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Looking for network hardware recommendations

Discussion in 'Networking Issues' started by thallanor, Sep 26, 2007.

  1. thallanor

    thallanor LI Guru Member


    I recently started my new job as Network Administrator and this is the first time I have been in this role. I have significant experience with mainstream network hardware, but have only a functional understanding of the more powerful network topologies and hardware.

    The existing network is a mishmash of duct tape and baler twine and one of my first large projects is to replace it with a cohesive infrastructure that works together with the goal being to keep our servers directly on the internet, our PCs behind a firewall and router, and use VPN to connect our two studios together so that we can share resources. I have sketched out preliminary ideas, but I would love it if people could offer their advice and suggestions. Because we are a non-profit company and a registered charity, I need to keep this project as affordable as possible. I have always used Linksys products at home and at small businesses I have worked at and I would like to use Linksys' business products. I would like to use rackmount hardware wherever possible, but understand that some items will not be rackmount, simply because they do not exist from Linksys.

    So in a nutshell, what I have planned on paper is the following:

    STUDIO A -> 48-port switch -> router -> VPN -> 8-port switch -> network optimizer -> ADSL modem -> INTERNET <- ADSL modem <- network optimizer <- 8-port switch <-VPN <- router <- 24-port switch <- STUDIO B

    The Linksys OGV200 network optimizer is something that might not be used in the final implementation. If I can tweak it myself and specify what packets to prioritize, it would be an advantage in our workplace, but if it is restricted to only automatically prioritizing gaming and VoIP packets, only the latter will be useful and I would probably eliminate it from my implementation.

    Because I an describing the proposed LAN schematic in this manner that I am unable to illustrate that our externally-facing servers would be connected to the 8-port switches. (We have multiple IP addresses at each location, and so the 8-port switch only serves to separate the LAN IP address from the IP addresses used for the servers.) I am debating whether or not to use the Linksys SRW208 managed switch or the Linksys SR216 unmanaged switch for this portion of the network. (I know that the SR216 is a 16-port switch, but it is the smallest rackmount switch Linksys makes.) Management would have limited use here, like monitoring internet bandwidth by LAN or by server, and might not be worth the expense. I suspect this is the case but would like to verify: if I use a managed switch for this portion of the network, I can still assign the switch itself an internal IP address and connect it to the LAN, right?

    The VPN portion is where I become confused. Because we want to link our two studios, this is a requirement. At the moment, we sync everything every night using rsync. I want to consolidate several of our file servers using a single Linksys NSS6000 NAS and a VPN would allow our remote studio to access it more easily. It would be slower, but more current. I would still perform syncs, but perform them weekly, so that if our internet connection stopped working, they would still have access to information, even if it is older. The confusion regarding VPN is choosing between the Linksys RVS4000 router with built-in VPN or the Linksys RVL200 standalone VPN and using a separate router. It appears to me that apart from the lack of router in the RVL200 that the only difference is that it supports SSL VPN. The standard VPN encryption on the RVS4000 should be adequate for our needs though. So I suppose I am looking for input regarding whether I should use the RVS4000 or the RVL200 and a separate router. If I go with the latter, what router would you recommend? All of the business routers seem to have VPN support built-in anyway, so I would be buying redundant hardware in that regard. It does not need many ports, because I want to link it to the 48-port switch for distribution. PoE on the router would be nice so that I can use Linksys WAP200 wireless access points from the router. I would only need two of these WAPs though, so a router with only four ports would be more than adequate. (And four ports is what the RVS4000 has built-in.)

    Once past the VPN and router hardware, I would like to push the connection to the Linksys SRW224G4P 24-port and Linksys SRW248G4P 48-port switches, as previously described. This part is relatively self-explanatory. I will use the PoE versions because we are hoping to deploy a VoIP telephone system within the next 12 months and it would be nice to power them this way and just keep a UPS on the backend hardware in the server room.

    My final question regards deploying this throughout our entire building. We own a six-story building here and a two-story building at our other studio and I would like to deploy the same Linksys SRW224G4P 24-port switches throughout the building -- one on each floor, possibly two, one on each end. (The building is not long enough to exceed ethernet specifications, but some rooms might be, after going around corners and other obstacles.) In our two-story building though, the floors are staggered, and the switches will be almost 600 feet apart. What is the best method to connect these switches? Could I use gigabit ethernet, or would a GBIC make more sense? And because I am going from floor to floor, can I deploy it like this? From one switch to the next? Or would I need to deploy from the primary switch individually to the other switches? I would like to keep the network as fast as possible, even on the floors farthest from the primary switch.

    If you are still reading, thank you! I am embarrassed to ask such questions given my job title, but in previous jobs I have always had the hand on my shoulder advising and confirming or denying whether what I am doing is right or wrong. It is a bit unnerving to be making these decisions on my own for the first time, and I would really appreciate advise or criticism, because I want to roll out the best network as possible for the money.

    I look forward to hearing from everyone here. Take care!

  2. ifican

    ifican Network Guru Member

    How else do you expect to learn. In my opinion even linksys buisness equipment is not there yet. There are several advertised buisness class devices that still have lots of issues. I would recommend finding used equipment from cisco or juniper or even enterasys and doing what you want that way. In your position it is what i would do, but if you are absolutely wanting to use linksys, make sure all the switches are manageable to you can do what you want and from what i here the rv082 and 042 are as solid as they come. If you do searching around this site other models of the RV series are having a multitude of issues.

    Now if you need to go 600 feet you can use multimode fiber or put a swithced in the middle and use it as a repeater. As far as any of the other switches you have mentioned i am not sure many here have used them, i for one have not and i have not seen many posts on them thus far. Another consideration you may want to consider is Spanning Tree and i do not know if those swithces support it. It sounds like you are well on your way to knowing what you want, maybe i am just old school or i have been in the enterprise realm to long but I tend to default to enterprise class devices because soho and small business class stuff (at least for me) is not up to par.
  3. thallanor

    thallanor LI Guru Member

    Thank you for taking the time to respond. I appreciate it!

    I have read about several issues regarding Linksys' business products but it is difficult to keep track of what is current, what has been fixed with firmware updates, etc. In general, it does appear that there is some work to be done still.

    The last place I worked at was not non-profit, but did have a rather limited budget, so your suggestion to use refurbished Cisco hardware is something that I am familiar with. IOS is something that appears daunting to me though, but it might make sense to start reading up on it and see if it is workable.

    The only reason that I am looking at Linksys products is from experience with their home products, but I should have realized that there is a big difference between what a company can do for home and what a company can do for business. I still like their business products, but I will certainly look for more reviews of the hardware.

    I suppose more than anything, I wanted to run the general infrastructure past others. The actual hardware could be any manufacturer.

    It is funny that you suggest using a switch for the 600 foot span because we are already doing that. I am looking for a way to avoid that just to avoid another possible break in the system, and so fiber is something I will look at.

    I think that things like Layer 3 switching, spanning tree, etc. are my biggest hardware things I am trying to grasp. As for software, I'm still wrapping my head around DNS, especially how it is implemented locally as well as externally in a LAN/WAN/internet environment. But I do have books, and am slowly making my way through them as time permits. At the moment though, I just stare blankly when someone asks me a question, hehe.

    Thanks again for your comments, especially that you think I'm on the right track, because the design is really what I was the most concerned with. I actually found this site when looking for reviews of some of this hardware, so I'm on my way to seeing this come to fruition.

    If you have any quick rundowns or suggestions on things like layer 3 switching and spanning tree, I would appreciate it, but no need to feel obligated -- you've already helped a lot. It is good to hear from others regarding this stuff.
  4. ifican

    ifican Network Guru Member

    Well thinking about it there are 3 options for 600 feet, however only two of which i would consider in your instance. 1) wireless 2) LRE (long reach ethernet) and 3) fiber. Wireless is the one i would not use but is doable. LRE can be more costly then fiber depending on implementation. Now as far as L3 switching, absolutely, however L3 switches can be quite pricey, much more so then a router and a good manageable switch that does trunking. I picked up a could enterasys L3 switches a while back for right around 100 and cant be happier with them. And dont get me wrong im not bashing linksys, and as cisco gets more and more control i think they will be better (well at least hope so) down the road, but for now if i want stability and features i am definetly going with what i know works without issue.

    In your spot i would definetly concentrate on getting the network up with the right equipment, DNS and any server side stuff can be worked out later, its the network thats going to give you the connectivity to the world the rest as i see it is just fluff.

    Almost forgot, IOS is not that bad and infact is pretty easy with a little help. Most of what you would be doing is basic configuration type stuff that once you do one time is very easy to remember the next.
  5. thallanor

    thallanor LI Guru Member

    I would prefer avoiding wireless links if possible. I could not agree with you more there. There is a company I used to deal with when I helped wire the last place I worked and will see if I can get them to price out fiber. LRE is a Cisco technology, isn't it? I will see if I can get prices on refurbished Cisco switches that support it.

    I have tried to wrap my head around layer 3, and am I correct in understanding that it is more of a method to send data between switches, with layer 2 being the delivery to the individual devices? Do the switches talk to each other on a separate subnet and handle the translation between layer 3 and layer 2? Sorry if I am asking too many questions or way off on this!

    I am fortunate in that I am replacing the entire network, so I can install the hardware while keeping the existing network operating and after testing is completed, I just need to spend a weekend switching all of the patch panels over to the new hardware. It is still nerve-wracking though, especially with the budget crunch because no matter how much more efficient this will be when completed, for a couple weeks things are going to be operating stacked on my workbench, and the board likes to see completed projects.

    While it might be an easy way out, at least in the beginning, does anyone make a web interface or other software interface to IOS so that a beginner can make basic changes, just to get it up and running? My former manager has considerable experience with IOS, but if I can do it on my own, at least in the beginning, that would make me more confident, especially if I break something manually, then I can use a nice interface to fix things again.

    Thanks again for your assistance. I really appreciate it.
  6. ifican

    ifican Network Guru Member

    Most of the newer devices do, but i am not sure for the older ones as I just use the CLI myself. As for L2 and 3 and not to make this too complicated, all networks that communicate via ethernet communicate via Layer2, the frames that you send to a far away endpoint communicate via layer2 the entire way (cant wait for the screams about this one). What is nice about a L3 switch, is it is a switch that also has the capability to route, or a router that has the capabilty to switch, you can look at it either way and either way is correct. Essentially it allows you to create many routed and switched domains in the same device, not to unlike many of our linksys routers. The main difference between a L3 switch and what we usen (soho routers) is the ability to create multiple routed domains on the same device, though that gap has narrowed quite abit with the implementation of 3rd party firmware.
  7. thallanor

    thallanor LI Guru Member

    Cisco indicates that some of the hardware I am looking at supports configuration by web interface, but friends have told me that it is rather simplistic and is more suited to monitoring the hardware than to perform any real advanced configuration.

    As for the L3 bits and pieces, I certainly have a lot of learning to go through to become comfortable with it, but it will come with time.
  8. ifican

    ifican Network Guru Member

    I dont know what device your friends are talking about but for instance I was looking at the gui for the newer 1800,2800 series and it was really robust.
  9. thallanor

    thallanor LI Guru Member

    I take everything he says with a grain of salt, which is why I am here. :) In the end, I want to use the CLI. But getting things setup quickly with the GUI would be nice.

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