Call the Cable Guy: Wireless just won’t cut it

The Register published a nice explanation of why offices still require cabled network connections.  I think it’s readable by those without a lot of technical knowledge.

Check it out here:

When a client is looking at a major change to their office space such as an expansion or a move the issue about network wiring always comes up.  Hopefully it comes up sooner than later.  A lot of organizations didn’t consider it and don’t want to add a lot of money to their bill.  I can’t blame them, new network cabling is hardly the most exciting part of moving offices.  There is also the very questionable practice of some contractors submitting far too few network ports with their initial estimates so they can charge for “change orders” which are at a higher rate per drop.  Hint:  Please ask your IT support provider what their cabling recommendation is BEFORE you agree with your contractor’s cabling recommendation.  When clients haven’t considered adequate wiring the inevitable after-the-fact question comes up, “What about wireless?”

Wireless is great in board rooms.  Wireless is great at home, at a hotel, or an airport.  Turn the wireless hotspot on your cell phone and virtually tether your laptop?  Genius.  Technology is wonderful!  Until you hit scaling problems.  At home you probably don’t have fifty wireless devices pulling 100MB files from a local server.  You probably know not to have more than a couple of wifi devices tethered to your cell phone.  Wifi is neat but should remain in the ‘nice to have’ category of IT and NOT ‘need to have’.  Unless there are some serious mitigating factors, I submit that if your office computer network backbone is wifi, then you’re doing it wrong.

So how many network drops do you require?  I recommend a minimum of two per person with additional ones available for network printers.  For offices, you should have even more.  What happens if you end up sharing an office?  If you rearrange furniture, will you have network cables crossing the floor?  For an office big enough to accommodate two people, I’d recommend six drops probably on the three walls other than the one with a door.  Looking at an open office plan?  Beware, those sleek network jacks on your new furniture might cost a fortune and there probably aren’t enough of them.  For open office keep to the two jacks per conceivable person meaning two jacks wherever a person could sit.  Count on expansion – you’re not going to move buildings whenever you add staff so make sure your cabling is adequate.

For most organizations I’d recommend a network switch port for every network jack.  The exceptions would be organizations that have in-house IT or a service provider that is often at your site (plug: Radish Networks offers regular, scheduled service calls).  Chances are that you want every jack in your building to work and not have to deal with patching or oversubscribing.  So if you have 100 drops, you need 100 available network ports.  You pay for having adequate heating ventilation and cooling, light, electricity, telephones, and security for your staff – don’t cheap out on computer network access.  Wired networks aren’t going away and chances are that all of your staff will require access.