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Network Cabling and Layout Design


I have thought of a network cabling design for a client of mine. Would like a second opinion and some advice please :)

One building with three concrete floors. No raised flooring or floor ports. Need to install a cabled network for the following setup:

First floor - 3 users
Second floor - 4 users (Install server here)
Third floor - 2 users

I thought of cabling each floor into individual un-managed gigabit switches and then linking each switch via running a Cat5e cable down the side of the building. This can be achieved by drilling holes through the window frame and back into the next floor. The server would be placed on the second floor so to optimise the traffic. The connection between each switch and workstation would be gigabit. Fibre would be too expensive (I think). I'd obviously get someone in to do the cabling but wanted to ask if this is the best solution? Having a switch on each floor means that I only have to worry about getting one cable between each. Hope this all makes sense.

I've seen 3Com do a relatively cheap 8 port un-managed gigabit switch. I could get 3 of these to do the job?
Doubt I'd need a managed switch? They already have a firewall/router and ADSL modem. These are located on the third floor, unable to move as this is where the BT line is located.

Data traffic would be basic. For example, Internet (DSL), Exchange, File Sharing/Serving (Word, Excel etc). No Database.

Any advice would be great!!
Many Thanks,
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5 Solutions
Hi Boyderama,

Good luck with your new project :)

Your plan sounds pretty sensible to me, but it will depend on the distances involved.  The maximum length of a CAT5 cable needs to be less than 100m.

Gigabit might be overkill for your application, but go ahead if you can afford it :-)
If you wanted to reduce the costs a little, I'd suggest use a decent switch on your second floor (with the server), then a couple of 100Mbit switches on the other floors.

You haven't mentioned anything about voice cabling - how are you handling this?

As for doing a single cable run between floors 1-2 & 2-3.  This will work, but you might want to consider doing two cabling runs.  You probably don't have an application for the second run now, but you're bound to come up with one :-)

Does that help?  I'm happy to provide any clarification that you need.

when you connect two switches with one cable you will only have the bandwidth of a single port. On managed switches (not on all, dont get me wrong) you can bundle two or more ports to have a faster "backplane".

To decide wether it is sufficient or not, you could divide your 1000 Mbps on the first floor by 3 and on the third by two. On the first floor, stated that your fileserver is capable of delivering such a bandwidth, you will get about 330 Mbit, on the third 500 Mbits (all at full load). From your description what will be run on it I think its safe to assume that there is no problem with your plan.

The thing that I would re-think is your plan sticking CAT5 cable through drilled holes and mount it on the outside of a building. The obvious thing about that is, you may damage the cable. Or the cable gets damaged by sunlight. The less obvious sideplay is that you can get voltage bursts very quick that will destroy the NICs or even worse, will damage the whole PC. Here in Germany it isnt even allowed to lay cable outside of a buidling. *Galvanic seperation*

If its somehow possible, let those that lay the cable for you drill holes through the concrete floors. Would even shorten the cable connection between your switches.

If you want, look out for Planet GSD-802 switches. They are cheap and reliable. One costs about 100 € around here.

BoyderamaAuthor Commented:
Wow! That was a quick reply! Thanks!

Good luck would be nice, cheers :)

Sorry, forgot to mention distances. It's short. I'll place the switches close to each window frame so between each floor would be no more than say 50 feet. From switch to workstations would be again 50 feet.

The 3Com un-managed gigabit switches I found are about £100 each. 150m of cabling should be?...£100? Not too sure, but can't imagine it to be too expensive. Will look out for more advanced switches. Do you think it needs to be a managed switch?
If so, I've always used HP ProCurve switches, never had a problem and very fast.

Voice cabling is...well, not 100% sure. Good question! I do know they have their own telephone switch. However, the sockets look like they were put in place during the build. The building is in fact a London home converted into an office. Perhaps the voice cabling is inside with walls (plastic trunking).

Two cable runs would make sense. At least for backup?

You've been a great help!!
Thank you very much :)
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ndy78 is right about not running the cabling outside though.  You're much better running it inside.  Given the lengths involved, you could probably run it neatly up the staircases with no problems.

As ndy78 said I don't think running CAT5 on the exterior would be wise. If it was shielded in conduit this would be ok. But I would rather drill a hole through the concrete floor and run it in the interior.
BoyderamaAuthor Commented:

Thanks for your reply too!
Interesting about placing Cat5 outside. Didn't think about voltage spikes. Lightning? Eeek.

Any special Cat5 I could source? Drilling a hole through the concrete would be difficult. A diamond/wet cut machine would do it but those are expensive to hire and wouldn't feel confident. Have needed to do it in the past though but would like to use that as my last option.

I like the idea of pairing ports together to make one virtual port. I take it that was the idea? i.e. expanding the total bandwidth of one link.

Thanks very much! How can I give each of you points? Do I select "split points"? Can I give out 150 points each? You both have been great.
Planning for growth, you could setup a single catalyst 2900 series, such as a 2924XL (they're relatively cheap) on the second floor.  Setup a pair of el crappo linksys or dlink switches on the 3rd and 1st floor.  Link the two out to the main cisco.

In doing this, you have the ability to manage and configure VLANs on the main switch, have room for expansion, SNMP abilities, etc.  They may not need much, if any, of those features now, but the reliability of the cisco is nice if nothing else.  You could also easily drop in a 1760 (i think those even have the layer 2 firewalls now) on top of that switch and they'd have a very sound platform.

Dropping that idea though, you could consider wireless.  A single wireless 11g wap (WRT54Gv2: info ahoy -> )
with MAYBE a small omni antenna would cover that entire building and then some.  Then you can drop all of the wiring, setup either wireless card everywhere, or if you need to save the money, you could setup 2 waps to connect to local switches and then cable each workstation to the switch.  OR, you could buy some wet-11's from linksys and convert the ethernet straight into wireless, and hit the main WAP from there.

Lots of options..
btw the joining of ports in cisco terms is "etherchannelling" but i dont think bandwidth would be an issue in your setup.  etherchannelling gives you redundancy as well, but again, i think it'd be overkill here, as you'd require additional switches to make this happen.
Cat5 is not nearly as durable as a lot of people assume.  AT LEAST you're going to need some kind of protective conduit or "outside rated" cable.  (Gigabit over Cat5 is a push as well.  Gigabit over *copper* is kind of a kludge, and Cat6 should be used on any new wiring that's intended to support it.)

I wouldn't worry about bonding multiple runs for the user population you've listed.  You want at least double digits, if not triple, of users before that's worth the trouble.

Your proposal to go through the window frames may or may not comply with building codes in your area -- whoever you get in to do the work had better know.

Have you considered wireless?

Good luck!  Glad I could help :-)
yea, good luck with it, this stuff can be a pain sometimes!  this thread will probably die off, but you can always email/pm me and i'll try to help if i can.
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