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Could my computers be slow because of my network switch?

Posted on 2011-03-07
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
My setup:

HP ML350G5 w/ Gigabit and Windows SBS 2003 SP2
HP ML350G5 w/ Gigabit and Win 2003 SP2 as Terminal Server

Linksys SRW224G4 as main switch
D-Link 8-port Gigabit unmanaged switch (we ran out of ports) connected to a Gigabit port on the main switch.  Each server is connected to this D-Link.  (No performance difference was noticed when this was installed about a year after the initial setup)
Watchguard Core X550e
Bonded T1 internet (3M/3M)

Computers:
HP dc5800
Core 2 Duo E8400
2GB RAM
Windows XP SP3

HP EliteBook 6930p
Core 2 Duo T9550
3GB RAM
Windows 7 64-bit SP1

Some computers have another 5 port switch in between.
Almost all computers have a Linksys SPA962 VOIP phone (with pass-through network) in between the wall and PC.

My question is generally a broad one, I think.  Why are my computers so slow?

I'm not talking about internet speed.  I understand a 3M connection sucks.  It's all that's available here now.  I also understand that Outlook will probably be slow when some users have 5-10GB mail stores.  I get that too.  I'm trying to convince the partners to get a new dedicated mail server and upgrade the servers we have.  In fact, I'm recommending upgrading our whole system with more RAM and WIndows 7 64-bit and Solid State Hard Drives across the board.  I'm looking at a $65,000 ask (and that's a tough sell).

I need to be sure that the reason our computers are slow isn't something stupid like a low performance network switch.  What made me think that is I read on the internet that performance can be improved if you set a secondary gateway to your managed switch...something about pathway to the server.  We do have a managed switch, but the default (and only) gateway is set through DHCP (my SBS) to the WatchGuard firewall.

Performance:
We have Core 2 Duo computers we purchased at the end of 2008.  These were higher-end machines for the basic usage of a law firm.  When we go to open Acrobat 9.4 on my C2D T9550, it takes a solid 7 seconds to open.  If I'm accessing a 10MB PDF on the SBS, it takes another 10 seconds or so.  It's not bad-hard-drive-slow, it's Pentium Dual-Core slow.  Not blown-capacitor slow, but Turion slow.

I don't want to ask for $65,000 and have it end up being a $300 switch that's causing our slowness.  Any advice?

Thanks, experts.
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Question by:Ubertam
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LVL 11

Assisted Solution

by:epichero22
epichero22 earned 150 total points
ID: 35064273
Run Perfmon.msc on the server to view your network bandwidth.  If it's typically at capacity, then install multiple NIC cards that can support NIC Teaming.  Also view your CPU / hard drive utilization to discern if those are your limiting factors.

Also, you can try manually setting the speed and duplex on your computers.  Sometimes "Automatic" doesn't synchronize well, especially with unmanaged switches.

By the way, if it's realistic, as a general rule I would first go with the $300 switch before the $65,000 upgrade.  With that kind of spread it's worth a shot, plus your desktop PCs are definitely good enough.  
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Accepted Solution

by:
kdearing earned 200 total points
ID: 35064369
To get a good picture of what your network is doing:
PRTG: http://www.paessler.com/prtg
It's one of the best network monitoring packages out there and it's free.

To find out what is causing the slowdown use a sniffer
WireShark: http://www.wireshark.org/
Again, it's one of the best out there and it's free.

Once you've got everything running like it's supposed to...
SpiceWorks: http://www.spiceworks.com
Free also

Note that it may not be a network problem.
It's possible that your computers need a "tune-up"

Use CCleaner to clean up all the crap that accumulates
http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner

Use Malwarebytes to eliminate any bad stuff
http://www.malwarebytes.com

Use Defraggler to defrag the hard drive
http://www.piriform.com/defraggler
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LVL 1

Assisted Solution

by:danieljanderson1234
danieljanderson1234 earned 100 total points
ID: 35064865
I wouldn't think that network issues would slow programs that open on your computer.

Disconnect your C2D T9550 from the network.
Try and open a PDF that is stored on your C2D T9550.
Does it open any faster? I doubt it.
I would also recommend Malwarybytes.
In addition, I would use Glary Utilities - available via CNET.
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LVL 8

Assisted Solution

by:sharkbot221984
sharkbot221984 earned 50 total points
ID: 35072647
You could graph NIC usage of your servers, and the ports on you switch(es) that are managed using Nagios and MRTG

http://www.nagios.org/
http://oss.oetiker.ch/mrtg/

It does take a bit of work to setup, but you would be able to monitor far more than just bandwidth, CPU, Memory, Hard Drive usage, etc for starters, and have it send you email and text alerts.  We use it extensively along with Cacti to monitor and graph data centers in 4 locations in 2 countries.
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Author Comment

by:Ubertam
ID: 35076368
Good suggestions.

I regularly tune up PCs (mine is absolutely tuned up).  No viruses (I'm better than that).

I like the idea of trying my computer off the network.  I have done that when I took it home and I don't remember if it made a huge difference.

I think the best option is to install some monitoring tools and check into it in more detail.  Thanks for the help guys.
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