Network Setup advice

Hello -

Our network setup isn't perfect and I am looking to improve it.  I would appreciate your input.

We have 30 to 40 client machines.  Lines run into two D-Link switches (DES-1024D and DGS-1024D), each switch is connected to our router which is a fairly simple (household) D-Link (DI-604UP).  Our router also handles DSL authentication.  

We have several weird quirky network issues (timeouts and brief disconnects for individual clients) that I suspect I could solve if I could get a better picture of what was going on.  I suspect that a better router would offer that sort of error reporting and some built-in tools to manage the underlying issues.

So, a few direct questions:
1 - Should I have the switches daisy chained with only one connected to the router?  Or should they both connect directly to the router?
2 - Is our router, in fact, inadequate for our needs?  What do you recommend to replace it?  
3 - Other thoughts?  I'd appreciate anything.


Thanks!
lmgreggAsked:
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Encrypted1024Connect With a Mentor Commented:
For starters, YES, your router is inadequate for that many users. It will likely be prone to lock ups and disconnects and will be in real trouble if any of your users decide to do some P2P file sharing. I am a big fan of Cisco routers and would look at an 800 series or an 1800 or 1900. The 800 series start at around $300-400. They are a bit tricky to set up if your not used to them but well worth the learning curve (or consultanat fees) for years of trouble free service.

As far as the switches go, you can go either way but not both. The question is where does the traffic flow? If you have heavy traffic between your switches then probably daisy chaining the switches is best. If most of your traffic is just web traffic then you may want to plug both switches into the router.

If you end up buying a router and switches with VLAN support there may be other options.
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
You say you're having individual clients with disconnects.... are they connected to the same switch?

I would NOT recommend any business use a "home" router - they are HOME routers.  I would suggest higher end devices like those from Fortigate or Calyptix or others... devices that do a bit more to protect your network.
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lmgreggAuthor Commented:
Okay - I'm glad to know I need a better router.  I'll start by checking on price and availability for the Cisco 800 locally.  leew: is there a specific model you would recommend?

If you don't mind, I'll leave this question open for a few days (for follow up questions) while I figure out what I'm going to do.
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HodepineConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I agree with previous posts, D-Link-devices are made for home use, and have nothing to do in a business environment of your size.

As for the connection of switches, I wouldn't daisy-chain them. One on each port on the router, and you might be able to see if you have more problems on one switch or the other.

I'd upgrade the switches as well, to something with a proper management interface, like Cisco Catalyst switches or HP ProCurve switches. The Ciscos are more expensive, but give you a bit more advanced functionality, but seeing as you use D-Link today, you most likely won't need that. I'd say the HP switches would give you more value for your money (don't tell Cisco I said that, I'm a Cisco instructor. I am in most cases very pro-Cisco, but in cases like this, the extra cost just isn't justifiable...) ;-).

If you're dependent on the router to terminate your DSL, make sure you have the correct settings for it, and you buy a router with a DSL interface. Depending on the interface you have on your outside (ethernet or DSL) I'd also consider a Cisco ASA 5505 or Juniper Netscreen SSG-5 (or any other low-end firewall you might like), which gives you the routing functionality you need, while being a proper firewall as well.
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lmgreggAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the input Hodepine!

New (possible) wrinkle:  I have used several (4 or 5) simple switches (Zonet ZFS3018P)  to stretch our available ethernet ports around our building.  So, if we have a new hire we decide to jam into an office with no available ethernet jacks, I've simply used a little switch to "split" the existing jack into several jacks.  I can imagine this might cause problems.  Am I correct to assume a kick **s router (like the Cisco 800 series) would somehow indicate to me that devices on a given switch were causing network errors?

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HodepineCommented:
I don't think it's likely that the router will give you much information if the problem is in the switched LAN. It may tell you a lot of things the D-Links won't, but I think the switches would be a better option.

As long as you have a managed switch you'll be able to see counters on each interface, which usually will be a good indicator on any LAN problems. However, any devices connected to your simple switches might have problems that are hidden from your managed switches... So, as long as you still have unmanaged switches, no managed switch can give you a 100% accurate view of your network. But still, beats having no view at all.

Your setup is very common, since it's an easy way of getting new "jacks", but it's a nightmare for troubleshooting/management, since there is no management available on the switches.
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lmgreggAuthor Commented:
Woot!  Feels like I'm really learning stuff now.

So, as I understand it, if I go with the better router and proper managed switches, the switches would be the brains of the operation.    Do they have some sort of web interface that I connect to to see what's going on, or do I need to interpret the flashing LEDs on the front?

Another one:  the new router will have a firewall built-in right?  Even the little household thing we have now has a simple firewall built-in.

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HodepineCommented:
Well, yes, your switches will switch, and your router will route. :) Two different jobs, both very important.

You'll have a web-interface or a command line interface to provide you with statistics and error messages.

And yes, there will be basic (or even some advanced, depending on software) firewall functionality in your router, but it's still a router working as a firewall, not a proper firewall.
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Encrypted1024Commented:
Ya, if you are going to upgrade your switches, the HP procurves are excellent value especially in something simple like a web smart switch. Make sure you get a switch with enough ports so your core switches don't need to be daisychained at all (24-48 port). The Cisco 881 (or one with dsl) along with some procurve switches would be an excellent package. The firewall in the 881 should be more than sufficient for your size of network. At least that should fix your core infrastructure. You can run around and replace the little switches later as need be.
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Encrypted1024Commented:
P.S. Since your switches are GB and your router is 10/100 you would definitly want to daisy chain instead of going through the router. It would be 10x faster.
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HodepineCommented:
Since only one of your switches is a gigabit switch you'll have no extra performance (on account of link speed) by going through the router. Your highest speed would be 100 mbit. If both switches were gigabit, you'd be better off with a "daisy chain".
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Encrypted1024Commented:
Oh, I missed that "G" in the second model number. You are right. Either way, not a huge advanatge either way. Less hops the better I always say, so it just depends on which way most of your traffic flows.
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lmgreggAuthor Commented:
Most of our traffic (at least the traffic I care about) is between clients on the LAN.  So, from what I'm reading (less hops), I should daisy chain the switches (until I upgrade my hardware).

Right?

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Encrypted1024Commented:
Yes, that is my recomendation.
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lmgreggAuthor Commented:
I've split the point since both of these experts have been very helpful.  Really appreciate your input.  I suspect I'll have more questions once I get the equipment in house.
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