Slow Time

Nov. 16, 2001
Calculating the hidden costs of faulty data cabling

By Billy Sander

Recent advancements in business computing are changing how facilities professionals evaluate network performance, and, consequently, data cabling costs.
For years, downtime - complete network failure - was the problem. IT professionals concentrated their efforts on keeping networks up and running. However, with new bandwidth-hungry applications such as PeopleSoft and Lotus Notes, facilities professionals are becoming increasingly concerned with slowtime - sluggish, inefficient network performance.

The time employees spend glaring at their monitors - waiting for the hourglass and progress bar - costs companies money. These scattered seconds and minutes spent in LAN limbo add up quickly. Just 10 minutes a day spent waiting can account for an entire work week lost, per employee, every year. Slowtime is a major concern, but until recently, measuring the financial impact of this inefficiency was very difficult.

Using a Slowtime Calculator - log on to Anixter's website ( - users simply enter all of the following information:

• Total number of employees on the network.
• The combined average salary.
• Total estimated amount of time that employees lose to lagging computers.
• A company's total annual revenues.

The calculator then computes the amount of money potentially lost as a result of computer slowtime. This information helps IT managers accurately evaluate costs when constructing their network. It can also be used to justify upgrades in building infrastructures by comparing the cost of installation with the estimated total cost of sluggish systems.

Facilities professionals should keep in mind that cable routes and installation methods also affect network efficiency. Data lines can be hindered by extreme temperatures, humidity, and by interference from high-frequency radios. But these external factors are not the only culprits in slow transmissions.

A surprising fact, even to many network managers, is that the cable itself and the components in a channel account for up to 50 percent of the problems within any network. Studies done at the UL-certified Anixter Levels Lab® have shown that all of the components and the cable in a channel must be properly matched for optimal performance. Anixter has conducted studies over several years and has proven that not all cables rated under the same industry standards are equal. In fact, just putting in a minimally compliant cable - like Cat 5e - can have a significantly negative impact on most networks.

Building owners and facilities professionals need to evaluate their existing systems before making the investment to upgrade. Taking the time to calculate how much computer slowtime is costing your company is the first step to improving your system's performance.

Billy Sander is marketing manager at Skokie, IL-based Anixter Inc., a leading distributor of data communications products.

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