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You may have heard of the 10 Gigabit network, but does your business actually need it? And can you afford it? Here are some basic facts about 10 Gigabit Ethernet and how you can migrate your network to 10 Gigabit within your budget.

Why do I need a 10G network?

Modern businesses have become increasingly digital, which means that everything from sales and marketing to service and support, rely on a fast and reliable network. There has never been so much traffic and applications running on the networks and it will only keep growing. Technologies like 802.11ac wireless, server virtualization, IP convergence, Cloud and Internet of things greatly improve productivity, but also apply even more pressure to your network.

A network that simply “works” is no longer enough. It has to support business growth in an ever-changing digital world, too. With a 10G network core, you can avoid network congestion at busy times, improve the productivity of employees, shorten the response time to customers and bring new products to the market faster.

How much does it cost?

There are three components involved in an upgrade to 10G network:

  • 10G core switches
  • Access switches with 10G uplinks, and
  • 10G network interface cards for servers and storage devices

Ten years ago, a single 10G switch port would cost you $4,000. But today, the cost has dropped to as low as $100 per port. Cisco 550X and 350X series switches are specifically designed for small businesses, providing a wide range of choices of 8, 12, 16, 24 and 48 10G ports, starting from only $1,000 street price. You can even get it lower if you shop around.

For access switches with 10G uplink, the Cisco 550X, 350X and 250X series provides 24 or 48 gigabit ports with 4 10G uplinks, starting from around $600 street price.

A 10G network interface card (NIC) on server or storage devices costs between $100 - $300 depending on the brand. You can get it lower if you order it as an option to your new servers.

What else do I need to know about 10G?

It’s simple. Especially with 10GBase-T supported on Cisco 550X and 350X series switches, you use the same familiar RJ45 network cable to connect the 10G switch with your servers, storages and other switches, and they go up to the same 100 meters as in the Gigabit network. Just make sure you pick up a Cat6A grade RJ45 network cable, available in most IT shops. 10GBase-T is becoming more popular in network switches and servers because of its lower cost and ease of use. So, if you haven’t got any 10G devices, you should get those with 10GBase-T ports.

Cisco 550X and 350X series switches also support 10G SFP+. You should use these ports if you have existing devices that come with 10G SFP+ ports or you need a 10G connection to other switches that are more than 100 meters away. These look exactly the same as SFP ports on your Gigabit switches, but they’re now running at 10 Gigabit. For server or NAS with 10G SFP+ ports, the most cost-efficient way to connect is to use 10G direct attach cables. These are basically copper cables with a SFP+ connector on both sides, and they come in pre-cut lengths of 1m, 3m and 5m.

For switches that are more than 100 meters away, you will need a pair of SFP+ modules and the matching fiber cable between them. Depending on the length required, you can use multi-mode SFP+ and fiber to reach 400 meters and single mode SFP+ and fiber to reach 10 km.

How can I ensure a smooth migration?

You don’t need to upgrade your whole network in one go. Start with the core switches that you use to connect all your access switches together and connect your servers and NAS. Think about how many ports you need and if redundancy is a concern for you. Having two core switches stacked together to provide redundancy and extra performance is a good design for a solid network foundation.

Once you have your core switches upgraded to 10G, you can migrate your key access switches and servers to 10G and connect to your new core switches first. You will see immediate performance gain in the most critical parts of your network. The rest of the network can stay as is for the moment, because 10GBase-T ports are backwards-compatible with Gigabit links, and 10G SFP+ cages can also work with 1G SFP modules.

You can upgrade the rest of your network to 10G whenever you’re ready—or in multiple phases if you wish.

Bottom line: The technology is not complicated, and with Cisco 550X and 350X series switches, it’s no longer out of reach for Small and Mid-size Businesses. The technology enables you to migrate your network to 10G in multiple steps, so you can spend your money wisely, where it’s needed most.

For more information on Cisco 100-500 series switches, please visit www.cisco.com/go/smallbusiness or check with your local Cisco resellers.