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Most people understand the concept of a hybrid, especially in this era of technological advancement. Just look at the increasingly popular hybrid cars that offer the range and reliability of a gas-powered vehicle as well as the cost-saving and environmentally-friendly advantages of battery-powered automobiles. Hybrids are often the best of both worlds.

The same is true when it comes to other types of technology. Even if you don’t entirely understand how hybrid systems work, you can still see the benefits inherent to choosing systems that offer you the best features of two disparate technologies.

So when it comes to choosing an appropriate free space system for communications, you can understand why a hybrid link system might be preferable to a setup that is adept at dealing with rain but not fog, or vice versa. The truth is that most businesses simply want a system that works all the time, and a hybrid link system could provide the best opportunity for uninterrupted service.

Of course, with any technological hybrid, there are bound to be both benefits and drawbacks, and you want to go into this purchase with open eyes. So here are just a few pros and cons that should help you decide if a hybrid link system is right for you or if a more targeted free space system is in order.

PRO: Flexibility

It’s only natural to have a difficult time deciding between a system that offers free space optics (FSO) and one that relies on radio frequency (RF) to transmit data through the open air. They each have their own pros and cons.

FSO is most easily described as having the advantages of fiber optics (speed, clear transmission, etc.) with the added bonus that you don’t have to rely on cables for data transmission. Signals are instead sent through the open air from a transmitter to a receiver (hence the “free space” in free space optics).

The only downside is that the transmission range is relatively short and requires free, uninterrupted space for transmission. RF offers similar benefits, along with lower costs and longer ranges, generally speaking, but it also tends to suffer greater potential interference issues than FSO. It is also incrementally slower than FSO, but not so much that the average user would notice.

Each system has its benefits and drawbacks. Put them together, however, and you can take advantage of the benefits each has to offer. In other words, you can increase the flexibility of your operation with this hybrid link system.

If one technology isn’t suitable for your needs, the other option offers a backup so that you’re always covered. This is perhaps the biggest advantage of opting for a hybrid system.

PRO: Reliability

FSO, in and of itself, is fairly reliable when it comes to transmitting data over short distances. Even on a rainy day, for example, you could still expect to enjoy a fast, clear signal.

What if you’re in an area that experiences frequent fog, though? In such situations your FSO may not function optimally. Although FSO is usually the best option, there are certain scenarios in which RF may be preferable.

With a hybrid link system in place you’ll enjoy the greatest reliability. If one system is unable to transmit or receive a signal due to extenuating circumstances such as less-than-ideal weather conditions, the other can pick up the slack.

PRO: Redundancy

In business, this is often a four-letter word (unless you’re talking about data backups). In the case of free space transmissions, redundancy is not a necessity, but it certainly comes in handy. A hybrid link system ensures that you always have a transmission option available, even if one portion is temporarily unable to meet your needs.

CON: Additional Equipment

The biggest potential drawback to choosing a hybrid system when it comes to FSO is that you will have additional equipment requirements. This could mean that you need more available space to house equipment.

More important for most businesses, though, is the potential for increased costs associated with a hybrid link system. Not only is such a system likely to cost you more up front, but you could face additional costs for maintenance and repairs over time.

The costs may end up being negligible, especially when you factor in the cost savings associated with increased functionality of your hybrid link system. However, it pays to understand the potential costs and the benefits that may offset them before you select a suitable free space system for your business operation.

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