Networking

We live in technology-driven world these days and it is affecting how we do almost everything.
Satellite technology, the personal computer, the Internet, mobile devices and more have all led to the
digitization of our content and have established a need for immediate access to information. We are
convinced that it is more important than ever to have the right backbone installed in your home so
everything talks the same language and works together effortlessly.

Most consumers, when creating a home network, will purchase simple routers and related solutions
that are found in mainstream distribution outlets. These simple routers and switches are not designed
to handle the workload, they are asked to carry because they were primarily developed as inexpensive
single-room solutions.

What does this mean? It means that if you are building a new home or remodeling your old one, you
would be wise to consider building a high-performance network. The following article will try to clear up
any confusion you might have when it comes to establishing a personal network in your home.

What is a Network?

A network is a platform consisting of two or more computers that are linked in order to share resources (such as printers and drives), exchange files or allow electronic communications. The computers on a network may be linked through cables, telephone lines, radio waves or satellites. Computers residing on this network can be servers, desktops, laptops, mobile devices and other types of workstations. The two basic types of networks are:

• Local Area Network (LAN)
• Wide Area Network (WAN)

Local Area Network

A Local Area Network (LAN) is a network that is confined to a relatively small area. A Wide Area Network or WAN is used for a large geographic area such as the world. The LAN type of network is most often used in residential environments. In a typical LAN configuration, one computer is designated as the file server. It stores all of the software that controls the network, as well as the software that can be shared by the computers attached to the network.

Computers connected to the file server are called workstations. On many LANs, cables are used to connect the network interface cards in each computer; other LANs may be wireless. All wireless technologies require a transmitter and receiver system in order to communicate. Remember that installing a good hardwire infrastructure in your home during construction will always improve the strength, reliability and overall performance of your network, but if that is not possible, wireless, if done right, can be a good option.

All wiring used behind walls, under floors or otherwise installed as a structural component of the building must be properly rated. Even speaker wires that go inside the walls have to be rated as either Class 2 or Class 3. Next you need to decide on wire gauge and conductor count. How do you know what's right for the job? Well, let's look at the speaker wire, for instance. The distance from the audio amplifier to the speaker location is a major factor in deciding which wire is right for the installation. Every foot of speaker wire adds more resistance, capacitance and inductance to the performance equation. Shorter runs of wire that are twisted and shielded a certain way yield better sound quality.

Some tips for maximizing the performance of your structured wiring system include:

  • For less than 50 feet to the speakers or volume control, 16AWG (gauge) works fine.
  • From 50 feet to 100 feet, use 14AWG.
  • For 100 feet or more, use 12AWG. Some additional good things to remember are:
  • For primary sound where dynamic range is at a premium, use more copper.
  • If you are wiring main speakers, use heavier gauge.
  • Don't underestimate the value of shielding for reducing noise.

Control Systems

Many of these systems can be extremely sophisticated and require professional installation and proprietary wiring. Our most consistent recommendation is to use at least CAT5e wiring for the control system. You should always consider 14/4 and Dual CAT-5e for more sophisticated systems or in instances where you want to distribute telecommunications as well as IR (infrared) and speaker-level audio. Remember to wire bathrooms, hallways and outdoor areas. There is no reason that whole house audio/video should not extend to these often-overlooked areas. Even if you don't plan on installing equipment at every location right away, make sure you run the cables to that location. It will save you money and time in the long run.

Residential Networks

Residential or LAN networks are generated through a subscription service; for example, Comcast, AT&T or Verizon FIOS all provide data networks. These services will bring the World Wide Web into your home on a cable or telephone wire. Using a modem, you can decode that signal for use in a computer, laptop or mobile device. There are other types of networks for bringing information into the home. Cell networks and the more affordable femtocell networks are becoming popular in larger homes, where too many access points would be required. These types of networks use cellular frequencies as communication paths. A router will take a single source of data that has been received by a modem and distribute that data to multiple streams or devices. Routers can also wirelessly transmit that signal over a pre-specified distance utilizing a transmitter. To answer the modern-day demands of a home network, we need a reliable and seamless network. One access point simply will not do. If the home is 2,000 square feet, one WAP (wireless access point) may cover the space; however, in larger homes or when more than one WAP is required, there are significant issues to contend with: unreliable roaming, multiple network SSIDs, radio strength issues, conflicts with neighboring networks, port failure, just to mention a few. With consumer networking products, many assume it is "set-it-and-forget-it", but consumer products are not made to handle the constantly increasing workload that they are asked to carry. In order to properly configure a network, we must first incorporate enterprise-grade wireless access points (WAPs), not off-the-shelf solutions. They should be strategically placed around the property to ensure seamless coverage. This collection of WAPs should be centrally managed by a wireless controller, which automatically analyzes, manages and optimizes the wireless environment in its entirety. When properly programmed and deployed, the wireless controller creates a robust, reliable and self-adjusting wireless environment. This controller-based wireless network is perfectly suited for the IP-enabled automation systems, computers, AV equipment and other devices that are all working simultaneously via the home's wireless network. Additionally, they will offer the stable platform necessary to deliver exceptional system performance.

Additional Networking Terminology

Protocol

The language devices use

IP

Internet Protocol, the language of the Internet and home networks.

TCP

Transmission Control Protocol, like signing a receipt for data delivery guaranteed delivery.

UDP

User Datagram Protocol; example: streaming media. No acknowledgment on receipt of data.

HTTP

Hypertext Transfer Protocol, used to make displayable Web page requests and download Web pages over TCP/IP.

FTP

File Transfer Protocol, used to transfer files between computers on the Internet or within a network over TCP/IP.

LAN

Local Area Network (i.e. the home's network).

WAN

Wide Area Network (i.e. the Internet groups of networks connected together over long distances).

Subnet

Portion of a network that has been segmented off through software or hardware.

IP address

Identifier for a computer or device on a TCP/IP network (Example: 192.168.0.12).

Ethernet

Communications protocol allowing multiple devices to share a common transport mechanism.

Modem

Modulator/Demodulator, device used to convert one form of a signal to another.

Router

Moves data packets between different subnets.

Switch

Makes point-to-point connections between MAC (Media Access Control) addresses on a LAN; MAC address = hardware address of a device on a network.

DHCP

Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol. DHCP Server (usually in the router) used to automatically assign devices on the network IP addresses.

WiFi

Wireless Fidelity 802.11x.

WLAN

Wireless Local Area Networking.

SSID

Service Set Identifier, it is the name of the WLAN and must be entered on all devices.

WEP/WPA

Wired Equivalent Privacy/WiFi Protected Access; Encrypts data transmissions

802.11b

11 MB wireless protocol 2.4 GHz.

802.11g

54 MB wireless protocol 2.4 GHz.

802.11a

54 MB wireless protocol 5 GHz, many wireless products DO NOT work with 802.11a.

802.11n

Next-gen WiFi, more range, faster speed.

AP

Access Point, needed to distribute your signal (also called WAP Wireless Access Point).

Wireless Router

Router with built-in

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