Reviewed: Habitech ProNet training

posted on Friday, 3rd May 2013 by David Slater

Training  Habitech 

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Top CI and AV distributor Habitech is leading the way when it comes to dealer training, so to learn more about what's on offer Inside CI recently spent the day at the North West Design Centre, Manchester, attending one of its many training events held at the venue. Our chosen course covered one of this year's hottest topics, networking: ProNet Level 2 - An Introduction To Networking. The course fee was £99 (plus VAT) per person per day.

The network is at the heart of most of our intelligent homes, so it makes sense to learn how to set up a secure, well-installed one. A solid network provides the concrete foundation to everything you do further down the line on an install. If I look back to all the installs we were involved in at DSE, the core of the system often started at the router, and we spent a lot of our time understanding how devices would talk together.

Each device needs to have its own IP address: if for some reason you get duplicate addresses you are going to have some really strange things happening. We had one job where the client had connected his own PC to the network and this computer, for some reason, hijacked the IP address of the AV amplifier. One day he was sitting watching his TV and the volume locked out at full volume, he had no ability to turn it down without switching off the AVR. After a number of hours fault finding, it transpired that the IP address of PC was the same as the amp. This should never really have happened, as the Router was setup to give out addresses via DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol).

Following that experience we changed the way we set up IP addresses by fixing static addresses to all the AV kit, and then allowing a range of addresses to be given out by the DHCP to laptops, iPads and tablets. Another great learning curve came when we discovered a great piece of software called Fing. This is available for Apple devices from the app store, and if we'd had this on our phones it would have cut the fault finding time down to minutes rather than hours. This software interrogates the network and comes back with all the IP addresses, making it really easy to see any clashes. I thoroughly recommend it…

Networking basics explained
If you're relatively new to the science of networking, then this Pro-Net Habitech course will prove ideal. It starts with the basics, taking you through the terminology and then, after a brain expanding coffee, encourages you get your hands dirty. On my course, attendees were split into three groups. Our exercise was to setup a router and Ruckus Zone Director. The Ruckus kit looks bulletproof and allows you to make a stable Wi-Fi system. The product makes what is known as a mesh, which routes traffic to where it needs to go. The biggest plus point of using the Zone Director is that it manages all of the Wi-Fi access points on site and if for any reason one goes down, it sends you an email alert. You then just have to replace the faulty product and the Zone Director sets it up automatically.

One great service that the Habitech team offers is if you have a site drawing they will help you configure a system via the Zone planner software from Ruckus. This software lets you build the network on paper and input all of the part numbers from the Ruckus kit, it'll then show up any potential problems. We then moved onto setting up broadband over 3G; it's interesting to note how a 3G dongle can give you a really fast internet connection for as little as £7.95 per month. As the day goes on the course gets into more complex solutions like load balancing. Again, a good understanding of this is essential as the amount of kit in our homes has increased massively- everything has a network connection these days. Load balancing allows all your devices to have access to similar speeds.

Port forwarding and fixed IP address were next up on our session; this is important for when you want access to your clients home from anywhere in the world. You will need either a fixed IP or static IP solution from the broadband provider or to install a piece of software which will monitor the external IP address. This is also a handy solution if you install IP cameras and your client wants to see them over the Internet. By the end of play, I felt as if I'd soaked up a huge amount of information.

Verdict
The ProNet Level 2 course is designed to take delegates from no knowledge of IT to being able to grasp the fundamentals of solid networking. Admittedly, you won't come away an IT guru, but that's not the goal here. The verdict after speaking to the twelve or so other attendees was that this was well worth the day out of a busy diary. A follow-up course, ProNet Level 3 - Advanced Router configuration and management, is also available. Dates alternate between Habitech HQ,in Alton, and the North West Design Centre, in Manchester. 

You can find more information of on all Habitech training events at the official Habitech website. For more on Habitech's products and services, visit our partner page here

David Slater

David Slater started his writing career with SVI writing a popular column, he has also guested on publications like Home Cinema Choice and
Living North

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