DIY WiFi Recipe


Have you ever heard this one? “You’re the technology guy, right? Can you help me with …” Technical leads at small companies get this a lot. We hate it.

But, small startups + big dreams + limited budget = being scrappy, being flexible and getting our hands dirty. Sometimes that means configuring the office printer. For me, it meant upgrading the office internet connection.

My startup outgrew our old office space and those 2 ancient wireless routers. We needed a future-proof WiFi solution that could handle Gigabit connections and the fastest MacBook Pros on the market.

Here is my scrappy recipe for installing a scalable office WiFi network that a clever CTO can manage with the right tools.

  • Prep Time:  8 hours;  Install time: 15h x 2 people
  • Budget:  $2700 parts;  $2700 labor
  • Serves:  up to 100 people and 250 devices

Ingredients

  • 10 – Wireless Access Points (WAPs) 802.11.ac, 1+ Gbps, PoE
  • 1 – 48 port PoE switch (from the WAP manufacturer)
  • 20 – Slim CAT6 Patch Cables – 1ft
  • 10 – Regular CAT6 Patch Cables – 1ft
  • 2 – 4 CAT6 solid UTP spools (plenum rated if necessary)
  • 1 Panduit 48 Port Flat Modular Patch Panel
  • 1 Cable Manager
  • 25 Punchdown jacks – Leviton quickport connector CAT6
  • Wire Labels and cable wraps

Tools

  • Punchdown tool
  • CAT6 cable tester
  • Step ladders, Drill, Saftey Glasses, etc.
  • JetLine
  • Label Maker & Sharpie markers

Other Requirements

  • Dedicated computer for running WAP controller web server
  • Existing Internet Access with router (50Mb to 1000Mb with CBTS or Spectrum in Cincy)
  • 19” Rack for switches and patch panel

Directions

  1. Network design: figure out your network plan. Divide your max office capacity by 10 to get the number of Wireless Access Points (WAPs).
  2. Wiring and Mounting plan: Where will you run the wires? How long is each cable run? How will you mount the access points? How will each WAP and port be labeled?
  3. Order the equipment, tools, and materials. Allow for 2 – 3 weeks for shipping the switch and WAPs.
  4. Mount the switch, patch panel, and cable manager on the standard 19 inch rack.
  5. Run the CAT6 cables. Use the sharpie to ID the cable ends and boxes before each pull. Run jet line to make future pulls easier.
  6. Label and terminate each end of the cable using the label maker, the punch down jacks and the punch down tool.
  7. Test each cable with a cable tester.
  8. Connect the cable to the patch panel, switch, and WAP using the 1 ft patch cables. Label the ports and WAPs.
  9. Install the WAP controller on a dedicated PC. Update and configure the WAPs.
  10. Install the WAPs on the ceiling. Test and clean up.

This scrappy WiFi solution should future-proof your office network for the rest of the decade, and do it with minimal installation and maintenance cost. Now back to coding that new product feature that we’re “supposed to be” focusing on….

Contact Us for help setting up your scrappy 1Gig WiFi

About the author: Steve Weathers is the technical lead at Vanda, the more intelligent mobile recruiting app. Steve is a full-stack web developer and analyst, who helps startups define their technology roadmap to success. Steve consulted on the recent WiFi installations at CovWorx, Branches Church, and Union Hall OTR.