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LAN & WAN Basics

Cable Verification & Adding Wireless

One big advantage of using a contractor is the fact that they normally test the installation to certify that the cabling is installed correctly and that it performs up to the established specifications. Of course, you can just start plugging stuff into the network and if it works, well then it must be installed right, but the reality is that this is not a good indication of the performance of the installation. With CAT 6, this is important due to factors such as the bend radius. A poor installation can cause many problems in the future.

Newcome used an Agilent Wirescope 350 to test all of the cabling installed. The Wirescope 350 is able to test the installation by sending a signal across the cabling and to test the cable and ensure the installation is up to spec. We tested all of our CAT 6 Ethernet and only found one problem with one jack. Once this was fixed, all of the cabling was fully up to CAT 6 specification. This means that I should have no issues moving to Gigabit over copper at some point in the future using any of the cabling that was installed.

Agilent Wirescope 350 in action

Agilent Wirescope 350 in action

Although it wasn't really necessary, we also tested the CAT 5 ports that we used for the telephone, as well. Should we later determine that we no longer need to use these ports for phone, it would be possible to convert the jacks to run at up to 100-Mbit Ethernet, as well. Due to the color coding of the cables, this would not really be an option we would want to explore, but at least we are confident that the cabling will perform in the months and years ahead.

One important part of the testing is detecting potential problems before you realize that you have them. The Wirescope 350 is so sophisticated that it is able to tell you - in most cases - what the connection problem is, even if it is the jack, the patch panel or something as simple as a flipped wire pair, which can help isolate the problem. Best of all is the fact that you get a nice printed report with the testing results of all of the jacks.

As we explained in the introduction, we chose to use all three solutions in our installation. So far, we have used both 10/100 Ethernet and 1000-Mbit Ethernet via the uplink in our 3C16476 for our server. Finally, we added two wireless access points into the mix to provide wireless access on all three floors of the house.

We chose the 3Com Wireless Access Point 6000 for our 802.11b wireless needs. We felt that the more enterprise-designed product, such as the 6000, was better able to meet our needs and offer the performance and flexibility that we wanted. The 6000 offers better functionality in dealing with multiple access points in infrastructure mode.

3Com Wireless Access Point 6000

3Com Wireless Access Point 6000

We chose a two access point solution, although we could have gotten by with just one of them. We wanted to make sure that any wireless device that we had could receive 11-Mbit performance regardless of its location within the house.

Based on our usage patterns and a site survey we placed one access point at the top of the stairs on the second floor and one in the family room. Both of the access points are locked down and connected on an isolated segment outside the primary network to address security concerns, and are locked down using MAC address locking, so that only authorized wireless NIC cards with recognized MAC addresses can connect to the access points.

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