Adding a Network Drop

Network Cable

Adding a Network Drop can be intimidating depending on the location and how the wires are run. If you are OK with matching wires to connectors and finding the right wire the essence of the job won’t be too difficult.

Planning Your Network Drop

When you look at the overall plan it’s simply a wire from point to point with properly terminated connectors.

That doesn’t mean the wire will be that easy to run since you may have to “fish” the fire through the attic/drop ceiling, and wall.

You will want to add a data cable into an existing outlet or add a new outlet.

If the wiring closet looks like the picture, you may wonder where to even start.

Working Alone?

Pulling cables can be accomplished with a single person but it is much easier to do it with a second person. The additional person doesn’t have to know how to add a network drop but they can be very helpful in keeping the wires from tangling.

If you end up adding the network drop alone, be prepared to go back and forth and up and down on ladders.

Which Wire Goes Where?

Task number one is to identify the existing wiring. As likely as not data

Switch

and phone wiring will be in the same closet.

If you are lucky the last installer left you a clue as to the endpoint of a wire.

Be kind and leave some sort of documentation for the next person.

Ideally you should leave a label on cables and/or outlets.

What Kind of Wire ?

Plenum Cable (blue) in Wiring Closet

If the network wire is going through the ceiling then you must use plenum wire. It’s much more expensive and may be more difficult to use.

Downs Consulting suggests uses a box of cable since this is less likely to tangle. if you are forced to use a roll, prep the cable by winding on a cable roll.

If the wiring will be exposed then you need exterior grade cabling.

CAT5E or CAT6?

If you are installing a new network then CAT-6 makes sense since you will have the best network backbone.

Your network will only be as fast as the slowest link.

Wiring is the most difficult component to change so opt for the best on newer networks.

An older network will likely have CAT5E components so there’s no need to use the more expensive CAT 6 in this instance.

Where Do You Want the data Drop?

If you are adding to an existing outlet then you will probably need to fish cable through conduit to the existing outlet and replace the wall plate with one that provides another port.

Fish sticks and tape are good to have for these sorts of jobs.

Add Data Drop to Existing Outlet

Fishing wire into an existing outlet is the preferred install but it may take a bit more time.

Fish sticks are great for fishing up wire through walls if there is a enough room to maneuver them in the outlet box.  If the conduit comes in at an angle you may find it near impossible to get your fish stick through it.

It may be better to drop string down from the top with a fishing weight.

Add Data Drop to New Outlet

If you are adding a wall plate then you will need to cut a hole in the wall or add a surface mount box. Cutting drywall is pretty easy unless it’s an

Wall Plate With 2 Ports

exterior wall.

If it is an exterior be prepared to cut through insulation and stay well away from any electrical runs. This could be messy so opt for the surface mount box if it’s acceptable to your customer.

If there are already surface mounted conduit then one more box is not going to change the appearance. You can add wire channel to cover the exposed network wire or leave it exposed if it’s exterior rated wire.

Fishing the wire through a new outlet should be much easier since you can install low voltage boxes. Lots of room to maneuver your fish of choice.

 

 

Best Home Small Business Printer

Best Home Small Business Printer

Best Home Small Business Printer – where do I find one? The problem these days is that there are too many choices.

While a color laser printer used to be out of reach for home and small businesses they can be had for a reasonable price these days.

The initial cost of the Best Home Small Business Printer is just the beginning.

Keeping them in ink or toner can be expensive.

Bells and Whistles for Best Home Small Business Printer

Adding to the confusion of finding the Best Home Small Business Printer is all the bells and whistles that are available.

  • WiFi
  • FAX
  • ADF (Automatic Document Feeder)
  • Ethernet
  • print-shop-quality color prints
  • laser-sharp black and color text
  • high-speed prints
  • multiple paper trays
  • monthly duty cycle (pages/month)
  •  auto 2-sided print/copy/scan/fax.

Wireless Printers

Wireless printers allows printing from tablets (e.g., iPad) and

smartphones (e.g., iPhone). Not all printers make this easy.

Some printers may require mobile devices to print to the cloud (Internet).

While this can be useful we want our Best Home Small Business Printer to connect directly to.

Some may require you to print to their cloud or allow popular clouds like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.

Printing to the cloud may not be a concern if you have high-speed Internet but it might be a problem if you depend on a cellular data plan to upload the files.

There are also security concerns for uploading sensitive documents to the cloud.

Downs Consulting recommends a wireless printer that doesn’t require printing to the cloud. We prefer our Best Home Small Business Printer to print directly via WiFi.

Printing to the cloud is a nice feature but we don’t want all our print jobs to go through it.

Wi-Fi

Wireless setup sounds nice. In theory you setup your Best Home Small Business Printer anywhere you have

Wireless Connection

power and WiFi reception and you are “good to go”.

The printer forums are littered with complaints about printers connected or rather not connected via WiFi.

It’s common for WiFi to drop the connections. It’s similar to mobile phone connections.

Dropping a connection in the middle of a big print job could cause problems. Maybe you would have to start all over again after waiting minutes for it to enter the print queue.

The reality is that WiFi is not as dependable as an Ethernet connection.

Our advice is to use a wired connection if at all possible. This requires an Ethernet connections which some models may not have.

Ethernet

This is our preferred method of connecting our printer. We

can still use WiFi to connect to our mobile devices.

Downs Consulting recommends a networked printer that is not tied to a computer.

Many printers limit their functions if connected via USB.

Some printers may not have this capability.

Footprint and Noise

A noisy printer right next to you in a small office is no small intrusion on

your space.

Likewise, a huge printer is not going to very welcome either.

While there are plenty of small printers they tend to skimp on some features.

A small printer may be better for a Home user that doesn’t need all the “bells and whistles”.

When we settled on our Best Home Small Business Printer we still had to convince our office that we had room for it.

Printer Maintenance Costs – Ink & Toner

A major concern is operating costs. It’s common to see the ink/toner

replacement cost more than the printer.

Printers often come with starter

supplies that don’t last as long as the standard capacity.

Usually, you can find high-yield supplies that are a better buy in the long run.

It also saves on the aggravation of running to the store for supplies.

Some printers may refuse to work at all if one of their cartridges are low. This is particularly frustrating if you don’t need that cartridge for the job you have queued up.

New Color Inkjet printers can be up to 50% cheaper to operate than a color laser.

Review Sites

Review sites are a good place to start looking for available features, costs,

and buyer or editor opinions.

Preferably the  site has lost of reviews so the overall score can’t be skewed one way or another by a few one-sided reviews.

If there are not many reviews you may not get an accurate assessment.

Likewise, the site should not have a vested interest in the sale of the product and reviewers should be able to post sincere remarks.

A lack of disparaging or complimentary remarks could be a sign of bias.

 

Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports is a great resource for buying appliances like this but you need a subscription to see their reviews online. They compile statistics on the main categories including maintenance cost, print quality, photo quality, and speed.

You can usually get a free trial for online or magazines. The magazines come with a buyers guide and is a good resource in itself.

The Consumer Reports interactive video below offers some good advice.  You can click on the sections you are most interested in.

Other Review Sites

Some websites like PC Magazine have editor and user reviews.

Amazon has good prices and user reviews.

Bad Reviews

No printer is perfect in every way and we found bad reviews on the best-rated ones.

Some bad reviews may have been from lemons or simply technical errors. Some may have had issues with their networks. Some may have been malicious.

Laser Printers

Since some inkjet printers are cheaper to run than a color laser we would

not recommend a color laser as a Best Home Small Business Printer.

If you are only concerned about printing text then you may want to consider buying a monochrome laser printer.

Text quality has long been the domain of the laser printer but even here  inkjet printers are competitive with text print quality and speed.

Inkjet Printers

For us, all roads point to a Multi-Function inkjet printer which is somewhat disappointing.

Just when the costs of color laser have become affordable, inkjet

Inkjet printer – Downs Consulting

technology has become competitive in all respects.

 

We shouldn’t complain since keeping up with multiple toners for the color laser is not a task we would want.

Inkjet ink itself is expensive enough.

Compromises for the Best Home Small Business Printer

 

If you find a printer that is perfect in every way then it is likely a budget breaker.

Consequently, you have to decide what’s the most important features you need and what you can do without.

Our Best Home Small Business Printer requirements:

  1. Network connection  using our LAN (local area )
  2. Print laser-sharp text
  3. Print color and text
  4. FAX
  5. Scan
  6. Low Cost
  7. Reasonable speed
  8. Reasonable maintenance costs – Save on ink or toner
  9. Multiple Paper Trays

Nice to have features

  1. ADF – Automatic Document Feeder
  2. Automatic 2-sided print/copy/scan/fax
  3. Easy printing from tablets and smartphones – Android, Apple & Windows products
  4. Fast print speeds
  5. Stunning graphics and images

Why DHCP Ain’t as Good as it Used to Be

Why DHCP ain’t as good as it used to be.

DHCP used to be the go-to protocol when setting up computers and printers.

These days you may want to use static IPs for printers and maybe even computers if you user RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol).

DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) allows a server to hand out IPs and network information to devices joining your network. Often this is handled by a router. The router may be built into your cable modem on a home network.

Every device on your network requires a unique IP so that the requests for network and web resources get routed correctly.

The alternative is to set up static IPs, in which case, you manually enter pertinent information like the gateway (router), DNS servers, and a static IP that is not in the DHCP IP pool or previously assigned.

DHCP is much simpler especially is you have lots of devices coming and going. In fact, it is easier to enter a static IP after first reviewing a CMD prompt of ipconfig for the DHCP assigned values.

On a domain, this is best done by the server.

System

For our discussion, we will assume a small single server (server) but the principles apply to most DHCP servers.

Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard
DC (domain controller) for corp.domain.com
AD (Active Directory)
connected to the Internet via a cable router.

Vital Information

The vital pieces of information that DHCP must supply on a domain are the IP, gateway router, DNS servers, and domain.

DHCP scope options
003 router -192.168.0.1
006 DNS servers – 192.168.0.253 (our DC)
015 domain name – corp.domain.com

address pool : 192.168.0.50 -192.168.0.99

Typically we save a few IPs for static machines like servers, routers, and printers. For our system, we will reserve IPs below 192.168.0.50. For larger networks you may need multiple scopes and/or wider ranges.

The domain name should match the domain name in DNS forward lookup zone. You can find DNS & DHCP sections in Server Manager. Expand sections and right-click to select properties to  find & edit information.

Troubleshooting DHCP

For our demo system, we are assuming that server was in another domain prior (domain.com) to becoming DC (domain controller) for corp.domain.com. Since DNS forwarder shows corp.domain.com as the domain we will edit our DHCP name accordingly.

Our demo system also had a bogus router 0.0.0.0 so we delete the information and add our gateway 192.168.0.1.

These sorts of problems occur when the server goes from member server to domain controller of another domain.

In Conclusion

DHCP is still very useful so you will want to take advantage of it as much as possible.

Tip: Even if you use static IPs you may want to look at something that’s already on your network to see how DHCP set it up.

Slow Loading Websites & Resources

Network Issues

Slow Loading Websites & Resources

DNS (Domain Name System) is a service that translates website & computer names to ips (i.e., Internet Protocol addresses) so you can use friendly domain names like Google.com & Randy-laptop.

On a Windows domain this service is handled by the DC (Domain Controller).

IPs – IPv4

Note that every device on your network should have a unique ip. A duplicate ip causes confusion. Only the 1st device to secure an ip will be able to access the network.

Likewise many websites have a unique ip but this is not always the case. If your test website uses HTTP Secure(e,g, https://www.google.com)  then it has a unique website.

IPv4 is the easier protocol to deal with when accessing resources.

Applications

This article specifically applies to a Server 2008 R2 Standard single server domain with AD (Active Directory) but the principles can be applied to DNS servers everywhere.

A Server 2008 R2 Standard single server domain should point only to itself for DNS and not an external server. The rest of the domain should also point to this server. There should be no reason to have a forwarder in a single server domain but you might run across one if a server has been removed somehow.

Machines with static ips will have the local ip for the DNS server. Machines assigned ips via DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol)  will get that ip from the DHCP server.

Troubleshooting Domain DNS

If your clients on the domain access computer resources like network shares & websites without issues then your DNS is working properly. If on the other hand it takes a long time for a website or network share to load then you may want to investigate DNS.

A simple way to troubleshoot DNS is to try accessing the ip rather than the FQDN (Fully Qualified Domain Name). Chances are you don’t know the ip of the resource but you can ping it from a CMD prompt.

The examples below we are pinging FQDN cisco.com   & Randy-laptop with the -4 flag set (return IPv4). Once we have the ip we can try accessing these resources.

In the case of cisco.com we put the ip 72.163.4.161 in our browser. If the page loads for the ip and not the FQDN then we have a DNS problem.

In the case of the network resource, we can try connecting with a net use command. Assuming you have permission to access the save share on Randy-laptop then the net use command should connect  drive X. If you can access the share via ip but not FQDN then we have issues with DNS.

Examples:

C:\Users\Randy>ping cisco.com -4

Pinging cisco.com [72.163.4.161] with 32 bytes of data:

C:\Users\Randy>ping Randy-laptop -4

Pinging Randy-Laptop [192.168.1.25] with 32 bytes of data:

Connecting to network share using ip:

C:\Users\Randy>net use x: \\192.168.1.25\save
The command completed successfully.

DNS Problem Forwarder

In our example we are going to assume that the network is slow and resources drag. Troubleshooting leads us to believe there is a DNS problem. Looking at the properties of our DNS we find a forwarder.

 

We know the forwarder should not be there so we remove it & restart the DNS service. This is more likely to occur when you remove a DNS server from your domain. It can also occur when you move your DC to a new domain leaving the old DNS server behind.

Why Network Troubleshooting Will Change Your Life

Network Troubleshooting

Why Network Troubleshooting Will Change Your Life.

OK maybe it won’t change your life but it will demand a considerable amount of your time until you get it running properly.

Windows domain best practice is to use the domain server/s for DNS & DHCP. While these features are typically enabled on routers they cause a lot of grief on a Windows domain. Routers may know where the main DNS servers are on the Internet but they have no idea where your network servers are.

Consequently, the router will start looking for your server on the Internet 1st and then start interrogating your network. That yields an unnecessary lag time for searches for machines that are on your network.

This article primarily addresses a single server domain but the principles are similar for larger environments.

DNS – Domain Name System

If you are experiencing a lag time trying to find or connect to your server using a  Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) then your network may be misconfigured. Best practice is to have your DNS server reference itself and all the other PCs get their information from the local DNS server.

Since we are mainly focused on single-server domains then DNS will be on the domain controller.

Example:

domain – example.com

LAN – 192.168.0.xxx

gateway  – 192.168.0.1

server.example.com  – 192.168.0.2

DNS – 192.168.0.2

Once we setup the server static IP to use itself for DNS then the server won’t have any problems finding machines on the local network.

DHCP – Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol

The easy way to setup PCs on your network is to use DHCP. This tells the device where your DNS server, gateway are in addition to assigning an IP address from a pool.  For a home setup it’s easy enough to let the Internet router take care of these responsibilities. For a domain, however,  we want our server to handle DNS and DHCP too.

We will want to disable DNS & DHCP on the router (gateway) and add the roles to the server.

The DHCP server will issue is from our address pool and set the client PCs DNS to use the server ip for DNS.

Static ip Addresses

Machines like the server need static ips so that we always know what address it has. If you allow devices to use DHCP addresses then they may or may not get the same ip every time which can lead to more network problems for devices you connect to via an ip.

In our example, the server is at 192.168.0.2 on our Local Area Network (LAN). That means we had to assign an ip outside of the DHCP pool, subnet mask, gateway and DNS server (itself).

Best practice is to use a static ip for your server so we don’t end up with some sort of conflict. If other devices use static ips, then you will need to adjust the DNS on those devices if they are not set to your server.

 In Conclusion

Network troubleshooting may not change your life but it will definitely improve the quality of time you spend on your attached computers.