Networks are all around us, inextricably woven into today’s commercial landscape. Whether it is a group of cash registers running on the same point-of-sale system, or an office building full of employees sharing and storing digital information between their workstations, networks bring an unparalleled level of interconnectivity and synchronization.
When networks are such an integral part of even the smallest facet of your business, it’s important that it is stable, reliable, and easy to maintain. The most reliable and secure networks are those that are wired, using actual cables to transmit information, as opposed to those that are wireless, and rely on radio frequencies.
In today’s business landscape, wired network installation, while sometimes complex, provides significant benefits in terms of connectivity and security. Let’s explore the scope, cost, requirements, and equipment involved in network installation
Network Installation Definition
What’s Network Installation?
Network installation is the selection and placement of hardware and equipment that will form the physical body and connective tissue of the network.
For many commercial networks, this looks like a dedicated room outfitted with high-performance servers and equipment racks with complex cabling. These heavy-duty networks support centralized data storage, voice and data programs, and sometimes even building security and surveillance.
For smaller companies, this often looks like a web router that is configured to work with a particular set of computers, phones, and other equipment, but it can take other forms according to the needs of the business. The crucial thing is that the hardware installation connects two or more computerized items in order to create a network, whether that network is big or small.
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Network Based Installation
Network based installation approaches the process of designing, planning, and implementing hardware and software that results in a cohesive, well-configured computer network that uses the Ethernet instead of Wi-Fi to access the internet. This network needs to meet the needs of the business, establish a stable and reliable network connection, and be easy to maintain.
Network Wiring Installation
Network wiring is often complex enough to befuddle even those who love technology. This kind of wiring is highly specialized and needs to be installed and organized in a very specific way in order to create a good network and to avoid maintenance problems down the road.
How to installation network cable
Here are just a few of important guidelines to follow when it comes to installing network cabling:
Cabling Practices to Avoid:
- Do not route cables through pipes and/or holes, since this can restrict future cable additions.
- Do not put extra twists in the cable.
- Do not position copper cables above or within the same runs as fiber cables, as their weight can literally crush them.
- Do not place cables in positions that block access to other equipment, both in and out of the racks.
- Never let cables be loose on the floor; instead, use the overhead, vertical, and horizontal cable managers on your equipment.
Best Practices in Network Cabling:
- Label all cables at their origin point and at their termination.
- Test every cable during the installation process, and label and remove dysfunctional ones.
- Use bend-loss-resistant cables when bending is unavoidable.
- To avoid downtime, design cabling that has sufficient vertical and horizontal runs.
- In tight spaces, use thin, high-density cables to allow for more overall.
- Carefully measure each patch cable to fit.
- Leave some slack at each end of a cable to allow for some device movement.
- Use cable spools within the equipment cases to prevent bending and fraying of cables.
- Use soft, flexible Velcro ties instead of zip ties to corral cables together every two feet.
- Document all cabling components and map their distribution. Update this log regularly.
- Use cable guides to prevent excess bending at the point where the cables plug into equipment.
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How much does it cost to install network wiring
The estimated cost to install network wiring depends on the size of your project, the site of your project, the amount of hardware you project requires, and the number of labor hours it will take to install your new network.
Installing a hardwired computer network between a small office building can cost anywhere between $500-$1000, while wiring a large office building (that may have specialized equipment that also needs to be incorporated into the network with individual data ports) costs anywhere from $2000-6000.
Each of the different types of wiring used to install a network have different capacities and cost points:
Cat 5e cable
This is the cheapest type of network cable, but also the slowest, least reliable, and in the process of being phased out by the industry. Some still choose to use Cat5 cable as a cost-cutting measure, but we don’t recommend it.
Cat 6 cable
This cable is excellent for many small-scale projects, as it is very affordable, available, and overall offers very fast data speeds up to 10 GB–as long as the run of the cable is under 90 meters.
Cat 7 cable
More expensive than Cat 5e and Cat 6, Cat 7 cable also has better performance. Cat 7 cable runs can be much longer than Cat 6 runs, and virtually never experiences crosstalk (cross-cable interference). Its top speed is also 10 GB.
Fiber optic cable
This type of cable is the fastest, most reliable, and most expensive. Instead of using thin copper thread, fiber optic cables use thin strands of glass. It also sometimes requires special tools to install. However, its many benefits make it the perfect option for businesses who need a network that supports a large number of computers or computerized equipment, or businesses that have large facilities that need to be connected by a network.
Network installation cost
The biggest factor in network installation cost is hardware. Beyond wiring, there’s a fair amount of other hardware that needs to be in place in order for a network to function:
- RJ45 connectors
- Data plugs
- Wall plates
- Wireless router and access points
- Patch panels
- Patch cables
- Ethernet switches
- Plastic grommets
- Velcro strips and cable ties
The more equipment that you need to loop into your network–such as printers, security cameras, computer-assisted manufacturing devices, etc.–the more data points, feet of cabling, and man-hours your network installation will need.
Network installation cost estimate
Talk to a professional installer to get a good network installation cost estimate. Some installers will be able to give you an estimate over the phone based on baseline information, such as whether your building is older or purpose-built for you, how large your building is, and how complicated your network will be.
However, we recommend working with network installers who do in-person site assessments before they provide a quote, even if you have to pay for the assessment, for the simple reason that it is much easier to get an accurate network installation cost estimate from someone who has seen your site and understands the needs of your business.
Over-the-phone estimates are all too frequently under-estimates, which leads to sticker shock later on down the line when you find out that the actual cost was much higher. Get someone out to look at your facility and discuss your networking requirements with you at the outset, and they’ll be able to give you an estimate much closer to what the eventual cost of the project will be.
Which network installation cost is low
Smaller networks cost less to install, simply because they need less hardware than larger networks. However, by identifying the right topology for your needs and the most efficient installation, you can help keep your network installation cost low.
Cabling and manpower account for much of the cost for network installation. You can keep costs down by opting for Cat6 cable instead of Cat7, or by sourcing some of the hardware yourself instead of using an installer or contractor.
You can also keep network installation cost low by creating a comprehensive network design and installation plan ahead of time. This will help you to accurately estimate the overall cost of manpower and equipment, as well as the time the installation will take.
Network installation fees and prices
Network installation fees will vary based on market prices of the network components.
The price of network cables depends on the type of cable. Cat 6 cable costs around $700 for 2,000 feet installed, while Cat 7 cable costs around $1,200 for 2,000 feet. The average cost of fiber optic cables is between $2 and $4 per linear foot, or $4,000-$8,000 for 2,000 feet.
When it comes to other components, cost per unit is lower, but you do need multiples of each:
- Velcro strips: $10 to $20
- Metal cable management strips: $25 to $85
- Patch panel: $10 and $100
Wi-Fi range extenders: $15 to $80
- Ethernet port with wall-mounted panel: $10 and $25
Network installation rate
To get the best network installation rate and not just the cheapest, make sure to do your homework. Never go with an installer simply because they’re the lowest bid, and always follow up on reviews, referrals, and professional accreditations when you’re selecting an installer.
Generally the network installation rate for labor is in the range of $50 to $100 per hour, and a network installation can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
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Network installation requirements
Before anything else comes the planning stage. Even simple networks have a certain amount of complexity, so a clear plan for what your network will look like, and the tools and standards that your installation will need, goes a long way to streamline the entire process.
Network installation topologies and trends
The first stage in network installation planning is selecting a network topology. There are two types of network topology:
Physical network topology is the actual physical arrangement of the devices, cabling, and connective links of your network.
Logical network topology describes the IT processes by which your network exchanges information.
Getting both of these right will enhance the performance of your network as well as optimize its cost efficiency. Plus, having detailed and up-to-date topology maps help IT professionals diagnose, troubleshoot, and fix possible problems like speed lag or bad connectivity.
In business, three topologies are most common:
Connects all devices to a central switch. It’s easy to add new devices to this network, and it uses cabling very efficiently, but it is imperative that the central switch is regularly inspected and maintained.
Every device is connected to every other device. This provides a robust system with high-speed data transfer. This type of network is highly reliable thanks to a large number of redundancies, but can also be expensive because it requires large amounts of cable and data ports.
This arranges nodes in a hierarchy, with different levels of “branches” of devices arranged up and down a “trunk” or central connection that links together each of the different branches. This topology has high functionality for many businesses thanks to its high-speed data transfer and easy fault identification and maintenance. But it does require a fair amount of hardware, and in the event that the “trunk” fails, the network will go down.
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Network installation steps
Here are the basic steps in the network installation process:
How to plan network installation
First of all, calculate how much cabling you will need for your project. Select a location for your central server and router, and then measure the distance from each node back to this location.
Depending on the topology your network will occupy–star, mesh, tree, etc.–you may need additional cabling to loop nodes themselves together.
Then, select and collect other necessary hardware. This includes your Ethernet router, switch, and server, as well as data plugs, plates, connectors, switches, and cable ties.
Other tools you’ll need for network setup are:
- Punch down tool, for punching down and snipping wire.
- Crimping tool, for joining modular connections.
- Network test tool, capable of testing 8P (RJ45) and 6P (RJ11 and RJ12) connections.
Network installation and configuration
Position wall plates
These wall plates are the conduits between your devices and the cabling that will lead them to your router, so they need to be positioned with care. The best place for wall plates are places that are easy to access, and that avoid other electrical components such as power outlets and light switches.
Cut holes for wall plates
Before any holes are cut, it’s important to cut the power to the building first by turning off the relevant switches in the breaker box. When it comes to cutting holes, always measure twice and cut once.
Now, with the power still off, is the time to run the cable between the router and the terminal wall plates. This sometimes involves getting into the walls and/or ceiling of the building, especially if it’s an older building and not purpose-built with cabling in mind.
Once the cable is run through and connected at both ends, it’s time to test the network connection–before any devices are on the network. This is accomplished using a network testing tool, which uses a series of lights flashing in a particular order to indicate whether the connection is active or not.
Once the network is operational, you can begin adding and configuring servers, routers, and computers.
Network installation documentation
As you or a professional install the network, it’s important to document as you go. Include your topology, equipment lists, device names, network names, passwords, and other relevant information.
In addition to helping you keep track of where you are and what you need in your project, network installation documentation makes maintenance and troubleshooting down the line much, much easier.
Network installation diagram
Diagrams are especially helpful documentation because they can help you visualize the parts of the network that are either intangible or hidden from view.
Network installers use a numbered patch panel and correspondingly numbered wall plates to clarify where each cable starts and ends, and record this in a diagram so that if a terminal data port ever experiences defects, only one cable needs to be inspected and/or replaced.
Diagrams also help differentiate the topology of your network versus other types of topology, which is again helpful in troubleshooting as well as scaling.
Network installation engineer
As you can see, network installation is a bit more complex than simply setting up a WiFi router. Wired network installation demands a higher level of expertise, both in IT equipment like routers, switches, and servers, and connectivity equipment like cabling, data plugs, wall ports, and more.
Network installation engineers often provide a smoother installation process, as well as a more reliable network overall. These professionals are experienced in the best ways to plan, install, arrange, and scale a network to meet the needs of their clients.
Network infrastructure installation
Sometimes, you’ll need to invest in some additional infrastructure in order to get your network up and running. This can include cable management systems such as cabinets or racks, building a server room or adapting an existing room to that purpose, or doing some renovations in order to allow cabling to pass through parts of the building.
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What are types of network installation
Network installation in building
Often, the best time to install a network is when a structure is actually being built. This allows you or a network installation engineer to install hardware like cables and wall plates with ease since the walls are not totally closed off the way they are in older constructions.
Network installation at home
Network installations at home are increasingly common as remote work and freelancing are changing the landscape of the workplace. A wired home network often provides a better working experience than a wireless.
Home network installation usually involves connecting just one or two rooms to a server, and sometimes up to four. There is a certain amount of disruption, but because the scale of the project is small in comparison to most networks, this type of installation is relatively quick and easy.
Network installation and maintenance
When you rely on a wired network to run your business, it’s important to keep up with maintenance in order to minimize any downtime and maximize the network’s ability to work for you. Here are a few best practices for network maintenance:
- Regular comprehensive inspections of hardware and connection points
- Regular software updates for connected devices
- Careful logging of each instance of maintenance or troubleshooting
Network installation and administration
After the process of network installation comes the process of network administration. This is the process of setting up the server by installing software and programs, creating folders and subfolders for those programs to live, and registering and synchronizing each computer or other device with the overall network.
Network installation and management
Once you have a network installed, you need to have a system to manage it, because networks can be complicated and need a certain amount of tending and oversight to make sure they are operating at full capacity and providing the most benefits.
Network management is the matrix of processes, protocols, tools, and devices that human administrators can use to service the network and ensure it meets its objectives for the business it hosts.
The basic architecture of a network management system is based on two elements: a management station, which is the interface between the network and its human manager/s, and management agents, which are the devices linked to the network.
The most common network management protocol is known as Simple Network Monitoring Protocol, or SNMP. This protocol collects information from a network’s agents, or devices, and funnels that information through the management station, which allows users and IT professionals to view this data and leverage it to troubleshoot problems or refine the network’s performance across these devices.
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Network installation benefits
With the widespread availability and affordability of Wi-Fi networks, why invest in wired networks at all?
Although wireless networks are easy and convenient, they fall short against wired networks when it comes to speed, security, reliably, and overall bandwidth. A wired network is much more difficult to hack into, experiences much fewer service disruptions, and can handle files of greater size without lag.
Plus, a wired network can be outfitted with a Wi-Fi booster in order to connect laptops, tablets, and Internet of Things devices to the network itself, giving users the best of both worlds.
Faster data speeds
Wired Ethernet networks are far faster than their Wi-Fi counterparts–especially fiber optic networks.
Wi-Fi struggles when it comes to transmitting large files because the frequencies it sends information on can only support so much data at a time. But in wired networks, this digital data travels through carefully arranged physical cables whose carrying capacity is much greater. It’s like the difference between a surface street full of stop lights, and a highway that gives you a fast trip between point A and point B.
More stable than wifi
Similarly, the physical nature of a wired system means it isn’t affected by many of the things that can down Wi-Fi, such as excess wind or snow, device overload, insufficient power and range, or radio interference. Wired systems will continue to function at a high level during everything but a power outage–and even then, if you have a backup generator, they’ll still be able to keep your business connected.
With a wired network, an individual needs physical access or a port or device on the network. This means you can protect your network with cyber security, such as firewalls, as well as security devices such as gates and locks. This is in contrast to a Wi-Fi system, which runs on radio waves that an intruder could piggy-back onto from a close enough range.
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Network installation risks
The biggest network installation risks arise when installing network wiring in an older building. Installation may be physically difficult or even dangerous, depending on the construction, and in some locales you may need special permits to make the necessary changes.
In a different sense, when you are planning or performing any kind of network installation, it’s important to identify and resolve issues that may affect the network’s overall efficacy:
Make sure the scope of your network meets or even exceeds your expected needs.
Radio frequency interference
If using a Wi-Fi booster incorporated into your wired network for certain devices, or cheaper cabling that has less robust RF shielding, a network installation needs to be preceded by a wireless site evaluation and countermeasures to cut or decrease RF interference on the network.
Software and application interfaces
Having software and applications installed properly on your server will keep the different devices that use them from experiencing lag, dropped data, and other errors.
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Network installation devices
Wired networks rely on hardware to make connections between devices, rooms, and users. These are the essential network installation devices:
This device looks a lot like the tower of a desktop computer, but it handles much more complex tasks and does the heavy lifting in your network. This is where the bulk of the digital data and the shared business information is stored. The server is essentially the “home base” for every computer in your network.
Servers can be cloud-based or local, with pros and cons of each. Which type you choose will ultimately depend on the scope and needs of your business.
Once all devices are verified through the router, the switch makes it possible for multiple devices to send information and communicate between themselves. A server sends data throughout the entire network; a switch sends data to one device at a time.
A firewall is an indispensable part of any network. This device actively protects your network from malicious data packs that may try to infiltrate it from the internet. Some firewalls also have features to encrypt the Internet traffic that happens on your network, or to automatically filter everything through a VPN.
You can easily simplify operations and make phones part of your network by selecting phone models that have Ethernet cord and plugs included. Your network will need a corresponding RJ45 jack for each phone.
Computers are the main agents in a network, and certainly the piece of equipment that gets the most use. Desktop computers plugged directly into the network with their own jack and cable will be the most secure and experience the best performance.
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Network installation equipment
Network faceplate installation and Network jack installation
The faceplate is the flat plastic over that creates a shield and tidy interface between the actual cabling and the Ethernet plug. Basic network faceplate installation involves a few steps that must be done carefully:
- Turn off the breaker to cut power to the room where the installation is taking place.
- Cut a hole in the wall or ceiling to fit the size of the faceplate.
- Feed the cabling from behind through the hole.
- Terminate each cable and strip the last two inches to expose the colored wires inside.
- Unwind these wires and thread them into the Ethernet keystone connector, or jack, using a punch-down tool to make sure each wire is securely seated in the right slot.
- Fit the jack to the faceplate so that the cables extend from the back, and the open “key” portion of the jack faces forward through the faceplate, and screw it into place.
Improper faceplate installation results in a crooked faceplate at best, and a faulty network connection at worst, so it requires careful measuring and cutting.
Network firewall installation
A firewall protects the network by filtering traffic and preventing malware, bugs, and spyware from getting onto the network.
Network firewalls can be hardware-based, as we’ve covered earlier here, but to have corresponding software on the computers and other devices linked to the network.
The best firewall installation will use hardware and software that covers a multiplicity of security issues, including:
- threat intelligence
- malware detection
- data loss protection
- DDoS defense
Network video recorder installation
Network installation can also install network cabling in places that facilitate video recorder information. Cameras in general are highly effective security devices, and synchronizing them with a network means that the footage they record is safely stored on the network server. From there, its managers can easily review, send, save, and delete camera footage.
Network installation deployment
Deployment is the process of making software systems available for use. This process will look different for every network, because every network is unique, with different devices, objectives, topologies, and layouts at play.
Broadly speaking, however, software deployment on a network will mean installing a piece of software or a software bundle, and then activating it so that it runs across the whole system.
Depending on the networks and software involved, this may require additional network configuration steps during the installation phase.
Network installation videos
Wiring an Office Network
This video walks through a simple network setup in a small doctor’s office. It introduces the standard layout for a wired network, from a central cable to cabinet, to how the cabling is run through the drop ceiling and walls, and how they terminate at the faceplate/node.
Hub, Switch, and Router Explained–What’s the Difference?
A hub, a switch, and a router all help manage the traffic and data load on a network. While their purposes may sound very similar, in an active network, each has a part to play. Learn how to differentiate and deploy each of these devices in one short video.
What is a Server? Servers vs Desktops Explained
Is a network server the same thing as a desktop server? Both have memory storage capacity and processing power, but servers have capabilities and purposes greater than those of a desktop. Learn how network servers are a step above regular desktops.
Office Network Setup! Network Upgrade!
A total rehab of an already-established office network is completed in less than five hours, thanks to some prep work ahead of time and a team of professional, experienced installers. Even one cable rack makes a big difference in the organization and optimization of an office network.
Small Office Network Rebuild
This rebuild relocates the uncontained cabling for an existing office network into a cabinet, as well as mounting the network’s router and switch inside. In the process, the installer has to track down the origin of some unlabeled wire and reorganize some of the cable layout. It’s a great example of the results of an inexpert installation, as well as what a professional network installation can accomplish.
What Ethernet Cable to Use? Cat5? Cat6? Cat7?
For a deeper dive on which type of Cat cable does what, check out this video. They go over the different standards and specifications for each type of cable, and put each one through a practical test. It also discusses some the best applications for each type of cable.