It seems as if it was only a decade or so ago when “migration” refered only to birds (or perhaps retired people) heading south for the winter. Now, the term “migration” has taken on a whole new meaning.

For voice/data/video (VDV), migration defines the transition from a current solution to a new one. This may seem an overly simplistic definition, but you can expound upon it until the birds fly back up north.

Since technology changes so rapidly and companies rely so heavily on new forms of communication as a means of doing business, it is essential for businesses to incorporate new products to remain competitive in their respective industries. All of these new devices and applications can put a strain on current networks, because not all networks were designed with expansion capabilities.

With new technology hitting the market on a regular basis, it is inevitable that core network components will need to be either upgraded or completely replaced to support this new generation of products and applications. If such measures are not taken, a current system, which normally operates rather efficiently, can become quite taxed by something as simple as adding users.

Network migration deals with all relative facets of the VDV infrastructure. While any given infrastructure is comprised of both hardware and software, it is the hardware component that poses more problems. The structured cabling portion requires more attention to detail and design, since it essentially becomes part of the physical plant.

The basic principle of network migration is one that has been commonplace in the electrical arena for many years. It is the transition from an old method to a more technologically advanced option. Migration strategies, as they relate to networks, essentially involve the shift from one form of transmission technology into another.

Since migration does not occur regularly, it is important to seek longevity. This is where the principle of futureproofing comes into play. Longevity gives the customer a return on its investment; therefore, it is important to take the horizontal infrastructure seriously. There has always been an ongoing debate about whether fiber is better than copper and vice versa. For years, fiber reportedly performed better, while copper was reportedly less expensive.

Fiber-based networks seem to be edging out the proverbial competition in that almighty arena of—you guessed it—bandwidth, which is a necessary component of virtually anything even remotely related to communications. Even then the subject of bandwidth takes on an even more prominent role, especially when we talk about such things as full-motion video and enhanced communications tools, such as unified messaging.

Some of the additional benefits of a fiber-based system include scalability and reliable transmission. Add this to the future-proofing aspect and the increased access speeds and you can easily see why many customers eventually choose fiber when they undertake a complete system revamp.

Another benefit of a fiber-based system is the ability to eventually roll out a converged network. Since converged Internet protocol (IP) networks seem to remain all the rage, many end-users need to know that the newly integrated structured cabling system they just agreed to migrate to will serve its purpose for future applications. Converged IP networks are popular because a network can migrate to more advanced applications, such as unified messaging, streaming media and intelligent call routing. Once again, migration is a key word. It seems as though the word “migration” has morphed from buzzword to essential industry lingo.

All of this adds up to a strong argument for fiber. But then again, there has always been a strong course of reasoning that pointed towards fiber-based networks and the associated benefits; it just took us all a few years to accept that fact.

Perhaps it is a little more difficult for those who have been involved in communications since its infancy, back when it was just another portion of an electrical system, to give up what we have worked with for so long. Although copper remains quite popular and prominent, it may be time to give fiber a second chance.

Whether or not you consciously decide, as a traditional electrical contractor or not, to become involved in migration techniques and tactics, you will probably be thrust into such a scenario sooner or later. Best-guess assumptions point towards sooner, since new applications are highly sought after and the burden of ensuring that everything works in harmony usually falls on the contractor. By taking innovative leaps forward in regards to migration methods, you may save yourself trouble in the future. EC

STONG is the enterprise developer at G. R. Sponaugle & Sons, Inc., in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at 717.564.1515 or via e-mail at jennifer.stong@grsponaugle.com.