Wireless Network in Two Buildings
Posted on 2004-10-21
I recently joined a church, and being an IT person was immediately put to work on the parish network. The church is older (no network wiring), and is made mostly of brick and cement blocks.
The existing network was pretty weak. They had single-filament Cat5, terminated at both ends with RJ-45 plugs. There are five computers in the network - three at the church and two at the pastor's house (next door). They had a wireless (802.11b) firewall/router/access point/hub (one device doing all) and cable Internet Access. The cable modem was plugged into one of the four ethernet hub ports on the router, and worked by having one computer 'share' the Internet connection to the others. Two of the computers in the church were cabled in via cat5. Everything else was wireless. The wireless modem was a Linksys (I don't have the exact model) with a booster sitting on top of it. All of the computers that needed Internet access had IP addresses on the same subnet the modem used. All of the other computers had correct IP addresses in the 192.168.1.x/255.255.255.0 range. None of the computers could see both the Internet and the internal network.
The distance between the pastor's house and the room with the router in it is between 200 and 300 yards. With the 802.11b booster they got a signal to the computers in the house, but it was very sporadic.
Some of the network issues were no-brainers. I bought a Netgear hub and seperated the hub from the router. That allowed me to put the wireless router in the best possible location for wireless access and still put the hub in the best place for getting to it. I've always believed in seperating routers anyway. I moved the cable-modem from one of the router's hub-ports to it's WAN/Internet port. So the cable modem plugs into the Router via the WAN port, and the router plugs into the Netgear hub. All other wired devices plug into the Netgear hub. Finally I configured ALL workstations to use DHCP. With these changes the church has a reliable internal network. Unfortunately none of that improves connectivity at the house.
Eventually I'll properly terminate everything into a patch-panel and use patch-cords etc.. That is another battle for another day though. Right now I just want all of the computers to connect!
My first thought for getting a stable connection to the house was to get some Linksys repeaters and wire them in. I found some Linksys 802.11g repeaters that said they were 802.11b compliant. I put one in the 'cry room' (the closest point to the pastor's house). I put the other in the pastor's garage (the closest point to the church). It is between 150 and 200 yards from the cry room to the garage. I thought that since the 802.11b router can reach the garage, by putting a repeater in the garage I could then really improve the connectivity throughout the house! And by putting a repeater in the closest part of the church to the house, I might be able to improve the connectivity between the router and the garage!
As it turns out, the repeaters don't work with that particular model of Linksys 802.11b router. Consequently I bought a Linksys 802.11g router to replace the 802.11b router. There was no booster for the 802.11g router, but I hoped that the repeaters might be close enough together that it would still work OK.
Configuring the Linksys repeaters proved to be a real battle. I never did get them working with WEP enabled (I did get them working by disabling WEP, but obviously I couldn't leave things that way). The battle with the repeaters is a long story and I won't bore you with it. Suffice it to say that those repeaters were junk. And I only got the garage repeater working by bringing it to the church - I never did get a signal into the garage with the 802.11g router.
Here is my delemma... The 802.11b router (with booster) has a strong enough signal to reach the house sporadically, but I can't find any equipment to boost or repeat the signal in the house unless I change routers. The 802.11g router doesn't have a booster available (apparently Linksys no longer makes boosters) and is thus not strong enough to reach the house at all. Linksys offers high-gain antennas, but my understanding is that these only boost speeds and do not increase the range of the signal.
Linksys suggests that I dump the repeaters (which I am going to do - they are junk anyway) and get a Linksys WAP for the cry room. Apparently you can get WAPs now that don't need to be hird-wired to the network. Once I install that Linksys suggests I check the garage and see if I get a signal (the Linksys WAPs I guess provide stronger signals than the repeaters). If that gives me a signal, I could then put another WAP in the garage to bridge the wireless connectivity into the house. If however I can't get a signal with the 802.11g router into the garage, then I seem to be kind of stuck as far as wireless goes. It is probably still worth having the wireless network in the church, but that won't help the house.
I was thinking that if I can't get a good, repeatable signal to the garage maybe I can run an affordable (coax?) wire into the house. If I hard-wire to the house I can then put the 802.11b router up, creating seperate wireless areas (one at the house and one at the church) on the same LAN.
OK. Now that you know the situation, here are my questions!! First, am I working on the right track or do I sound clueless? Should I use different methodology to address this network? If so, what methodology should I use? Next, can I run both 802.11b and 802.11g on the same LAN, and what issues (if any) might I run into if I do? Finally, what options do I have (both wireless and wired) for extending the network to the pastor's house? The last question is the important one, and feel free to use your imagination with it! How would you handle it???
A paved parking lot is between the pastor's house and the church. Everything is paved. Any wired solutions would have to take that into account. Cost is a factor.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!!