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Network gear for new home build

Last response: in Networking
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January 14, 2013 9:42:53 PM

We're in the middle of building a new 2-floor home and I need a little advice about buying (or upgrading?) our network equipment.

Currently, in our smaller home, I'm using two Linksys WRT54GL's - one as the primary router/firewall and the second as a secondary hub/switch for a few more connections and also as a wireless access point. It's worked fine for many years now but the WRT54GL's are somewhat old, and the wireless is 'g' not 'n'. I've flashed DD-WRT on one of them and playing with it now.

In the new place, the wiring (Cat6) to each room is pulled and terminates in a Network panel on the lower level, in a "mechanical" room where we'll locate the eventual Comcast modem. I'm going to need a router/firewall device (or a combination of router/firewall and switch devices) at this location to handle the 10 leads that terminate in the panel. That's the #1 area that I need some advice... what configuration makes most sense?... and what brands or models are faster and most reliable? Most of our other equipment (PCs, TV, A/V system) is/will-be brand new and close to top-line, so we'll want to take advantage of highest transmission rates.

Additionally, my wireless device will have to be located on the top level of the home, and I'd like it to be as robust as possible which, I assume, means wireless 'n'? That's #2. The guys that pulled the wires suggested Netgear, but I have no personal experience with them.

I'd be more than grateful for any advice or suggestions, either directly or as leads to pages here, or websites elsewhere, which would help me figure this out.

Thank you!
January 15, 2013 3:57:27 PM

I am sure I am going to get grief over this, but I happen to like my TrendNET 16 port Gigabit switch TEG-S16Dg. Yes I know 16 port is greater than 10, but then again, the next step down, 8 port is less... You CAN get by with an 8 port switch, and a router that has 4 gigabit ports, just uplink the router to the switch, so 8 + 4 -2 = 10. However if you ever have a port fail on you, you are dead in the water until you replace the switch / router. It's not common with unmanaged switches, but it DOES happen...

You will actually want your router in the mechanical room with the cable modem and switch. All that stuff belongs together. If you need WiFi a couple of floors away from the router, get a range extender. So let's give you an example of a network that would be set up utilizing established standards (since 802.11ac isn't actually finalized although hardware is being sold under that moniker already...).

Comcast broadband modem of whatever sort they provide you, or you buy... -->
Cisco / Linksys EA3200 Wireless N router with 4 port gigabit wired ports... -->
TrendNET TEG-S16Dg 16 port gigabit ethernet switch Linksys, Netgear, Dlink all make decent ones too, bad switches are more or less a think of the past these days... I like the Trend due to the diagnostic LED features, as well as the metal casing, the option of rack mounting, and the integrated power supply instead of that stupid transformer most use... --> This all gets cabled up to your various ports / cables running throughout the house. FWIW, you might want to run one to say the garage, and other non typical areas if you think you might ever want to put a computer / network device in that area, say for streaming video, or whatever...

Then toward the end of the "radio bubble" of your router, add a Cisco / Linksys RE1000 range extender.

Mind you, wireless N is fast, compared to older wireless technology, and without much load / interference it is fast compared to say 10/100 ethernet. But once you get a few devices talking wirelessly, or there is radio interference by say a dishwasher, a disposal, garage door opener, audio amplifiers etc... the speed drops considerably. This is the nature of the WiFi beast. And no small part of why wired copper gigabit is holding its own rather nicely with things like desktops, smart TVs, storage arrays etc...
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January 16, 2013 10:30:40 PM

Thanks, that a very helpful reply. It reinforces what I sort of suspected, but I wasn't sure.

Quote:
You will actually want your router in the mechanical room with the cable modem and switch. All that stuff belongs together. If you need WiFi a couple of floors away from the router, get a range extender.


If I really don't need WiFi on the lower level (or maybe a better way to say it: I don't care about the reception down there), does it make more sense to just get a wired router? I'm guessing that those either cost more or just aren't as readily available anymore.

Quote:
Then toward the end of the "radio bubble" of your router, add a Cisco / Linksys RE1000 range extender.


I'll have to check this out. Not familiar with these at all.

Quote:
Mind you, wireless N is fast, compared to older wireless technology, and without much load / interference it is fast compared to say 10/100 ethernet. But once you get a few devices talking wirelessly, or there is radio interference by say a dishwasher, a disposal, garage door opener, audio amplifiers etc... the speed drops considerably.


What about dual band then? Worth pursuing?

Thanks again very much!
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January 17, 2013 1:20:41 PM

Dual band is great for compatibility, and the different bands handle interference differently. However, I stick with my original post. Go with a good Wireless N router and range extender, and wire copper anything you can. Even with 802.11ac and it's theoretical speed, what you see in actual operation is radically different. Gigabit copper is just that, gigabit. If both ends will negotiate it, and everything in the middle plays well, then you are good to go.

I recommended the EA3200 due to its stronger radio than my EA2700. I like the 2700, but I can see where if you have a larger multi story home, it might not get say from the basement up to the 2nd floor. I am in a pretty basic ranch style home with no basement, so no big issue for me there.

As far as wired routers, I haven't seen a wired only router in years other than the old ones I have in my home office closet which really need to go away. However, a quick Google search comes up with a Cisco wired only router for $150.00 at Tigerdirect. 4 gigabit ports so that's good... Then you would need a Wireless Access point, which I again, find a Cisco unit for $189.00 at Tigerdirect. Sadly it is N300 not N600. I would think for performance, and cost, you would still want to go with the WiFi router and range booster.

Since you are building out the house now, is there any reason the data closet / structured wiring can't be more centrally located in the house? That would make WiFi coverage much more equal in the space at least.
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January 17, 2013 2:33:24 PM

We're way past the point of moving the closet, so that's off the table. I think I'm on the right track now though with your recommendations. Thanks very much!!
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January 17, 2013 3:05:53 PM

No worries. If you have any more questions I can help with, don't hesitate to ask... I may be new to this site, but I am FAR from new in the IT business, particularly SOHO and enterprise networking...
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