Event Tech Knowledgebase
Our guide for event organisers and production managers to simplify terminology, detail the pros and cons of different services and provide some example setups for different types of events. Click on the headings for a list of questions and answers or use the search box below.
Site Networking (3)
Cat5 is the primary type of cable used for networking and is used to connect up most pieces of equipment on site such as phones, switches and CCTV cameras. The only downside of cat5 is that the maximum cable length is 100m, however, with special in-line adapters known as PoE extenders this can be increased to 200 or 300m. Cat5 is particularly flexible as it can also carry power for certain types of equipment such as phones which means no additional power is required where the device is located. Generally cat5 cable is cable of speeds up to 1Gbps, although the actual speed experienced may be reduced by switching equipment and the speed of the connection to the internet.
Increasingly optic fibre cable is being used for core links on sites as it can run at higher speeds over much larger distances. Some types of optic fibre cable also offer a much stronger shield which means they can withstand the event environment better than cat5. The downside of optic fibre is it requires special tools to terminate and connect, and it is more difficult to join if it gets cut.
The design of computer networks tends to be based on their size and the specific needs of different user groups for aspects such as security and performance. The design can be very complex but roughly breaks into three categories:
This is the most basic network and, as the name suggests, is totally flat meaning that all devices can see one another and there is little control on the network, which has led to them being known as ‘unmanaged’ networks. Flat networks are only used in the smallest and most basic of set-ups as they have a number of inherent issues such as potential network storms, limited security and poor traffic routing.
Managed Network / Layer 2
A managed network is a step up from an unmanaged network as it introduces VLANs (Virtual LANs) providing the capability to separate the network into a number of virtual networks offering more security and ability to shape and route traffic. Layer 2 networks are fine for medium sized networks but can still suffer from the risk of network storms or performance issues as they grow because in effect they are still one big network.
Routed Network / Layer 3
The next step up is a fully routed network or ‘layer 3’ network. This type of network uses multiple routers to create totally separate zones improving performance and offering better options for redundant paths, security and isolation. A key point is that an issue in one zone has no impact on any other zone. They are more complex to set-up but are particularly suited to scenarios where, for example, an event site wants to have a redundant optic fibre ring between all key locations for the best performance and reliability. We use layer 3 networks on all the major sites on which we operate.
Event sites can be challenging for IT infrastructure due to the way the build progresses, lack of routes for cables and last minute changes. There are several techniques used to deploy the required infrastructure across a site and one approach is the use of ‘wireless links’, also known as Point-to-Point (PTP) or Point-to-MultiPoint (PTMP) links. These units are like a special form of Wi-Fi, generally operating in the 5GHz spectrum and often using a focused beam to improve performance.
Wireless links can be a great way of getting connectivity to difficult parts of a site but they have to used carefully to ensure they do not interfere with each other. Structures and trees especially can block the signal leading to drop-outs or poor performance so generally they have to be used with ‘line of sight’.
On an event site it is very important for there to be central coordination of wireless spectrum usage otherwise there can be a great deal of interference which prevents links from working correctly.