Getting older, not necessarily wiser!
This series of posts will discuss the various trials and tribulations I have been through while setting up my Local Area Network (LAN). We will be touching on some basic LAN concepts while discussing the naming scheme I am currently using.
Various people have asked me for help setting up, updating, and repairing their home networks for a variety of issues. One thing I have noticed, most people do not have a plan. Most of the time they have what the ISP provided them. And in many cases they have piecemealed additional components into their LAN.
Basically I want to start from ground zero with no LAN at all, and walk though my thought process for planning and documenting on the road to what I have now.
Lets start off with some basic information. A LAN is a computer network within a designated small area (like your house, apartment, or even a small office if you run a business). It basically allows computers to talk to each other. We will be focusing on the home LAN. For a discussion of Internet Service Providers (ISP), see this post.
Technically there are two basic ways to connect to a LAN, wired and wireless. Wired requires physical wringing (network cables) to be installed everywhere you want to connect. Wireless uses broadcast signals to connect (kind of like TV or Radio). You do not need physical connections with wireless, however there are range and speed limits. You need to have good signal strength and signal quality to connect. To blanket a home with WiFi might require adding multiple access points.
In the above discussion wired generally refers to CAT5 Ethernet cable, and Wireless generally refers to WIFI on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. However there are some variations on this, which will be discussed in a future post.
For performance, security, and privacy, wired is generally preferred. Wired will always have a higher speed cap and a lower latency.
The first thing I like to do when planning a LAN, is acquire or create a floor plan. If one is not available, it is a simple job to draw one (this might depend on how elaborate your home design is). Now look at the floor plan and decide where you will need LAN access.
Also decide on a DEMRAC point (this will be where you connect to the internet, when we get to that). Note you may not have much choice on a DEMARC if your house is already wired for cable or fiber. For new service, you can have the ISP installer put it where you want.
If you are going to be using wireless, a good rule of thumb is a range of about 30 to 40 feet in wood frame construction. The presence of metal (ducts and vents) and other more solid construction (like concrete) can reduce the range.
When you purchase Internet access, your ISP will generally provide some sort of equipment. Regardless of the ISP this will generally be some multi functional device that serves as a modem, router, WiFi Access Point (AP) and possibly a switch. Your ISP may or may not charge you a rental fee for this equipment, check your bill. In some cases you can purchase your own equipment. Here are two recent examples.
In the last townhouse I lived in, I had cable internet. I also had my own cable modem, WiFI Router, and switch. So I had no ISP equipment.
In my current place, I have an optical modem/router/WiFi/switch provided by the ISP. I am not being charged for the equipment, so I have not tried to find replacements.
Any hardware you have will generally have a default setup in the 192.168.X.X private IP address range (see this post). You can pick any of the Private IP addresses you want, but they should all be on the same segment (if you are using a standard net mask of 2126.96.36.199). What this means is the first three numbers of your IPv4 address should be the same for all devices on your LAN.
If planning to go totally wireless, try to center your wireless router in your home for best coverage from one AP.
If you want to go with wired, but not pull cables through walls, you can use various electrical raceways that surface mount or run along the floor to set up your cabling. This will depend a lot on your architecture, and whether you rent or own.
Depending on what your ultimate goals are, you may be able to repurposed existing hardware in your network layout. In my current setup I repurposed a couple of old routers I found at the thrift store to act as wireless access points. I also repurposed an older DELL Optiplex to be a server. So take a look at what equipment and hardware you have laying around. And don’t forget to visit your local thrift shops. A lot of them have some networking hardware in stock now days.
In this post we have looked at some basic high level things you should consider before setting up your LAN. Specifically the coming up with a proposed physical layout.
Over the next several posts we will complete the planning phase, and move into actual physical setup.
In the next post we will tackle naming schemes for things on your LAN
Planning: My LAN Part 1