Tag Archives: DSL

How to Build a Computer Network

If you own or manage two or more computers you need to connect your computers in a wired network to share Internet Connection and other services.
Here is a complete How To Build a Network.

Whether you are doing it at home or at your workplace, creating a computer network is not very difficult if you are a handy person and you have basic knowledge of computer networks. We will cover here most of the concepts you need to make your own LAN.
Computer Network
The series of articles will show you how to create a physical network and how to configure it to provide various services to your network users. We will focus on TCP/IP networks as this is the most common networking protocol.

Why Do You Need a Network?

You need a network if you need to share services for two or more computers.
Services that can be shared include: File sharing, sharing a network printer, Internet sharing, email services, Intranet, media broadcasting, etc…
In a home network, it is very common to share a printer and the Internet Connection.
In Business environment, the network becomes more complex and many more services will be needed to accommodate the use of many computers in a single network. Such services are DHCP – for automatic IP configuration, DNS – for name to IP resolution, corporate email, Proxy Server – for increased security on Internet, Intranet server – this is a private web server, VOIP phone system, etc…

What are the Limitations of My Network

You Ethernet cables are limited to 100m between any two active devices. If you need more than 100m between any two active devices such as computer and switch or computer to computer, you need to add a repeater or a hub, a switch will work as well, at each additional 100 meters, (or 333 ft.).
Depending on your materials and equipment, your network can run at 10Mb/s, 100Mb/s or 1Gigabit/s.
The most usual is to use Cat 5 or Cat 5e cables and connectors. A Cat 5 network can provide a speed up to 1000Mb/s.
If you need to connect at longer distances the more suitable solution are
Coaxial cable – up to 500M, speed 10Mb. You need special repeaters or hubs or special network cards.
The fiber optic – 10Km or more, speed up to 100Gb, depending on the equipment. It is the most expensive solution; the price though can be affordable for slower connections. For slower connections, most of the cost will consist on running the cable between the two points.
DSL is the cheap way to connect two remote offices if you have an available copper pair between the two offices.

What Do I Need to Make My own Network?

To make your own Ethernet Network you need the following equipment:
UTP/STP networking cable, RJ-45 connectors, Crimping tool, Punch down tool, Keystone Jacks, Wire stripper / Knife, Network Tester, Patch Panel, Network Switching device. The list includes also a stud finder, drywall saw, measuring tape, mounting plate, fish tape, ladder, and the usual tools such as screwdriver, drilling machine, hammer, etc…
Ample descriptions on the tools and materials are provided by following the links.

Computer Network Planning

The typical Ethernet Network has a star topology. That means that you have a central device, (network switch), that connects all of your network participants. This is important for your planning since you will have to run all of your cables to a central point. Make your measurements and place your central point in such manner that all of your cables are 100m or less. This includes the patch-cord as well.
If you have computers farther than 100m you will need to install a repeater. Alternatively you can use other types of connection, (coax, fiber optic, etc…), see the limitation paragraph.
When you run a cable consider the maximum amount of devices that can be stuffed into that office. It is a lot cheaper to run an extra cable or two per each office location than to run a single cable after the initial installation.
Install the keystones as close as possible to the actual location of the computer. Plan this thoroughly and pick the best location so that the patch-cord is out of the way.
Buy extra cable and extra connectors.
Use common paths for your cables whenever possible. If you run ten cables at once saves a lot of work and time.
Plan your cable route. Use ceiling whenever possible, it is the easiest path. Avoid running the cables near big electromagnetic sources.

Buying Computer Network Tools and Supplies

Do not buy cheap tools and materials. If you do, you will be penalized in different ways:
At the installation time you will get all sorts of problems trying to connect poor materials, cheap cable will be damaged more easily when manipulated, connectors will break easier.
In time the quality of the network will decrease if poor supplies and tools are used.
Overall experience and quality will be very poor if you get too cheap. If buying expensive tools is not justified, (a one time job), try to borrow good tools and don’t buy cheap ones.
Follow the links to learn what to look for when you are buying specific materials.
Now that you planned and bought all the Networking tools and supplies you can proceed to the Running the Cables for a Computer Network.

How to Troubleshoot Internet Connection Speed

Who didn’t have problems with the Internet speed at least once? OK, many of us, but as an IT professional I always meet and talk to the people who did have problems with their Internet Speed.
I hate to be run through standard procedure, which by the way I know by hearth, (I used to work in an ISP call center). You probably hate it too. If your problem is the Internet connection you will probably have to talk to an agent anyway, but, (with the help of my article), you will know from the start what’s wrong with your Internet connection.

Step 0 – Never Assume

First think I have learned in the Call Center was to never assume. Many times, when people call the Help Line they have a “pretty good idea” of what’s the problem. Usually they are wrong. Don’t do this mistake, do not presume or, do not presume without checking the facts. We hate the Call centers for making us do stupid things, check things that we don’t need to. The truth is that in most of the cases we overlook things and going by the book helps.
When we open up a browser and there is an error message “Page not found” we immediately assume that the connection is to blame. In fact many times this is just a temporary problem of our home page site. Try a different address to see if the connections is down or the home pages’s website is down. Try google.com for instance or ibm.com, or bing.com; if these don’t work it could be the connection

Step 1 – Try a reboot

Almost every time a reboot solves the problem. This might sound anecdotic but it actually works in many cases. Reboot the computer, reboot the modem, reboot the router behind the modem.

Isolate the problem
First of all we need to know that the problem is not in the network.

  • Use a computer that you are sure is not infected by any Mallware. Connect it directly to the DSL device, cable modem, or other type of modem.
  • Do not use the wireless; connect the computer with a network cable. This way you are testing the connection and nothing else.
  • As already mentioned, you need to make sure your computer works fine and is not infected. Use antivirus and antispyware if needed.
  • If you are not sure about the health of your computer you can always boot from a Live Linux CD. On the Live CD you will have a browser and other useful tools.
  • Once the system is up and you are connected to the Internet, test your connection with one of the free online services. Google-it and you will find many online DSL speed test websites. If the speed is OK then, the problem is in your computer, or your network, go to step 4.
  • Step 2 – Modem troubleshoot

    If the DSL speed test failed, (no connection or slow speed), you have a few things to try before calling the ISP
    Usually, for a DSL connection, the telephone line is shared with another device, a fax or a phone. Some of us have a separate line for DSL or they don’t even have a phone line, they only have a dry loop. If you don’t understand any of these you most likely don’t have it.

  • If you share the DSL line with another device you need to connect this second device through a DSL filter. I must stress: EVEN IF IT WORKED before without it, you must have the filter.
    DO NOT run the DSL line through a filter, you’ll only break your Internet Connection, only the phone or the fax, or Credit Card processing device, etc…
  • Check all the physical connections of the Modem Device, R6 or RJ11 or the RJ45 connectors and make sure that they are tight they don’t have the locking pins broken, etc…
  • For a DSL connection the length of the phone cable could be critical, so use the original cable, (the short one), provided with the modem at least for the testing period. The reason is because the length of the pair from the CO to your place can be at its length limits, it happens more often than you think. If you pass this limit your connection stability will be penalized. Another reason is because a long cable is more difficult to examine for defects than a short one.
    If needed, use a longer network cable to connect a device in the house. The network cable, (UTP – unshielded twisted pair), can go up to 100m (300 feet).
  • Some electric devices can interfere with the modem; avoid placing it near such devices.
  • Look at the modem’s lights. If the DSL light is off there is no service.
  • If there is no connection at all, (No DSL light), check the phone to see if you have a dial tone.
  • If the modem connects to a separate wall jack bring a phone and check if you have a dial tone, you might have a dial tone in the bedroom and not in the office.
  • Similarly check if there is TV service, if there is no TV service then most likely it is a bigger problem at your cable provider.
  • Look for the DSL filter as described above.
  • Check the LAN light on the modem. If the LAN LED is off your computer’s network adapter might be defective, or disabled, or the UTP cable that connects the computer with the modem might be defective. There is a chance that the modem’s LAN interface is defective.
  • If you have a solid DSL light, (check the modem’s manual, manufacturers have different signalling for established DSL connection), and you don’t have a connection check the password for the connection.
  • Step 3 – Connect to Your Modem’s Administration Interface

    All of the modern modems have a WEB Administration Interface. The admin Interface is usually accessible via a WEB browser. It lets you configure the authentication and other different settings.
    In order to administrate your modem you need the following:

  • The administrator’s password to access your router. If you don’t have it you can perform a hardware reset using the reset button located on the modem. You need to use a pin to press the button. This will reset all of your modem’s setting, including the admin password, to the factory defaults.
  • The IP address of the router. If the modem has its DHCP server started, (by default yes), it will lease your computer an IP address and provide it with other IP configuration settings such as: “Default Gateway”, netmask, and DNS. The important part is the gateway’s IP address as this is your modem’s internal interface and this is what you need to access your router’s web Interface. You can find all of this information by issuing the following command in a command prompt window with elevated rights, (admin credentials):
    ipconfig /all
    After issuing the command you will get a screen similar to this one. Note that the “Default Gateway” is the address of your modem.
    In a web browser type: http://IPADDRESS where IPADDRES is your router.
    For instance if your router’s (gateway) IP address is the address you are looking for is:
  • Once connected to the web interface you need to enter the authentication details. If you don’t have them you have to call your ISP which will make a reset after security verification.
  • If all of the previous steps did not solve the problem call your ISP. They might ask you to redo all of the steps above and maybe more. Be patient, they are just doing their job, they never assume, or they shouldn’t. The second they let themselves drawn into your speculation they make the same mistake as you do.

    Step 4 – Correct the problems behind the modem

    If the connection is OK the problem is behind the modem. This problem could be anything in your network.
    Some suggestions are:
    The router – many times the router can slow down your network. Try a reboot. If that doesn’t work try another model or another manufacturer. Do an upgrade of the firmware. Check the router’s configuration and try a default stripped down configuration.
    The computer – most of the times, the slow performance over Internet is actually the poor performance of a computer. This is a dense material that is treated in a separate article which you can find here: How to Refresh your Computer speed (coming soon).
    The network – many times a poor network will penalize al sorts of network traffic not only Internet. This makes the subject of another article here: How to Troubleshoot Your LAN, (Local Area Network). (coming soon)

    Ask me any technical question in the comments area so I can update the document or answer you directly on the comments. I would like to make this article as useful as possible.

    How to Improve Internet speed at your Business

    How to Improve Internet speed at your Business

    If you are a Business owner or a System Administrator and the Internet connection is an important piece of your business, you probably know how difficult it is sometimes to keep a good balance between the real needs and the perfect Internet Connection.

    Most of the times the first impulse is to make a connection upgrade and many times, this is the right step. Sometimes however we can improve a lot the Internet usage without upgrading. This article will show you what to do to improve the Internet speed without upgrading.

    What is the Root Cause of your Slow Internet

    Determine if the problem is the Internet Connection Bandwidth.
    Many times the problem is the computer or the Local Area network. If your network was installed by your cousin or a friend who “New How to Do IT” it is likely that this is your problem. Check this article to learn “How to Troubleshoot a Slow Network.”(coming soon)
    Use an Internet Connection Speed Test and determine if the connection performs at parameters.

    Implement policies for the Internet use.

    Very often companies don’t have a policy for Internet usage and employees abuse it and use it for personal use.
    Educate employees about the day to day operations.
    Many people don’t know what is acceptable to do and not to do on Internet. For Instance listening radio over Internet is a total waste if you don’t have huge bandwidth. Internet phones take a lot of bandwidth use whenever possible a regular phone. Video streaming are big bandwidth consumers. Users sometimes download files two or three times just because they don’t know where that file goes after the download. Many times they don’t even have the right to install or the file is already saved on an internal server. Sending files as attachments is another common mistake, especially if your mail server is hosted outside the company. Users will always prefer to send files via email than via a file server. A 15 Mb file will generate an Outlook message of around 18Mb. This 18 Mb will be uploaded to the email server which is the more painful operation on an asynchronous DSL connection (download is 3M but upload is 800K), and then will be again downloaded. If this email is sent to a few people imagine the connection bottleneck created.

    Using a Caching Proxy could save you Money

    If after all of the previous steps your business is still too slow you can implement a Caching Proxy. A Caching Proxy Server is an extremely useful tool to optimize Internet connection utilization and security. A Caching Proxy Server will cache the most used data and then serve it to its next client from the local copy rather than the Internet. A proxy will increase security in the company by providing an additional layer between the client and the Internet. It will help you enforce policies and control Internet Usage. It is also a great tool to log the Internet activity of your users. The downside of a proxy server is that is not easy to administrate, it needs an IT professional.

    Caching Proxy Software

    Two of the most used Caching Proxies are Squid and Microsoft ISA Server. Both of them are great tools extremely customizable and flexible. ISA Server is a rather expensive product but it has the advantage of a visual administration interface. On the other hand Squid is free software, but it needs command line administration. Another major advantage of Squid is that it doesn’t need too much hardware resources, and if configured properly can deliver excellent services.

    A good companion for squid is a Content Filter. A content filter is a program that filters the access to Internet based on rules specified by the Administrator, public lists of known offensive websites and heuristic analysis. Two good content filtering programs are DansGuardian and SquidGuard.

    Your Internet Usage Policies have to be Relaxed

    As a closing paragraph I would recommend to keep a balance between business and personal use depending of the nature of your business. My experience showed that an extreme restriction would deteriorate the work climate and make your employee unhappy. On the other hand security and control of Internet Access are a very important factor and employees should understand this.