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I recently have been scouring server fault trying to learn more about network equipment and configuration. I eventually also asked a question. But I am led to ask:

How have there been no real improvements in small business / home networking in 5 years?
Is Gigabit the end all?

OK, so it may be a rant, but seriously: check out the questions I have starred and/or the "related" QAs in the side bar of my question. And the related QAs of those questions. "Modern" questions are from 2011 and most are 2009. That's like going to Superuser and asking about how to get more performance from a Pentium III. (The answer: $400 Core i3 from last year)

Being an entrepreneur and always in whack-a-mole mode, I am a specialist in something only when it needs my attention. The last time I paid attention to my network was 5 years ago (obvious to those reading my question). Going through those old questions was exciting and disappointing at the same time: people making 50 PCs talk through a 10/100 network! How 1995!

It feels to me like something should be done to archive legacy questions like that. Or force in a [10/100] tag in the title whenever the discussion involves 4 or 5 16+ port 10/100 switches and the new shiny Gigabit switch they want to integrate.

Or am I simply out of touch with reality? My biz is small with only 4 or 5 employees and maybe 10 computers. The answers to my question gently hint at "buy a new switch" when once I researched the answers, $255 got spent instantly on hardware that's easily twice as good as my existing 5 year old switch of the same price. That tells me the answer should have also included this link. :-)

And thanks, SFmeta, for helping me find NE, where I am sure to spend more time in the upcoming weeks.

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    I don't understand what you're whingeing about, if people don't ask the questions how can we answer them? Bear in mind also that we don't do product or service recommendations as they quickly become obsolete. Perhaps what your seeing is just that, we used to allow them and now we don't. – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Jan 6 '14 at 11:44
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    Is Gigabit the end all - In most small networks, the local network is not the bottleneck. Small networks typically are limited by the WAN bandwidth, or they are limited by I/O bandwidth on their 'servers'. (IE the speed of their hard drives). Gigabit networks offer more local capacity then most people can use. Until you can get fast storage a lot cheaper, or WAN speeds become a lot faster, I doubt anyone is going to need faster LAN technology. – Zoredache Jan 6 '14 at 21:19
  • @Iain outstanding blog post, thank you. – Chris K Jan 6 '14 at 22:21
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    I just moved off having a 10/100 router as the primary hub of my home/smb network - and well, I haven't had too many issues outside some ipv6 oddities. The old router got shuffled off to a home network. I'm of the opinion though, we're reaching the point where the crappiest hardware is good enough for maybe 70% of users. I don't see any killer app for 10gb-e on my home network - hell, due to our lack of planning, I hardly get to take advantage of my gig-e network at the moment (until I add a NAS), and most of my dozen or so devices are on fairly brittle wifi. – Journeyman Geek Jan 7 '14 at 12:31
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I recently have been scouring server fault trying to learn more about network equipment and configuration.

While what you are doing isn't wrong, the purpose of ServerFault isn't to be a learning/teaching IT site. It's a Q&A site (with a somewhat decent KB style if you consider the tags/search capabilities). There are far better "learning" sites such as Cisco's site and even Youtube channels that do a better job and narrowing in on networking topics from a learning perspective.

How have there been no real improvements in small business / home networking in 5 years? Is Gigabit the end all?

There have been LOTS of SMB market improvement in the last 5 years. I'd venture to say that's where MOST of the improvements have been, as enterprise grade features and hardware has come down in price and been heavily marketed to the small biz arena. 10 years ago a small business typically either went consumer grade or enterprise, there wasn't much to pick from in the "middle".

Networking wise, advances in wireless have been big (802.11n, ac, ease of deployment, etc.), and the need for a smb to go beyond gigabit just isn't there on a LAN still for the most part. Most could easily get by on 100Mb LANs to be honest.

Going through those old questions was exciting and disappointing at the same time: people making 50 PCs talk through a 10/100 network! How 1995!

My current company's network that I support is a 100/1000 network with 100Mb to the desktop, and I put it in brand new. There just wasn't the need for gigabit to the desktop in our environment, and Cisco makes brand new 10/100 managed switches (gasp!).


Bottom line: SF is a Q&A site...if people don't ask questions about new tech then there won't be answers to go along with them. This isn't a "learning" site where the site and current technology trends dictate the content...the people asking the questions dictate the content.

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I tried putting what I wanted to say in a comment, but ran out of characters.


At home, my four servers are connected via a gigabit switch. This is fast enough for me - I could find fibre cards for the lot and upgrade to a 10gig switch but that's gonna be seriously expensive - something for a home lab doesn't really need fiber.

I work in a school. All our connections are fiber between switches, and then gigabit between the switch and machine. It's fast enough for what all the users want to do, we've never had complains about slowness when copying files. You could look at fiber cards for desktops, but they'd be so much more expensive and the benefit over gigabit would be neglible - all the users are doing are saving/editing word documents with some video streaming and editing. I suspect in larger networks their desktop machines are also gigabit too.

If you want to ask a questions on the main site then go ahead. There's also the ServerFault Chat Room for discussions.

I'm tempted to say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". If there's no complains about gigabit speeds in your business/home then don't really worry about it. Nowadays I wouldn't want anything less than gigabit on my machines.

  • I've just bought a couple of 4Gb FC cards for my home network :P – Tom O'Connor Jan 6 '14 at 12:20
  • I've got 20GbIB at home (though limited by a 10GbIB switch). =] – Chris S Jan 6 '14 at 14:52
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I'm still scratching my head trying to work out what sort of questions you'd like to see; what sort of questions should GigE or 10GigE generate that 100Mb didn't? Or, to look at it from another angle, what sort of old answers about networking were specific to 100Mb ethernet?

Apart from a few questions about configuration and compatibility for odd hardware that only comes into play at higher speeds (fibre transceivers, cat-6 vs. cat-5e cable), I can't think of any. Your archetypal ancient question above ("people making 50 PCs talk through a 10/100 network") doesn't admit of significantly different answers when they're doing it a hundred times faster.

The only major, glaring category of answer that will change is hardware recommendations. Thank you for illuminating why such questions are off-topic all over Stack Exchange! Answers to those questions age horribly, and need constant renewal, so we don't do them in the first place.

Honestly, your question - and the thought processes it started - make the wisdom of that policy as clear to me as it's ever been. We don't need lots of new answers because we carefully avoid writing lots that become old.

  • My question is derived from my surprise that nothing has really changed other than as pointed out, some enterprise features are tricking their way into SMB & home networks. Analogy: Fast Ethernet is to networking what lap belts are to cars. Gigabit is advent of shoulder belts. Where are the airbags? – Chris K Jan 7 '14 at 10:27
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    @ChrisK - As we've pointed out, since necessity is the mother of invention, the "airbags" aren't needed yet. You could posit that 4/8GigFC or 10GigE is the airbags I guess, but even still that's not necessary at the desktop or small biz level. That's not to say you can't deploy 10GigE to the desktops if you want, but paying for something that will average 1% utilization seems silly. That's like a town with 1 stop light all of a sudden putting in 4 lane roads and highways just because they can. – TheCleaner Jan 7 '14 at 13:59

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