Virtual Riders Headder - Briefings

Creating Small office Network1

Setting up a Small Office Network
Setting up a Small to medium network is relatively strait forward, all you need is a few devices and it can be installed within a couple of hours. There are many benefits for creating and utilising a network, but it can quickly go wrong. We have put together this simple guide to ensure the development of a solid and trustworthy network is installed.In this document we are going to look at a simple small office network consisting of the following :

Standard Office Systems:
4 x Main PC’s
2 x Laptops,
2 x Printers
1 x Internet connection
1 x Back up device (Network Attached Storage)

Network Technology required:
1 x  Broadband Modem/Router
1 x  4 Port Network Switch
1 x  8 Port Network Switch
1 x Wireless Router
15 x 10 meter Patch Cables
2 x Ethernet over Power Adapters
1 x Print Server

There are three main stages of a network installation.
  1. Planning
  2. Physical Installation
  3. Configuration
The most important stage in installing and using a network is the planning. From the type of connection used through to the way the network is used, the planning is a key element. Developing the correct knowledge and the right practices when installing the network can save time in the future when trouble shooting problems.Shared internet resources and office resources e.g. printers can dramatically reduce the running costs of an organisation.

Physical Installation,
This stage requires a lot of thought, employing the correct technology is essential for the networks smooth operation. There are many devices available advertising many features, but come at a high price. The main consideration in the Physical layer is the connection between machines its correct term is Topology. Wired / Wireless.

Wireless Vs Wired


  1. Speed
  2. Reliability
  3. Ease of Troubleshooting
  4. Cost Effective 
  1. Installation can be tricky
Wired installations can be tricky sometimes due to planning or building restrictions; normally wired networks are installed where reliability and speed are paramount. Expanding the networks can also be problematic with these sorts of networks, Making sure there is redundant systems in these networks are essential for troubleshooting and expansion. Wired networks are normally employed for fixed or static computers as the physical installation is not normally altered after instillation.
There is also Ethernet over Power to consider, this system uses the copper wiring of tradition electrical outlets to connect systems together, there is a speed reduction but is still very reliable. Should be considered in systems where planning or building restrictions are in force, Considered by many as a good wireless alternative.

Tip: Always build in redundancy into the networks if you can run a single cable between the main area’s of a network you could consider doubling the cable so you have built in a good back up system, especially useful where re plastering or any holes are to be drilled.


  1. Flexible location
  2. Speed of Installation
  1. Connectivity reliability
  2. Trouble Shooting
  3. Security
  4. Speed
  5. Maintenance
Wireless systems main advantage is that the system does not require physical network connection, Very handy for temporary network locations, E.g. Meeting rooms or visitor locations, Correctly secured these can be very effective solutions, some buildings restrict the use of wireless networks by simply how they are built, sometimes the signal cannot penetrate the fabric of the building, testing these types of networks are essential to the installation process.

Each system has huge benefits and risks, considering the technology to be used can be subjected to differing factors, most effective networks employ the three types of network devices in there use and deliver a high performance over a single connection type.

Connectivity, the only word used to describe the technology aim of networking and the correct physical layer of any network. The most important thing is to do a simple assessment of the type of connection you need. Also required is the technology that will connect everything together.

This device comes in two main types and this is dependant on the type of internet that you have installed. If your internet connection is supplied through the phone line, this is called ADSL; you will require a router with an added interface called a modem commonly displayed on the boxes ad Modem/Router. The other type is a Cable connection and this will have been installed with its own connection installed by the Broadband Supplier, E.g. Virgin / Karoo (Kingston).The router sub divides and splits the internet to all the systems on your network, allowing you to share your connection with others in the office through a single connection.  

Network Switch
This device allows the computers to connect to the network and share data between each other and all devices on the network, these come in connection sizes 4,8,16,24 ect. These numbers relate to the amount physical connections available for devices on your network, remember this is any device so routers, printers and other switches should be taken in consideration when working out how many ports you require, in this document were using 1x 4 port switch and 1 x 8 port switch.

The other thing you should be aware other than the amount of the connections on the front/rear of the switch, is the speed of the switch, this relates to how fast the network will react to the data to be sent and received. The Speeds are commonly 3 types 10 t-Base, 100 T-Base and 1000 t-Base / 1Gbit (1 gigabit) the number relates to the speed of the data, 10 the slowest and 1000 the fastest.

Understanding the way that data moves is not essential for the basic network but may become handy when troubleshooting the networks, there are many different configurations for your machines and the possibilities are endless.

Print Server
This type of devices are very versitle and will allow a non network printer to attach to your network without having to pass through a PC eliminating the need for security issues and also for reliability, if a printer is connected to the network via a pc then this is potentially a weak link in the network. If the PC fails the printer is off line until it is serviced or if there is a lot of pc’s printing at the same time the host PC to the printer will slow affecting productivity.

There are two main types, Parallel or USB so that they can connect to the type of printer you already are using.

Ethernet over Power Adapters
These adapters allow connectivity between pc’s with the existing power cables installed in the building. Suitable for area’s of problematic installation for traditional networking cables these are a more dynamic way to get the network into these area’s, they are fast and also being through cable to cable connection they present a high reliability factor. The adapters look like an oversized plug with a series of lights and a network port on the back and three pin plugs on the front. One is required at the switch end of the network and one at the pc end.

In most cases only one adapter is used at the switch end and they can support more adapters spread thought the building. This subdivides the signal though so be careful not to slow the network down.

Patch Cable
A patch cable is the network cable that fits between a device and a socket either a wall socket or another device. Hey are made up from a pair of plastic RJ45 plugs joined together with CAT5e patch cable. Coloured variants are available and can make diagnosis easier if employed correctly for example. Re cables for the N.A.S device and Blue Cables for the Computers etc.

Wireless Access Point (and Router)
The wireless access point properly configured is a great tool for working with laptops, enabling laptops to retain there freedom from wires, can be prone to building fabrication weakening the signal, this highly versatile system should be used in area’s where cabling is undesirable and unsightly like meeting rooms or visitor area’s.

N.A.S (Network Attached Storage)
Network attached storage (see separate briefing paper) can be any device containing hard drives for general sharing and possibly a printer connection normally via usb, if you have an old pc you may want to have a look at the versatile freenas project at www.freenas.org a very handy free program making use of an old pc. Making sure the NAS has a Gigabit adapter within it would be advantageous.

Once the network has been physically connected the devices need to know where each other are and the language they need to speak to communicate with each other, The network standard language uses a protocol called TCP/IP. This allows the computers to convert the data into a language that can be transferred easily and quickly by slicing the data into bite sized chunks called Packets. Also within this protocol there is an address this is called the IPAddress. Its format would look like below
This number will identify the device on the network, all devices has to have its own address on the network, this would be like the houses on a street each having a post code relating them to an area and a house number for individuality within the street so that the post man knows the location and address in which to deliver post. Each part of the address has a function, the first parts of the address allow you to identify the network uniquely, 192.168.1 is the post code of the network and the .1 relates to the address of the device. Each device must have a unique number.

Manual Vs DHCP (Dynamic Host Control Protocol / Automatic Address Allocation
DHCP is a unit within a unit or network device that scans the network and automatically assigns an address to the network devices; it works out all the network addresses for you and assigns them in order of connection.

Manual Assigning of Networking Addresses is when you have to work out the addresses for your network and input them into all the devices manually, it’s a bit more time consuming and not as fast to configure new devices, also it relies heavily on documentation for a network to be repaired fast.

Manual configured networks are easier to trouble shoot and easier to set up than automatically assigned network addresses. The main advantage is that your network is under more strict control and only by knowing a correct free address; a network device can be joined. Also makes wireless networks more secure.

Putting it all together
The diagram below shows what we would like to achieve in this briefing paper, a simple network connection with storage printer sharing and pc’s working collaboratively, allowing us heighten productivity and reduce troubleshooting time and develop Networking Best Practices.Even though we cannot see the building it consists of an office, a meeting room, a computer room and a reception area.

Creating Small office Network2

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Network Notepad Freeware Edition

When wiring a network, there are two main types of connections, the first is the back bone, this is the cable that carries the signal between the primary devices for example the router to the switch the switch to another switch, this is like the motorway on the network, it does not require any special cable but it does require planning, as in the diagram the backbone exists between the router and the two switches this allows all the different networking devices to communicate with each other, the backbone switches in our diagram are 1 gigabit allowing the fastest data transfer between the two switches. The second type are radial connections mainly the computer and devices being patched to the switches. The computer are not carrying a lot of data or need high speed communication so they are at 100 t-base and the printers are also 100 t-base. As you can see the switches have different devices connected to them.

The N.A.S has a gigabit device fitted within it to allow the maximum speed because there will be a lot of computers and devices drawing data from this device as it will be the central storage. The printer attached to the N.A.S is a photocopier with a USB connection connected directly to the N.A.S.

The wireless router is positioned in the far office because it will give a stronger signal to the meeting room for the two laptops and will boost efficiency and also the reliability of the system.

Ok let’s look at the technology and the devices in each area.

Computer room
1 x Internet Port,
1 x Broadband Router, 
1 x Backbone, 
1 x N.A.S, 
1 x Photocopier, 
1 x Desktop Pc, 
1 x Power Over Ethernet Adapter,
1 x 8 Port Gigabit Switch                                        

Office One
2 x Desktop Pc’s
1 x Usb Printer
1 x Print Server
1 x Wireless Access Point (Router)
1 x 4 port Gigabit Switch

1 x Desktop Pc
1 x Power Over Ethernet Adapter    

Meeting Room
2 x Wireless Laptops                                             

The backbone connects the computer room switch to the switch in Office One, allowing the network to extend between different parts of the building, where the backbone exists the network is classed as one network.

Configuration the network can be made easier if the IP addresses are kept in ranges for devices, and locations.
Example we have chosen the range of 200 – 254 for the computer room, 100-199 for the main office, 10 -50 for the reception area and 50 -99 for the wireless adapters.

Once the IPAddress has been configured on the device then the network location is sealed for that device, this allows the administrator of the network to know where the devices are at all times
You can find out if the device is online  by clicking start and then run, type CMD, once a black window appears and a flashing white cursor c:> type Ping and the IPAddress you want to check. E.g. C:> Ping

Computer room                                                       Configuration Information
1 x Internet Port                                                         BT ADSL
1 x Broadband Router                                      
1 x Backbone                                                          
1 x  N.A.S                                                      
1 x Photocopier                                               
1 x Desktop Pc                                               
1 x Power Over Ethernet Adapter                                   
1 x 8 Port Gigabit Switch                                        

Office One
2 x Desktop Pc’s                                            
1 x Usb Printer                                                       
1 x Print Server                                                  
1 x Wireless Access Point (router)                   
1 x 4 port Gigabit Switch                                        

1 x Desktop Pc                                               
1 x Power Over Ethernet Adapter    

Meeting Room
2 x Wireless Laptops                                       

Benefits of a network

File Sharing
Sharing files with one or more computer can be beneficial in group working situations, also for central storage and backup.

Productivity is enhanced when a group of computer are networked, faster responses to group working documents and files are possible.Shared

Networked resource can be computers, their hard drives printers and network attached storage, this can be beneficial where printers and storage are limited or in some cases can be counter productive (Several printers with Several Cartridges that need replacing).

Shared Internet Services
Shared Internet services are one of the major benefits to any organisation, allowing groups to use a single internet gateway to supply the internet to the full range of systems attached. Also this is advantages with shared Mail etc.

Wireless Access
Networks are breaking free of wired networks and going wireless; this allows a certain amount of freedom when using devices as Wireless Laptops, P.D.A’s, printers, camera’s and many other new devices. This can allow network systems and resources to be in places never planned for network access or places where a Temporary office is required.

A network is a beneficial and highly productive system to employ into any organisation but there are as with anything the risks lets have a look at them in a bit more detail. Decisions are important and a strategy is to be applied to any situation where a network would or could be implemented.

Risks of a network

Opening your personal computer onto a network, there are many things that are required to be considered before you plug the cable in, Access control, access rights and making sure you know everything you want to be secure remains that way. Firewalls, Constraint shared folders; permissions can help with access control.

Viruses and Adware
A particularly well advertised threat, a good antivirus program can guard you against attacks but monitoring and usage control can also make the network more secure against these threats, within a network there are many dangers, if machines are not protected as a whole one infected file can spread to all machines on the network.

Data Protection (Personal / Company)
Data protection is a real concern for sensitive data, opening your machine onto a network system could be like opening the flood gates to un warranted data sharing, making sure person data and company data is appropriately protected is very important. The data protection act for information electronically stored and distributed is a very important guide line to getting this situation right

Internet Violations
The Internet is a fantastic resource but also can be deadly enemy, making sure appropriate measures to protect your company and its data is very important to everyone, if you imagine your network is joined to every other network in the world and on this network there can be people of different skill levels and people with malicious intent. We would like to state that the internet is a safe and secure place to work but it is not the case, firewalls and protection previously stated are good places to start, not sharing folders and resources unnecessarily, and using appropriate passwords also helps.

Wireless Access
Wireless Networks can be a hazard if not secured and managed properly, as these routers / access points can sometimes have a range over 300 meters. Unknown Access to your network can easily happen, if your internet gateway is vulnerable and someone accesses it even though you may be unaware, they could download sensitive data from your network or get access through your network to the internet and access materials that are unsolicited or even hack another network from yours, these kind of violations are less common but still a risk.

Common Terms Associated with Networks.

local area network (LAN) is a computer network covering a small physical area, like a home, office, or small group of buildings, such as a school, or an airport. A term that has grown in popularity for new smaller networks is S.O.H.O (Small Office Home Office)

Wide Area Network (WAN) is a computer network that covers a broad area (i.e., any network whose communications links cross metropolitan, regional, or national boundaries. (e.g. Internet)

The Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol Suite  (commonly known as TCP/IP) is the set of communications protocols used for the Internet and other similar networks. These protocols tell the computer and network devices how to communicate with each other, it also sets limits and settings for the network.

A router is a networking device whose software and hardware are usually tailored to the tasks of routing and forwarding information. For example, on the Internet, information is directed to various paths by routers. Routers generally contain a specialized operating system, RAM, and one or more processors, as well as two or more network interfaces.

Network switch is a computer networking device that connects network segments. Connecting the networking devices and allowing them to communicate with each other directly.

Patch Cable (Cat 5e)
A Network cable with an RJ45 on either end, interconnects the components of a network.

Wireless Equivalent Privacy / Wi-Fi Protected Access - Pre-shared key are both systems that encrypt data with a specific password, when the data is traveling wirelessly from one network point to anther, each piece of data is in itself encrypted so that it cannot be intercepted or accessed unless the password is present. WPA-PSK is used more commonly than the WEP system, due to the WEP being limited to a smaller algorithm.