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LAN & WAN Basics

The Pre-Planning Process

Once you have made the commitment to installing a network within your home, the next choice, as we have discussed, is determining the type of network that best suits your applications. In our case, we chose 100-Mbit switched Ethernet as the backbone of our network. And from a performance and convenience standpoint, we opted to sprinkle in a little wireless and 100-Mbit Ethernet as well.

After looking at all of the possible options for Internet connectivity, we were lucky enough to be able to consider five different options for connectivity. After spending considerable time weighing the pros and cons of each of these options, we elected to go with business class cable modem service.

One of the two cable TV providers in our area has prioritized traffic on their cable connection by using a vaguely described method to give priority to business class customers over other users on their system. In addition, they offered a package that included twice the bandwidth than standard consumer class service for the same price. They do offer the option to upgrade to a more expensive package that offers more bandwidth and performance, at higher cost.

Additionally, business class service comes with an SLA (Service Level Agreement) that offers improved customer support and response times than that of the normal consumer level service. After using the business class service for about a month, we are happy with the performance, and it is clearly better than the standard consumer level cable modem service we have had previously.

Laying Out the Plans

The next step is to figure out what kind of design you need. Of course, some advanced planning as to where things are going to be is necessary. We started with a rough sketch of the basic floor plan of the house. If your home is new or if you are lucky enough to know whom its builder is, you might be able to get rough, "sales-style" drawings with a diagram of all of the rooms and floors of your house, which will make the process much easier.

In many cases you may be able to locate the actual blueprints of your house, which will make the process more exact, provided you know how to read the blueprints. The blueprints contain the actual room dimensions, which makes jack placement easier. One of the major complaints with wired solutions is jacks that turn out to not be conveniently located once the project is finished. The key to satisfaction is to do it right the first time.

We didn't do anything elaborate in these room drawings, but we had a sheet of paper representing each floor in the house and all of the rooms on each floor. Once we had drawings of all of the rooms, we selected the rooms and places within the rooms that we knew were going to require network connections. The network installation we did in our previous house taught us a valuable lesson: if in doubt, add more jacks, rather than subtract them from your plan. We learned from the other home installation done several years ago that those rooms where my wife initially vetoed a need for network jacks were the rooms where we later wished we had installed them.

Once you have figured out the most important locations for your required network jacks, we recommend that you consider other possible areas for future expansion of your network. As you will see in our design, we tried to anticipate our future needs by placing at least one jack in almost every room in the house. While this may sound a a bit overkill, our network infrastructure needs increased far more than we ever thought they would, and we were glad that the rooms with jacks were ready to be connected.

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