Which cable to wire a small office?

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BDK
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Which cable to wire a small office?

Post by BDK » Thu Jan 21, 2016 4:13 am

We will be building a small office - 6 users, perhaps 10 computers, at the most.

We plan on putting all the computers in one secured closet, and putting monitors and keyboards/thin clients etc in the offices

Any suggestions?

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Denis
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Re: Which cable to wire a small office?

Post by Denis » Thu Jan 21, 2016 9:01 am

Go down to the local electrical wholesalers and ask for a carry-pack (300 metres) of whatever "CAT" rigid (not stranded)cable is being used for networks these days, plus a 48-port patch panel and twice as many wall receptacles as you think you'll ever need.

http://www.amazon.com/TRENDnet-Unshield ... atch+panel

You might need a couple of struts to mount the panel, or it'll mount in a standard 19" enclosure, which the shop will sell too. IIRC CAT5e cabling can be done without fancy shielding, but CAT6 and above needs it, or at least works better with it. Over the short runs in a small office, you'll not notice any difference in performance or reliability between Cat5e and Cat6, but 5e is easier and quicker to wire up.

While you're there, you can probably get the shop to recommend someone to install it - it's not rocket science - just run everything in a star configuration, with the patch panel and server cabinet location at the focus. While you're at it, double the lines, so you can run your phones as well.

The only slightly tricky part is making the connections at the patch panel and the receptacles. These days, those are all nicely colour-coded on the hardware, and can usually be done without special tools (buy a decent brand of hardware to get those features). Ask the store for hardware that doesn't require a punch-down tool.

Special tools - get a pair of good (usually German or Swiss) small, pointy sidecutting pliers (dykes) for snipping the cable neatly, and a network cable tester like this one, for testing that the runs are wired correctly and the conductors are not damaged:

http://www.dx.com/p/3-in-1-rj45-network ... ester-4439

Or buy good dykes, plus a network toolkit:
http://www.dx.com/p/wlxy-wl-1101-repair ... ite-313677

I used to make my own patch cables and outlet-to-device cables by buying a roll of stranded cable, and crimping on the RJ45 connectors, but professionally-made cables are so cheap now, and available in all colours and lengths, that there's no point:
http://www.dx.com/s/network+cable

BDK
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Re: Which cable to wire a small office?

Post by BDK » Fri Jan 22, 2016 12:44 pm

OK. From what I read, I should either use Cat 6a, or fiber...

We are starting from scratch - does fiber make more sense?

Is there a "build a network" site? Where I can pick up all the wall connectors, cables, routers, etc I would need?

I'm thinking more about running fiber for the internal network, if it is expensive, as that's the one I care about, and running Cat 6a for the Internet one

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Denis
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Re: Which cable to wire a small office?

Post by Denis » Fri Jan 22, 2016 2:43 pm

BDK wrote:OK. From what I read, I should either use Cat 6a, or fiber...

We are starting from scratch - does fiber make more sense?

Is there a "build a network" site? Where I can pick up all the wall connectors, cables, routers, etc I would need?

I'm thinking more about running fiber for the internal network, if it is expensive, as that's the one I care about, and running Cat 6a for the Internet one
References. Try these, the "For Dummies" books and YouTube.

http://derose.net/steve/guides/wiring/
http://wolandblog.com/upload/Cabling_Th ... Wiring.pdf
http://www.practicallynetworked.com/
http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/basics/lanwan-basics
http://lifehacker.com/how-to-wire-your- ... -480020760

Sorry, I know nothing about optic fibre cable, though I rather suspect it is rather more involved and more expensive to set up than CAT5 / CAT6 copper cable. The networking hardware (switches, routers, patch gear, network cards/ports) will probably be more expensive too. On the positive side, it probably offers better future-proofing.

However, I suspect that copper cable would be a better deal for a small office - I doubt the performance difference would be noticeable, unless you're constantly doing video editing or graphics-intensive file transfers; the network will only run as fast as the slowest component anyway, and you'll still need to run copper cables for your phones.

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Rustyv
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Re: Which cable to wire a small office?

Post by Rustyv » Fri Jan 22, 2016 4:35 pm

I scope projects at work a couple times a week for new office buildings, shops, and other types of locations. Some basic rules of thumb:

1. Unless you're running over 300 ft between network hardware (routers, switches, etc) costing a several grand each, or have specific speed requirements (10Ge), you don't need fiber. It's expensive if you don't already have the right tools, finicky, and has to be protected with conduit or armored cable.

1a. Don't run fiber to the end user. It annoys everybody.

2. There's no noticeable difference in performance between CAT5e and CAT6. Use what you already have the tools for, or what's cheap and locally available.

3. Always run more cable than you think you'll need. Our standard is 4 jacks per wall in an office (16 total network jacks), and 4 jacks per cube.

4. Speed pull (4 or more Ethernet cables bound together) makes installation much easier.

5. Run everything to a patch panel, then short jumpers over to the switch. That way if you need to reconfigure to support an analog phone/fax/modem, you change it at the patch panel instead of running new wire.

5a. Patch panels are a gift from on high. Punch down blocks are the work of the devil.

With all that said, your network is only going to be as fast as its slowest component. If your primary focus is moving data between devices inside the network, then splurge on a good gigabit switch and make sure your wiring is gigabit compliant (hard to mess up these days)

If, however, web surfing is your primary use case, then spend your money on good internet service. All the local bandwidth in the world won't make a crappy DSL line any faster.

Let me know if you need something specific. I do this on a regular basis for my company and personal clients.
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BDK
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Re: Which cable to wire a small office?

Post by BDK » Sat Jan 23, 2016 1:05 am

OK, so I need to find a "dummies" book on this.

We have an accounting program - Sage 50, which is a grossly inefficient bitch, but has years of records and is difficult to convert.

We want to have 5 users on it, either with computers networked together or clients and a server - everything is getting locked in a closet, but nothing more than 20 yards from one another

We will have another network for Internet, and separate computers for that. We intend to walk off the production scheduling/inventory management/nutrition analysis program, and any accounting programs/employee records/etc completely.

BobbyK
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Re: Which cable to wire a small office?

Post by BobbyK » Sat Jan 23, 2016 1:33 am

Sage 50 is a bitch to get working well on a terminal server, and it's exceedingly sensitive to network issues. If you're going to self-install (which unless the environment is bare studs when you start, I strongly DISRECOMMEND), you need to borrow or rent a GOOD certification tester to make sure that then cabling is good, not a simple continuity tester.

Greg
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Re: Which cable to wire a small office?

Post by Greg » Sat Jan 23, 2016 1:43 am

BDK wrote:OK, so I need to find a "dummies" book on this.

We have an accounting program - Sage 50, which is a grossly inefficient bitch, but has years of records and is difficult to convert.

We want to have 5 users on it, either with computers networked together or clients and a server - everything is getting locked in a closet, but nothing more than 20 yards from one another

We will have another network for Internet, and separate computers for that. We intend to walk off the production scheduling/inventory management/nutrition analysis program, and any accounting programs/employee records/etc completely.
That's easy to do if you do what Rusty suggested. Multiple network drops in each cube/office, each connected to a patch panel in a central location. You can do anything you want/need at the patch panel.

You can run patch cables so that, say, network drop 1 in every cube is connected to one switch, and network drop 2 in every cube is connected to a different switch. Which means 2 *completely* different and separate physical networks. (Yes you can do it with one switch and vlans, but that's more complex, riskier, requires more expensive hardware and a more expensive network admin.)

At my last job I had multiple network drops under my desk for different networks, and multiple computers on my desk connected to those different networks.

Use different color patch cables. They come in multiple colors for a reason. ;)
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BDK
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Re: Which cable to wire a small office?

Post by BDK » Sat Jan 23, 2016 2:04 am

The environment doesn't even have studs :lol:

We think we will be using Cresco lite blocks to build the partitions inside an existing steel building

http://crescoconcrete.com/liteblok/

BobbyK
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Re: Which cable to wire a small office?

Post by BobbyK » Sat Jan 23, 2016 2:30 pm

Then please pull what Today-you would consider more cables than you would ever possibly need. Because Future-you will thank you for it.

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