Another home/SMB network recomendation request

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Sharpe

Occasional Visitor
I was looking for some help with home/small business network advice. With the kids in remote learning and working from home with possibly starting our own Telehealth business, I need to upgrade our situation. I’ve been following some of the recent home network threads and have read a lot of good advice.

Current hardware is ISP provided wifi 6 gateway w/ 3 wifi 4 plume pods and 1 Gbps service. Nearly everything is wifi with exception of the entertainment center next to the gateway. 2700 sqft house with 2 stories and a basement built in the 60’s with some plaster and some sheetrock walls. Before the pandemic, we hosted a lot of friends and family and my 35+ connected devices plus all the guest devices require a more robust setup. I would like to run some wire and move to wired connections where possible. I am interested in a similar setup to jasonreg in the Home network revamp thread with separating home, guest, work and IoT.

I do understand that my wants cannot be achieved with the ISP provided gateway setup and know that I have to buy my own equipment. Thanks to Trip, I now know to look for good quality US cable. I initially was looking into Unifi for ease of use because of my skill level but I don’t know if I can trust it for performance and security in the Telehealth business (phone and video). I would like wifi throughout the house and I think 3 or 4 access points should do it. Main floor would be difficult to add APs to the ceiling so I was looking at the in-wall AP’s. Will initially buy wifi 5 but want to upgrade to wifi6E when available.

Cable(max run estimated at 110’+) Recommendations for 6A or 6? Belden 10GXS https://falcontech.com/collections/...ll-diameter-cat6a-cable-plenum-1000-ft-yellow seems like a good price if this is the $1500 cable that trip mentions.

Thanks in advance for any help on the matter
 

Sharpe

Occasional Visitor
I apologize for the first post, I tried not to ramble on with unnecessary details but it appears that I didn’t post legible questions. So I will try it again.

I am looking for any help and recommendations with hardware( router, switch(es), cable, APs, cable terminations (wall and network closet), tools for terminating and testing and anything else that I am overlooking. I followed the thread on this site called Home network revamp by jasonreg and I think that I would like a similar setup in regards to multiple networks for home, work, guest and IoT.

Project: Need to upgrade home network to handle bandwidth and security for remote student learning, Telehealth business and heavy home use.

Current layout and hardware: 2 story house with partial finished basement roughly 2700 sqft. The house has had renovations from previous owners so we have a mix of plaster and sheetrock walls. We currently use an ISP gateway with 1G service. I have 35+ devices connected at any given time and before the lock down it wasn’t out of the ordinary to have 50-60+ devices in use when we had guests over.

Cable: following other threads on this site, I started looking at U.S. based manufacturers. I ended up buying this cable from falcontech. Belden 10GXW13
https://falcontech.com/products/bel...ir-plenum-1000-ft-blue?variant=32576160235651 Hopefully I didn’t pick a terrible product. The cable runs will start in the basement and go up to the attic and then down to 4 different rooms. Main floor will have at least 3 runs and at least one run to the basement. Cable for at least 3 APs.

Hardware: I’m trying to find the best combination of stability, performance, security and ease of use for someone like myself that isn’t a network professional. I was initially thinking of the Unifi line of products but I’m unsure if it is the best for me. I have seen that the professionals here tend to like Cisco but again I am unsure with price, ease of use and if there are added costs for licenses of some sort. Is it better to stick to a particular product line because of controller management or mix and match products? If I have it right, the router needs to be able to handle the multiple networks with VLANS. The switch will need to have at least 4 PoE ports and at least 10 for in-wall outlets. In regards to the APs, my plan is to have Wifi 6e when available but probably just grab Wifi 5 for the time being. I think I like the in-wall APs for some areas in the house especially the ones that have ports on the bottom. Any reason to avoid them? I do not know what kind of power I will need for 6e APs so that’s why I went for the cat 6a cable just in case that would have been a deal breaker.

Terminating/tools: I plan to put a rack in the basement and use a patch panel. What would be the best products to use for terminating patch panels and wall plates? I have never done anything like this but feel like I can follow directions well and am not afraid to try. Which tools should I get to complete this task? Are there any reasonably priced testers after everything is terminated?

So, I hope that I did a better job of explaining and asking for the help that I need. I understand that no one here is obligated to help me and we are all probably very busy with the holidays. I very much appreciate any help that I can get on this matter.

Thank you!
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
Hi @Sharpe - Welcome. SNB has been a bit quieter since the forum overhaul, and the holidays I'm sure only add to the slowness.

A few surface questions to start:
- Budget: Considering the gear you've already mentioned, I'd presume you're ready to invest into the low-to-mid $x,xxx range if necessary?
- Hiring Out: I know you're all gung-ho to DIY, but depending on budget and geography, you may be a good fit for a high-end residential AV/IT firm to handle this for you.

I'll stop there for now.
 

Sharpe

Occasional Visitor
Hi @Trip-Thanks for taking time to respond.

-Budget: I would say that the low-to-mid range seems right. We are trying to start up a Tele business but can't until we can have reliable internet. That's why I've started with the purchase of cable first to make the internet as stable as I can to the office.
-Hiring out: The main reason for not looking very hard to find a professional is to save money and use that for better equipment. I haven't completely ruled out bringing in a pro but haven't really come across a business that does that kind of work. Western Mass/Hartford area if you know anyone.

Thanks
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
@Sharpe - Very welcome.

I would start by exploring some options to hire this out. Here's a few residential AV/network outfits in the Hartford area on Thumbtack. In particular, Lynx Systems appears to work with Ubiquiti, so they probably install and setup UniFi systems all the time. (I also saw Luxul on their site, which I would actively avoid -- it's ho-hum, at best). Perhaps give a few of those shops a call, and explain to them what you're looking for in the simplest way possible, and see if they can accommodate you and how the numbers look.

Regarding the use of your cable, they may or may not be willing (probably due to insurance/legal reasons more so than anything else). Belden is top-tier grade, though, so I'd venture they wouldn't shy away from it on its material quality alone, perhaps only if they'd rather use "their stuff" for sake of consistency. 10GXW is really nice, though. Only .25 inches in diameter, yet will do 10Gb and 100W of PoE out to full length, with minimal heat/line-loss. Not a bad choice at all.

Short of a full outsource, I'd at least get someone to fish and terminate all the Cat6a. The best operations make it look like an art form, do great finish work (as if the ports/plates were there to begin with) and will save you countless headaches. Then you can do the gear install and config with our help and a bit of Google-fu.

If you visit all those options and think you still want to DIY the whole thing, I'm sure you could eventually pull it off after a bit of education, tool buying and trial-and-error.
 
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Samir

Very Senior Member
Your ideal network for something like this would be a full gigabit network with some access points hanging off of it. But depending on how much wiring would have to be done and at what cost, you may have workable alternatives using moca and powerline adapters at a fraction of the cost.

It will be important to identify what areas will be using the heaviest access and start with those areas. Your existing wireless setup would then get less taxed and you might be able to get by with that as it won't be bogged down.
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
depending on how much wiring would have to be done and at what cost, you may have workable alternatives using moca and powerline adapters at a fraction of the cost.
MoCa is viable as an ethernet alternative, but in this case full house-wide ethernet is being installed. Powerline adapters are just not a good long-term solution; operational certainty is way too low (may work, may not; may start out working, then degrade at random or all at once). You won't find any integrators installing them, for good reason.
It will be important to identify what areas will be using the heaviest access and start with those areas. Your existing wireless setup would then get less taxed and you might be able to get by with that as it won't be bogged down.
At 2700 feet over 3 floors, one can only play with so much localization. One AP drop per floor, placed centrally and/or staggered off-axis, will likely be enough, and the OP will be ripping/replacing with SMB-class APs, purpose-built for higher density and load balancing. For wired access, one or two well-placed ports in any rooms with a seated user, and heavy access shouldn't be an issue anywhere in the house, wired or wireless.
 
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Sharpe

Occasional Visitor
@Trip Thanks for the heads up about Luxul. I contacted that company and they said that they'd get back to me. The only other company that I could find uses Pakedge but it appears to be made for home A/V and automation. I have never heard of either product lines and that is a big reason why I came here to ask advice.

@Samir Thank you for taking the time to reply. In the very beginning I was thinking of trying MoCa or Powerline adapters but I decided that I wanted to try PoE APs. There are 3 main areas in the house that use the most data. The living room with the main entertainment stack, my office/kids classroom and then my wife's office. My wife's office needs to have rock solid internet because when she is using the hospital's vpn and remote desktop even the slightest hiccup causes major problems.

The AP placement will not be ideal for a couple of reasons. The first is the fact that the finished basement area, my office/kids classroom and my wife's office are all stacked on top of each other at one end of the house. The second is that I don't think I can put a central AP on the main floor ceiling, I can put one on the ceiling in an addition that is now the main living room. I like the in wall style APs on the main floor for those reasons. If my goal is to have wifi 6e APs when they come out, wouldn't they need to be placed closer together so that the 6ghz band is in range of each other or would that only apply to AP and device? I also don't think that I can do away with 2.4 ghz because of IoT devices.
 

degrub

Very Senior Member
you can also place them on top of book cases or similar with good line of sight.
There are also wall units that have been mentioned in other threads here.
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
@Sharpe - Interested to learn what you heard back from any integrators, and if any might be a fit. Pakedge is OK, but nothing I'd favor over more tried-and-true network brands. We can solve AP placement by getting creative either with either ceiling models placed upside-down on book shelves / armoires, or in-wall units, or a combo of both. For Wifi 6E, theoretically placement would need to be tighter for seamless 6Ghz, but I think it's best to think of it as an in-the-same-room, line-of-sight, replacement-for-a-wire type of wireless, potentially more so than a roaming-friendly, range-capable wireless. So you'll want to conceptualize perhaps having a single 6E AP per access-heavy room.
 

Sharpe

Occasional Visitor
@Trip- I'm still waiting to hear back from them and I can give them another call this afternoon.

@degrub- Thanks for replying!

I am not too worried about AP placement because I am sure that I can make it work with the combination of ceiling and in wall designs. We don't really have any furniture on the main floor that is taller than counter height. The most difficult room will be my office/kids classroom because it still has some plaster walls and the ceiling is plaster. My initial thoughts on that room is to put an in wall AP/switch on the interior wall which would be wired to my PC and printer and not be far from the kids wifi school devices.
 

MichaelCG

Very Senior Member
I have a 3 story (incl finished basement) that is about 3000sqft all sheetrock house. Not a single one of my 5 APs are ceiling mounted. My central AP sits on top of the kitchen cabinets behind the trim/molding so the wife doesn't see it. Others are mounted on walls where I could get them. There are trade offs to my mounting choices, but they work.

You asked about the wall switchplate APs? The tradeoff is usually less than optimal physical location as well as their antenna design generally is optimized to face into a room. As long as you take that into account, they can be a great option when looking for flexibility.

As for Ubiquiti being secure enough for a telehealth business?? They are no less secure than any other option. Generally your weak link for security will be bad practices within the home...printers, old laptops, IoT devices, cameras....as well as most likely the use of WPA2-PSK (pre-shared keys) on the WiFi. If you really want to go for a true secure WiFi, you will need to switch up to one of the enterprise EAP options like EAP-TLS which is more secure, but quite a bit more overhead to maintain. I would highly suggest doing as much as you can to keep your business traffic segmented from your home traffic. This can be done on shared network equipment with VLANS and a proper firewall...but don't share other home resources with the business side of the network.
 

Sharpe

Occasional Visitor
@MichealCG- Thanks for taking the time to reply. It is good to know that I could find a way to use APs without mounting to the ceiling. The in wall AP choice for the classroom/office would only need to provide wifi to the kids school devices. I guess I was more worried about stability with Ubiquiti but I thought I saw something fairly recent about a big security hole in their firmware. When I first started to think about this project about two years ago, it was with the idea that I'd use Ubiquiti. It wasn't until the pandemic that I started to think about just how vital stability is with telehealth.

My goal would be to setup VLANS to separate traffic. I still have to do some learning on this topic. Do multiple VLANS work across APs?
 

Sharpe

Occasional Visitor
Happy New Year to everyone!

So I didn't have very much luck hiring a professional. Either no call backs or no shows for site survey. I ended up hiring an electrician to help punch out some holes and make room for the cables to the attic. He also helped me get 2 sets of runs to the office and living room so that I can at least wire the office to the isp router.

I have some cabling questions. I bought 6110G-RW6 Modular Jack, Leviton QuickPort, CAT6A, RJ45 keystone jacks to go with my belden 10gxw cable, was this a good or bad choice? Can keystone jacks be punched down more than once or is it a one and done? Asking because I'm just doing temporary things until I replace all equipment. Does anyone have a good suggestion for a 90 degree down ethernet adapter to make the cable not stick out so far from the wall before getting to the baseboard?

For PoE switches like the unifi switch pro 24 PoE or unifi 6 switch 24, can all my runs be put on any of the ports even if it wouldn't use PoE?

Thanks!
 

Samir

Very Senior Member
@Samir Thank you for taking the time to reply. In the very beginning I was thinking of trying MoCa or Powerline adapters but I decided that I wanted to try PoE APs. There are 3 main areas in the house that use the most data. The living room with the main entertainment stack, my office/kids classroom and then my wife's office. My wife's office needs to have rock solid internet because when she is using the hospital's vpn and remote desktop even the slightest hiccup causes major problems.

The AP placement will not be ideal for a couple of reasons. The first is the fact that the finished basement area, my office/kids classroom and my wife's office are all stacked on top of each other at one end of the house. The second is that I don't think I can put a central AP on the main floor ceiling, I can put one on the ceiling in an addition that is now the main living room. I like the in wall style APs on the main floor for those reasons. If my goal is to have wifi 6e APs when they come out, wouldn't they need to be placed closer together so that the 6ghz band is in range of each other or would that only apply to AP and device? I also don't think that I can do away with 2.4 ghz because of IoT devices.
Wired performance in any form is going to be superior to wireless, so keep that in mind--especially for the wife. My wife and I both use latency sensitive applications all day long (rdp, video and voice calls), and we are both hardwired, me directly in via ethernet and her via a netgear powerline.

The stacked scenario is not too bad since most antennas have a 'doughnut' signal pattern. When we owned hotels, this was the same challenge there, and stacked APs weren't really an issue except that if the signal was too strong they would be fighting versus overlapping properly. I wouldn't mess with wifi 6 unless you have devices that need it.
 

Samir

Very Senior Member
Generally your weak link for security will be bad practices within the home...printers, old laptops, IoT devices, cameras....as well as most likely the use of WPA2-PSK (pre-shared keys) on the WiFi. If you really want to go for a true secure WiFi, you will need to switch up to one of the enterprise EAP options like EAP-TLS which is more secure, but quite a bit more overhead to maintain.
Or you can wire it and not have to worry about the wifi aspect of security. Did you know that government employees that stayed in our hotels could only use wired ethernet for their work? Yep, no wifi allowed at all even though we had it. We got a lot of business because we had ethernet jacks in every room. If it's a government mandate for dod employees, it's probably not a bad idea for your wife's setup.
 

Samir

Very Senior Member
@MichealCG- Thanks for taking the time to reply. It is good to know that I could find a way to use APs without mounting to the ceiling. The in wall AP choice for the classroom/office would only need to provide wifi to the kids school devices. I guess I was more worried about stability with Ubiquiti but I thought I saw something fairly recent about a big security hole in their firmware. When I first started to think about this project about two years ago, it was with the idea that I'd use Ubiquiti. It wasn't until the pandemic that I started to think about just how vital stability is with telehealth.

My goal would be to setup VLANS to separate traffic. I still have to do some learning on this topic. Do multiple VLANS work across APs?
I manage 3 different sites (used to be 5) including various homes and businesses. These are all our sites.

The most important thing is to build your system's workflow before throwing technology at it. Like the segmentation you mentioned using vlans. The big question is, does that work ever leave wired in the office? If not, no need to have that vlan on all the access points as that presents an attack vector. If it's a potential future need, then it would be prudent to make sure you can set up something easily or what you would need to upgrade, but I always try to focus on the present because technology can a lot of time facilitate a change as well, and then your extra time spent worrying about the future was for nil because the new 'thing' already includes it.

For a set up like yours where you almost literally have a couple of different 'workstations' I would literally wire and AP those segments independently. Using vlans is one way to do it, but I'm more old school in that I want those to be separate logical networks and even physical if possible, especially if these things shouldn't really be talking to each other.

Ubiquiti is some solid stuff. I haven't used it myself, but I have read so many install scenarios and configurations that I think it is in another league compared to anything the consumer can get. It's practically enterprise quality--which is what you want. And from what I remember in my various readings, yes the APs can have multiple ssids for multiple vlans.
 

Samir

Very Senior Member
Yeah, that's professionals for you. Unless you're a corporation with a big job, the good guys are never going to come to you--it's just too small of a job.

So the cabling you got may be a bit of an oddball as their marketing blurb is about it being the thinnest cat6a and is part of a 'system' (aka potentially proprietary system), and it seems like this 'system' has its own keystones. Now the leviton may work for the time being, but I'd get the correct belden ones for the proper performance of their 'system'.

And instead of trying to find a right angle ethernet cable, I would simply run the cable right down to the baseboard and use a surface mount box like this one:

Yep, poe is only used if the device requests it.
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
Hi @Sharpe

Too bad on the AV/IT shops. I'm not sure about others, but I always at least try and return a phone call... oh well.

On the gear: per @Samir's observations, most of these higher-end cabling "systems" have system-specific takes on each piece of the cabling infrastructure, with keystones and termination systems being arguably the most important (especially with Cat6a). In Belden's case, they offer 10GX KeyConnect and also their newer REVConnect system, which offers even faster terminations and higher assurance of being in-spec for Cat6a, which has much tighter tolerances than Cat6. If I were you, extra cost notwithstanding, I'd consider looking into the REVConnect system, especially since you don't have much experience with manually terminating on your own yet.

That being said, each of these parts must also be interoperable, so mixing brand across part types (ex: cabling and keystones) should work and be in-spec, provided you terminate properly. In the case of the Leviton Cat6a QuickConnect keystones, they are more of the generic type, but you can still get a rapid-termination tool for them from Fluke (here's the one made specifically for the Leviton 6110G).

Re- a downward-facing wall jack, I'd opt for angled 45-degree wall plates (Leviton examples). Second choice and/or if you have to use conventional wall-plates, use 90-degree patch cords (they make them in up, down, left and right orientations).

Re- PoE questions, I always find it nicest to buy switches with PoE on all ports, so I don't have to play musical chairs with my ports later on, or incur the additional inventory and cable mapping overhead. And yes, with any proper active PoE switch (802.3af, at, bt etc.) you can plug a non-PoE device into a port capable of PoE and it will immediately auto-negotiate not to send power.
 

Sharpe

Occasional Visitor
@Samir Thanks again for your help. I really like the idea of having her work network confined to her office. I think it might be possible if/when she leaves the hospital completely and is only doing private practice. The hospital requires so much admin work that she usually does notes/triage in bed at night and on the couch when she wakes up.

Thanks for the recommendation for the surface box. That will be perfect and that is exactly the kind of advice I was looking for here.

On my equipment plans, I have come back to the idea of the Unifi line because I feel that I can learn to use it with all of the YouTube videos on their equipment. So as of today I'm thinking of purchasing modem(arris sb8200), Dream machine pro, one of the 24 pro PoE switches and various aps (disk, flex and in wall). Just so I'm clear and understand, Power over ethernet only happens when a device calls for it? And it wouldn't "fry" something that doesn't need PoE?
 

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