strung aerially, and even laid deep underwater. Given the highly delicate and costly nature of fiber optic cables, much care must be taken to ensure that they are protected from the elements. The number of factors that must be considered are massive. Is the cable in danger of becoming wet or moist? Will it be exposed to chemicals or extreme temperatures? Could it be accessed by squirrels, woodchucks — or even sharks — that mistake it for a chew toy? Luckily, today we are sharing some types of cables that will not be vulnerable to the elements.

Cable Design Criteria:

  • Pulling Strength: In some cases, cables are laid into trays or ditches and do not experience much resistance. However, when cables are drawn over conduit, pulling tension tends to be very high. For simple installations, aim for a cable pull strength of 100-200 pounds, and closer to 800 for outside cables.
  • Bending Limits: If a cable is not experiencing bending tension, the recommended long-term bend radius is ten times the cable diameter. That number doubles for fiber optic cables under tension.
  • Water Protection: Any outdoor cable must be protected from water or moisture. When protecting your cable, the most common solution is to employ a moisture resistant jacket and a filling of water blocking material. However, most manufacturers now sell dry water-blocked cables.

Types of Protective Cables:

  • Armored Fiber Cables: The easiest way to feel confident about the safety of your fiber optic cable assemblies is to invest in armored fiber optic cables. Manufactured at an industrial or military grade, armored solutions are perfect in conditions where the cable is exposed to extreme temperatures or could possibly be compromised by heavy crush loads. With a jacket that is up to 100 times stronger than the average fiber optic cables, it promises to keep your cables protected without compromising flexibility.
  • Bend Insensitive CablesDue to the sensitive nature of their construction, fiber optic cables are very sensitive to sharp bends. If you exceed its maximum bending radius, light will escape from the fiber coil, causing significant power loss. Many facilities have a problem with this as wall- or ceiling-mounted cables require a bend at the corner of the room. Of all fiber optic cable types, bend insensitive cables are the best equipped to handle this tough task. The complex geometry allows for microbending and macrobending with little reflection energy loss, 
  • Undersea Cables: Often, applications are required where fiber optics must be installed under water. Earlier this year, Popular Science reported that Google was taking extra steps to protect their underwater fiber optic cables from sharks, who are “encouraged by electromagnetic fields from a suspended cable strumming in currents.” They do this by wrapping the cables in a Kevlar-like material or running the fibers through stainless steel tubes to thwart away these unlikely intruders.

The number of factors that must be considered when selecting a fiber optic cable can be overwhelming. Here at SanSpot, we have a team of specialized experts that are dedicated to helping you select the best cable for your environmental and installation requirements. Call us today at 1-800-720-3860.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How Fiber Optics Are Made

The earliest engineers have been drawing glass into fibers since Roman times. It wasn’t until the 1790s that the first optical telegraph was created by the Chappe brothers, who developed a series of lights mounted on towers that relayed messages from one tower to the next. Further incarnations were steadily introduced through the mid-1800s, as scientists proved that light signals could be bent by sending a light through a curved stream of water. Thanks to initial discoveries by the famed Alexander Graham Bell, in the 1970s and 1980s, the widespread use of fibers for communications infrastructure was adopted. Today, after years of development, optical fiber systems are even more robust and powerful than ever before.

When we picture glass, the first thing that comes to mind is a transparent glass window. However, as glass gets thicker, the number of impurities increase and it becomes more clouded. Optical fibers do not measure much larger than a human hair- around 1/8mm or 0.005 inches in diameter, ensuring the clearest glass possible. Some fiber optics companies report that if you stood on an ocean made of fiber optic glass miles deep, you could see the bottom.

A fiber optic cable starts out as a large glass tube. This is first cleaned in a corrosive bath to ensure that any dirt and oil residue are removed from the tube. The preform blank is manufactured through modified chemical vapor deposition (MCVD). A solution of silicon chloride and germanium chloride is pumped with oxygen, and the gas vapor byproduct is collected in a synthetic tube. As the tube is rotated, a torch heats the outside, causing the silicone and germanium to react with the oxygen, and fuse together to form glass. It is vital that the lathe be turned uniformly for a consistent coating. The intense heat eventually causes the tube to collapse on itself and become a solid rod, transforming into the initial structure of the optical fiber.

After creating the blank, it vertically installed into a fiber drawing tower. The extreme heat of the furnace in the tower (about 2200 degrees Celsius) melts the blank until it drips and falls downward like molasses dripping from a spoon, cooling on the way and forming a thread. A large glob is attached to the end of the glass fiber, stretching and pulling it even further to the ideal thickness. A series of pulleys measure the tension on the fiber as it is being drawn. Then the fiber passes through UV lamps that bake on a protective coating to protect against dust and other contaminants.

Each fiber cable must be tested for a variety of factors, including tensile strength, refractive index profile, operating temperature, and attenuation. Finally, the fiber is rolled onto a drum, and either shipped out as is, or inserted into a cable. They can then be distributed to telephone companies, network providers, or distributors like SanSpot.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Product Spotlight: LTO Tape Barcode Labels

Although the options for data storage are far more numerous than they were twenty years ago, many LTO Ultrium tape users still ardently defend the technology for their data storage needs. When first developed in the late 1990s as a partnership between Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Seagate, Linear Tape-Open immediately defined the super tape market. With multiple generations of LTO tape capacities that reached as high as 1.5 terabytes of data.

With LTO tapes holding such vital information, it is important that your data library is well organized. SanSpot has a series of highly customizable LTO tape labels to be sure that your LTO tapes are easy to identify, sort, and categorize, and can apply for data, cleaning, or diagnostic cartridges.

SanSpot’s selection of three color palettes (hot, warm, and cool) for the human readable section make organizing for easy sight recognition even simpler. Our hot color palette is the most popular, but custom color palettes are also available upon request.

If you are not 100% sure which labels are right for your library, we are happy to help you in a variety of ways. First, take a glance at our helpful table above to compare our template styles with your tape types. You can scan the label stickers you are currently using for LTO tapes and email them to SanSpot to help to select or customize the perfect labels for your library.

Be sure to visit out LTO Label Reference Guide for more info.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Fiber Optic Revolution: Why Fiber Optics Are Replacing Copper

While the technology advancements in our personal devices and processing systems have been rapid and profound, the progression in cabling and transmission mediums has been significantly slower. Although copper wire manufacturers have made some respectable improvements to their technology in recent years, they cannot compete with the more significant advancements and advantages of fiber optic systems.

Cost: Miles of optical cables can be made for significantly cheaper than copper cables for an equivalent strength and length. Whether you are the direct B2B purchaser of the cables or the end user, you will experience a cost savings. Additionally, the transmitters that are used with optical fibers are low power as opposed to the high voltage electrical transmitters that copper wires require. Providers are able to pass these energy savings along to their consumers to remain competitive. And while set up costs for modern optical fiber systems can be greater in the short term, they are less costly to maintain, experience significantly less downtime, and typically require less networking hardware.

Bandwidth: Optical fiber is capable of readily transmitting high bandwidth data over moderate distances when compared to copper alternatives. The Telecommunications Industry Association reports that a Category 6A Cable can manage a bandwidth of 600 MHz over 100 meters, and would be able to carry the equivalent of 18,000 phone calls at one time. By comparison, Multimode Fibers have a bandwidth of over 1000 MHz, and could carry 30,000 simultaneous phone calls.

Distance: The reduction in your signal strength during transmission is known as the attenuation. Since fiber optic signals are made of light, very little signal loss is likely to occur during transmission, allowing data to move at higher speeds for longer distances. Additionally, a twisted pair copper cable has a 100 meter distance limitation that fiber optics are not inhibited by. Typically, fiber distances can stretch from 300 meters to 40 kilometers, or about 25 miles.

Design: The physical advantages of fiber over copper are irrefutable. With a lightweight, thin, and durable design, it is easier to transport and handle. Its small size not only means that it takes up less room, but allows for a greater number of lines to be installed, either above or below ground.

Safety: Fiber optic cables are dielectric materials, meaning that it is an electric insulator. On the other hand, copper wires carry a current, and could be the cause of a potential fire hazard if a break occurs. There have even been cases of thieves catching on fire when attempting to steal copper wires.

When first invented, copper wire was able to connect us to information we had been unable to reach previously. Now, thanks to fiber optic systems, the globe is being linked together to an unprecedented degree, allowing the world to experience the next generation of networks. Although some industries have been slow to adapt, the benefits of optical fiber technology promises many long-term benefits.