Home Network Setup Best Practices

September 23, 2007 at 09:39:07
Specs: XP Home, 2 core 2ghz Intel, 2gigs
I am going to set up a home network that will reach into all 5 bedrooms in my house plus my home office. I want to set it up to at least a little "future proof," but my current set up is: XP Home Computer in my office, Vista home in one of the bedrooms, XP home in another bedroom, and a laptop with XP home as well.

What I'd like to do is set up a network with all those computers mentioned, plus I'd like a file server -- just a little crappy computer I can leave under my desk with a gratuitously large Hard drive that any computer on the network can access to store files (I can handle building that from a hardware perspective).

I want to be able to access any computer on the network via remote desktop, at least from my main office computer, but possibly have that ability between any two computers on the network.

I want to physically wire the bedrooms + office, but I'm concerned about the longevity of the cat5 cable. With wireless I'd replace the router and the adapter on the computer, but I'm not keen on rewiring my whole house every time a new type of cable becomes standard -- would cat6 sufficiently future-proof the wiring?

Also, what is the best way to run that wiring? How are wired networks generally wired? Do all the wires have one end at the end point, and one end where the hub sits, or can I splice wires and just have one coming into a hub or router?

What kind of network hub do you recommend for this sort of set up?

In addition, I'd like to use a wireless router to allow various small wireless devices to work (like, say, a Wii), and to allow for the laptop to travel freely in the house. The range based on the size of the house wouldn't be longer than 100 ft -- what type of router would you recommend for that?

Lastly, will this require changing operating systems to get the most out of it? I need Windows on the computers for software compatibility reasons, but would it be necessary to change to XP pro? Could I use some free Linux distro on the file server to save money?

For budget... I guess I don't have much of one, but realistically, I'd think the wiring I was looking at would be 100-200, the file server if I bought the parts online, maybe another 200, the hub I'm not sure -- 80? Router, about 80 to 100. XP Pro I might be able to get at a discount, but I guess I'm looking at like 700 for the whole shebang?

I am at your mercy, please enlighten me!

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September 23, 2007 at 10:11:10
you need a wire for each computer into the hub.
cat 5 will last forever.
cat6 is used for 1000 m nic cards for high speed transport of data. those cards are expensive.
'can' the server, get a usb 300-500 gig external drive, connect it to the host computer.
anyone on the network can upload to their own folder. not good to mix old technology with old.
external drive would be somewhat cheaper.
walmart has good belkin router with auto setup.
wiring on ebay bout 60.00. connectors are cheap there also.
get a 16 port hub for 20..00 on ebay.
my network is setup up similar.

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September 24, 2007 at 06:09:57
The present Cat5e standard cable will carry 1000 Mbps. I doubt you'll need more than that at home. You might want to spend the extra money and install Cat6 cable with an eye toward the future, but again, you're not likely going to need more than 1000 Mbps at home.

I'm a networking professional. One of my many duties is to do cabling when/if necessary. My house is cabled with Cat5e and I highly doubt I'll ever replace it with any standard unless we eventually get to the place where we can carry 10,000 Mbps to the desktop.

Your best bet is to have all cables terminate at the same place. Pick a central location where your incoming highspeed will be. You will want to use a patch panel at that end to terminate the cables to. This can be mounted on a wall. Install a shelf right below it (I recommend within 3 feet/1 metre) to hold your highspeed modem, router, and switch.

XP/Vista will all have remote desktop builtin. As far as your file server goes, if you're familiar with UNIX/Linux, by all means use it. It's free, secure and most distro's have all the necessary server services builtin (DHCP, DNS etc).

As for budget...you will want to buy your cable from a company that deals in wiring and cabling.....not from a computer store. You can get the faceplates and keystone RJ-45 jacks from supplier that handles those kinds of products. The jacks themselves run around 2-5 dollars a pop and the faceplates are usually under $2.00/apiece.

You will want at least one box of cable. Two is better as you can pull two cables at once and you will likely want two to each faceplate. This allows for growth and if you ever want VoIP, you have a second connection to each outlet.

For what it would cost, you may want to look into getting a quote from a professional cabling company or threee or four. It might be most cost effective to have it done professionally as you would still have to terminate (mind you, a punchdown tool isn't that expensive) and then test the cables after installing them.

I recommend you avoid hubs at all costs and use a switch. You'll want one with at the very least, as many ports as you'll be pulling cables. I have a 24 port switch at home but that's a bit of overkill in my case (we only have about 7 PC's and a laptop presently....although, my personal collection of PC's does tend to grow constantly).

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September 24, 2007 at 12:42:18
Thanks for the responses!

I have a couple of questions:

I was planning to buy the cable and jacks from Lowes, would they give comparable prices to a specialty wire shop?

Two wires to the jacks is a good idea, but I'm not scared of running the wire myself at all -- I didn't mention this in my post, but I've been renovating my house for a year, and after doing my own structural work, plumbing, and electric, drywall seems practically cosmetic, so running a few more wires around the house is no sweat -- I have all the tools and everything.

I don't know much about switches though -- what brands are good? What should I look to pay for one?

Thanks a lot.

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