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Once you have Internet connectivity and a firewall set up properly in your meetinghouse, you have a new challenge: making that Internet connection available to various locations in the meetinghouse. This is where networking comes into play.
Wired and wireless networks
You have two options for extending access to the Internet from your firewall. You can create a wired network, which consists of Ethernet cables running to wall jacks. You can also create a wireless network, which requires you to place wireless access points in key areas of the meetinghouse. Often, you will implement a combination of the two.
Even if you only implement a wireless network, you will still need to run Ethernet cables from the firewall to the wireless access points. Often these wireless access points will not be positioned next to the firewall. Note that even the strongest wireless access point may not cover many areas of the meetinghouse. Solid materials such as cinderblocks, cement, and metal in walls will block the wireless signal strength. This will require you to be strategic about where you place the wireless access points and how many you choose to install.
Примечание: Both the wired and wireless systems you implement are referred to as a network. A network is collection of computers sharing the same resources -- in this case, sharing the same Internet access through the firewall. All computers that go online in your meetinghouse network will connect to the same firewall to gain access to the Internet.
Who is qualified to do this?
Granting full Internet access throughout your meetinghouse may involve installing several wireless access points and wired connections. This may not be something your ISP is willing or able to do for an appropriate cost. The ISP's primary role is to bring the Internet to the meetinghouse, not to fully wire up the meetinghouse with access throughout the building.
Installing a network may or may not be something that stake technology specialists or facility managers will do. Stake technology specialists should work closely with the facility manager and a separate contractor, if necessary, to install the network. If you or someone in your stake is qualified, you can install it. However, installing the network may involve crawling through small attic spaces, drilling holes through walls and ceiling, pulling cable in small crawl spaces, evaluating signal strength through different building materials, and understanding enough about electricity and construction to avoid electrocution or falling through the ceiling.
Stake volunteers implementing the network should probably be engineers or network technicians. To find a contractor to install the Internet, you can talk to your ISP. However, with a residential package, some ISP's will have a limited set of services they provide. You can search online for a "certified network technician" in your area code, or ask computer shops in your area if they provide or can recommend a network technician. Your facility manager or area office may have recommendations as well.
Примечание: The person who installs the network should work closely with the meetinghouse facility manager. The facility manager should know the details of the building, including crawl spaces, mechanical closets, attic access points, and other building details critical for installing Internet access.
As you decide about wired and wireless network options, it can be helpful to better understand the pros and cons of each option. What you choose to use will depend on the unique situation of your meetinghouse.
Wired networking pros and cons
- Faster, more consistent network speeds. Data consistently travels faster over wire than it does by air.
- Less susceptible to interference.
- Tighter control and security. Wired networking allows you to control more tightly which computers can access the Internet and reduces the risk that someone will be using the Internet without permission.
- Limited by reach of wires. You can only place computers as far away as you can wire them. If all of your computers are in a centralized location in your meetinghouse, this won't pose a problem, but if you plan on having computers in many locations, you will need a way to reach them with an Ethernet cable.
- Limited number of ports. Because the meetinghouse firewall comes with a limited number of Ethernet ports Cisco PIX has 4 ports and the Cisco ASA has 7 ports), you will be limited to that number of computers unless you invest in other networking devices (such as a switch) to expand your number of ports. While this can be done without too much trouble, it does add a layer of complexity to your network in regard to future changes and troubleshooting.
Wireless networking pros and cons
- No wires. Your network will not be limited by the ability of a wire to reach a location. This makes it easier to have computers in various parts of the building.
- More devices can connect. Because no direct Ethernet connection is needed for wireless connections, the number of devices you connect is not limited by the number of physical ports in the meetinghouse firewall.
- Mobile devices. Adding wireless networking will potentially allow members and visitors to access the Internet from mobile devices such as laptops, phones, and tablet devices. (This could be a benefit or a distraction depending on how this functionality is used.)
- Requires additional hardware. A wireless access point is required. These devices need to be purchased at the local level, and they add another layer of complexity to the network.
- Slower and less reliable connections. How fast and reliably you download content will depend on how close you are to the wireless access point and how many other people are using the wireless connection. The closer you are to the wireless access point, the better your signal strength and, therefore, the faster you will be able to access content. Also note that as more people connect to the wireless access point, the slower the connection will be.
- Less secure connections. Wireless encryption technology can go a long way to ensure the security of data being transmitted by the wireless access point, but the nature of broadcasting information increases the likelihood that someone might be able to get onto the meetinghouse's connection. Even with password protection, the passwords can get out and you will have no way of knowing who is connected and using the connection.
Did you know that your meetinghouse may have a name? There are several different common styles of meetinghouses. If your meetinghouse is one of these common styles and you can find out which one it is, you may be able to find or share best practices for extending network access in that style of meetinghouse.
For more information about networking, see the following: