Choices for Connectivity Expansion - Weighing up the Options, thoughts etc.

Discussions about Internet service providers (ISPs), the Meetinghouse Firewall, wired and wireless networking, usage, management, and support of Meetinghouse Internet
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carljokl
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Choices for Connectivity Expansion - Weighing up the Options, thoughts etc.

Postby carljokl » Thu Apr 14, 2011 4:42 am

I am in the process of trying to extends network coverage. I am posting on here in hopes that I can validate my thoughts with other technical individuals. This may be a way of saving me from myself to a degree and my capacity to be a perfectionist sometimes.

I have watched the two video's on the Meeting House Technology including the network video. These are helpful in knowing the general policy regarding networking and such. I have Stake Technology Specialist responsibility at the moment (though waiting to be officially called).

I am carrying out some work on the Stake Centre regarding the network cabling. There is some cabling which was already put in place but it is a bit amateurish. It looks like it consists of pre-made ethernet cables which were run above the suspended ceiling in the Stake wing of the Stake Centre. These run from the main equipment cabinet in the Family History Centre (on the same wing) to the Stake Clerk's office. From there, it connected into a Wireless router (consumer grade device) which acted as a switch to run a cable to a Ward MLS computer and the Stake MLS computer which is currently based in the Stake Presidents office. The Wireless router was providing a non approved Wireless Network. I have taken out this device and swapped it for a plain small Ethernet switch for the time being until I put in a permanent solution.

This Saturday I will clean up this cabling and I plan to install a Patch Panel in the cabinet and run cabling from this Patch Panel all the way to to the Stake Clerk's office and Stake President's office. This will be run to proper network sockets with the cables tidied away through simple self adhesive trunking. That will eliminate the need for the second switch.

That part of the work is fairly straightforward and it is the other matters that I might benefit from some discussion about. The Ward MLS computer is in the Stake Clerk's office. This is only there because there is no Internet Connectivity in the other (Ward) wing of the Stake Centre. This office is a long way from the Bishop's offices which have a Ward Clerk office between them (but is not used for the MLS computer due to the lack of Internet Connectivity).

Phase 2 of my work involves trying to get Internet Connectivity to the Ward wing. My preference is to try and run a network cable between the two wings. The Wings themselves are easy to run cabling in because they have suspended ceilings. The difficulty is going between the two wings. The building is relatively modern (built around 1996-98 I believe) but was not built with networking in mind. Between the wings is a hall / foyer area with a steeply sloped plastered ceiling. I need to find out if there is any trunking in that area which I could use to pull cabling through. The power gets around the building between wings and I would assume it probably has some trunking. I am hoping the Stake Physical Facilities Representative may have access to some plans.

Due to not knowing if I might have to run cabling through existing trunking for power cables I have opted to use Optical network cabling for the link. I don't know if this will be viewed by the Church as a bit overkill. The second reason for using optical cabling is that if the hardest part of the work is getting the cable between the wings, I would rather the cable I put in be very future proof so that it will be usable for a long time in the future (to spare the trouble of trying to run another one). I don't know if this is also a fair justification.

Part of the problem is the differences between how I view the network and the other members typically view the network. The membership will typically view the network as just an internet connection. I, being from a technical background see a network as potentially a lot more than just an Internet connection. There is a little bit of printer sharing in use (which I set up) but presently not using file sharing much (except a little bit I set up myself to share some downloaded drivers / installers for my my own convenience).

The difference in perception of the Network matters when choosing what kind of equipment / solution to use. If viewed just as an Internet Connection then practically every kind of Networking, Wired or Wireless is faster than the speed of the ADSL connection. For example I purchased a Netgear GS716T Network Switch to put in the existing cabinet on the Stake Wing. It is a gigabit switch and is more business oriented. I choose it because I hoped it would have enough ports to cope with expansion needs, it is rack mountable and so can be fitted more neatly into the cabinet, it is designed to be energy efficient and it also includes slots to support fibre connectors which is relevant if I run a fibre connection between the wings. I worry though that this could be scrutinised as being over-specified for what the chapel needs. I could have used a cheaper switch but it would not have had all the features I was after. I opted for Gigabit because this seems fairly mainstream now and not so much more expensive than using 10/100 equipment. However that extra bandwidth will not be used if it is just being used to provide an Internet Connection.

Another issue is with Wired vs Wireless. I have a personal preference to put in a Wired connection for any computer that is based in a fixed location. This seems to match the Church's policy based on the Video about meeting house networks. However I realise that when you add up the cost of the cable, network sockets and some basic trunking it is quite a lot more expensive than the relatively inexpensive WIFI adapters available. It makes me wonder about justification for going with a Wired connection. It is much faster and more stable but the speed probably doesn't matter if the network is just providing an internet connection. However I might try out running other services like file sharing in the future if these would prove useful.

The last issue is regarding using certified professionals to carry out work. I have the tools and knowledge to install wired networking. However I am not a professional network engineer with certification in network installation. I consider myself competent to carry out the work. I know if the Church as to bring in external contractors to carry out work it could end up being very expensive for the Church. However if I do it, the only cost is for the items I need to carry out the work. Under the circumstances I would rather do the work myself but don't know if the Church will dislike me doing that preferring to bring in networking engineers.

I have a lot to think about and it is leading to me starting to second guess my decisions. It is a difficult balance given I can be torn between wanting a good quality solution to be put in the meeting houses because it is for the Church and I don't want it to be substandard. On the other hand I am aware that the decisions I make have an impact on the cost to the Church which comes out of sacred funds and so do not wish the Church to pay more than needed.
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Postby jdlessley » Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:24 am

I agree with your plan to install a wired network within the building for administrative computers. This is easier to maintain than a wireless network and more secure if managed correctly.

Since you already purchased the switch it is not worth discussing further. That is a sunk cost now. I would have used a standard 10/100 switch.

Predicting future technology needs within the Church is a dice roll at best. Keeping it simple seems to have worked for me over the past six years. I did go a bit beyond our need when I used CAT-6 cabling instead of CAT-5e. It was marginally more expensive but since the Church was putting in CAT-6 in new building construction I decided to follow suit. At least if the higher speed available over CAT-6 is ever to be needed then new cabling would not have to be installed. I doubt that going to optical cable is worth the expense at this point.

The Church does prefer that network cabling be installed by a contract professional. It is not required however. The benefit of a professional installing it is the assurance of an installation that meets standards as well as the piece of mind that there should not be issues resulting from poor terminations or damaged cabling during installation. You would have to get your FM manager's approval to install cabling yourself or by someone not contracted by them. The best option in terms of cost is to have a member who is qualified, maybe who is even a professional installer, do it as a service rather than have the FM group contract it.

When you run cable to the ward wing make sure the cable run does not exceed the 100 meter maximum length. This distance is not just from termination point to termination point but from networking device to networking device. This would include any patch cable lengths. I ran into this issue when planning an installation. Install a networking switch at some convenient intermediate point if the run will exceed the 100 meter length. The reason for the length limit is signal timing. Adding a switch effectively doubles the maximum to 200 meters. I suppose a second switch could be used to go further but I have not seen any information on how many switches could be used in a network run.
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Postby carljokl » Thu Apr 14, 2011 7:55 am

I am familiar with the maximum permitted distances over copper networking cable for the different specifications. The distances involved should be under but it would depend very much on the route used.

I have really not gone about this well as I have let my enthusiasm to just get this work done allow me to get ahead of myself and start buying bits and pieces I think I will need without first getting permission. I did accept when doing so that I might pay for them myself and not claim back for them. However if I am not careful the cost could spiral. There is the suggestion of using ethernet over power. It feels a bit of an untidy way of doing things but it would work. It does have the problem that the network becomes available throughout all the power sockets in the building which may be a security concern. However it is cheaper than what I had in mind. I don't know the risk of someone happening to have a compatible ethernet over power adapter is any greater than the risk of someone finding out the LDSAccess password.
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Postby carljokl » Thu Apr 14, 2011 8:26 am

I should point out also that Fibre is not as expensive as it used to be. When I was looking at pricing it seems that now the price is similar to high grade Cat-6/Cat-6A cable. The real significant difference in expense is for equipment to work with the fibre i.e. the optical modules that need to be installed in the switch and the model of switch itself.
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Postby russellhltn » Thu Apr 14, 2011 11:03 am

I'd second the suggestion about working with the FM group. It is "their" building, and this is about complying with electrical code (laws of the land), etc.

I'd be careful about trying to get ahead of the curve on the networking. It's far too easy to "miss" and end up having to remove the equipment later because it doesn't comply with accepted standards. (I had a customer install fiber 10 years ago. They ended up pulling it out as the vendor stopped supporting that particular flavor of fiber.) I also don't think it's worth paying a premium now for something that won't be used until later. I'd stick to the "sweet spot" of price/performance and upgrade as needs require.

I would go for the extra cost of wired for fixed locations (I'd also add a jack for the chapel for any Internet broadcasts). Wired is more reliable and has a wider bandwidth.

For the same reason, I'd avoid Ethernet over power unless the costs of getting the connection any other way is prohibitive as such devices are susceptible to line noise.
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Postby carljokl » Thu Apr 14, 2011 2:51 pm

I am wondering if it might be worth using something like ethernet over power as a temporary solution. This might keep the clerks happy in the short term. It also depends if that office is managing to get any wireless signal.

The advantage of having another cabinet on the Ward wing is that it gives me another central point from which to run any cabling. The power over ethernet solution is ok for one computer. If I want more I will still end up needing a switch. The Clerks office has Bishop's offices on either side of it which would be good places to also run cabling (granted the Bishop's don't have Church provided computers but it would still be usable for the Bishop's own Laptops. It also provides an easier means of running cabling to the Chapel. Running a connection from the Family History Centre where the current cabinet is to the Chapel would be awkward and could well hit the 100m limit.

I take your point about the fibre. Is the system which was pulled out something like FDDI? That was a token ring style setup that ended up dying the death. The cabling I was looking at was OM3 and connectivity which seems to be supported on all the specifications right up to 100 Gigabit ethernet. Granted, I find it hard to imagine the need for that much bandwidth. It is more of a concern that if running cabling between the wings might require running it along channeling with the power cabling (which is supposed to be avoided for copper wire based networking due to the interference).

Still, I take your point. The big rollouts of fibre to the premises and fibre to the cabinet services all over the world is apparently what is driving down the price of fibre.

One thing I find tricky regarding policy is that I expect that there is likely to be variation depending on the part of the world you are in. The video mentioning about having patch panels and having ethernet run to key locations is probably a lot more likely to be done in places like Utah and core areas of the Church with high membership density. I expect the infrastructure and expectations to be less in other parts of the world. The standard setup in the UK has been for buildings with Family History Centres to have internet access. These will have a cabinet provided and most often, just one access point connected via ethernet. I haven't seen any setup where a patch panel was included. Some places have used ethernet for computers close to the box but as standard practice, even the fixed location FHC computers have had wireless adapters installed and I haven't known of the Church installing network sockets. The places using bits of wired connections have usually not been properly installed to network sockets and tidied away with trunking.

The regional facilities manager is pleasant and helpful but even by his own admission, not so knowledgable about the Computer / Network side of things. I suspect the Stake PFR seems to be in a similar situation. This seems fair enough as the presence of networks in UK chapels is a much newer development. If all goes ahead I think I will be the Stakes first Stake Technology Specialist and so it is all a bit new for many people.
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Postby Aczlan » Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:38 pm

RussellHltn wrote:I'd second the suggestion about working with the FM group. It is "their" building, and this is about complying with electrical code (laws of the land), etc.

I met with someone from FM the other week to do a walkthrough and talk about running CAT6 for our webcasting installation and I think that both of us were happier after the meeting. He set out the standards that we needed to follow and the route to take and I was able to get some questions answered. Both were edified by the meeting.

I would go for the extra cost of wired for fixed locations (I'd also add a jack for the chapel for any Internet broadcasts). Wired is more reliable and has a wider bandwidth.
For the same reason, I'd avoid Ethernet over power unless the costs of getting the connection any other way is prohibitive as such devices are susceptible to line noise.


I agree. If your line is short enough to do with copper, pull CAT6 and dont worry about fiber. Remember that you may not be the person who has to fix it in 5 years and while ethernet will be available, your particular flavor of fiber may not be.

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Postby russellhltn » Thu Apr 14, 2011 7:50 pm

carljokl wrote:I am wondering if it might be worth using something like Ethernet over power as a temporary solution.


My advice is to buy it from a place with a good return policy. You may find it doesn't work at all for what you need it for. BTDT, got the return receipt.


carljokl wrote:The advantage of having another cabinet on the Ward wing is that it gives me another central point from which to run any cabling.


In your situation, that sounds like a good plan.

carljokl wrote:Is the system which was pulled out something like FDDI? That was a token ring style setup that ended up dying the death.


I don't know. The guy went fiber instead of twisted pair back when he graduated from shared printers. (!) But he ended up abandoning it when he could no longer get controller cards. The world is littered with good tech ideas that just never got wide acceptance.


carljokl wrote:The cabling I was looking at was OM3 and connectivity which seems to be supported on all the specifications right up to 100 Gigabit Ethernet. Granted, I find it hard to imagine the need for that much bandwidth. It is more of a concern that if running cabling between the wings might require running it along channeling with the power cabling (which is supposed to be avoided for copper wire based networking due to the interference).


I'd be concerned about your replacement knowing where to get replacement equipment. While interference is a issue, there are laws about running "lethal" and "non-lethal" wiring in the same conduit.

carljokl wrote:One thing I find tricky regarding policy is that I expect that there is likely to be variation depending on the part of the world you are in.


Probably more due to what "era" the stuff was installed in. The church has changed direction a few times.

carljokl wrote:The regional facilities manager is pleasant and helpful but even by his own admission, not so knowledgeable about the Computer / Network side of things. I suspect the Stake PFR seems to be in a similar situation. This seems fair enough as the presence of networks in UK chapels is a much newer development. If all goes ahead I think I will be the Stakes first Stake Technology Specialist and so it is all a bit new for many people.


The FM probably isn't all the interested in the details of the network. The primary need to involve them is in the running of the wring to make sure it complies with electrical and fire code.
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Postby jdlessley » Thu Apr 14, 2011 9:52 pm

RussellHltn wrote:
carljokl wrote:The regional facilities manager is pleasant and helpful but even by his own admission, not so knowledgable about the Computer / Network side of things. I suspect the Stake PFR seems to be in a similar situation. This seems fair enough as the presence of networks in UK chapels is a much newer development. If all goes ahead I think I will be the Stakes first Stake Technology Specialist and so it is all a bit new for many people.


The FM probably isn't all the interested in the details of the network. The primary need to involve them is in the running of the wring to make sure it complies with electrical and fire code.
Additionally they want to maintain building esthetics in accordance with Church standards to promote a possitive spiritual experience.
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Postby carljokl » Fri Apr 15, 2011 2:19 am

Aczlan wrote:
I agree. If your line is short enough to do with copper, pull CAT6 and dont worry about fiber. Remember that you may not be the person who has to fix it in 5 years and while ethernet will be available, your particular flavor of fiber may not be.

Aaron Z


It is by no means certain that I won't still be around in 5 years or that the type of fibre won't be supported. I am not saying that you are wrong but none of us knows the future which is part of the problem. Rather than using fibre, shielded Cat-6 cable could provide some protection against interference from any power cables. Cat-6 is easier to terminate. I don't have the tools of skills to terminate Fibre cable (and it is a much more involved process of shaping the end and polishing as I understand it) which means I would have to use pre terminated fibre. This makes things a bit more difficult if any drilling has to be done because a bigger hole is needed to get a cable through with the connector attached.

The problem as has been mentioned is the difficulty with Fibre is more about the equipment at the ends than the Fibre itself. This isn't Fibre vs Ethernet. It is Fibre vs Copper. Both of the systems are Ethernet. There has been a co-evolotion of the different standards of Copper and Fibre based ethernet. On the Copper side there has been 10 Base T 100 Base T 100 Base T etc and equivalent for Fibre is 10 Base FL 100 Base SX 1000 Base SX, 10G Base SR 100G Base SR etc (for short range multi mode fibre. There is also the FX/LX/ZX series for long range i.e. Kilometre distances on single mode fibre). The signalling and protocol is interoperable which is why this Netgear switch has two module slots which are wired to replace two of the copper ports to run over fibre instead.

I also may not have been clear about what I had had in mind. I was only considering fibre for the backbone link between the two cabinets. Everything else would be standard Cat-6. In 5 years time I would well expect that the same model switch would still be available just that it would probably be a higher revision of it. In 10 years it would likely be replaced altogether with an equivalent model. I agree that using a Fibre backbone is probably overkill, not due to the cost of the cable but the cost of the modules needed for the switch. Adapter cards are not relevant here because there would be no fibre running direct to any computer, just between two switches.

As regards physical connectors. The switch supports LC style connectors. The most popular connectors for fibre seem to be LC and ST though ST seems to be becoming less popular in favour of LC. My School installed Fibre optic ethernet links about 12 years ago. It was either 1998 or 1999 when that was put in. I believe it was 100 Base SX links. My Brother in Law now works as a maths teacher at that school. I am trying to find out if in the intervening 12 years the Fibre system has had to be replaced or updated. Back then the ST and LC connectors were dominant as still seems to be the case 12 years later. Looking on the internet, it is possible to buy adapters that can convert from one kind of connector to another so even if a connector type fell out of popular use in the next 10 years I would expect an adapter to be available.

I read on the Internet that OM3 fibre is the most popular choice at the moment for businesses to run as backbones in their buildings. I therefore find it hard to believe that the rug would be pulled out from under all these businesses in 5 years and probably not in 10 years either. If it were I expect there to be a lot of angry businesses.

Even the copper systems have some limit to their life. If 12 years ago an installation used Cat 5 cable to wire a building, it would need to take it out and update it in order to use Gigabit ethernet. Cat 5e can support Gigabit over shorter distances. Cat 6 supports gigabit over the full standard 100m distance. Cat 6a supports 10 gigabit ethernet over sub 100m distances. Cat 7 supports 10 gigabit over the full standard 100m etc. From that point of view, OM3 fibre from a specification point of view is actually more future proof than Cat-6 cable. That said if an internet connection is the primary purpose of the networking then the Gigabit limit of Cat 6 is suitable for the foreseeable future.
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