Need some resources for building a network for a small startup company

Im a Sys Admin, dealing primarily with servers only. When it comes to routers, switches and network products, I have minimal skills in it. I am tasked by a friend to build a network from the ground up for 15 users. Since my weakness is with network hardware, I have a few questions.

1. For 15 users and more in the near future, what download/upload speed should I provide for the ISP who will be providing us a business account? I will be placing the following servers: WSUS, Exchange, File, Backup, Print, DC, AD

2. When it comes to running wires, is that something that consultants normally contract to wiring specialist?

3. I understand that Ill be needing to place some switches, hubs, routers, etc. What are some great and popular switches, hubs, routers, etc.

4. Can anyone provide me some great video links on how to build a good network from the ground up for a person who needs more advance knowledge in networking?

Sorry, I work in a corporation, and I only specialize in servers. I only have skills in managing what is already in existence, so I have minimal architectural skills. I know networks enough to put it together, so I am no beginner. However, I need help with the architecture part, or design part of things.
kalian31Asked:
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bdsuserCommented:
For 15 users you don't need any high end equipment unless the company will be generating more than normal traffic on its network or you need tight administrative controls and monitoring.  As far as upload/download speeds go, you should get as much as you can afford.  Unless you need a reliable internet connection you can conceder using a cable company to provide internet.  They can provide static IP addresses as well.  Its hard to beat a 12 or 16 Megbits bandwidth.

If reliable internet is important then you may need to go with your phone company or a CLEC to get one or more T1 lines.  I have one client with 25 users who do just fine with one T1 line.  I have another client who has 10 users and one T1 line was not enough.  A T1 line is about 1.5 Megabits.  Also you can split a T1 line to provide both phone and internet.   A few CLECs provide and manage their own router and firewall at the clients end.  Since a router and firewall maybe the most challenging thing for you to setup you may want to go with a CLEC that provides a managed router and/or firewall.

I support networks from 5 user to 60 users.  For the larger networks I always buy brand name switches and routers.  If you are ordering a new server, try to get the vendor to give you a good deal on any switches and routers you need.  Example, I've gotten some great deals from Dell when I order a new server and get them to sell me a managed switch at about half off.  Also if you buy your routers through Dell, HP, etc you can normally get their tech support to help you set them up if you have problems.  

You aren't likely going to need any managed switches for a small network, but always go with a switch rather than a router and try to minimize the number of switches needed.  It is far better to get one 16 port switch rather than two 8 port switches.  Daisy chaining switches is a disaster in the making.  An example, if a user is going to have a networked printer in their office, try not to add a switch or hub in their office to keep from running another network cable.  

There are times when having multiple switches make scene.  I have a client who's server is on the first floor with about 5 users and about 50 users on the third floor.  It would not be cheap to run 50 network cables to the first floor.  I have one switch on the first floor and one on the third floor.  I have 4 cables pulled between the floors, but only one is used to connect the switches.  The other cables are for future expansion or fail-over if the main cable goes bad.  By the way there is a maximum distance for network cable runs of about 300 feet.  An extra switch maybe needed if you have a really long run.  Check the manuals for any switches you buy; they normally list the maximum cable run they can handle.

Cabling is something you should leave to a professional cable installer.  Most cities will require a small voltage license for installing cable.  Also a professional installer will have all the right tools and be able to do the job a lot faster, safer, and the job should look good to boot.  Pulling cable is a lot of work.  This is one job you want right the first time.

Sorry, I don't know of any great networking resources on the internet.

Good luck.
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Michael KnightCommented:
1. Our corporate office has 16 users, 5 of which are running Remote Desktop to our servers in Utah. We no longer host our Exchange, but there are 10 or so websites that run from that network as well. Typical Domain environment, couple file servers, couple network database apps.
I don't know what the ISP packages are like in your area, but Charter's 20mbps down by 2mbps up is enough for our needs. There may be other packages in your area (the largest I've heard of is 60/5). Just be sure to get a few static IP's for future development, we have a 5 block of static IP's for services that need to be hit from the outside (web, RAS, etc.)

2. Speaking personally, I don't like pulling cable. I can do it, but I don't. It's messy and better left to professionals. Any electrician worth his salt should be able to get you from the wall jacks to the patch panel. Make sure each jack is numbered and corresponds to the port number on the panel. Not rocket science, but poor wiring can be a disaster.

3. You know, 'back in the day', I was a die hard Cisco man. Then I went the Unix/Linux Router 'route' for a while, but to be perfectly honest, there's nothing wrong with "off the shelf" Routers nowadays. Cisco teamed up with Linksys (or rather bought them).  Middle of the road, I'd go with this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833124127&Tpk=rv082
The business class Modem/Router/Gateways provided by most ISP's aren't half bad, and if you can actually access the IOS on them (ala comcast) then the need for an extra router may not be necessary ELSE they throw it in Gateway mode, and you need another router (ala charter)
For swithcing, again, great strides have been made. You can get away with cheaper, but I'd probably go with something like this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833122077&cm_re=24_port_switch-_-33-122-077-_-Product

4. You'd have to be more specific on that one. For a 15 person SBS network, there's not a whole lot of advanced architecture that needs to go into it. You'd put an outside address on that router. Set up a NAT to the SBS server. 123.456.78.90 = 192.168.1.10. You know enough about server architecture to get your internal domain going. Then just isolate the ports you need to pinhole for the various services that need to be hit from the outside and you got a working network. Again, 15 users, you're not concerning yourself with subnetting and are looking at about a days work (Server OS install included).
If you have specific questions about networking ask, but with cabling done and the workstations staged, this network should be pretty simple.
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kalian31Author Commented:
Wow, some excellent feedbacks and answers from you guys so far. You guys provided more than enough info. Howerver, I am still waiting for 3 more responses, then I will provide points to the answer I feel that is best. Generally, what is the fee (ball park fee) for a specialist to run cables for 15 users in 1 floor?
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bdsuserCommented:
In Nashville, TN it is about $125 per cable run.  This includes terminating the cables at each end and properly routing through fire walls. The does not include any special cable.  Your building/fire codes may require plenum cable to be used.  
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Michael KnightCommented:
Yeah, our guy in San Bernardino CA, charges around $100 per run, terminated. The CMP (plenum) is about twice the price for the cable itself (labor is the same), but still is only about $200 for 1000ft, probably cheaper if that's your business. Mean to say it may not be bad just to run the good stuff anyway, it doesn't affect the cost per run as much as one would think.  
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notacomputergeekCommented:
2 - I usually get the phone guy to run the cables while he's doing the phone runs. Make sure whoever does the cable runs, labels everytihng!
3 - Get Gigabit ports and possibly CAT6 rather than CAT5e cabling. A single 24-port Gb switch next to the patch panel should be all you need. Depending on your security needs, you may want to spend a little more money on a good router/firewall.
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kalian31Author Commented:
Excuse my ignorance, but exactly does a patch panel do? I hear and see it around in my server room, but our network folks deal with that equipment.
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notacomputergeekCommented:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patch_panel

Basically, in a small office, all the office network jacks are routed back to a centrallized room. Now, the cable guy could just leave them hanging from the ceiling and you could plug them straight into your switch, but most will install a patch panel on the wall and bring the cables into the back side. On the front side are data ports.
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Michael KnightCommented:
Definately go with a patch panel. they cost like 30 bucks and will save you the headache. The phone guy/electrician can punch those just as easy as the wall jack and it's alot prettier than plugging directly into the switch (see attached from one of my racks [though it ain't too pretty]) . You'll need small patch cables 6" to a Foot depending on the distance from patch to switch to complete the run to the switch. also like notacomputergeek said, you'll want to run phone and data to every jack (assuming phone is not already run) Labeled accordingly V1/D1 (Voice/Data) D1 corresponds to port 1 on the patch panel. No real way to sanely tag the Voice lines on the block, but that's the phone guys problem...of course I do both so it's mine as well. patch & switch
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kalian31Author Commented:
Im still confused by the whole concept. However, is this something that is part of pulling cables that the cable guy or electrician can do? Also, why does it need to be plugged into a switch? I thought either run one or the other, not both. Again, excuse my ignorance on this subject.
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Steven CarnahanNetwork ManagerCommented:
The benefits of a patch panel:

1. The wiring is "clean". You can have all the cables brought into the room in a bundle held together by wire ties to the back of the patch panel. We have a full rack of patch panels.  We use Velcro ones.

2. The patch panel ports can be labled to match the wall jacks. We label ours by floor, room number and since we have 2-3 in each office we always go around the room from left to right starting with the number 1. So an office on the second floor with a room number of 20 and the second jack from the door would have a label on the jack 220-2 and where it is terminated on the patch panel would have the same.

3. You can get tags to put on the patch cables that you could place one at each end. Then you would lable the end at the switch with the patch panel number (220-2) and the end at the patch panel with the switch port number. Since we have a full rack of patch panels and a seperate rack of switches we have 3-7 foot cables connecting them but in a small office like you describe you can do what michaelknight shows and get away with much smaller patch cables

4. You can do the same with the voice if it is in the same room however I suggest a separate patch panel of at least a dedicated section of the same panel and change the labeling scheme from 220-2 do D220-2 and V220-2 to signify the differnece.

In other words, everything everyone has stated is pretty much acurate. We have around 200 people in our organization and only have a single T1 to the internet. We are spread out all over the state and are preparing to move  to fiber as the T1 just isn't enough as more and more of our work is reliant on the internet.

The most important thing to remember is to label everything and be consistent with that labeling.

I just thought I would toss in my 2 cents but basically listen to what everyone has already told you.
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Michael KnightCommented:
Yes, just ask the cable guy to provide and punch patch panel as well. You're gonna need somewhere to put it a small wall mount rack would work, you can mount your switch there as well. The patch panel is just a cleaner way of handling the cable runs. Otherwise you'd have cables just dangling down , swaying in the breeze in front of your switches etc. essentially a Patch Panel is just cable management. It makes for easier troubleshooting as well, as all the ports are numbered and correspond to the number on the jack (instead of trying to figure out which dangling cable is which). Patch panels are dumb, meaning there's no logic in them. Think of lining up a bunch of phone jacks in a row, they don't do anything unless theres a phone plugged into them.
see attached for (hopeful) clarity.
patchy
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Steven CarnahanNetwork ManagerCommented:
Looking at michaelaknight's latest graphic (which I really like - it's simple yet complete) reminded me of another reason that patch panels make life easier. We use port security on our Cisco switches. What that does is the computer MAC address gets assigned to a specific port in the switch. So if an individual moves from one office to another, say 220-2 to 230-1 then it is easy to simply move the patch cable on the patch panel instead of having to log into the switch and re-configure it. This helps to not have a lot of open connections creating a security hole where anyone can come in and plug in a laptop and connect right up to your network.

Of course you need to remember to change the label on the end of the patch cable at the switch.  As I stated before, labeling is the most important part.  :)
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Michael KnightCommented:
right you are.

the newer NEC phone switches offer the same functionality for phone stations, you can swap programming on the fly for ports in the switch if a person is moving location, that's fine and dandy if you're maintaining a list of all the ports you've swapped around, but I find it easier just to move the line on the block so my phone 'patch-block' with the jack numbers is static.

moral: patch_panel == sanity.
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kalian31Author Commented:
michaelaknight:,

Thanks for providing a GREAT illustration! I think i have a clear understanding now. Almost ready to grant points, but if theres anyone else who wants to drop in there 2 cents on this subject, feel free to do so.
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Michael KnightCommented:
Do they own the building or are they renting? It's not unheard of for the landlord to pay for or supplement the cost of wiring as it is increasing the value of the office space. It doesn't hurt to ask.
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kalian31Author Commented:
I have another potential client that use Time Warner Cable with 20MB fiber. Is this considered FIOS? Ive never really work with a FIOS connection before, and mainly with just ethernet connection. This is a small business with 7 PC connected to the server. The PCs can no longer get a connection to the server. Im thinking of course the server here is where I have to troubleshoot, but not familiar with fiber connectivity. Can someone please give me some insights as to what to do to troubleshoot this situation with Fiber?
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Michael KnightCommented:
There's no difference (networking-wise) once you're inside the network. Cable is Cable, FIOS is FIOS. Broadband-wise the advantages/disadvantages to each occur before ever entering the residence/office. Time Warner only offers Cable Broadband service, not FIOS.
Again, if your internal network is OK, you'd call Time Warner and have them test for connectivity to the modem, past that it's (usually) an internal problem.
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