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The company for which I work have allowed me to hire a LAN wiring contractor to completely overhaul the building LAN. Currently there are old 10MBit Ethernet cables and switches running and I requested Gigabit LAN with a new power managing switch and wifi AP on each of the two floors. Currently there are about 10 computers on each floor. No server.

We are switching to a cloud-based financing system, hence needing a good internet connection. We are also planning deployment of Google Apps as well as upgrading to a 20MBit downstream internet connection (currently 5MBit). I see Google Apps have a technical best practise page; ideas?

Question is: Are there any services and/or tips/tricks I shall request from the contractor to make sure nothing commonly known is overseen? I don't want to miss out on simple great fixes! :-)

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closed as not a real question by joeqwerty, Ward, kce, MadHatter, John Gardeniers Jan 24 '13 at 8:58

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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What exactly do you want to know? This question is all over the place. Is this a wiring contractor that will be pulling new cable in your walls? A network engineer that will be installing and configuring a new route-switch environment? A systems admin that will be configuring google apps for your company? –  MDMarra Jan 24 '13 at 3:44
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"Currently no employees use networking features nor network printers" - Hmmm... then you really don't need a network. –  joeqwerty Jan 24 '13 at 3:45
    
Sorry for the messy question. I am just trying to cover my bases not knowing enough of this myself. Yes, it is a wiring contractor who will pull new cables in the house as well as installing new switches and wifi APs. As I am not sure of the quality of my contractor, I was hoping to gain some insight in some best practises to avoid overseeing some typical network optimisations and/or tips/tricks commonly known. –  Henrik Söderlund Jan 24 '13 at 4:02
    
Well we do need a network as we need to distribute the internet connection in the building. More network collaboration is to come as well as networked printers, faxes and copying machines. –  Henrik Söderlund Jan 24 '13 at 4:04
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A link to the list of Canonical Questions would probably be more helpful. Simply looking at what's written on the cables is all I would expect from a non-technical user. He's probably writing the network policy/specificion, and it's unlikely to be a thourough document as it's a fairly small business. PCI compliance is a good question, though I'd hope he'd have a "real" System Admin if that was the case. It's best to shy away from storing Credit Card numbers and related.. –  Chris S Jan 24 '13 at 14:05

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

A few thoughts - no guarantees as I know extremely little about your office...

Wiring:

Gigabit Ethernet should be sufficient for the near future (next 5 to 10 years). It's hard to imagine this not being the case given the relatively slow progression of high speed Internet connections in most places. You'll be looking for Cat5e (not anything else).

Side note for those who think they know about Ethernet cabling categories: Cat3 will do 10Mbps. Cat5 = 100Mb. Cat5e = 1Gb. Cat6a = 10Gb. Cat7a = 40Gb (and 100Gb at short distance). There's no reason to use Cat4, Cat6, or Cat7 as cheaper cables are just as fast.

Make sure they use a patch panel. It's a little extra cost, but saves a world of headache in organization, reconfiguration, and basically any time there's a modicum of change.

Switching:

The core of the network is the switch, you'll want something managed, but seeing as you only have about two dozen endpoints you'll want to stick to the lower end of that spectrum. The quick and dirty requirement is that the switch has a "console" port (this will be a physical connection as pictured below). I highly recommend Cisco, ProCurve, Juniper, or Extreme (though others are acceptable compromises when budget demands).

Cisco ConsoleHP ConsoleJuniper Console

Having a managed switch enable a wide variety of possible upgrades, configurations, and utility in solving odd problems. I'd suggest something like the ProCurve 2510-48G; ProCurve gear comes with a transferable lifetime warranty and software upgrades, and it's generally easy to find on secondary source markets (eBay) at very cheap prices. (Full disclosure: I have no interest/affiliation with HP/ProCurve, just a fan of their products).

As for switch quantity and location; I your office seems small enough that you could get away with a single 48 Port switch (a typical office needs about twice as many Switch Ports as there are employees, for printers, servers, and other odd devices that get plugged in). each port on a Gigabit Ethernet switch is capable of 1Gbps in both directions. The switch itself has a backplane capacity, called the switching fabric. If all 48 Ports want to talk to someone else at their full 2Gbps then the switching fabric has to be able to get all those connections to their destinations. Within a modern switch this is no problem.

If instead you get two 24 Port switches, you still have 48 Ports total, but the two switches have to be connected to each other. If you use a single Port on each to connect them, then you have two halves of the network and a 2Gbps bottleneck in-between. There are switches with 10Gb (or rarely 40Gb) connections that can reduce the effects of the bottleneck; but they cost more, and the cable to connect them costs more. You can also bond multiple cables between the two switches, if you used two cables you could get 4Gb total. Which also adds redundancy. Say you only use one cable, if it gets damaged (kicked, unplugged, "oops", etc) then half of your network becomes disconnected. If you're using two cables then both would need to be damaged. And you can generally add up to four if you want. Using two switches is simpler in some ways, especially for the installer. But it does have drawbacks, and the solutions to those are complicated.

Wireless:

You mentioned two APs already; which sounds roughly correct for a smaller office. If your environment is "clean" (no other wireless networks or sources of noise around), or if you're willing to accept "less than great performance" then consumer SOHO gear works. If you want reliable performance and problem mitigation then you should be looking at the same manufacturers listed above (there are other good names out there, prices will be similar). Make sure it's 802.11n, 5GHz, and at least 2SS (dual Spacial Stream; or more is better).

Router:

You don't mention what router you're using now. If it working well for you and can handle at least the 20Mb connection you're upgrading to, then it should be good enough at least for the time being.

If you're looking to change; same companies as listed above generally. But, it's really hard to argue against a Cisco ASA 5505, or similar Cisco router.

Labeling: Make sure everything is reasonable labeled. The wall jacks should be labeled with the patch panel somehow (even if it's just a "map" that shows Patch Panel Port 1 goes to 'this desk'). Extremely complete documentation is going to drive up the price, and a small business isn't like to use it often... But minimal labeling or mapping shouldn't cost extra and allows troubleshooting to be significantly easier in the even of problems.

Google Apps:

The above is really all a network of your size is going to need for an optimal Google Apps experience; or any cloud based solution for that matter. The technical guidance Google provides applies almost exclusively to large networks with problems you'll not encounter in small networks.

Other thoughts:

If you want to upgrade to an IP based phone system in the near future (VoIP) be sure to mention that as it may affect the choice of equipment for some of the above. VoIP systems are a somewhat expensive investment however, it would certainly be a lot to do all at once.

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I would argue for Cat6 cabling rather than Cat5e. –  Paul Gear Jan 24 '13 at 5:07
    
Your answer is simply AWESOME! Exactly the type of information I was looking for! Keep it coming! The current contractor did not talk about these options at all. I will take all your points and re-discuss with him directly. Many thanks. I will give you the answer credits soon, hoping some more good points will come in too! –  Henrik Söderlund Jan 24 '13 at 12:03
    
@PaulGear what is your reasoning behind this? Interested to know as I also thought Cat6 was needed for gigabit...? –  Henrik Söderlund Jan 24 '13 at 12:04
    
Quick thought: The contractor already has suggested the use of two switches, one on each floor. What is the advantages of one switch vs. two? –  Henrik Söderlund Jan 24 '13 at 13:40
    
@PaulGear You would argue incorrectly. Cat5e is required for Gigabit Ethernet. Cat6 still only does Gigabit Ethernet and costs more; so you would be arguing for him to pay more, and get the exact same thing?? You probable meant Cat6a, which is capable of 10 Gigabit Ethernet, but it's not what you said. Cat6a is very expensive (about 5x the cost of Cat5e), and it's very unlikely that any smaller office would use it in the next 5-10 years. –  Chris S Jan 24 '13 at 13:41

I think Chris S's suggestions are all good ones, aside from my minor quibble about cabling standards.

I would add that you should insist on a map of the exact locations of all data points, and labeling which matches exactly on the patch panel and the wall socket. Many cabling contractors i've encountered are less than enthusiastic about documentation.

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