The Ultimate Network Installation Guide: Installing a Network in 10 Steps

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These days, every aspect of our lives operates on the internet. Our phones, watches, and even microwaves connect to the internet. We go online to check our bank balances, shop for gifts, communicate with our friends, and even work. If you’re running a business in 2021, your building needs to be connected to the internet, too. Network setup fees can be expensive, but luckily, you can do it yourself! Read on to learn the basics of network installation and how you can get the right network for you.

Decide on a Network Type

When you get ready to install a network, the first thing you need to do is decide which sort of network you want to use. There are three basic network types: wired, wifi, and hybrid. 

As the name suggests, a wired network uses a physical connection to access the internet. These networks tend to be somewhat faster and more secure than the other two network types. 

Wi-Fi networks are the wireless models we’re all familiar with. We use them to connect to the internet on mobile devices, and many of us use them at home.

These networks are more convenient to use, since you don’t have to physically plug in a device, and they can be cheaper upfront. 

Hybrid networks combine the best of both wired and Wi-Fi systems, using elements of each. You can have certain devices that need more security wired into your network and others that need mobility on a wifi network.

About Wired Networks

There are a number of advantages to running a wired network, the biggest of which is security.

It’s much harder for hackers to break into a wired network than to snatch data off a wifi connection. Wired networks also tend to be faster, since they don’t have to send signals through walls. 

However, if you’re running multiple devices across different rooms, wired networks can start to get a little complex. To use this kind of network, you must run ethernet cables between every device and a hub, router, or switch. The hardware for this kind of network also tends to require a larger up-front investment.

About Wi-Fi Networks

The biggest advantage Wi-Fi networks provide is their flexibility.

You can run multiple devices in different rooms on the same network with no additional wiring requirements, and you can move devices from room to room with little difficulty. These systems also tend to be cheaper on the front end to install.

Unfortunately, that flexibility comes with some drawbacks, including compromised security. These networks also tend to run slower than wired networks and may be impacted by things like walls, pipes, microwaves, and filing cabinets. In fact, most wireless networks actually run at about half their projected speed.

About Hybrid Networks

Hybrid networks can get you both the flexibility of wifi and the security and speed of a wired network.

You can set up wired connections to desktops that need extra security and speed. But you can also run phones, tablets, and other wifi-powered devices off the wireless segment of your network. 

Hybrid networks will require some special equipment purchases to get them up and running. You’ll need a router designed to handle both wired and wireless connections. And you’ll need all the hardware for both a wired and a wifi network to get this network-style up and running.

Plan Your Installation

Once you’ve decided on which sort of network you want to run, you’ll need to start planning your installation. This step will be when you plan out all the practical considerations for your network. For instance, where will your cable run, which rooms need which connection options, and how many data points will you need? 

Start by deciding if your network cables are going to run through your ceiling or under your building, keeping in mind that they should not run adjacent to power outlets or cables.

You’ll also need to decide how many data points you need in each of your rooms to get a total data point count. Each of these data points will need special hardware to install properly.

Calculate Your Cable Amounts

The next step in your network installation process will be to calculate how much cable you’ll need.

Start by selecting a location to be your network hub, where your essential hardware will live. You may want to choose a central location in your building for this hub, especially if you’re planning to run a wifi or hybrid network. 

Measure the distance from each data point back to your network hub and add them together. You cannot join cables together, so each data point will need its own separate cable connection to the hub.

Add some extra cable for any patch leads you need. Then, add another 10 percent of your running total to give yourself some wiggle room, and use this final total as your cable length needs.

Get the Right Materials

Which hardware you’ll need to set up your network will depend in large part on which kind of network you’re running.

If you go with a wired network, you’ll need an ethernet network adaptor, an ethernet hub or switch, and an ethernet router. You’ll also need a modem and the proper sort of cabling for this network.

If you’re running a wifi network, your hardware requirements will be much lighter. You’ll need a wireless network adapter and a router set up to handle wifi networks. If you decide to go with a hybrid network, you may need a mix of all these pieces, plus a specialized hybrid router that can handle both types of network connection.

Gather Your Tools 

You’ll also need some specific tools to get your network set up. First, you’ll need a punch down tool, which has a punch down and wire snipping mechanism. You should look for a model suitable for network and telephone cable wiring and which has integrated wire hooks. 

You may also want a crimping tool on hand for joining your modular connectors.

Finally, be sure you have a network test tool that can handle 8P (RJ45) and 6P (RJ11 and RJ12) connections. This will let you know if your network is set up properly before you get all your devices hooked up.

Position Your Wall Plates

With all your planning done and your tools and materials gathered, it’s time to start the actual work of setting up your network. You’ll need to begin by marking where you want the wall plates for your data points to go. These will need some careful placement, so don’t rush this process.

In addition to being placed in convenient, accessible locations, you need to ensure that your wall plates aren’t anywhere near power outlets. You don’t want to run internet cable alongside power cables.

You also need to avoid light switches and any other electrical components.

Cut Holes

Once you’ve found and marked the right spots for your wall plates, it will be time to start cutting holes.

Before you break out any saws, go to your building’s breaker box and turn off the power to the building. This way, if you accidentally cut through any unexpected electrical wiring, you won’t be injured. 

Carefully cut a hole in the wall that’s the appropriate size for each of your data point wall plates. Always be sure to double-check your measurements and that your markings are level before you begin cutting.

If you aren’t confident in doing this yourself, you can always ask an electrician or contractor to help you cut these holes.

Run Your Cable 

Now that you have a place for your cable to run, you can start running all that cable you bought. Remember, you’ll need to run a separate line from the hub out to each individual data point. Run these one at a time, cutting off the excess cable once you reach the data point and then starting the next line.

You may have to crawl around in the walls or ceiling of your building during this process, so be sure to use care. Wear long sleeves and long pants to avoid scratches on your arms and legs. Also, be sure to leave your power off during this process. Instead, use a flashlight to navigate.

Test Your Cable

Once your cable is run, it’ll be time to hook everything up and test it. Start by stripping the insulation off the last two inches of your cable. There will be two levels of insulation, so be sure you remove all of it.

Then connect each of the wires to its color-coded terminal on the back of your wall terminal outlet and use your crimping tool to attach the two together. 

As you get each cable hooked up, use your network test tool to make sure everything’s working properly. Each light on your tester should flash in the expected order. If they don’t, double-check that you’ve attached the cables to their respective terminals correctly and that both ends of the cable are hooked to the correct device. 

Install Your Wall Plates 

Once all your data points are hooked up and working properly, you’ll be ready to start putting your building back together.

Install all your wall plates, being sure to follow any manufacturer directions about organizing cables and coverings behind the wall. Screw your wall cover plates in place and ensure that any holes in the drywall are patched and painted.

Set Up Your Router 

With your cable in place, you’ll next need to set up your router. Make sure you have the proper router type for the kind of network you’re running. Your router is in charge of sending internet signal through the correct channels to each device on the network, and if it’s not installed properly, your service won’t work.

Plug your router into an electrical outlet and then plug one end of a phone cable into the appropriate wall port.

Next, plug one end of an ethernet cable into your router and plug the other end into the ports you just installed. When you open the internet connectivity menu for the device you’re connecting. The router name should appear and you should be able to connect to the internet. 

Set Up Your Modem

If you’re using wifi or a hybrid network, you’ll also need to set up a modem. In some cases, you can get devices that serve as both a router and a modem for wireless networks.

If you have one of these models, simply follow the steps for the router setup and you should be able to connect to the internet. 

If you have a separate modem and router, plug the modem into an electrical outlet and then plug the phone cable into your modem before plugging it into the wall.

Plug your ethernet cable into the router on one end and into your modem on the other. You can also plug this cable directly from the router into the device you want to connect.

Learn the Basics of Network Installation 

If you’re running a business, it’s imperative that you be able to connect to the internet.

Knowing the basics of network installation can help you avoid expensive installation and setup fees. However, if you get confused during any of this, don’t be afraid to call the professionals for help. 

If you’d like help setting up or maintaining your business network, check out the rest of our site at Be Structured Technology Group. We can help you support, protect, secure, and strategize your network to keep your business running smoothly.

Schedule a free IT support consultation and start keeping your business connected the easy way today.

About Chad Lauterbach

CEO at Be Structured Technology Group, Inc. a Los Angeles based provider of Managed IT Services for small business. I desire to help small businesses better utilize technology by assisting in high level planning to make sure that new systems will benefit them both operationally and financially. I am careful to implement and support systems using industry best practices.