How Do I Bring LAN Cabling from 4th Floor Down to the First Floor Server Room?

I have to create a LAN spanning two floors, 1st and 4th. Height difference is 45 feet. Server Room and the Newtworking Rack are on the 1st floor. There are roughly 100 LAN points on each floor. My main issue is, how do I bring the CAT6 cables, hundred of them, from the 4th floor to the 1st floor? I have two options, either a) to terminate them into four 24-port switches on the 4th floor itself, or  b) bring all 100 cables down to the 1st floor networking rack. I might mention that the cables will have to come down over the external building wall, in suitable pipe to guard against weather.

If I take the first option, should I use four CAT 6 cables, one from each switch, and bring them down to the first floor master switch (to which the Servers will be connected also), or should I use fibre, and how?

A section of the 4th floor users work on heavy image files stored on  the 1st floor server. A mix of MACs and PCs is being used.

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PugglewuggleConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Lol. Now that we've ALL said use fiber like 22 times, any other questions anandshastri?
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I would recommend fiber since it's bandwidth abilities are better.  CAT6 is good, but Fiber is better - further, it's not subject to lightning unlike copper cable, so especially if it has to go outdoors, I would use fiber.

Then, I would probably only run two fiber lines and chain the switches into each other.  (I assume you're using high-end, quality switches, such as Cisco and not some cheap unmanaged stuff like Linksys)
Even at 40% fill, 100 cables (assuming .24 inch diameter) would fill a 4" conduit.  Don't think you could pull that many cable through successfully, so use 6".

Then, 4 floors at 11ft/floor = 44 feet x 100 cables = 4,400 feet  x 22 lbs/1000ft = 97 pounds of cable.

Definitely not a do-it-yourself job.  That's a lot of cable to pull and terminate.

Better option is to run fewer trunks down...four or eight should be plenty at 1Gbps each.  Copper or fiber would fare well in a 1.5- or 2-inch PVC conduit.

Check local codes of course.
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aleghartConnect With a Mentor Commented:
If you have the ports available, and can create LAGs:

With four trunk lines:
SW1 -(3x)-> SW2    four gigabit trunks to SW2 on the 4th floor, used by high-bandwidth users
SW1 -(1x)-> SW3    two gigabit trunks to SW3 on the 4th floor, used by low-bandwidth users

With eight trunk lines:
SW1 -(4x)-> SW2    four gigabit trunks to SW2 on the 4th floor, used by high-bandwidth users
SW1 -(2x)-> SW3    two gigabit trunks to SW3 on the 4th floor, used by low-bandwidth users
Leaves two unassigned cables...good to have for spare, phone, VoIP, KVMoIP, etc.

Traffic between high- and low- bandwidth users on the fourth floor would hop to SW1 first.  If the high-bandwidth users have their own dedicated network printers, easier to put them on SW2 so no hops to SW1.

You should always terminate copper to a panel.  Never directly into a switch.  Infrastructure wiring is done with solid conductor.  Patch cables into the switch are stranded wire.  That patch cable is not just a disconnect for the circuit, but is much easier to lay and dress up because of its flexibility.  Less prone to damaged connectors.
I agree with leew.
Run fiber.
6-strand multimode 50/125, terminated as appropriate for your switches.
anandshastriAuthor Commented:

Thanks for the response. You have, however, not touched on why I should not go for option a), bringing down all the 100 cables around 45 feet.

How do you compare a) performance b) manageability of the two options?

No, I do not have manageable switches. All of them are, as you say, the "cheap, unou managed" variety. My current budget might not allow me changing all of them. Please consider this limitation when you suggest between the two options.

Fiber is the way to go

1. One run of fiber is going to be cheaper that 4500' of cable; and much easier
2. Gives you the ability to scale up to a 10GB backbone
3. Fiber is impervious to interference, lightning, etc.
HI anandshastri,
Your best bet if your budget can afford it its to get some 2 48-port switches that have 2x or 4x uplink connectors and one 24 port switch that has 1x or 2x uplink connectors.
CAT 5/6 is limited to just about 300 feet until you lose signal. Fiber cable is not that expensive, but fiber switches are out of this world expensive.
If you get Cisco switches you can "team" the uplink ports using a thing call EtherChannel to get up to a 4Gbps connection to upstairs on the 48 port switches and a 2Gbps connection on the 24 port switch. This should very easily handle your bandwidth requirements, even when using video and images from servers on the 1st floor.
And it only uses 10 cables if you use all the uplink ports on the switches (recommended).
Another thing to consider - do you have VLANs in your network? Having that many computers on the same broadcast domain would heavily congest the network. If you don't then I will recommend getting managed switches and creating VLANs to separate the traffic and increase the speed.
Again, I don't know how your budget is, but if you can afford it, buy some Cisco 3560 switches. They are very good and support the VLANs and EtherChannel feature I was talking about.
Downstairs you will only need one switch to connect all of this to the main network. I'll recommend  the 20 port gigabit Cisco 2960G-24TC-L. This switch supports the EtherChannel connections coming from the other switches upstairs and will have an extra 10 ports for you to connect to the main network or other devices with.
What's strange is that nobody else has asked what you have in your currently existing network... I will do so because the solution we create depends on this. Do you have a core switch? If so does it have fiber line cards? What model is it? Are the line cards gigabit or only 10/100? Does it have RJ-45 (CAT5/6) line cards? Etc.?
Please provide me with some info about your network and I'll get you a good answer.
Cheers! :)
Oh, and yes, what's your budget? - the crucial question everything will depend on.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I think kdearing made excellent points and essentially said what I would have (no wonder why they were excellent points!  :-)  )

Though I'll add, I don't think a realistic limit on fiber speeds has been established - It's very likely (but not guaranteed) that 20 Gb or 100 Gb or whatever the next jump in speeds ends up being, the fiber cable will support it.  copper almost certainly will not.

As for budget... I can almost guarantee you that the labor involved in running 100 cables through 4 stories will EASILY cost more than running 2-4 fiber lines with Gbics for halfway decent managed switches.  If you need to go on the cheap end, then get NetGear managed switches - they come with a lifetime warranty and a 24 port model is relatively cheap, I believe around $400.  Cisco would definitely be better... But Netgear will do.
I will agree on the speed issue and the fact that running 100 cables will be very expensive.
Cisco is the way to go on the switches if you can afford it. Linksys also has some very good business series switches that include fiber uplinks.
Since we're doing 100 cables it is better to go with 2x 48 port switches and 1x 24 port switch because we've got more switchports left over for future expansion.
Please do note that if you use cheaper switches like Linksys or Netgear YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO TEAM PORTS INTO AN ETHERCHANNEL CONFIGURATION. This is very important if you want best use of network infrastructure.
Please do let us know the budget - this is as of now the most important design consideration.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Pugglewuggle -
You should check out the switches before you say that.

The NETGEAR FS752TS supports 802.3ad specifications which "is a computer networking term which describes using multiple Ethernet network cables/ports in parallel to increase the link speed beyond the limits of any one single cable or port, and to increase the redundancy for higher availability"

And it's cost is under $400.

Now if the budget is there, as I said, he should go Cisco.  But Cisco switches can cost 3-5x that of a netgear.  And $1600 on 4 NetGear switches is a lot less than $4800-8000 for Cisco.

But also keep in mind, Switches are easy to upgrade LATER.  Cabling is not.  So if it's a question of where do you spend the money, the first answer is Fiber cable between floors, THEN on the switches, getting the highest class you can for the money you have left.
It might support the standard, but if you do a bit of research, 802.3ad has been a bit of a neglected protocol as compared to proprietary equivalents. That said, if you did use only devices that support 802.3ad would work together fine, but if you try to mix proprietary port aggregation protocols like Cisco EtherChannel with this it won't work.
Yes, the Ciscos are very pricey... for a 3560 series 48 port 10/100 with 2x or 4x uplink ports you can expect to pay about $3,500 USD each.
BUT, I must say that the Ciscos support just about every type of switching protocol imaginable and can even function as routers (they are L3 switches) and have access lists to act sort of as a firewall to keep different VLANs from contacting each other... oh, and they can act as VLANs servers as well. Very, very powerful devices. Well worth the money if it's around.
I would agree on the cabling... get that done right. Doing it again later is a nightmare. Use fiber if you can.
Lee W, MVPConnect With a Mentor Technology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I think we're saying the same thing... nit-picking over minor details.
Perhaps we are. :)
Either way, we need budget info when you get a chance.
I agree with everyone who said fiber.

What I haven't seen anyone mention is you're building your backbone.  The backbone of your network is what transports the data from the center or "core" of your network to the edge.  Old school types would call this the Main Distribution Frame (MDF) to an Intermediate Distribution Frame (IDF).  

Think of it as a tree.  The water needs to get from the ground to the leaves.  You don't have a 1000's of small feeders going down to the ground (don't throw me weird trees that doo this - everyone knows what I mean ;)  )  You have a main trunk and then big branches which "branch off" at "nodes".

You mentioned some intensive data apps - such as imaging.  You also mentioned 100's of cables.  Take a look at your network design/topology - you may find it will suit you well to leave your "cheap" unmanaged switches upstairs in a "network closet" and connect them with a couple of Gig(if you can) or even .... call us crazy .... 10Gig backbone (that's how we roll ;)) to your core.  Then - upgrade your CORE SWITCH to something fast - that can do fast switching - but with a few fiber ports, instead of 100's of GigE copper(which would be expensive).

So, run your backbone cable with a layer1 material which can support higher, better, faster, more, etc. throughput - which obviously is fiber.

Since you have no choice to except to run through conduit on the outside of the building, the conduit itself will need to be bonded and grounded.  Be aware of your fiber - some fiber cabling has metalic content - which would also need to be bonded and grounded.

Regardless, my best recommendation is for you to consult with a couple of cabling contracting companies.  Don't even ask them what you should run.  Telll them what your problem is and let them design a solution for you with quotes.  It sounds to me that it would be money wisely invested to let them do it for you with an industry standard, standards compliant, network design.

Hope this helps.
In the spirit of people at EE rebuking good analogies for no reason, here's your crazy roots! :-P
I agree - make it as fast as possible... but in most environments a 10Gbps backbone is overkill... and very expensive. I do wish we had it though! Most of the time a few EtherChannels will provide enough bandwidth unless you're doing something absolutely insane.
Just beware of shoddy cabling contractors.... I had one customer where they dug up a 250ft. strip through the middle of a parking lot, laid a conduit, and instead of running muli-strand fiber, the morons ran 2 CAT5 cables to support 3 entire buildings! I've never even seen such a stupid deal! Within a week the customer was having problems. It turned out utility power was running right under the conduit and interfering with the data!
Crazy situation, but beware - just warning you.

Thanks Pugglewuggle - I knew the tree, but couldn't remember it.  :)  BUT ... notice the BIG branches ... :)

10Gig Backbone - wasn't the point - it's the fiber at layer 1 which supports the CAPABILITY to go as slow or fast as you want - hmmm ... 10 half over fiber ... maybe to those old  Synoptics switches I have laying around ...

Agree on the contractors too - you can get some contractors where you know more than they do - but one has to practice due diligence and ask for references, certifications, experience, scope of work, gurantees, testing, etc. etc.  But if you get several quotes/bids, hopefully you'll be able to figure out which ones know their stuff and which ones don't - usually the one that's 50% under all the others ... ;)
Yes - agreed on the infrastructure point. :) Gotta love fiber... communication at the speed of light... whether the light blinks twice per second, or 100,000,000 times per second. :-P
And do try to make sure you get some references from them if possible so you can check their work and make sure they're not talking you up. However, I think you'll find that the majority of contractors know at least enough to get the job done right [sic].

  Just to throw my 2 cents in, I agree with fiber.

  Running 100 cat5 cables through a conduit will be a pain to do.  If it can be replaced with a single fiber run, that'll be much easier.  You'll appreciate a good layout in the future, when you need to add a few more connections.

  About 8 months ago, I was working with a place that had 4 suites in 2 different buildings.  It was a mess.  One suite was connected via a wireless bridge, but the antennas were situated too low, so when a truck drove through (which happened frequently) that suite lost it's connectivity.  One suite had a very long CAT5 run (probably beyond spec).  The other suite used a wireless AP in another suite (3 doors down), which was slow at best.

  I picked up enough fiber to do it for about $300, and 6 Catalyst 2924-EN with 4 port 100baseFX cards on eBay for another $300.  I laid it out with couplers in strategic points just in case someone cut a run, it wouldn't be hard to replace that run.  It was the tree design, as mentioned above.  One suite was the core.  It spanned out to the other suites.  In some cases, that suite would have another switch (or several switches) to service all the machines there.  

  It worked perfectly, and the staff was amazed that things suddenly worked all the time, rather than being slow with intermittent outages.
  I was laid off due to financial problems in the company.  Even though I detailed the entire layout to my underpaid replacement, they decided that the run crossed over the road on a guy wire shared with about a dozen other wires was redundant, and they cut the entire thing down.  Oddly enough, fiber, just like copper, doesn't work so well if you cut it.

  It was important to replace the copper with fiber over the road.  I didn't want lightning strikes taking out equipment on both ends.   The same could happen on the side of a building, so it's better to put lightning proof equipment out there (glass in a PVC conduit is a good choice).  

Lol yes, got to love lightning strikes. I had a T1 line at a hotel get hit by lightning and because the previous company put in copper between buildings instead of fiber, ALL the switches got fried. If he would have used fiber (which is what I put in after this happened) then only the ISP router and one switch would have got killed. Instead everything died.
Cheers! Let me know if you have any questions!


  Not to lay claim to anywhere I may have worked, but use your imagination on this.

  About 12 years ago, one building contained servers, and had a T3 coming in.  There was coax running to the building next door for cameras.  
  Lightning hit the coax.  It skipped around rather ungracefully blowing up parts.  It was fun finding what chips had big burn marks on them.  The people near the main camera reported sparks shooting out of it.  

  I've learned, exposed cables are dangerous things.  I don't want them anywhere near my computer, even if they are suppose to be protected.
Lol that's awesome! I know what you mean. :)
Good call on the conduit anandshastri, and DO use insulated fiber - not the regular stuff.
We ran buried Cat5 in conduit outside with lightning protection.  Lightning still got in and fried key components of our system.  Long story short - we had to restore a whole hospital IT system back 4 days.

Outside copper - avoid if you can.  If you can't avoid it, shift the risk to Management - so you can be in a position to say, "I told you so".
kdearingConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I'm in the lightninng capital of the world here...west coast of FL.

Got an emergancy call once after a particularly bad storm.
The router(Cisco 3640) was still smoking !
Stunk up the whole bank.

Anyway, the main building had lightning protection all around the roof, but they forgot the remote drive-thru ATM. It was connected via serial link to the router.

We ended up using media converters and running fiber to prevent it from happening again.
JWSmytheConnect With a Mentor Commented:


  I'm based in Tampa. :)   Fiber is an excellent choice, but I see so much copper in dangerous places, it isn't even funny.

  I've been all over the place, and there are local design requirements for different locations.  When I was in Los Angeles, they don't worry about lightning, but datacenters have substantially different requirements for physical support (like, to earthquake proof the racks).   Ideally, we should design for everything, but no one likes to waste the money when it's not necessary.
Copper outside is a risk.  You be the judge of the level of risk and whether it's likely or not to happen, and what the consequences will be if it does happen, and how much it would cost to mitigate the risk.

If I were you, I would put in fiber if it's your decision, or recommend it if it's not your decision - for the reasons mentioned.  Let the customer or boss tell you no.  If they say yes, it's better anyway.
While I do agree that fiber is the best choice for this, I think a few people are criminalizing copper a bit... It will work fine as long as you have less than 300 feet to go and if the conduit will be PVC and not metal. If both of those conditions are true and the asker doesn't want to go with fiber due to price and complexity, copper is just fine. Also, with the recent advent of decently priced 10Gbps copper LAN cards and how much the price will go down in the future, running cheap copper now and buying better equipment sounds like a good plan. Later, the asker can simply upgrading to faster 10Gbps equipment and there is minimal risk for lightning due to the cable being housed in the PVC.
Cheers! Just my thoughts (although fiber is still better this might save you some money!).
pseudocyberConnect With a Mentor Commented:
The question was, "should I use four CAT 6 cables ... or should I use fibre, and how"

This is a dead horse.  You should use fiber.
anandshastriAuthor Commented:
I thank all of you for the expert replies. Unfortunately, the management of the place I was doing this for refused to understand, and insisted (only on cost basis) on a no-fibre solution!
Of course, I stopped working for them.
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