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Coming into my home, have a modem connected to an allegedly 20mb broadband connection. The modem has a single ethernet output. At present, I have it wired into a WRT54G 1.1 10/100 router with 4 ports and 2.4 Gb wireless transmission and that works fine.

In various rooms of the house, I have 8 x RJ45 sockets. Each socket has an individual CAT7 cable, all terminating as raw cut cables beside the modem (roughly 5-15 meters each) - i.e., just lopped off, no plugs on them etc.

On the consuming devices side, I have:

  1. a laptop with an integrated Marvell Yukon 88E8040 PCI-E Fast Ethernet Controller which I believe is 100MBit (which currently talks WiFi unless I can be bothered to go to the room with the router and do a direct connection - I want it to continue to talk over WiFi but obviously connecting up more rooms will give me more opportunities to connect directly where speed is critical, i.e., skype)

  2. a Linux-based Set Top Box which attaches to a dish (which has a Fast ethernet card but has never seen the internet would be nice to link up). (Its a linux based Vu+ Duo which can potentially stream over HTTP e.g. to boxes on the LAN). Not envisaging doing any real network use from it, though in some hands I'm sure one could find multiple ways to drench a network with it.

  3. a crummy desktop PC which is currently wired directly into one of the ports of the router


So, getting to the actual question: What networking hardware is most appropriate for me to use to connect 8 x unterminated CAT7 cables to a modem given

  • my consuming devices are all (only) 100Mbps capable
  • I have a 100MBit router with wireless
  • I want to retain my wireless capability
  • I only have 4 ports
  • I have 8 chopped CAT7 cables

My non-convincing ideas leading to this post:

  1. A basic 5+ port hub would seem to do the trick. Would one feed from the modem into it, stick 4 of the CAT7s + the connection to the router into it and the remaining 4 CAT7s into the router? Am I right in seeing no real reason to have a switch or anything fancy?

  2. I believe my traffic is sufficiently low that a switch is overkill (relative to a hub)

  3. Is there a form of patch panel or combination of straightforward passive devices that can connect up 8 cables, a wireless router and a modem on a simple single segment LAN?

  4. could one just connect all 8 wires of each colour together into one RJ45 plug and stick that into the back of the router? (Only half joking... is there simply no way that this can work? Do you need an active device the minute you go over 2 nodes?) :P

As can be inferred from the above, hardware and networking definitely aint my strong suit, so feel free to use as patronising language as necessary and make no assumptions of competence - I'm definitely not FizzBinning here!

Despite the rambling and unresearched feel, you'll have to take my word for having done an embarassing number of hours research beforehand. I know if I order an 8 port switch I'll probably be safe enough but I'd like to understand the options (and not end up with a patch panel to go onto ebay and/or find myself having to order a patch panel and/or 8 cables connecting from it into a switch sitting beside it for no reason etc.)

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3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

1 & 2) I recommend you stick with a switch. An unmanaged switch is cheap and avoids the uncecessary collisions that a hub would provide. Can you even buy hubs anymore?! You may as well plan for the future and get gigabit, the cost difference is tiny, and you have cat7 after all.

3) I think you have an opportunity to do this well, and will add value to your property. You can get a fairly small enclosure that will have a patch panel (to the rear of which you would terminate the cat7) then small patch runs up to the switch, with the router and modem hanging off a port of the switch.

4) No. They need to be seprately connected.

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Thanks Paul, much appreciated. Now some more silly questions... I take point 1/2 (though I dont actually have any GB network cards right now). 3) Is this functionally equivalent to a wall mount patch panel like this‌​? Am I right in thinking it merges traffic from 8 CAT7s into 1 (prob not - if not, how many cables go from the patch panel/enclosure to the switch)? If it just merges the traffic, does that mean modem sends into switch, which has 2 outs - a)router, b) single patch lead to the enclosure/patch panel 4) thanks. –  Ruben Bartelink Oct 6 '11 at 23:39
    
Ethernet hubs are considered obsolete. You have to go out of your way to find & purchase one. I had to buy used on eBay in order to get my last hub for network debugging. Ethernet hubs are no longer manufactured; some of the last "hubs" were actually switches but labled/sold as hubs (visit the wireshark site for that story). –  sawdust Oct 7 '11 at 0:51
    
Don't bother with a patch panel (there's no passive device of any kind that will simplify the cable mess), and use some of that savings for a Gigabit switch (instead of just a 10/100 switch). An 8-port switch (combined with the 4-port switch in your existing wireless router) will provide you with ten (4 + 8 - 2 = 10) ports for your 8 jacks. –  sawdust Oct 7 '11 at 1:14
    
The patch panel I was suggesting more for aesthetics than necessity, because I am visualising a bunch of cables just hanging out of a hole in the wall. If they are already tidy and located somewhere that the equipment can be located to directly plug-in, then cool. But of course a wall mounted patch panel cabinet simplifies cable mess simply though having proper cable structuring. But no it doesn't merge anything, the raw eight cables plug into the back of the device at Amazon, and you plug patches between it and the switch/router ports. One for one. There really is no option to merge. –  Paul Oct 7 '11 at 1:29
    
@sawdust: Thanks very much for the insightful inputs - just the sort of detail I was after –  Ruben Bartelink Oct 7 '11 at 7:52

Since your cabling is Cat 7, you should get a switch (or hub) with Gigabit capability, that way you can take advantage of the speed of your cabling when you need to copy files between PC, do some streaming etc.

Other than that, your setup can be just hat, the hub/switch and the WRT54G router, take in mind that you will probably have only one LAN segment and no other features in your internal LAN.

Best regards.

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Thanks - ack the justification/idea for a gigabit hub/switch (though as mentioned in the other, I'm some distance off using it as I dont have a gigabit net card yet). Am I right in saying you dont see any reason for extra hardware such as patch panels as mentioned in @Paul's answer (and that there's no way to achieve the result without a switch/hub). Also I'm assuming you're suggesting (as I thought initially) that there's no reason for a switch over a hub in my context (though a switch is better if its not much dearer). –  Ruben Bartelink Oct 6 '11 at 23:46
    
Unless the next owner of your house is a geek, I don't think the installation of a patch panel would be of great advantage. About the hardware, an unmanaged switch is a better option as recommended by @Paul –  jhcaiced Oct 7 '11 at 0:12
    
Ah, that figures - a friend who suggested a patch panel might have a role to play definitely qualifies for that badge. And props for recommending a portion of the other answer! –  Ruben Bartelink Oct 7 '11 at 7:47
    
Sorry for (after much deliberation) having to select @Paul's answer as the accepted one given you essentially made the same points, were exceptionally magnanimous and provided essential validation (and critique of) the other asnwer. –  Ruben Bartelink Oct 7 '11 at 8:10

Some additional (dirty) ideas

  • change current AP to AP with 4port-Gigabit LAN + add gigabit switch (later it became GigabitHomenet)
  • change AP to 8port-100Mb LAN (one device less, all hosts are DHCPed automagically)

Can't see also any advantages of patch-panel over just plain switch with 8 cables in it

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Thanks for the inputs, good to get the list completed. Was wondering how common an 8 port device with WiFi would be - will bear it in mind when I select –  Ruben Bartelink Oct 7 '11 at 8:07
    
results of fast observation: D-link DIR-632 Cisco 1801|1811 NETGEAR FVG318 NETGEAR DGFV338 –  Lazy Badger Oct 7 '11 at 8:54

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