Building your LAN network Step by Step Guide Banner

First post and we dive straight in. However, a short introduction on the objectives of the blog. Simply to educate, simplify and clarify IT. . .see how i left out entertaining. . .be ready to be bored!! (kidding . . cool stuff only . .cool stuff). The goal is to break down the building blocks of a complex IT system to simple easily understandable concepts. In this blog therefore, the focus is to explain, in simple plain English IT design concepts, Solutions and Technologies. I write about what I come across on a day to day basis in the course of my work with a look of how to do things the right way. Your comments and views are welcome, however, I appreciate constructive contribution. I believe that’s good enough introduction. I am a man of few words, and here I am writing a blog . . . 🙂

Moving on, I will begin with the basics and to make it easy, I will make reference to a start up company, VirginKitchen Limited (their core business, that’s a story or blog for another day). This will be our so called scenario business with whom we will walk the IT journey to drive the message home. As an introduction, VirginKitchen has finally grown to the point where they now require a move in to a more professional office after years operating from the homes of its founders. Besides the office renovation work, they need to build an effective Local Area Network. Building their simple LAN for their 20 staff members is the first responsibility that this post needs to deliver.

As a start up, as is the case for many small businesses, network implementation objectives will be similar while building a LAN. The LAN needs to be scalable, cost effective, flexible, efficient, of high quality, and standardized. The network needs to grow with the company as it grows in the number of users, devices and applications. The cost of implementing the network needs to provide value for money while delivering its expectations now and adapt to changes in the future with minimal changes. There are several standards of implementation and quality that need to met as well. ( In the next post, we will discuss the LAN standards available that will guide the design).

The first step, besides understanding the expected deliverables of the network, it to understand the requirements. VirginKitchen have an office space to house there 20 staff members as they look to start their operations with 18 desks. As they move in to their office, they expect to be moving in with the following devices and equipment.

  • 15 x desktop computers
  • 3 x laptops
  • 2 x network printers
  • 1 x file server
With a clear understanding of what will be plugged into the network, I will now go through a detailed specification on how to build the bill of materials (BoM) needed to build the LAN for VirginKitchen step by step.
Step 1: List the network requirements
18 dual network points at each of the desks (total of 36 network points). At this point, its not a concern of who sits where.
2 printer network points (the printer point can be dual for redundancy)
Step 2: Work on a BoM detailing the required equipment categorized into Vertical cabling and Horizontal cabling.
Vertical cabling: List all the items that will be at the Network cabinet. Since this is a single office, only one cabinet is required at this point.
  • Network Cabinet (the size will be determined by the equipment to be housed in the cabinet)
  • Switches (Active equipment of the network)
  • Patch Panels
  • Cable Managers
  • 1M Patch cords
  • Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) (this is to protect the expensive active equipment. the capacity is determined by the power load connected to it)
Horizontal cabling: List all equipment and accessories required to run cable from the cabinet to the user’s device.
  • Untwisted Pair Cable ( UTP cable)
  • Face Plate
  • UTP Module
  • 1/3/5/10M Patch cords (the lenth is a matter of choice and requirement)
  • Trunking (the size and design is also a matter of choice and requirement)
  • Knock Outs
  • Patress Boxes
  • Flexible conduits (size is a matter of choice and requirement)
  • UPS. This will be used at each of the desks and printer locations. The choice for a desk based UPS is to keep the costs low.

With the BOM list complete, this becomes our guide into developing a complete BoM with specific quantities needed to meet our requirements.

Step 3: Specify the quantities depending on the requirements providing more details and information on the specific product proposed.

Total Points = 40+1 server ((18 desks+2printers) x dual points=40points)
Vertical cabling:
  • 1 x 18U wall mount 800×600 19″ Network Cabinet (18U is adequate to accommodate the rack equipment. Total space utilization, 12U). the rest of the space will be utilized for future devices
  • 1 x 4 Port Wireless router
  • 2 x 24 port 10/100 PoE Switches (41/24=1.7 therefore 2 switches needed to cover all points)
  • 2 x 24Port UTP Patch Panels (worked out in the same way as the switches)
  • 2 x Cable Managers (equals the number of patch panels)
  • 40 x 1M UTP Patch cords (equals the total number of points)
  • 1 x 1KVA rack mount true online Uninterrupted Power Supply (rating determined by the load and expected time the UPS will provide power to the equipment)
Horizontal cabling: List all equipment and accessories required to run cable from the cabinet to the user’s device.
  • 1200m x UTP cable ( the length is determined by Avg length of the cables per point x number of points). An allowance should always be provided to cover for calculation error and the unusable chucks that are left in a box.
  • 20 x Dual UTP Face Plate (The faceplate can be dual or single depending on the number of points to be terminated)
  • 40 x RJ45 UTP Module (Modules are filled in the face plates are will equal the number of points)
  • 20 x 3M Patch cords. 3M is desired for this scenario. Each device will utilize one point. In this case, there is a redundancy (extra point) for every device.
  • 30pcs x 2.4m 50×100 metal Trunking. (the quantity is determined by the office layout and the route of the cabling)
  • 20 x Knock Outs (equals the number of face plates)
  • 20 x 650VA UPS (one for each desk). The key goal of the UPS is to provide protection to the devices and provide some limited power backup.

Labor and testing charges should not be forgotten as well.

Step4: The next step is to determine the specific products to use from the many available vendors and manufacturers. In this step, I will provide a brand preference from my own professional opinion and with no intentions to market one brand over the other. . . You are welcome to explore what is available out there in the market.

  • Cabinet: Toten/or any available good quality local brand. A good quality cabinet will be based on the accuracy of its design, the quality and strength of the metal, the ventilation design and considerations, and the access panel design.
  • Switches and router: NetGear: For the switches, the choice of NetGear is to have a cost effective switch, that delivers business class performance and more so the advantages of lifetime warranty. NetGear performance is exceptional with support for all switching technologies required in a small business environment.
  • Cabling: Connectix/Siemon. The quality of cable and the guarantee thereof is of paramount importance to a network and the quality can only be determined over time. Replacing the same may be very expensive and time consuming. Considering the total cost of the cabling requirements of the cabling from all vendors rather than component to component would also be important.
  • UPS: Tripplite/APC/Mecer. the differentiating factors would be pricing in terms of which UPS to utilize for the small UPS systems.

Step 5: The next step would be to seek pricing for the equipment from multiple vendors available and procure the specific equipment ensuring your receive value for money by sourcing the solutions to credible suppliers who understands the solutions and can hold our hands after the sale. Its good practice to confirm the credibility of the supplier by talking to the manufacturer though a quick email or phone call. The supplier with the best priced price needs to give you best payment terms. If agreeable, please keep your end of the deal and pay as agreed. The procurement process needs to be open, fair, ensuring that expectations are clearly explained. It is necessary to invite the vendors, to make a brief visit to the office site to ascertain the scope of the work and allow them to familiarize them selves to ensure all aspects of the works are understood.

Once the favorable vendor is selected, and the appropriate equipment purchase, the work can commence. In this post, i will use a vendor to implement the works. However, all aspects of the how the job is carried out will me managed and implemented as per VirginKitchen’s expectations and design.

Step 6: The network needs to be implemented in a simple way to ensure reduced total cost of ownership. The implementation, documentation and maintenance will be guided by a network implementation and maintenance policy.The description below is based on some guidance from a network policy.

My recommendation is to have the network points terminated at the user’s desks in order, from one part of the building to the other. In this case, the first network point (D1) should be terminated to the first port on the first patch panel (P1D1). This should then be patched to the first port of the first switch (S1D1). At the users end (faceplate), the point can easily be labeled as P1D1 all the way to P1D24. The point jump over to the next patch panel, and the labeling continues with P2D1 to P2D24 and so forth. The label at the faceplate should match the label at the patch panel, well done in clear indelible ink. This eases maintenance of network data points and configuration of the network as we will see later.

Cables should be run continuously from the patch panel to the faceplate module. They should me properly organized in the trunking and cable ways without tying them together. This ensures its easy to remove or relocate network points. Its good practice not to run network cable with power cabling. Its recommended to use two compartment trunking to separate power and data cabling.

Step 7: All points implemented should be tested, utilizing what is known as Fluke testing (we will have a discussion later on on fluke testing and how to understand fluke testing results) to ensure that the cable meets the expected quality and the implementation is as per the expected standards. The results of this testing can then be utilized to apply for long term ( on average 25 years) warranty of the cabling installation. For warranty to be provided, all cabling components in the cabling system should be from the same manufacture.

Step 8: Documentation is a key exercise to any IT project. . .I would say its a GOLDEN RULE. . .if you hate documentation, then you are in for a hard ride. LAN documentation is easily maintained by providing drawing representation of the implementation using the building layouts and cabinet layouts. The documentation needs to match the physical labeling on site. Multiple copies of the documentations should then be maintained. There are software tools available that assist in network documentation; SmartDraw, QonDoc, ConceptDraw, MSVisio,Net Zoom, LAN Surveyor etc.

Step 9: connect all the edge devices in to the network.

At this point, the physical network is done. Our focus will now move to configuring the network to ensure all users have internet access, email access, printer services, and the file server. A discussion on network logical design and configuration with feature on future posts. I will also focus in one more future post, detailed technical information with regards to structured cabling systems and implementation.