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My company is moving to a new place, and the only thing I know about the cabling is that there are cables and a patch panel. I have no idea about the cable speed, quality, and I'm a software guy with little IT knowledge.

What should I do to audit the installation, and check that it is sane? Should I buy a device such as Pinger+ or can I do it with software tools?

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Depending on the size of your company, I'd suggest bringing a local IT/cabling shop to do this for you. A good labeling/inventory is smart and would reap years of benefits. –  TheCleaner Sep 12 '12 at 16:24
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@TheUnixJanitor They happen because this question solicits opinions and thats not a good fit for Q&A, plus the FAQ asks for everyone to avoid these types of questions. I wouldn't be surprised to see a close follow. –  Brent Pabst Sep 12 '12 at 16:37
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A broad question is sometimes justified if the answers are good. People who are new to certain aspects of computing ("I'm a software guy with little IT knowledge") sometimes do not have sufficient knowledge to ask very specific Q&A questions. I don't like to punish newbies, when all they are doing is asking a question and asking an answer, and will hopefully hone-in on a few specifics for their next question. –  Stefan Lasiewski Sep 12 '12 at 17:22
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I know cost is King these days, but why not get expert help. There are companies out there that won't charge the earth for what you want. We work with Data Path (data-path.co.uk). Their guys are hardworking and efficient and there costs for site surveys are suprisingly good. –  Simon Catlin Sep 12 '12 at 18:52
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@StefanLasiewski +1 for respecting newbie...remember we all use to be one...and all wished we would get an answer other than RTFM. –  Alex Sep 12 '12 at 19:01
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1 Answer

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Question is a bit broad but i believe it's still valid for this site. A good initial site survey is very important.

Depending on the scale of this, you may need a professional networking company to run the survey for you. I will assume that this has a learning purpose so i'll list what we do when we go to a new site.

Disclaimer: a proper network survey is both physical hard work and a matter of fine details, do not take anything for granted and write down everything and take lots of visual documentation (bring a digital camera with you and abuse it).

Also, request a floor plan to the construction company if it's a new building or to the previous owner if it's an old one.

You need to check these things:

  1. How many workers will the structure have to accomodate? Will there be temporary stations? (such as commuting managers from a different city etc.)

  2. Is this a converged, structured cabling or a simple, lowbie installation? You can tell this by checking if there are only twisted pair, TIA/EIA-568-compliant cables or old analog phone cabling as well.

    Depending on your local safety regulation, you might have to check if the network outlets share a wall box with power outlets. In many countries this is out of spec and at least in Italy you get very big fines if that is still the case when an inspection happens.

    The presence of a dedicated network room and some facilities on every floor (cabinets, cable guides, under-floor cable baskets) to seat network equipment is also indication of a structured site.

  3. What category are cables and network access points in the various rooms? A net access point is the network jack on a wall , usually close to (but not next to)a power outlet. They should be Cat.5e or Cat.6 depending if the designer meant for it to be a 100 mbps or 1 Gbit network. All the pieces of the chain need to be of a given Cat. number. If you have different cat. numbers (eg: network outlets are cat5, cables are cat6, patch panel jacks are Cat.6a) you will have to assume the whole network is rated for the lowest Number. I would strongly advise to replace anything below Cat.5e in a modern installation.

    Why do you need to know the Cat. number? Because a Cat.5e is not really future proof and cannot operate at the frequencies the network of today/tomorrow will run at. It's a physical limitation due to the amount of twisting the cable received while being manufactured. Again, these are general rules for massive installations where everything needs to be according to specification. If you have 2 computers and a D-Link wifi router it doesn't really apply to you.

  4. You need a network topology document that contains all the mapping between network access points and patch panel jacks. The floor plan really helps here because you can just create a simple Visio diagram with the floor plan superimposed.

  5. Expanding on point 4, you need good network documentation. This is overlooked so much usually. How are you connected to the company WAN? what about the internet? Where does the carrier terminates the connections? You need to have a room or a space allocated for what is called a "demarcation point", which is where the ISP network ends and your company ones begins. This is usually a dedicated rack with a few ISP devices or a small C.P.E. (Customer Premises Equipment) box in smaller environments.

  6. Phones. Are you going for Voip? if yes, are you gonna use a solution that allows you to work with just one network access for both the work station and the phone? If that's a negative, remember to make an account of all the workers in the building and double that to have the amount of network accesses you will need. In BIG structures, i usually 2.05-2.1x that to allow for spare stations.

  7. If you have a dedicated network room, you need to acquire your local public safety regulations and accomodate room and budget for safety devices such as fire suppression, access restriction to the server room and so on. I've been setting up enterprise-level network rooms for 2 years now and i still contract this side of things, too easy to screw up and in Italy you need a license to install life-saving equipment.

  8. Your network room needs AC. Again, contract this side of things but be sure you have something dependable.

  9. How many power outlet do you have access to per seat? And for the server room (if any) how many Amps you have available for your equipment? (servers, UPS, power conditioners, networking equipment, shadow Bitcoin operation)

I'm sure the good folks at serverfault will fill in the blanks i surely left :)

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The only thing I would add to your answer is...how many electricity outlet do you have access to per seat. And for the server room (if any) how many Amps you have available for your potential servers. –  Alex Sep 12 '12 at 18:59
    
absolutely, i can't believe i thought of telephony, fire suppression and AC and NOT of power!! shame on me. –  ItsGC Sep 12 '12 at 20:11
    
This is terrific answer, will use it to convince my boss that it's not simple work and we need contractor for this. Thanks! –  CharlesB Sep 12 '12 at 21:41
    
@CharlesB Only thing I'd add to this answer is that in response to the explicit question about software vs hardware testing, to get a reliable reading, you need to use a dedicated hardware device with the right software on it, like a Fluke Networks cable tester (or the other big, well respected brand whose name escapes me). Or, for the several thousand dollars that device would cost, and adding the cost of labor hours of doing it all yourself, you'll spend less money to get a professional out to to the same thing, who'll also do it faster and better than you guys could in-house. –  HopelessN00b Genius of network Sep 13 '12 at 2:50
    
Time is of the essence for you. Once desks, filing cabinets, and other furniture starts getting moved in, it becomes much, much more labor intensive to do the survey. –  Brian Sep 13 '12 at 19:38
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