How and what to manage on a managed switch... ??? Help???

I need advice and direction on configuring our managed Switches.
Previously I have been working with MS, Linux, and Lotus Notes. No Cisco routing or Switching experience.
Somehow when I was hired they got the impression I was the guy for the Switching and Routing stuff. (it was not on my resume)
I have been doing general tech support for the last several months, but recently was told that I need to manage our Switches.
After he sees my ability to Manage the Switches, then he will give me a few Servers to work on, but he believes if I can not Manage the Switches then I will not be able to Manage the Servers. (Which is what I was doing in my last job) OK enough about the circumstance.

Most sites I have searched on people say that they just set the Switches up and let them go.
They configure and maintain the Routers but do not really do anything with the Switches.
I have read many times that SNMP is more of a hassle then it is worth.

There seems to be a lot of features built into the Switches, but I can not find any sites or books dealing with managed switch configurations and what advantage they have. And there are tons of sites and books on Router configurations.

Current setup.
We have a small business WAN.
2 Dell Powerconnect 3348 Managed Switches linked together as VLAN1. (48 ports to each Switch)
1 Dell Powerconnect 5212 Managed Switch. ** Gigabit ** ( 12 ports ) ( 2 unused )
9 Dell Blade Servers.
1 1700 Cisco Router used as a Gateway to our Quest WAN connecting through a T1 line.
90 Windows XP workstations.
15 Full size printers (we do tons of printing to all locations)

Locally there are 3 buildings, side by side, all 1 story.
The main bldg. houses the Server/Switch rack.

The other 2 adjoining buildings have 8 PC’s and 1 large printer in each unit.
They each have a single 16 port un-managed switch in them.
They connect to our main switch from a Fiber-optic cable with a single Ethernet cable.
1 end is connected to our 3348 Switch then to a media converter that converts to 2 Fiber lines to each building, then to another media converter on each end and into the unmanaged Switch in each building.

Most of our Servers have 2 NIC’s, 1 going to the GB 5212 Switch, and the other going to the 3348 Switch.

I believe (but need to confirm) that the Gateway Router is connected to the Dell Powerconnect 5212.

I hope this information was not to long winded, but has enough information to get started.
Thanks in advance…
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kbbcnetCommented:
<There seems to be a lot of features built into the Switches, but I can not find any sites> <or books dealing with managed switch configurations and what advantage they have.>

*Managing these switches should be a piece of cake for you, especially since you already can manage servers.  

Here specific info - take it as you need it.  
Open the Switch Gui interfaces & browse the info -- the GUI is non-disruptive as loong as you do not save, nor of course, reboot/reset.

Document you environment & configs for switches, router & servers, etc.

3048 Manual:
http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/network/2T180/en/index.htm

5012 Manual:
http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/network/9h255/en/index.htm

5224 Manual:
http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/network/5P788/en/index.htm
---------------------------------

*How do I attach or connect to my Dell™ PowerConnect™ 3024, 3048, 5012, or 5224 switch?
http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/kb/en/document?dn=1057506&c=us&l=en&cs=&s=esg

*How do I change the IP address of my Dell™ PowerConnect™ 3024 or 5012 switch?
http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/kb/en/document?dn=1057668&c=us&l=en&cs=&s=esg

*How do I connect multiple Dell™ PowerConnect™ 3024 switches together?
http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/kb/en/document?dn=1057720&c=us&l=en&cs=&s=esg

*How do I configure a virtual LAN (VLAN) on my Dell™ PowerConnect™ 3024 or 5012 managed switch?
http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/kb/en/document?dn=1057643&c=us&l=en&cs=&s=esg

*How do I set up "port trunking" on a Dell™ PowerConnect™ 3024 or 5012 managed switch?
http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/kb/en/document?dn=1057718&c=us&l=en&cs=&s=esg

*How do I set up a "Spanning Tree" configuration on a Dell™ PowerConnect™ 3024 or 5012 managed switch?
http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/kb/en/document?dn=1057717&c=us&l=en&cs=&s=esg
-----------------------------

Dell OpenManage™ Network Manager Administration & user guide:
http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/network/domnwm/en/admingd/index.htm?c=us&l=en&cs=&s=esg

http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/network/domnwm/en/ug/index.htm?c=us&l=en&cs=&s=esg

Downloads:
http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/network/domnwm/en/index.htm?c=us&l=en&cs=&s=esg
--------------------------

Management options include an intuitive Web-based tool and industry-standard command line interface (CLI).

The PowerConnect 5212:
The PowerConnect 5212 is an all-Gigabit 12-port switch ideal for medium- to large-sized organizations requiring high-performance connectivity to centralized resources like servers or high-speed network backbones, or Gigabit connectivity to desktop computers.
The PowerConnect 5212 also offers advanced management and security features including Dynamic VLANs, Multi-Layer Class of Service, SSL/SSH encryption, and support for the Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol, allowing network administrators to simplify the management of their networks.

The PowerConnect 3348/3324;
Similar to the PowerConnect 5212, these new switches include standards-based advanced switching and availability features that allow network administrators to better manage traffic flow in the network.
--------------------------------------

Dell Open Management System: [Advanced]
http://www1.ap.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/solutions/en/openmanage?c=au&l=en&s=corp

Dell PowerEdge 1855 Blade Server Systems management:
http://www.dell.com/downloads/global/power/ps1q05-20040208-Devireddy.pdf
http://www.dell.com/downloads/global/power/ps1q05-20040207-Brundridge.pdf
-----------------------------------------

This should get you going - enjoy :)
lrmooreCommented:
>Most sites I have searched on people say that they just set the Switches up and let them go.
Sad, but probably true.

>They configure and maintain the Routers but do not really do anything with the Switches.
Sad, but probably true

>I have read many times that SNMP is more of a hassle then it is worth.
NOT! It's called "SIMPLE" Network management protocol for a reason...

Here's the real skinny...
I ALWAYS setup management of my switches. Why? Because I can be proactive in recognizing network bottlenecks long before application/server guys will know there is a problem. They'll be spinning their wheels looking for application bottlenecks when all it turns out to be is a duplex mismatch between a switchport and server NIC that I've spotted within 10 minutes of enabling a management infrastructure..
I am a huge fan of Solarwinds Orion software. Free 30-day eval download and you'll love it enough to buy it.
http://www.solarwinds.net

It is so simple to setup the switch infrastructure. SNMP community strings are either Read/Write or Read Only.
SNMP community string is nothing more than a password. Default "public" and "private" absolutely, positively must be changed to something that falls within the same guidlines as your normal passwords, like N0tPuBL1c....
Switch has an ip address, and a snmp RO community string. You don't necessarily need a RW string assigned at all.
Depending on the switch, you can limit the snmp traps that will be generated, or you can limit access to snmp from a specified workstation. These are all 'extra' features that you can enable as you get used to it.
Once you get the switches set up, install Solarwinds. The begining wizard walks you through everything step by step including adding the community strings. Once you begin a discovery, the application will use the community strings that you've provided.
Once it has discovered everything and began monitoring, there is a really cool set of "top 10" reports that I use religiously. Especially top 10 errors today. Error counts will almost always point to a network bottleneck.
With everything running smooth and no error counts, you're ready to add server monitoring. Just enable SNMP on the servers, give them a community string, then add them to the monitored systems list in Solarwinds. You can monitor CPU useage, disk usage, memory use, network use, etc, all in real-time 24/7. By the way, you also get complete historical patterns with just a few mouse clicks.
Again, with the top 10 reports, keep the top 10 CPU use up along with the top 10 errors.
Folks having problems logging in? Maybe because the DC is hitting 100% CPU utilization for past 2 hours solid?

And, by the way, Solarwinds installs a web interface so that your manager, the server guys, and anyone else with a web browser can see everything you see..
Check out their demo pages on their web site. You'll be impressed, too....


pseudocyberCommented:
Hard to add to kbc and lrmoore.  

So, is everything up and running right now, and since it ain't broke, your boss wants you to fix it?!?!

Well, you could add a couple of vlans - you could make each building a vlan and then one vlan for the servers.  I don't think this really counts as "managing" switches.

The main thing to manage on switches is putting an IP on them, putting SNMP on them, setting the approrpriate passwords and access restrictions.  You might do some DHCP snooping to prevent rogue DHCP servers.  You might want to do some port authentication - or disallowing multiple MACs from any single port.  Like lr said, look for duplex mismatches and you might want to set servers to 100 Full on both sides.

Second the nod for Solar Winds Orion.

HTH

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