Luxul’s XBR-2300 enterprise-grade dual-WAN routerOne of the major themes at CEDIA EXPO this past fall was custom integrators that “own” a client’s home network, will “own the home” by becoming the go-to resource for all things technical. Most experts seem to agree that owning the network requires a full commitment from the custom integrator and a strong partnership with a technology vendor capable of delivering the goods.
Whether or not he or she chooses to outsource networking to a specialist, savvy CIs first must gain a hands-on understanding of the nuts and bolts of networking, argued Pakedge director of marketing Olivia Dumanovsky.
“The only way to learn is to do it yourself,” she said. “It’s easy to hire an ‘expert’ to program or install the network for you, but you need to jump in and do it yourself [first]. Hands-on experience is the most beneficial thing for an integrator who wants to own their network. They need to explore the products they are using, understand them, learn about the device’s processor, it’s speed, limitations, etc.”
And, if you’re going to truly own the network, then you must commit to doing it the right way, noted Access Networks CEO Hagai Feiner. “Treat the network as the vital subsystem that it is–the digital foundation of the home,” he said. “Install a cabling infrastructure with patch bays and use cable testers to verify your work. Know the wireless spectrum, its limitations, and how to use 5GHz Wi-Fi to your advantage. Get a spectrum analyzer and use it when deploying a system. Lastly, install a network you can troubleshoot. Installing a Wi-Fi network with a wireless controller is a great start.”
Luxul customer services manager Martin Boulter noted that not every networking product is created equal and that product choice will impact installation complexity, network performance, and the overall customer experience. Beyond those fundamentals, he believes that integrators should familiarize themselves with the purpose, functions, and different options available for modems, routers, switches, and wireless access points.
Boulter added that understanding how IP addressing and subnets work is crucial knowledge, as is how to test and validate network performance.
“The ability to test network performance is a significant advantage to any integrator,” he said. “For the most part, network testing can be done with very little (if any) cost, but provides a way for the installer to not only validate the installation for his own purposes, but also as a way to add value and credibility by demonstrating to the customer what can be expected from the network installation.”
Most important of all, said Access Networks’ Feiner, set your ego aside when attempting to conquer home networking. “In the path to mastering the network you will not know everything,” he said. “Support continuing education for your team via CEDIA and use external resources to enhance your overall knowledge of the networking discipline within the IT world.”
Testing a Network
Luxul’s XAP-1020 wireless access pointLuxul customer services manager Martin Boulter believes that the ability to test network performance is a significant advantage to any integrator. He said that there are many excellent tools available for testing networks, including:
KPerf/IPerf: Bandwidth testing software that runs data throughput tests from one local machine to another.
InSSIDer: A wireless network survey tool that allows you to see what is active on each channel, as well as the signal strength.
Ekahau Heatmapper: A wireless network survey tool that generates a color-coded map of wireless coverage.
Advanced IP Scanner: Does IP address identification by scanning the local network and then displays the system name, manufacturer, and MAC address for each live IP.
Wireshark: Captures live network streams to determine where each packet is destined and its payload.
Zenmap: Scans public or private IP addresses to verify that a port is active and open.