LAN Party How To - Part 1: Planning and Power

Setting Up for Success

Setting up a small LAN party is pretty simple, and you can be very flexible given the reduced amount of power and network that you will need to provide. But organization becomes paramount when getting your medium-sized LAN party set up with tables, network switches and power distribution.

Tables

Tables are usually arranged in rows of pairs of tables set back-to-back lengthwise, with usually twelve tables per double row. I personally prefer 6 foot tables with two people per table. I've been to parties where the organizers tried to optimize space by using 8 foot tables with three people per table. And while this is possible, it's nowhere near as comfortable. Two people per 6 foot table gives each person about 3 feet, while with three people at an 8 foot table, you're only getting about 2.5 feet of elbow room.

Figure 4: Tables as far as the eye can see

Believe me, that extra half foot makes all the difference, especially when you get parked next to the guy who brought his HP Xeon workstation that looks like a military installation or the guy with the 2 foot wide mousepad who thinks he's the CPL poster boy. If you can't get 6 foot tables, 8 footers will do, but stay away from 10 foot tables because the weight of gear will cause them to sag.

Another reason for the 2 X 6 X 2 arrangement is that it matches nicely with the most common network gear that has 24 10/100 ports. It is not a good idea to go with 48 port switches due to the length of network cables attendees will need to bring in order to reach all the way to their designated table switch. So keep it to 24 peeps. If absolutely necessary to put more than 24 people in a single (double) row, just use a second 24-port switch instead of a 48.

Cabling

You will be laying down two different types of cabling - network and power. So try to feed each of these from opposite ends of the table if possible (Figure 5 ).

Figure 5: Separate your Power and Network feeds

This arrangement makes it convenient to locate a power problem without having to sort through network cables at the same time, and vice versa. It also helps prevent EMI / RFI interference on your network cabling, which could happen if they ran over and around high amperage rubber-covered power cords.

Another point to remember is that the network "core" or "server row" area should be placed as central to the room as possible and on the end of the tables where you intend to run the network cables from.

While I'm on the subject of cables - the last thing you need is a lawsuit because someone tripped and hurt themselves on one! So bring lots of duct tape and use it for securing cables down that people will be walking and / or carting over.

Be careful of the kind of tape you buy however, since some types are very tough to remove and may leave sticky residue and other kinds won't stick very well at all. Experiment if possible with several kinds before buying a truckload of it! It's also wise to consult with the venue to be sure that taping is okay. If it's not, you may be stuck having to find floor mats to throw over the cables.