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Review wired and wireless networking plan for new house

I've been asked to network a large custom-built house. This is beyond anything Ive done before, so I'd like expert  comments on my plans (especially hardware choices).

Points will be distributed to every thoughtful response.
 
THE HOUSE: Around 148' long, three stories, crescent shaped. Almost every interior wall is concrete reinforced with metal rebar (picture a boomerang divided into thirds by reinforced concrete walls). Most rooms are wired with CAT5e (the contractor did this). A 20-port switch is needed to wire the main part of the house, and an 8-port switch for an upstairs apartment.

Heres what I have planned to ensure wired and wireless N access in every room (but the garage):

WIRED:
Broadband cable in from outside-->cable modem-->wireless N router (router will be in lower central section)-->20-port switch (to connect cable throughout main house)-->cable to upstairs apartment (wired separately)-->8-port switch

Sound right?

Now for hardware--

Wireless N router:
Linksys WRT350N
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833124081
OR
 D-Link DIR-655 Xtreme N gigabit router
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833127215

20-port switch:
(I think a 10/100/1000 is out of the price range)

LINKSYS Instant EtherFast EF4124 10/100Mbps Ethernet Switch 24 x RJ45  Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817201106

NETGEAR ProSafe FS728TS 24 x 10/100 Mbps auto sensing Fast Ethernet switching ports 4 Built-in RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet ports for 10/100/1000 Mbps connectivity 2 SFP  Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833122091

Any suggestions?

Upstairs 8-port switch:
NETGEAR FS608 10/100Mbps Desktop Switch 8 x RJ45 1K
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833122115

WIRELESS
Does anyone know whether wireless N can get through reinforced concrete? If not, side sections of house (outer thirds), will need wireless N access points plugged into Ethernet outlets:
None of the wireless N access points got particularly good reviews on Newegg.

LINKSYS WAP4400N Wireless-N Access Point with Power Over Ethernet  Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833124075

NETGEAR WN802T Rangemax Next Wireless Access Point 
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833122169

Any suggestions?

Thanks for reading all of thisyour suggestions will be much appreciated.
reckon
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reckon
Asked:
reckon
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4 Solutions
 
Robert Sutton JrSenior Network ManagerCommented:
Being that the walls are re-inforced it would be best to choose a centralized location somewhere on the middle floor in order for your upstairs apartment to be able to access W-less. I would start by looking at your hardware list and figure out how many access ports you are going to need and also understand the W-less signalling will be affected do to the layout of the house and the thickness/composition of the walls.....
If you have a 24-port patch panel in the basement, then you will need more than one 24 port Ethernet Switch as this will fill you up in a 1:1 ratio provided ALL ports are terminated and could potentially go active upon connection.... You will still need to connect that same switch(24-port) to your gateway along with the W-less to be able to access your Internet service. Is the upstairs apartment going to be able to access the Wireless network or is this like a rented space? It seems like (2) 16 port sw. would serve your purpose for botht the main house and the upstairs apartment.  You can always use an available ethernet port to add "Repeaters" for your W-less network to assist in overall coverage throughout the house to include outside. Some initial thoughts...
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reckonAuthor Commented:
Thanks, Warlock. The 24-port switch leaves plenty of room to expand, because only about 15-17 or so of the ports will go live. The upstairs apartment has its own box, with an ethernet cable from the downstairs box going up to it. So I don't see how the 2 16s would work.

I've done some research, but I have no idea how far the wireless signal will travel from the central (main) router, especially given the concrete, etc. Is there a way of computing that? Rule of thumb?

Also, what did you think of my hardware choices? Seem good?

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Robert Sutton JrSenior Network ManagerCommented:
Well, as far as the W-less signalling throughout the house you may have to do a "test" run once its set up to see if you would need more than one WAP to effectively cover the entire house.... Its typically a safe bet to try to keep the same manufacturer when building a n network.....However, if your budget doesn't allow it, then choose the equipment that suits your needs along with keeping within your budget.... I am def. a Linksys fan for several reasons..... Support, ease of use, availability, user interaction, QOS, and versatility..... Furthermore, since Cisco owns Linksys its typically easy to find technical assistance and updates for your products.
          As far as rule of thumb, its hard to answer that as you are not even sure what type of equipment you will be using and again the house composition will have an adverse affect on your signal coverage... If you need anything else, just let me know. I hope this helps.....
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TreyHCommented:
I always do a site survey, it's usually the only way to know what is going to work. If Laptops are going to be the major devices connecting, you could go ahead and purchase the router/access point you decide to use and do a site survey with a laptop. Setup the router and then walk around with the laptop. Play around with the location of the router/access point. No matter what the range of the router/ap you decide to go with is, the weak link will always be the built-in wireless and gumball antennas that laptop manufacturers use. Warlock is right on the money - If you're after a preN signal, stick with the same manufacturer. I'm a Linksys fan also, however I've been seeing better ranges with the DLink boxes.
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Fatal_ExceptionCommented:
Just a suggestion, but before you start spending money on this project, I would setup a test WiFi AP and just do a walk thru of the house to test the signal strengths...  For instance, I carry an AP with me, set it up without WAN access, and just walk through my client's building with my laptop..  this way I can find the trouble spots first..

In your case, with these walls, I would not spend a dime on equipment until I knew what I was dealing with here....
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Fatal_ExceptionCommented:
Trey, it appears we were thinking of  the same thing when we read this question just 10 minutes ago..  

*grin*
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TreyHCommented:
lol, yep. I had mine on the screen for while doing other things. I'd say you were first, I got distracted while trying to answer .....
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reckonAuthor Commented:
The thing is, so they don't loose service (they're living in the upstairs apt. while the rest of the house is being finished), I have to set up everything, THEN move the modem downstairs.

What kind of test WIFI access point do you recommend? Would the wireless N router (not connected to the internet/modem) work as well?

Thanks for your help--
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Fatal_ExceptionCommented:
Would the wireless N router (not connected to the internet/modem) work as well?

Sure, that should work..  all you need to do is to test the signal..  :)  But I have a feeling that those concrete walls are going to add a layer of problem solving to your solution..  
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TreyHCommented:
Here's some guidelines on wall penetration I use. Might give you some insight about the concrete walls.

1 - Paper/Vinyl  walls have little effect on RF signal penetration.

2 - Solid and pre-cast concrete walls limit signal penetration to one or two walls.

3 - Reinforced concrete with standard space rebar will limit to one or two walls.
     (a little worse than just solid and pre-cast)

4 - Reinforced concrete with fiber (that's the small metal strands they add)
    may virutally kill the signal altogether. Sort of a partial faraday cage?.
    Keep in mind however that if there is no concrete above the room, you will
    get some reflection from the structure above.

5 - Concrete floor/ceiling poured over a steel pan will kill the signal. They can be
    you friend however by allowing channel reuse between access points located on each floor.

6 - Concrete block walls limit signal penetration to three or four walls.

7 - Wood or drywall allows for adequate signal penetration for five or six walls.

8 - A thick metal wall causes signals to reflect off, resulting in poor signal penetration.

9 - Chain link fence and wire mesh with 1 to 1.5" spacing act as .5" waves that block a 2.4 signal.

10 - Windows will cost you anywhere from 5 to 15db loss per window (they can be worse  than a concrete walls sometimes, especially the treated exterior type)

Again, a site survey is the only way to know. Good luck......
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reckonAuthor Commented:
Thanks, Trey! Just what I was looking for.

Any response to the hardware I've chosen? Will the switches do the trick? Will there be any problem using a Netgear switch (upstrairs) with the Linksys switch (downstairs)?
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TreyHCommented:
I would think the switches should be fine. I wouldn't mix brand names on the wireless gear however as you are going for preN signals.
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Fatal_ExceptionCommented:
Nice 'wall penetration' list, Trey..  well done!  Think I will copy it for later use..  :)
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TreyHCommented:
lol, thanks. It's still hit and miss but it helps on those ballpark quotes sometimes.
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reckonAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all your comments and suggestions.
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Fatal_ExceptionCommented:
Very good..  and thank you!
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