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Network Planning

A standard home or office network includes

  • Modem. It can be Cable modem or DSL modem depending on your Internet Service Provider (ISP). The dial-up connections are very rare nowdays, and we can probably skip them in this review. Although there is one more type of Internet connection using mobile phones, but it's rather unique and works mostly as a temporary mobile solution on-the-road, than for everyday home or office usage because of the slow speed and higher price.
  • Router (wired or wireless). It's usually a separate small box, often black, with multiple LED lights, with a built-in or more often external power supply. Every time when you browse a network computer, print something on your network printer, or go to the Internet, this device makes that possible. Sometimes people use an older computer with two network cards as a router. It's possible using Windows or Linux. If you decided to use Linux your computer can be much older, weaker, but even this computer will be able to provide a very good connection an even to work as a Print Server at the same time. Most of Linux based systems are free and can be downloaded and installed on any computer, but in many cases, if you don't know about this system, it will take a long time to understand how it works to properly install and configure it. There are also different operating systems especially created to work as Internet Routers and Firewalls. Most of them are Linux Based and some of them are free. One of the examples of such a system is Clark Connect The first few versions of Clark Connect were free. We downloaded, installed and tested these versions and were very impressed of the convenience and functionality. Once the system installed you can shut the monitor down and even unplug it. Everything can be configured using the browser connected to your Clark Connect server. Those who want to read about this system can go to the Clark Connect Web site.
  • Computer(s). It can be only one Desktop computer, Laptop, PDA, Netbook or Tablet PC, but if you are still using at least one item from this list it's already a network. The number of computers can vary. If the network has too many computers, at least more than the number of maximum possible connections to the Router described above, you need an network switch or rather hub.
  • Network Hub or Network Switch. The history and review of both types of devices can be found at these links. The most important thing to know is that: "A network hub is a fairly unsophisticated broadcast device. Hubs do not manage any of the traffic that comes through them, and any packet entering any port is broadcast out on all other ports. Since every packet is being sent out through all other ports, packet collisions result—which greatly impedes the smooth flow of traffic".
    There is one more thing that should be noticed about hubs. If you have a mixed network with devices working at different speeds, say, 10 mb/s and 100 mb/s, or more likely 100 mb/s and 1 gb/s, then the Hub will significantly decrease the speed of the whole network. The reason is simple - your network will be working at the speed of the slowest device of the entire network because of the hub. Say, if the slowest device of your network works at 10 mb/s (maximum - 1 mb/s, realistically much slower because of collisions), then the entire network will work at the same speed regardless of your computers, having gigabit network cards. As a result you slow the whole network down in approximately 100 times! To avoid that and make your network much more efficient you'd better consider buying a Gigabit Network Switch.
  • Sometimes the home network can include one or more network printer, network scanner, network storage system, surveillance or any other IP camera, Digital Video Recorder (DVR) (to update firmware, program list and download TV shows from the Internet), Home or Office Surveillance System (you can access it from any location in the world having Internet connection, you can even use your mobile phone to get a real-time video or receive emergency reports from your home surveillance system sitting on the beach), Sony Play Station (to play games with your Internet friends, watch your home photos, videos, listen to the music right on your home TV or Media Center, finally to update the games, buy new ones or simply browse Internet), Mobile Phone with WiFi connection to send/receive messages, browse Internet, download maps, find locations and services, chat with the friends, send photos and videos, etc., Nintendo DS (can also be used to browse Internet), Sony Play Station Portable (PSP), Wii, IP Phones, and many other devices. The list is endless and it's getting longer and longer with every second. Even fridges are able to connect to the Internet, scan the bar codes, access selected online retailers, order food, etc.! Or imagine Net Microwaves using the scanned bar codes and Internet connection to define the optimum time and power level to cook a perfect food!

So you can see that the Network can be configured in multiple ways and support a number of different devices from entertainment to kitchen, from office computers to phones, from business applications to games, from video and photo to audio. And how efficient and stable your network is, really depends on its configuration, both hardware and software.


Network Planning

There is a pretty simple set of basic advices to configure your network. But first, even before you started installation, you need to answer the following questions to understand what you really need to do to get it right. The list is short, just 11 Ws.


11 Ws

  1. What network you want to install, should it be 100 mb or 1 gb?
  2. What connection should be used, wired or wireless, and do you really need wireless for your home or business?
  3. What devices you will use on this network, how many, and what are their locations?
  4. What is the schema of your network, how many wall jack plugs should be installed and where exactly, their design, what are the distances between these devices and router or switch depending on the network schema to get the total length of the cable that you need to buy and then install, the length of flexitube and/or plastic guard rails, is it possible to put the cables inside the walls, or it's easier to make a few holes and put the cable outside the house in flexiguard tubes?
  5. Where is your Internet Connection entry point?
  6. Where should you place hub or better switch?
  7. What will be the maximum number of simultaneously working devices to simply buy the right switch?
  8. What kind of house or apartment you live in, take a closer look at walls, interrupting your Wireless connection or at least making it unstable, and how long should be the radius of your Wireless connection?
  9. Where are the wireless networks installed by your neighbours? There are many freeware wireless scanners to look around and see if your area is very busy and if you probably never get a good wireless connection because yours will be interrupted by other wireless networks.
  10. Wireless home phones. We got one confirmed reproducible case when the home wireless phone was causing the whole network failure every time when the owner was talking on this phone. We intentionally don't show the brand names of the hardware and parameters and settings of this network, but this info can be available upon request.
  11. WEP. This point is very important. Security is always critical for any network. But here is another problem. If you but a very powerful router supporting all different protocols, security features, etc., it's not necessarily, that your network devices will be able to support all that. As a result you will need to intentionally decrease the security level to get all your devices working. This is a very popular problem with some gaming devices like Nintendo DS, Sony Play Station, etc. They simply don't support the latest technologies and you can't use the maximum security if these devices are connected to your network. So this is your choice how to avoid this problem.

 

Network Configuring

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