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Installing your network


I generally come across much confusion about what is involved in either an existing network or in what is involved in installing a new one such as when a business startup gets their first location.

I will cover the basic requirements for a successful network installation and key items for proper functionality. We will start at the router (sometimes provided by your Internet service provider). First you will need some basic information from your router and usually your service provider can help you log into your router and review the IP address information for your network. You will need the following for later.

1. You will need to know if you have a dynamic or static public IP address.

2. Your router’s internal IP address (this is also referred to as your network’s gateway address).

3. Verify that DHCP service is enabled on the router and what is the beginning and ending  address.

4. Verify your Internet service provider’s primary and secondary DNS addresses.

This is all the basic information required later to have a functioning network.

Now lets look at the hardware needed to make all the connections in your office.

Make sure you read the note below on the difference between CAT5, CAT6 and shielded cables and jacks.

We will cover the following items.

Routers

Ethernet Switches

Patch Cables

Patch Panels

Ethernet Cables

Wall Plates

Network Jacks

The differences between CAT5 and CAT6


1. Router preferably with a firewall and wireless service. These three features (Router, Firewall and Wireless) can be setup as separate devices depending on the network. Usually when they are setup as individual devices it is because of special features that are not available when you use an all in one router. Additionally if you have a small network comprised of two to three computers you might have either a DSL or cable modem attached between you service provider’s cable coming into your office and your router.

Netowrk Gear








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2. Ethernet Switch This is what manages all the network traffic from all computers, phones, printers (if network enabled), security cameras and just about anything else that needs to connect to the Internet. The number of ports must match the number of devices connecting to your network plus one for the router. You can find switches with 4, 5, 8, 12, 24 and 48 ports. You can also combine them so for example a 12 and 4 port switches will give you 14 ports not 16 as you loose two ports when you attach a patch cable to each.

Unless you have specific security needs you do not need a “Managed” switch so save the money for other items you will need. A managed switch enables you to assign specific devices to individual ports and on some even adjust the speed for each port. This is important if you don’t want someone to just walk up and plug into your network.

If you will be installing VOIP phones you should know that some switches have the POE (Power Over Ethernet) option. This will give you the ability to power your VOIP phones by just plugging them in to the network jack as the switch sends power along with the data down the same cable. This means that you will not need to have a transformer connected to a power outlet for each phone. Additionally if there is a power failure, One uninterruptible power supply on the switch will keep all your phones functioning. The phones must be compatible with POE.

Stacked Network Switches







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3. Patch Cables You will need patch cables to make connections from each of the switches' ports to each of the ports on the patch panel, VOIP phones, printers, desktops and servers. The length of these should as comfortably short as possible. You will also need a set of patch cables to attach your computers, phones or network enabled printers to the wall jacks.

Patch Cord



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4. Patch Panel This is where all the Ethernet cables connect that go out to each of the wall plates are terminated. The number of ports must match the number of cable runs coming back from the wall plates. It is not unusual to have a couple left unconnected that you can use in the future for expansion. When you purchase your punch down block remember that you need the stand off bracket to mount it and that if you get the type the has a hinge to swing it to one side you will make future modifications a lot easier for your self.  Before you start punching down your cables mount your patch panels backwards so your looking at the punch side so you can easily do your cable work while its held by the bracket. When your done just flip it back around and bolt it down.

Patch PanelStandoff Bracket





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5. Ethernet Cable This is the cable that you need to run between the patch panel and the wall plates. These are usually purchased in 500 or 1,000 foot spools. Sounds like a lot but it goes quick when you start installing it. You can also usually find these bundled with the tools that you will need to install it such a punch down tool and  a test toll to verify all conductors are connected and in the correct order.

If you are running more than one cable and connector to each wall plate such as one for computers and one for VOIP phones it is usually a good idea to purchase different colored spools so you can differentiate between all the cable runs. For example computers are connected to white cables and VOIP phones are connected to blue cables. Remember to keep your cable runs tied together and away from florescent light fixtures which can introduce “noise” in to the signal running through the cable. Additionally if you have multiple spools you can run them simultaneously so you don't end up making the same run multiple times.

Bulk Spool of Blue Cable







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6. Wall Plates This is the start of your cable runs. Depending on your network needs you can get wall plates for one, two, three, four or six network jacks. While you are running your cables it is usually a good idea to run additional cable runs for future expansion now and remember to use pull string on long runs and leave it accessible for future expansion runs. Also remember that these can be combined with different types of connectors such as phone connectors or coaxial for tv. You can even get some with HDMI, speaker connectors or even outlets.

Wall Plate Types







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7. Jacks These are pretty much the same type of jack that you will find on the patch panel. Some patch panels actually have this same exact type of jacks. In the same idea of running different color cables you should also follow along with different color jacks. For example white jacks on white cables and blue jacks on blue cables.

Front and Rear View of RJ45 Jack










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The differences between CAT5 and CAT6 Ethernet and Shielded cable and jacks.

The biggest difference between CAT5 and CAT6 is the speed of that data can travel on them. Generally CAT5 is good for up to 100 Mb. and CAT6 is good for up to 1 Gb. (100 times faster than CAT5). Now there are times when you need it, times you don't and times you don't need it yet.

Times you need it - Suppose you will have a file server and you will be using an application that transfers large amounts of data between the server and desktops inside the office. A faster speed will allow the application to react faster and respond smoother to the users needs.

Times you don’t need it - You don’t have a file server or you don’t have applications with large data transfer needs and you mostly work locally on each computer. Remember that average Internet speed is between 2 and 10 Mb. Running CAT6 at 1 Gb speed will not make your Internet speed any faster.

Times you don't need it yet - You are in the “don’t need it” group but are planing in the future to upgrade to a point where you will need the high speed.

Now let’s get to shielded cables and jacks. There is a school of thought that even back in the day when networks ran at 10 Mb that you absolutely needed to run shielded cable. Shielded cable was designed to keep electrical noise and static from entering the data stream going down the cable which would cause you to loose data. My opinion is yes there is a time and place to run shielded cable but this is limited to...

  1. You insist on running all your network cables laying directly on top of florescent lighting fixtures.
  2. You have the need to run you data cables in close proximity to power cables for long distances.
  3. You are installing a large web farm full or servers and or communications equipment.

As for shielded jacks, I have never come across a situation where a shielded jack fixed any type of issue!

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