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Creating Local Area Networks

Local Area Network (LAN) is a type of data network which is the first electronic network ever created at the early stages of networking. Even today as we are approaching year 2013, LANs still hold their dominance over any other type of network. It is used in almost every home with more than one network connected device. It is the foundation stone for all other types of networks.

Types of networks

The basic types of networks are LAN and Wide Area Network (WAN). The additional network types(often configurations rather than type per se), such as star, bus and ring networks, are engineered on the principles of LAN and WAN.

A LAN is a relatively small scale network infrastructure used for communication among machines connected to it. Like it’s name implies, the primary goal of a LAN is focused on a local region such as a house, a building, a single or multiple department(s) of a company, etc. However, depend on the complexity of devices connected to a LAN, it can get as complex as a WAN (for example, several LANs for fail-proofing).

The simplest way to explain a WAN, is that it is a network that goes beyond what a LAN can do. I can write a book on it, so for today we will just define WAN as a network that is same as or similar to the Internet WWW/FTP network around the world. I will talk about WAN and complex network types in a future publication.

Basics of LAN for novice and advanced users

To create a LAN, you need at least the following services and equipments;

  • A strong network connection (no point of creating a LAN for weak Internet connection, except when creating for internal use only network)
  • Up to date network infrastructure (CAT 5e vs CAT 6, 100 Mbps vs 1000 Mbps router/switches, etc; must have a modem, router, switch and network cables)
  • Access to the equipments (in an office environment, you need the authorization to physically access datacenters to install hardware)

To create a strong LAN, you need;

  • Choose a good central location that everyone who should have physical access can get into (in Canadian houses, I recommend somewhere in the basement)
  • A router with professional grade hardware or as highest consumer grade router in the market (preferentially 100/1000 Mbps)
  • If the router doesn’t have enough physical LAN ports for your needs, a gigabit switch
  • Enough network cables and access to the areas of the house/office (specially for centralization)

LAN for novice users

When creating a home LAN, you can either hire someone to do it or get dirty and do it yourself. A task that I think easy, may not be easy to someone else so, this guide may not be suitable for everyone.

For home users follow this instructions guide;

    1. Unplug the power to the modem (and may be unplug all the notwork wires too)

    2. Take the cable or ADSL line and hook it up to the appropriate port

    3. Connect a network cable to the modem; if you have a modem that has a routing functions, make sure the ISP can block the routing and connect the network cable to the appropriate port

    4. Take the other free end of the network cable from the modem and connect that to the input port of the router. The input port is usually labeled as WAN, Internet, ISP, input, etc and usually colored in a different color than rest of the ports

    5. If you require a switch, you may connect a network cable between the switch and the router using any other available port on both units. Neither the switch and the router have no preferred port for communicating with each other as long as you plugin the router side of the cable to an output

    6. Plugin all the other items to nu-occupied ports on the router and/or switch

If you want to create a professional “looking” network (or professional network), use RJ45 wall plugs on each end of the cable. You will need a network took set (hardware kit) in order to create the appropriate ends for the wall plug.

Recommended reading: Router or switch or hub – Confused?

Wireless network

If you are an average home user, wireless is a great option for physical cables. To setup a wireless network, make sure you buy a Wireless LAN (WLAN) capable router. I highly discourage using a wireless switch over a wireless router for many reasons that I don’t think most of my readers care to learn about.

ATTENTION: When placing a wireless router that will almost always expected to operate 24/7, do not place the unit inside a bedroom, children’s play rooms, near health equipments or other sensitive devices. While IEEE (electronics regulatory body) may sugar coat how safe the wireless microwaves (yes, both 2.4 and 5 Ghz use the same wave propagation technique as microwaves used on cellphones), it is yet to be understand the health effects of wireless technologies.

I am not an Engineer or a big fat company or works for government to advice you on what is wrong with WLAN. However, I am NOT blinded by money nor restricted by a “professional” organization to say what I have to say. I have been told my IQ in technologies are far better than 90% of so called “Engineers” who blindly say what large WLAN equipment manufacturing companies. I am sure I will be getting some bad emails for saying wireless technology may create serious health problems. But that’s what we called the real freedom of speech!

Tips for advanced users

When creating a network with NAS and server units, try to avoid using wireless connections to improve the performance of your network. Specially if you are looking for high up-time for your servers, connect them to the router/switch with wires. This will also reduce the possibility of a network failure.

Always use high grade equipments and follow proper instructions for software configurations before you manipulate items to change the behavior of the network. I advice to test the network at factory settings for at least 48 hours on both full and half load before making any changes.

Professional and advance LANs are the only place that I can advice a separated WLAN (if needed) from the router itself. Shop around for a WLAN boxes without the routing and connect it to a cable out from the DHCP server/smart switch or router. Configure the WLAN box with a static internal IP through settings of your server/router/smart switch.

Last but not least, if you are using experimental technologies such as CAT 6 cables, make sure you are prepared to change your network at a short notice.

Here is an example of well-designed LAN

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Network Diagram: note the LAN starts AFTER(below) the modem