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Network Consulting

Posted on 2004-11-27
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Hello,
I have started my own small network consulting company.  Recently, a company was interested in my services and wanted me to access their network needs.  They want me to install a network from the bottom up(wiring and all) in the tri-state area.  This is a fairly large company and I would like to know the 'right' way to give them a fair proposal.  It will include purchasing of routers, switches (cisco preffered), and a few new PC's.  Also, I may have purchase some cabling if the length goes over what they already have.  I know you guys are experts on things like this, so I ask for your help.  I have the CCNA and MCSA certs along with four years exp. I have some experience in the field, but none in network consulting.  I would appreciate any information  given.  I am going to the site this week to get all of the details.  Thank you in advance.

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Question by:winkingtiger
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by:plemieux72
ID: 12688783
When you say large, how many sites, how many employees?  

Wow!  That sounds like a lot of work.  You may need a cabling contractor to pull and terminate horizontal cabling and install fiber if it's a campus or there are more than one comm room.  Be sure they do a good job with this... request the test results for each cable and make sure they follow EIA/TIA standards for structured cabling.  Without good cabling, the network will be nothing but problems at best.

I don't have any experience doing this by myself... typically, my company will get a project manager and then I am part of the implementation team.  In your case, you are pretty much running the show and are the implementer as well.  So, make sure you cover all your bases.  For example, in your proposal, define what exactly constitutes success (completion) of your duties and that anything outside this would be considered out-of-scope hence would cost them more.

In addition to good cabling and following the standards, make sure you are familiar with Cisco network design.  The applications this company will be using will depend heavily on how well the network will be running.  You most likely will need to propose a network that can easily be grown and changed so make sure you follow Cisco best practices.  Design an IP addressing scheme that allow for summarization and VLSM.

In this case, you have a real advantage of starting from scratch.  This does not happen very often.  Instead of fixing errors and trying to make a bad network a good one, you can built a good one from the start!  Make sure you investigate a converged data/voice network with IP telephony for potential costs savings to the company.  Cisco has a web-based ROI calculator called CNIC you can use.  Also follow the Cisco SAFE blueprint to ensure you implement a network that will "self-defend" itself against threats like worms, viruses, etc.  Check out Cisco's Network Admission Control (NAC).  Ask Cisco for help if needed.

All these things will save you headaches if you have to support this network after it has been implemented.
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by:winkingtiger
ID: 12688953
Thank you for your help.
Yes this is huge task for me to accomplish.  Right now it looks like it may be connected to one other site(if any).  I am not sure how many employees, I will get a number hopefully when I visit.
I am happy you understand that this is a brand new network installation.  Also, I definitely would like to get off on the right start.  This is basically going to be a hybrid of a warehouse/office.  I am sure I will be able to run the cable with a few workers.  Do you know of any good field testers of cable, to test for the structured cabling.  I would definitely need to purchase something like that to make sure there are no problems with it.  Thanks for the advice on to define exactly what to accomplish.  I am planning on using software such as MS Visio to to aid me on exactly what is to be done.  Definitely, I will follow cisco practices.  What networking protocol would you propose? RIP v2 IGRP     Thank you for your idea on a converged network data/voice network.  Since I have now seen the property yet, it will definitely be a good point to bring up.  Overall, I was told there is a possibility of managing the network, and I would like to have everthing run right off of the start.  Thanks again for your input.
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by:plemieux72
ID: 12689938
If you've never done cabling before, I really suggest to contract out to a professional cable installer.  It involves installing conduit, pulling cables, terminating at the faceplates, putting up a rack and patch panels, etc.  All of this need to be done by someone or a company with experience.  If so, they will have their own testers and this will free you to be able to concentrate on other things.  By the way, I've had good experience with Panduit equipment for horizontal cabling, you might want to check panduit.com.  Plus, they are a Cisco Solution Parnter.  Terminating cables onto their mini-com modular jacks is suprisingly easy and they have all the supplies (cable management, etc.) you need to make your racks look good and easy to manage for move, adds and changes.

You can't even choose a routing protocol at this time as it's too early in the project.  I suggest you get Prescilla Oppenheimer's "Top-down Network Design" book... it's concrete, real-world practical advice that you could use as a step-by-step and it would help you definitely make the right decisions:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1587051524/qid=1101647732/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/102-7180443-1059329?v=glance&s=books

P.S.  Also, don't forget to include SmartNet contracts with EVERY Cisco device and renew them every year.  This will allow you to open TAC SR's on Cisco's site for assistance if needed.  I would never buy anything from them without this.  You will look much more professional to they eyes of your customer if you can get help directly from the source if problems arise.
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by:winkingtiger
ID: 12691066
Thanks for all of the info.  I have experience with horizontal cabling.  Vertical though, I have only PM exp where I oversaw an installation with engineers of the building.  Also I have terminated cat5 countless times.  Just not Fiber.  Can I just purchase pre-terminated fiber cables that match the specs of the network?  Multi-mode would be the 'weapon' of choice in this situation, I would assume.  I purchased the book on amazon, thanks for the link.  I will definitely need something like this as a point of reference.  When buying Cisco devices, should I go directly to Cisco for the best prices.  As I said before, I am meeting with them this week.  You have definitely earned the point in my book, thanks again.  I would just like to keep this open until after I have met with them just to see if there is something I may have missed.  If there is anything else you can add, I would be grateful.  

Good Job overall, very informitive and have pointed me in the right direction.
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by:winkingtiger
ID: 12691079
I will defintely look into Panduit when it comes to supplies.  How do they relate to other companies in terms of price.
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plemieux72 earned 1200 total points
ID: 12691177
No problem... glad to help.  I actually envy your situation.  You will accomplish A LOT and will be able to do it YOUR way!  That's not always easy in large enterprises where many different tasks are managed by different groups and where decision makers are not always technically-savvy and sometimes end-up making the wrong choices.

Anyway, you will like the book I am sure... especially the checklists.  They ensure you will not overlook anything.

<<Can I just purchase pre-terminated fiber cables that match the specs of the network?>>
You can certainly buy pre-fabricated fiber patch cables for the patch panel-to-switch connections.  However, I don't think you want to use that in ceilings between wiring closets and obviously not between buildings as it would not comply to standards.

<<When buying Cisco devices, should I go directly to Cisco for the best prices?>>
Cisco does not sell equipment themselves.  They use resellers like CDW, computers4sure.com, Insight.com, directdial.com, tribecaexpress.com, zones.com, PC Mall, etc.  You can purchase equipment and SmartNet contracts from these outlets after you decide on a bill of materials.  I think Cisco sales/engineers can help you with this however but I've never had the chance to use this approach before.

<<I will defintely look into Panduit when it comes to supplies.  How do they relate to other companies in terms of price?>>
They are like Cisco, they use distributors.  I've used Anixter before to buy some Panduit supplies but that was in very low quantity so I can't say about pricing.
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by:winkingtiger
ID: 12693361
Yes, I agree the situation is a great starting point.  I think a checklist will be a great foundation on this project.  I have planned projects before, but not of this scale.  So I am sure this book will go a very long way.  In reference to the pre-fab fiber cables.  Are cables available in lengths of 'let's say' 100 yards or 30 feet that I could purchase which would hold up to the eia/tia standards.  So, if this is not the case, then each cable would have to be specifically made to fit the network.  I will use these sites when it comes to buying the devices, thanks for that.
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by:winkingtiger
ID: 12693375
Also is there some other way to find out what the going rate is for job like this.  I have tried to use the CNIC and as of right now I am not able to use it.  I guess not setup correctly.  While that is being taking care of, is there a site or some of your personal expertise that would give an idea.
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by:plemieux72
plemieux72 earned 1200 total points
ID: 12695401
<<Are cables available in lengths of 'let's say' 100 yards or 30 feet that I could purchase which would hold up to the eia/tia standards.>>
It's not the cable itself we are worried about here, it's the way you do it.  I think to comply with the standards, you can't plug in a switch into another switch in a different wiring closet without using patch panels.  Plus, pre-fab fiber comes terminated so it would be difficult to run through the building without breaking the connectors.  Also, this would not simplify break/fixes/moves/adds/changes.  Finally, fiber needs to be protected by putting it into some tubing, conduit or raceway of some kind which you do BEFORE terminating cables into patch panels.  You are better to have fiber run and certified professionally.

I am doing this again (recommending another book)    ;-)  Listen, I read part of the previous edition of this new book (July 2004) and it is exactly what you need if you will oversee or run cabling yourself.  It is greared toward network consultants and will be an eye opener I think.
Cabling: The Complete Guide to Network Wiring, 3rd Edition, by David Barnett, David Groth, Jim McBee
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0782143318/ref=wl_it_dp/102-7180443-1059329?%5Fencoding=UTF8&coliid=IU2LGSI3K8DJ&v=glance&colid=5ZMK7Z0YZ95G
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by:PennGwyn
ID: 12701250
> When buying Cisco devices, should I go directly to Cisco for the best prices.  

There should be a variety of local Cisco resellers.  A few will be "Gold" partners, who typically have their own CCIEs on staff and can provide consulting as well as hardware sales and installation; they may be able to offer better discounts, especially if the volume of the sale warrants it.
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by:winkingtiger
ID: 12721156
Thank you for your help. I am going to open up another question reguarding this soon.  My appt is for this Monday coming up.
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