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What do I need for office router/switch

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I don't know where to put this so I will start here. I have a host computer running XP that we keep Quickbooks Pro/Premier on and then we have 3 other computers running XP & Vista that connect to it. The host has the main programs on it and we pull off it to do Quickbooks. Everything is stored on the host.
I want to hook up the 3 computers so the will run the fastest they can to the host and to each other in a hardwired LAN. All of the computers have gigabit dual ethernet on the mother boards. We use ATT/Yahoo DSL as our internet. I am not really that worried about how fast the DSL is because I know it will be dependent on ATT, but I do want to wire these as fast as possible between each other. Right now the way they are wired they seem to be slow.

The ATT modem is connected to Sonicwall with 4 ports in the back of it and the 3 computers and the host (total 4) fill the 4 ethernet ports on the back of the Sonicwall. I want to get rid of the Sonicwall and get something cheaper without the subscription service.

What do I get. Do I get just a router and hook it up like the Sonicwall or do I get a router and connect a switch to it and hook all the 4 computers to the switch (which I have been led to believe that a switch is faster than a router). Or do I do it a different way. I am thinking about getting something like a D-link gigabit dual channel wireless router and hook the 4 computers to the back of its 4 ethernet ports so I can add wireless printers in the future. This might be a waste of money since I don't have any wireless printers at this time.

Please advise which is the best/fastest way to hook up all 4 computers together so they play nice together. The host only gets updates from Microsoft and Quickbooks on the internet, but we use the other 3 computers on the internet looking stuff up and email all the time. Mainly, I want Quickbooks to be almost instantaneous when we look up invoices and financials etc from the host. Please any suggestions on what equipment to get and how to hook it up. Also would teaming two ethernet connections from the host computer to the router or switch be faster. Please advise. And thank you in advance.
For businesses....I prefer to separate the LAN switch from the router.
My logic? Most routers have a built in 4 port switch. Sure some have built in gigabit. But the quality of the switch built into the back of a router is usually...not as good as the potential quality of a dedicated switch. Performance wise overall the switch built into the back of a router should perform equal to a same speed dedicated switch.

Another bigger reason, once in a while you may find a router needs to be rebooted for some reason or another. If you're using the router as your switch...this will drop the network connections as it reboots. If people are having LAN resources open, networked apps open.../cut/...it can lead to lost work unless they all close whatever they're working on before you reboot the router. Loss of productivity.

HP ProCurve has been my favorite business grade switch for a while now. Most models having lifetime warranty. And over time...I've noticed no problems whatsoever on networks I've used them on, no compatibility issues with NICs, rock solid stability. And surprisingly...a great price....comparable with more entry level brands business line such as Linksys, Dell, Netgear.
Example of a good fit for you... 8 port unmanaged gigabit switch, 80 bucks.

NIC teaming...I don't believe in it for workstations.

Quickbooks..., if you're running any of the fairly recent versions...it will not be instantaneous. Ever since around, oh, version 2003-2004....it's no ball of fire....and has gotten more bloated over time. For the multi-user environment, it's best to run the shared data off of a dedicated server. When I say dedicated..I mean, nobody else uses this computer as a workstation. Just have it sit in the corner with nobody using it. You seem to be doing this. Have a fast disk subsystem (hard to do on workstation grade hardware), business grade low system impact antivirus, and as the number of users goes up (gets up towards 1/2 dozen or more) you want a server operating system. Workstations OS's are designed for up to 10 concurrent connections..but they lose efficiency far below that. Fast disk subsystem...I'm not a fan of IDE/PATA/SATA hard drives on a server at all. SCSI/SAS period. I know it's a big rise in budget...but the couple of *ATA servers I've deployed in the past...performance was always disappointing. Was saving several hundred bucks in price worth several years of disappointing performance? Which = productivity.

Stuff the QB systems with RAM. Use biz grade low impact antivirus, have exclusions in real time protection for network resources....no need to scan the mapped drive that has the QB files if the server is already scanning itself.
I'm with stonecat on pretty much all of his recommentations. Get a separate [gigabit] switch to hang off the router. The little 4 and 8 port switches built into routers aren't always amazing. With all your PC's running gigE, that should be pretty tight. If you want, go one step further and get a router with QoS functionality, giving RDP (remote desktop, TCP 3389) priority on the network. That way surfing and downloads will have virtually no effect on performance.

What you're bascially creating for yourself is a little terminal server. Stuff it with RAM and give er' some fast hard drives like stonecat recommends. I've done a few servers like these for clients where people are using them live for things like invoicing and you really want to max the speed as much as possible.

Also agree with stonecat, use biz grade AV to keep overhead to a minimum.
"I'm not a fan of IDE/PATA/SATA hard drives on a server at all. SCSI/SAS period." ??????

I thought that the new SATA2/3 drives were as fast as SCSI drives. I was going to use two (2) Western Digital VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS and one (1)Western Digital Caviar RE2 WD5001ABYS 500GB in Raid 0+1 along with two (2) external backup archive drives ( which I already have ). Wouldn't this be fast or do you have another idea that's better.

I was going to use Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 Yorkfield 2.83GHz 12MB L2 Cache LGA 775 95W Quad-Core Processor with a motherboard that supports 4 gigs of DDR3, like say Patriot Viper 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit for $ 184.00.

I have not figured out which motherboard I want, but something thats compatible with above thats stable. Any suggestions.

Which Router would you suggest for me to use with a separate gigabit switch. I would want something that would give me adequate protection, but I want to get away from the subscription Sonicware. What would you suggest. We use ATT/Yahoo DSL.
It comes from my experience in small business network consulting. What puts me on the bias, is I shoot more for networks towards 10x PCs and up...and in these cases, it's a "real server" that I strive for, or usually work with. When I say "real server"...I mean server grade hardware (HP Proliant, Dell PowerEdge), and a server operating system (Server 2000, Server 2003, Server 2008, Microsoft Small Business Server, etc). Versus what's more common on smaller peer to peer networks...a desktop PC/workstation/tower, and a desktop operating system (Windows 9X, Windows 2000pro, Windows XP, Vista, etc).

Experience has shown..when I've run across the budget servers running on PATA/SATA drives..the performance just isn't comparable against SAS/SCSI. On paper, and in basic hard drive testing/benchmarks that you read, SATA drives have closed the gap quite a bit towards their server grade counterparts. Max throughput, read/write speeds, and more recently....TCQ performance (which starts to come into play with many concurrent "hits"). Servers, due to their role of "serving" to other computers, work their hard drives much harder than a typical desktop PC. They are almost always dealing with many concurrent "hits" also. When I say "concurrent hits"...picture a server...serving up files/data to several (or more ) users. Different users/client workstations doing different things on the server...makes that hard drive work hard. SCSI based controllers (which include the newer SAS) stand way above the crowd when it comes to performance under this kind of load. Server grade hard drive often start at 10,000rpm, and higher end models spin at 15,000rpm...so this gives them another edge.

When it comes to desktop operating systems, versus server operating systems, desktop operating systems are coded to basically deal with up to 10x concurrent connections. They become less efficient as the number of connections approaches 10. Server operating systems are coded a bit differently "under the hood"..they are designed to maintain efficiency as this number climbs.

Now all that being said, I realize you're well under that in network size...with 4x PCs. And in these kinds of situations, I realize that purchasing server hardware and operating system can be above your budget. Especially since it seems like it will just be running Quickbooks". So it's hard to justify a couple of thousand bucks on a true server. But what I often run into...with a smaller small business network....is the fact that they are approaching a point where a server would become beneficial.
*Does your office share other data? Documents, etc. If so, is the current setup of shared folders clunky and hard to find things?
*Does your office do any e-mail?
*Does your office have a couple of printers shared out?
*Do you have a good backup system, so that all data on all the PCs is backed up?
*Will your office be growing?

Things to keep in mind over time....

But back on track, if current budget and needs dictate sticking to a regular workstation, we can still tweak this a bit to perform better as a server.
*Hard drive...one fallback of entry level systems is the slower spindle speed of the desktop hard drive. But there is one family of drives out there..which is based off of a true enterprise grade drive...Western Digitals "Raptor" series. 10,000rpm of goodness, models with 16 and 32 megs of cache on them. Add to this...a 5 year warranty, and 1.2 million hours of MTBF. A little pricier, and smaller in capacity compared to some of todays "the size of Montana" sized drives. But...think about what you're storing, QB is bloated..but it's not that big.

Also, a desktop operating system is designed to give performance to foreground applications. Meaning...you're sitting at the computer running applications. But there is a little tweak you can give it..when you wish to run a desktop operating system in the role of a server. Go to your System Properties, Advanced tab, Performance box, Settings button, and do 2 things here. Flip visual effects to "Adjust for best performance". This gets rid of the fluffy desktop theme, makes your desktop lean..less resources consumed. Looks like stripped Windows 2000 now. Or server 2003 desktop. If you have Vista, it now looks like Server 2008. ;) Secondly....and more importantly, click on that Advanced tab you see next to the Visual effects tab you were just on. Flip the radio button choices for Processor Scheduling to Background Services, and for Memory to System Cache. The default choice is for programs...(foreground applications). By default a desktop OS defaults to Programs, but these changes it to run more like a server...to dedicate more "power and resouces" to server duties.

At the risk of standing on the soapbox for too long, when it comes to hardware...I'm not a fan of "cloner machines". Meaning, built by a local mom and pop shop, or home built. Oh I love building computers for myself...but I don't like troubleshooting others home built computers. What I strive for with my clients, is "business grade machines". Most of the big brands out there sell a few different grades of computers.
*Home user market..typically well under 1000 dollars, cheaper grade computers, at the very most a 1 year warranty, stuffed with fluffy bells and whistles. HP Pavilion, Dell Dimension/Inspiron, etc.
*Business grade PCs. Built with better quality, more standardized components, longer warranty (typically 3 years). Less bells and whistles to get in the way. A bit more expensive, often closer to, if not over a 1000 dollars. HP Desktop/Evo/Business Desktop, Dell Optiplex/Latitude, etc.
*Workstation grade PCs. Built with top quality components, of higher performance (hard drives, video card, memory throughput). Sort of getting closer to server grade components. HP xwWorkstation series, Dell Precision series.

***gotta run..just got an urgent call for some remote issues with a clients sites between NYC and FL.

A good compromise for you....a "Workstation" grade PC. Keeps you close to your workstation PC budget, but offering a bit more performance, and reliability, than a more common desktop class.
I totally agree with stonecat's comments. Although I'm recently removed from the consulting realm (I work as a network admin at a single company), I did SMB consulting for almost 10 years and pretty much agree.

My rule of thumb is pretty much always to plan for a 3 year period. I dont want to recommend the bare minimums to a customer and then have them come to me in 6 months or a year because something doesn't work, or is slow, despite the fact I "recommended" it. I always recommend the best 3 year solution. If budget doesn't permit - fine. But at least I can come back to my initial recommendation should things go sour or not live up to expectations. And server-grade hardware all the way (Proliant). I can't be bothered f-ing around with somebody's custom home-built mom-and-pop shop server. Something's wrong, I call HP and have an EXACT replacement part at my door in 1 or 2 business days - less if you get a higher-end warranty. I like doing custom built for my own sutff at home, but if my time, money, and reputation is on line, I need something I can personally trust.

And it's not like server-grade stuff is necessarily hugely expensive. You can get basic ML-110/310/350 servers for pretty cheap.

About drives, it's true that newer SATA drives are closing the gap to SCSI drives, especially price-to-performance ratio, but 10K and 15K SAS drives are still a fair bit faster in server-type applications. This isn't to rule out SATA completely, but I always lean towards SAS. Often, what I've found myself doing is a hybrid solution for customers on tight budgets - 2 15K SAS drives for the Operating system array, and a couple huge SATA drives for data, in applications where few people are acessing the data, or for bulk storage kinds of applications.
Thanks for the info. I have decided to use Western Digital VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS 300GB 10000 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drives in some type of raid array.
I comptemplating Either Raid 10 or 5 and now leaning toward Raid 6 with Areca ARC-1110 PCI-X 64bit/133MHz SATA II Controller Card RAID level 0, 1, 1E, 3, 5, 6.

The reviews I have read with this drive in a Raid 0 tops some SCSI set ups at half the price. Any thoughts on which Raid would be best for my small office that would still be super fast but secure?

Also I have decided to use a router with NETGEAR's GS108T 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit Smart Switch 8 x RJ45 8,000 media access control (MAC) addresses per system MAC Address Table 128 KB embedded memory per unit Buffer Memory.

But, I have not decided on a router. I am leaning toward a D-Link Quadband DIR-855 and hook the NetGear Switch to it. But I don't know if this is enough security. I don't want to pay for a subscription service. Any suggestions on this and the above?
For a 3 node network server that is just hosting QB files....I don't see the need for RAID 5 or 10.....or anything fancier than just plain old RAID 1. You don't want RAID 0....that is not for servers. If one drive fails you're dead in the water. You want a RAID setup that gives you redundancy in case of a drive going bad. For your size and needs and budget...RAID 1 fits the bill.

To keep budget down might as well chop the size in 1/2. The 300 gig Raptors come at a price. Hosting just QB files...dunno how big your books are...but probably never doing to exceed just a couple of hundred megs in storage..most likely a lot less.

What type of business is this? Is there a need for extreme wireless security like WiFiSec? Is your current Sonicwall a TZW series? Sonicwalls are solid units, dependable. I know the support renewals are pricey, but if you stop renewing...the unit will not stop working. The support with Sonicwall is good for when you have large setups, wide area networks with VPN tunnels between a fleet of them, or a large number of wireless laptops users with the GlobalVPN clients. For a single stand alone router doing basic stuff...why not just keep using it? They're solid routers that you never have to reboot, good performance, much stronger firewall versus conventional home grade routers (deep deep SPI).
It is just a small refrigeration company. Really a three person office hardwired and an extra computer for a host. When our printers are replaced I was going to get wireless printers and I have a wireless laptop I sometime use. I really could get a wired router. I have a
LINKSYS RVS4000 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit Security Router with VPN 1 x RJ45 WAN Ports 4 x 10/100/1000Mbps LAN Ports, that I not using.

I guess untill I need a router I could get by with going from the ATT DSL modem -> to the Sonic Wall -> to the NETGEAR GS108T 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit Smart Switch and then just hook the Host and other three computers to the Netgear switch.

We store or save everything to the host, all our Word docs, Excel docs, all the pictures we take, all our quotes etc to the host because we do a weekly remote backup with two externel drives just in case we loose a hard drive or get corrupted data, we would only have to reinter a week.

I was going to use Raid 0 just for speed but, you are right probably the VelociRaptor would be pretty fast by it's self. I was using the Raid 10 or 1+0 so I would have the back up. The Raid 5 & 6 were the other options or the raid 1+0 that I thought was fast but more secure. One way I could get by with only buying 3 drives the other I would have to buy 4. I could get by with just two drives and do a Raid 1 and know that I had back up.

Does any of this make any since or am I just wasting money. I just hate working on a doc and waiting.
Without knowing the model of Sonicwall you have...I would probably stick with it as your primary router. In my experience with them..they are darned stable routers. Sometimes tricky to get setup and running..but once they're set...they are hands free....just let them sit in the corner and do your thing. So, if you're has been running fine...why not leave it as your primary router? The only reservation I might have is...in not knowing what model it is, it may be slowing down a newer faster ISP connection. Meaning..you might have one of the old original first generation SOHO models...which may be a bottleneck if you have a fast fast 10 meg pipe.

Years ago in my small business consulting...I jumped onboard with Linksys as a VAR partner. Selling their gear by the hundreds. A long history with them going back to one of the first couple of hundred BEFSR models to roll off the assembly line, back in the Win95b/Win98 days, early very first firmware revisions with poor.lacking MTU support, their support referred me to speedguide.net to download and install a pppoe/MTU patch to fix glitches (that's how I met Philip and came onboard with speedguide staff)...anyways, off of the memory lane derailment and back on track....as their business grade products branched out, as much as I liked their gear in the past for basic needs, I've been disappointed with their business grade products. I've not had good experiences with their VPN products, nor their business grade wireless gear when it comes to being put into production on a business network with higher numbers of concurrent clients and heavier loads. For the home user, their wireless works OK for home use. But for the business environment where you want a solid connection all day long, pounding it with running heavier applications across the wireless LAN, and having several (or more) wireless clients...I've not had good experiences with them. The only one I'd recommend, and I do think it would be a fine fit in your case, is running a wrt54gl with DD-WRT firmware. I use these for my smaller client needs, when they are more budget conscious. 75 bucks..a few minutes time to flash it..and you get quite a stable router that in my experience is better at stability and handling heavier wireless LAN loads.

If you want rock solid stability, and have the budget, HP ProCurve 420 access point, or Sonicwall wireless APs...they are rock rock solid, and can handle killer loads.

Yes in my opinion..RAID 1 is a good fit for your needs. All you need is 2x drives, you get safety through redundancy. Mind you, remember RAID is not a method of "backing up"...RAID (except RAID 0) only gives you better protection from hardware failure (a drive going south). It does not give you the ability to restore data from yesterday/last week, or from deleting important files, or corrupting data, etc. You still want some means of backing up your data on a daily basis.
I have decided to go with Raid 5 using three (3) Western Digital Caviar RE2 WD1601ABYS 160GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drives.

These are cheap (less than $60 each) with a Areca ARC-1110 controller. ( I thought about Velociraptors but they are $180 each and everyone says really overkill, especially in a Raid 5 for what I am doing.)

My Sonic Wall is old and slow and I need to replace it with something faster. I don't want another fee based unit. I was hoping for some suggestions on what would be good. I would still be using Internet security software ie: Trend Micro, Kaspersky, or McAfee Security Suites. (Using Kaspersky now)

I would really like a wireless router so as I upgrade printers, they are wireless. Any suggestions for a fast secure (not too expensive) wireless router thats fast ( gigabit - Wireless N - dual channel ??) which I will hook up a NETGEAR's GS108T Gigabit Smart Switch to for my Cat5e cables to hardwire my four computers together.

I am backing up my data with USB external backup drives.

Any thoughts about a good secure router that is not fee based? Hopefully wireless. I have ATT/Yahoo DSL Pro getting 2.5+ to 3 Mbps. In the next year we are suppose to be able to upgrade to Elite with up to 6 Mbps.

Any suggestions? Thanks
Check out the Dlink DI-824VUP routers. They are 4 port (which we just cascade into a gigabit switch), have wireless capability, and IPSEC or PPTP which works well as a VPN endpoint for XP or Vista. No fees and remote access. They work.


Add in a gigabit 16 port switch and you're set. To properly set up teaming you'll need a switch that supports LACL and right now we're testing a 3com model for under $300 that is gigabit, has QOS, auto VOIP QOS etc. and full link aggregation support. Teaming only makes sense for your server box, and you'll need to figure out if it's worth $300 to do it. If you're anticipating more than 50MB/s load on the box...which is unlikely in your scenario, then set it up. Teaming only makes another channel available to the network...it's doesn't speed up transfers unless your server's gigabit pipe is saturated.


Write rates to an onboard RAID 5 array are not great and will actually hurt performance over a single drive! Consider RAID 0, RAID1, or RAID10 if you want it fast, and back up daily...or use a dedicated RAID5 card. The single largest improvement you'll see is moving to Vista SP1 on all of your workstations. It's network performance improvement due to SMB2 among other things, is very apparent in our testing. Depending on hardware limitations, you'll see up to 80% (assuming RAID0 arrays etc) over gigabit LAN. On an identical workstation, going from XP to Vista SP1, you'll see at least 10 to 20%.
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Don't understand

What did you mean by Raid 10 faster unless you use dedicated Raid 5 card. Wouldn't Raid 10 still be faster?
Raid 10 is just two mirrored RAID 0 arrays. You'd need four drives, but you'd see speeds typical of a RAID 0 with the addition of fault tolerance. If your onboard disk controller (on the motherboard) can do this, it's the fastest you'll get. From what you're suggesting, drive capacity is not an issue. A dedicated RAID 5 card will have performance much great than the motherboard hosted variant and is the only situation I would use RAID5 in a workstation again where performance matters.
What DW is referring to is the generally high overhead of RAID 5 (processing power needed). Generally speaking, unless you use a good, standalone RAID card that has its own processor, memory, etc, you probably wont see much of a difference with RAID 5, performance wise.

If you look at the 'Build you Own Fast NAS' and 'Atom NAS' articles on this site, you'll see that there's a LOT of factors that come into play with RAID performance, and for the most part RAID 5 isn't any faster than the other levels in general usage.

In my experience, you need to step into higher-end standalone (PCI-X, PCI-e) RAID cards to really see sustained performance increases. These kinds of cards have their own dedicated processors, RAM, and often BBWC's (battery backed write cache's).
My Sonic Wall is old and slow and I need to replace it with something faster. I don't want another fee based unit. I was hoping for some suggestions on what would be good. I would still be using Internet security software ie: Trend Micro, Kaspersky, or McAfee Security Suites. (Using Kaspersky now)

What model SW is it? I understand that you wish to get off the "fee based"...but in my opinion, as mentioned above a few replies..if it's up and running, and you do not use the GlobalVPN client..there is no reason to maintain the subscription. Plus...with just a 6 meg pipe...it definitely should not be a bottleneck. If you had say..a 20 meg pipe..then maybe yes it might be..depending on the model.

That said...for the business clients that wish for a more budget but yet very stable entry level biz grade router...I use the Linksys/Cisco RV0 series. I have well over 60 of 'em out in production, in my experience with many brands...I've found this to be a very stable, solid, fast router..great "bang for the buck".

Out of those 3x antivirus programs...I would highly recommend you stay with Kaspersky. I'm an Eset fan myself, but between that...or Kaspersky, or AntiVir...in my opinion...they're the top 3.
Thanks for all your input. I believe now that I will use the Areca ARC-1210 PCI-Express in a Raid 1E but with 4 drives which in effect would give me Raid 10. If I use four of the WD Caviar RE2 WD1601ABYS 160GB 7200 RPM 16MB SATA 3 Hard Drives that should give me a pretty quick response plus some security (better than Raid 1E with 3 drives). Thanks for the info. Thats why I come here. You guys are the best.

Oh, and the Sonicwall is TZ150. Are you saying that I don't have to pay to keep subscribing and it will still be a benefit? I still want wireless.
Oh, and the Sonicwall is TZ150. Are you saying that I don't have to pay to keep subscribing and it will still be a benefit? I still want wireless.

It will still benefit as your gateway/firewall, and your wireless..those functions will not stop if you end the support subscription...it will not turn itself off after it expires.

The only feature that should stop is if you are subscribing to their antivirus scanning package (TotalSecure or some option like that)

If you're not using that AV option....in my opinion, if you're looking at keeping the budget down for this year, why not just keep using the SW.

Maintaining support contracts with them is good for companies with fleets of them, doing router to router VPN tunnels, and where they have fleets of remote VPN users, etc. The support contracts allow you to get phone support, firmware updates to keep up with adding new units to wide area networks, and the latest GlobalVPN software VPN clients to ensure compatibility with new releases of Windows and Windows service packs. But if you don't need all that......

...just tossing in a "Think about it" here...if you're only using it for basic needs. It's no slouch...she'll bang out 30 megs of throughput...so it will not "slow down" your 6 meg pipe. Firmware updates are not frequent with it, so while still under the current maintenance plan...you could get the latest firmware and upgrade it..and be good for a couple of years...and spread out your IT budget a little. It won't stop working when the support renewal expires.

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