How to extend LAN using fibre?
November 28, 2008 3:47 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to figure out a better way to extend our LAN to our shop that is about 220M away from our main Office/House. We currently have an Ethernet cable going almost half way, then it’s connected to a Patton Ethernet Extender (CopperLink Model 2168A) which carries it the rest of the way.


This solution works, but the network speed is very slow, internet browsing is fine, but accessing any of our network applications or copying files is slow. (<100Kbps).

So I am researching something that will offer better speeds, the only other option I can think of is a Fibre connection. I know this is the best and should offer full speed, but is expensive. I also know nothing about fibre networks and what I would need. I guess you need some sort of Ethernet to fibre convertor on each end.

So I am looking for advice on what is needed and maybe some specific products to make a single fibre link about 230m long, or ideas for other options.
posted by canadaka to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
Fiber is easy, and about $100 per end for Fast Ethernet or $150-$200 per end for GigE.

Look on NewEgg for media converters. There's a TrendNet deal that should work fine.

Just be sure to match the type of fiber with the type of converter. You can buy premade patch cables if you don't have the skill or desire to terminate it yourself, but you have to have conduit of a large enough size to fit the connectors through.
posted by wierdo at 4:20 PM on November 28, 2008

To use fiber, what you'll need is the fiber itself, and two "media converters". Here's an inexpensive example. Many routers can also be purchased with fiber uplink ports, either as a factory option or an add-on, if they're modular.

My understanding is that installing fiber can be tricky; it is much more sensitive to things like bend radii, and you can get really flaky performance if you don't do the termination right. I've never done it myself — when we had a similar requirement at a place I worked for, we brought in contractors to do the actual fiber installation and terminate the cables. If you can afford it, that's what I'd recommend.

I would probably buy the media converters (or routers with fiber ports) before the contractors show up, so they know what kind of fiber to run and what connectors to use. (The DLink above uses 62.5 or 100um multimode fiber with SC connectors, which I think is pretty common.) 220m ought to be easily within the range of a single piece of multimode fiber without repeaters or anything.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:21 PM on November 28, 2008

Yes. The fiber run and a media converter on each end is all you need.
posted by paulg at 4:22 PM on November 28, 2008

Since your run is only a couple times longer than the maximum allowable ethernet run, I think you can also get away with simply breaking it into segments and connecting them with ordinary ethernet switches. This might be a more attractive option if you have some reason to want network connectivity to that building at the halfway point (where you currently have the ethernet extender).
posted by hattifattener at 5:46 PM on November 28, 2008

If fibre is too expensive for you, try old-school coaxial ethernet. 230m is slightly over the official 185m limit of 10base2 (aka "thinnet"), but it might work. Otherwise 10base5 (aka "thicknet") will definitely work. I'm sure you could find used equipment being sold for peanuts or just gathering dust in someone's storage. It won't be fast, but it sounds like even 10Mbps would be a significant boost for you.
posted by randomstriker at 6:38 PM on November 28, 2008

but accessing any of our network applications or copying files is slow. (< 100Kbps).

That's slower than a T1. Something is very wrong here.

We currently have an Ethernet cable going almost half way

Are you sure of this? That Patton device allows for data over a phone cable (CAT 3 or below) not a CAT5 cable. It sounds like that you guys used a single twisted pair phone line to connect the two sites and bought that device to bridge the distance. If you had ethernet then you wouldnt use that device, youd be using two pairs, not one, and a router to segment the network.

If it is truly ethernet cat 5 then you should be able to put a router in where the Patton currently is. The router (not a hub or switch) will create a new network segment. Create a new subnet for the remote site. That should get you 100mbps, if its flakey at 100 then knock it down to 10. Heck, if the line quality is good you might even be able to get 1 Gbps!

If you do indeed have a phone quality cable then an ethernet run will be much cheaper than a fiber run. If you have line of site you can setup a wireless bridge with commodity wireless equipment paired with two nice directional antennas mounted on the roof pointing at each other. Thats probably the cheapest solution.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:25 PM on November 28, 2008

The most effective solution is a point-to-point DSL link. I've used Zyxel and Tut equipment before--the Zyxel was much better because it gave more information/configuration options. DSL will retrain to match the quality of the cable as needed instead of working or not working and running copper phone cable is much less of a specialized knowledge. You might already have telephone systems spanning both locations.

The problem with fiber is that the cable will deteriorate if exposed to the weather. You'd need a direct bury cable or conduit with innerduct to protect the fiber.

You can set the PtP DSL routers to work in a bridge mode and they will just extend your network without any fancy routing.
posted by joelr at 11:51 PM on November 28, 2008

damn dirty ape: A router's unnecessary; a switch should do fine (since it breaks the network into separate segments).

joelr: A DSL modem is essentially what canadaka is already using.
posted by hattifattener at 2:15 AM on November 29, 2008

Fibre is the Right Thing, will get rid of any ground potential difference or lightning strike issues, and is essentially future-proof. 220 metres is not very far for fibre. Even if you put in fibre that's only good for 100mbits right now, somebody will work out a media converter that lets you run gigabit over 220 metres of it within a few years. The main expense will be getting the trench dug and running the conduit.

Avoid Intellinet media converters. I've had several of those fail mysteriously at a school site.

Directional antennas and wifi will completely suck compared to fibre. It will, however, probably perform better than what you have now.

You can get optical point-to-point stuff that runs at a genuine 100 mbits, but if you thought fibre was expensive you can forget about those.
posted by flabdablet at 6:10 AM on November 29, 2008

A router's unnecessary; a switch should do fine (since it breaks the network into sepa
rate segments).

Close, but no cigar. It will microsegment the collsion domain but it wont break up the broadcast domain. The switch will just pass on the broadcast and will cause problems in the long run. You want to break both the broadcast and collision domain, the only way to do this is via vlans or routers.

The network needs to be segmented off on the data link layer or higher. So you need a router per 100m run. So his setup would be like this (using example IPs) (lan at main office to middle) (lan at run from router to secondary site) (this could be a switch if the two devices it plugs into is a router on its own broadcast domain) (local lan at secondary site)

If we are talking a handful of computers then perhaps he can get away with not breaking up his broadcast domain because traffic will be so low, but if its a business with a lot of client computers and servers then its the smart thing to do. I wonder if his current issue is thast his Patton repeater is just forwarding all this junk and saturating his low-bandwidth connection with collisions. Regardless, he needs to do some IP nework planning before deploying and that will involve at the very least two new routers and two new subnets.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:39 AM on November 29, 2008

Instead of fiber you could also put in 2 802.11x devices and beam the signal wirelessly between the two buildings.
posted by kasperj74 at 2:50 PM on December 2, 2008

WOW!! thanks for all the replies, I thought I would get an email notification if anyone replied, which I never, so i never checked back. I though to check today and was surprised!

The only reason we are really even considering Fibre is because we got a huge spool of a BC government auction for SUPER cheap. And we already have an underground conduit across the property with a pull cable in it.

We tried wireless first, but it did not work, the property is on a hill, which presented problems. I did try just a switch in the middle before getting the ethernet extenders, but it never worked. But just last week i decided to try again and I used a different switch at the house end and it worked this time!!! I guess the old switch wasn't putting out as much power or something. Its very weird though, I have to use that switch, and i have to use ports 1 and 2. The switch at the halfway point I must use ports 2-3 or else it doesn't work. I also have to power up all the switche son my network in a certain order, or the speed is 200k/sec. If I have everything off, and start the switch going the long distance first, then I get 6MB/sec.

That 6MB/sec is acceptable, but since we have this Fibre we might as well try it. I am concerned about making the ends, like someone mentioned. So we might get a contactor to do it. We found out the company that Shaw uses locally.

We are also buying a Cisco Catalyst Switch off craigslist and there are Fibre modules available for that. BUt i was wondering, if I use that on one end, can I use the D-link one on the other end? Or do each end have to be the same brand/make convertor?
posted by canadaka at 3:35 PM on January 14, 2009

And to clarify, the current cable that the Patton extender was using is a Cat5e cable. I currently have a support ticket with the Patton guys to try and find out why they were working so slow.
posted by canadaka at 3:37 PM on January 14, 2009

Or do each end have to be the same brand/make convertor?

As long as both ends are running the same Ethernet standard (e.g. 100base-FX or 1000base-SX) then you should be able to mix and match manufacturers without any difficulty.
posted by flabdablet at 7:30 PM on January 17, 2009

Oh, and given that you do already have a spool of fibre and the ability to pull it from building to building, fibre is definitely the right way to do this. A point-to-point fibre link will always outperform any other technology.
posted by flabdablet at 7:33 PM on January 17, 2009

Your speed problems tells me your are running out of spec (runs are too long) or that the cable is in bad quality. 200kbs unless you boot in some order? Yeah, thats not right. The fact that you are getting under 10mbps tells me you have quite a bit of packet loss still. Can you ping a server from one site to another and retain 100% packets? What is the ms? How fast can you get with iperf?
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:14 PM on January 17, 2009

Depending on what kind of fiber you got from that auction, you may need to hire a professional to do the termination at either end.

You might want to do that in any case, but some types of single-mode fiber can be very tricky to terminate, and is probably not something you want to get into.

Single-mode fiber (SMF) is what's typically used for long distance runs in telco networks, and I suspect it might be what you have, if you got a big reel of it surplus. For 220m it's not really the optimal thing (or rather, it's overkill), but if the price was good, it will do the trick. Just make sure the contractor you hire sees the fiber first, before they do anything else, or they may assume you have the easier-to-work-with multimode fiber and not bring the right tools or personnel.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:09 PM on January 21, 2009

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