In the last post we discussed what a network is and that a network engineer is a road builder. Now you know what networks are, it’s time to talk about the building blocks AKA your tools to build.
For most people the router from their ISP (Internet Service Provider) might be good enough. It offers a couple of LAN ports, WiFi is enabled by default so plug and play. However as some points you need to expand your network infrastructure since you need more WiFi coverage or want to create your own Home Office (not so uncommon due to COVID these days), or you’re someone like me who would like to control and manage things on your own. This is the moment that you realize that your standard router isn’t the best option and you need to have more tools. These tools will be your building blocks for your home/office network. But this means that you need to know what tools there are on the market and what you would need.
This is perhaps one of the things which you need to care about when creating any network. Without the ethernet cable you really can’t connect your router to a switch or Access Point. Currently I have at least one CAT5e cable available on each floor but I would actually need a couple more on the attic. 😉
So let’s start with the most important part which is your router. This is basically the border between your LAN and the outside world aka the internet.
So the router is a device which provides connection from your LAN (Local Area Network) to WAN (Wide Area Network) and usually is provided by your ISP and keeps your traffic contained and save.
In the enterprise world companies tend to have their own routers next to ISP routers so we can easily manage a device for routing traffic inside their network.
They provide interconnection within your LAN. They come in a lot of different flavors and options so it’s important to know what you need know and what you would like to have in the near future. Some of the flavors and options are:
- Amount of ports: Do you need 4, 8, 12, 24 of 48 ports?
- Manage on your own: This means that you can get to manage each port of the switch seperatly to your needs and create VLAN’s, a new Virtual LAN outside of your existing LAN network to deploy and put your smart home appliance or a guest network.
- Not managed: All of the ports will be directly connect to your existing LAN.
- Deliver POE to devices, such as Wireless Access Points
So based on your needs you’ll for sure find a switch which can serve your purpose and as you can imagine, this will also set the price of the switch; A managed 48 port switch which delivers 470watt POE will cost a lot more then a standard not managed 12 port… 😉 Also there is a price difference between different vendors as well..
In the enterprise world some other options are available such as stacking. This way you can combine two, three or even more switches as a “stack” so they’ll become “one” switch. This makes managing them MUCH easier. This I’ll write about in a detailed post later! 😉
Wireless Access Points
Access points are devices which will allows other Wi-Fi devices to connect to a wired network. A lot of standard routers which are delivered by your ISP will already have WiFi enabled but you can also have a standalone Access Point connected to your network. Usually the WiFi coverage from your ISP doesn’t cover your entire house so at some point you need to have more Access Points (AP). Again there a lot of different flavors and options available when looking for AP’s.
So as you can see there are some core components which are required to build your own network to your needs. Knowing this enables you to understand the infrastructure easily.
For example a couple of days ago a friend ask me to have a look at their network since they have been remodeling the house and the purpose of some rooms. They now created a room as home office but had issues with WiFi, their shared printer etc. So the first thing I looked at was in fact all the components as described above. Based on that I could see that:
- No cabling was available on the second floor
- Not enough WiFi Coverage through the house
This was a very nice challenge and with some adjustments they now have full coverage in their house and can have access to their printer from each device! Off course their need was very different from my own personal need and set-up but either way the building blocks will always be the same!