Q: To accommodate additional recently hired staff, we rented a building across the street. Our problem is that because we have to cross a street to get to them, we have to get permits to be able to run cabling to them to get them on our network and phone system. We have looked into having the phone lines in this building connected to our existing phone system but have run into problems with the ability of our local exchange carrier and our existing PBX to handle the load. We will have at most eight people in this building for the time being. Can you suggest any possibilities?
Anonymous, via the Internet

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See what your options are for wireless connectivity or a conventional broadband connection. Once you know what will get you the best speed for the least cost, you can next look at how to connect them to your network.

Site-to-site VPN
I will assume that you already have some type of firewall in place on your main network. Check to see if it has VPN capabilities; if it doesn't look for one that does. Once you have done this, you can look to put a similar firewall at the building where your people will be working and establish a site-to-site VPN. This will let them have access to all services on your network and help with the job of protecting them from the outside world at the same time.

The length of time you'll be using the building may decide what money get spent on wiring it for network use. If you are uncertain at this point, look at putting in a wireless access point to provide that link for now. Be certain to disable SSID broadcasting, change the default SSID, and enable it to the highest level of encryption you can handle, to get things started.

If the staff will be in close proximity to each other, you might be able to get away with the standard rubber antennas provided by most access point vendors. Going to a slightly higher gain, omni-directional antenna may be needed to get better uniform coverage, but you don't want to become a potential ISP to other nearby buildings.

Phones - try VoIP?
Now that the network connectivity issue has been addressed, we can look at what to do for the phones. One way of getting the staff onto your phone system is a possible solution from Cisco. By placing a 2800 series integrated services router on your main network and using Cisco ATA186 analog-to-VoIP devices, you can provide phone service to the building.

Your PBX needs to be able to accept a T-1 from the 2800 router to make the connection easier. The ATA186 will allow you to use cheap analog phones until you decide what you want to do. You will also have the option of using VoIP phones. When your needs grow beyond the capacity of the particular 2800 series router, you can either add an additional router or upgrade to one with greater capacity. You can look at a 2801, which will handle up to 12 devices.