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Networking a 5 person townhouse

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December 20, 2006 2:36:29 PM

Hi everyone, I read here often but this is the first time posting for me, hopefully I can get some help :)  .

I will be leasing a townhouse later in '07 with 4 other friends that all have pretty decent computers and consoles. We'll be running 5 computers, 4 Xbox 360s, one Nintendo Wii and would like to include a wireless access point for when I want to use my laptop around the house bringing a total of 10 wired connections and 1 (90% of the time) wireless connection.

My question here is how to get this network running, if possible with all devices connected without having to unplug one and plug in another and keep them running at a decent speed. Obviously the consoles typically will not be on 24/7 but when they are on we will mainly be doing online gaming or system linking throughout the house and the computers will generally be on all the time.

I was thinking I would have to do multiple routers for this setup, however from what I understand that is not a good idea in terms of speed and such. If anyone could give any suggestions or anything it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks a lot :) 
December 20, 2006 3:23:32 PM

Unless you have a need to isolate your place into subnets, you only need one router, and that may in fact be supplied as a part of your internet connection hardware (whether cable or DSL). That is, many of the not-rock-bottom cable or DSL modems have a router built in. Unless you are going very high performance on your broadband, the performance of this router will probably be adequate (that is, it will be faster than your broadband anyway).

So, in addition to the router, all you need is an ethernet switch and a wireless access point.

You may find that your cable / DSL modem comes with those builtin, too. Chances are, though, the ethernet switch will only have 4 ports, so you will need another 8 port (or higher) switch to have all 10 of your wired devices connected at the same time.

Without considering what is built into what, then, you will need
1) the modem
2) a router
3) a wireless access point (may be bulit into the router)
4) an ethernet switch (size depending on what is built into your router)

Another comment: don't put the wireless AP in some basement level remote corner... try to place it as central as possible in your home. If you use a separate AP (not built into the router), it will consume one port on your wired switch.
December 20, 2006 4:39:05 PM

I've done wireless networks in my current townhouse and my parent's house so I would definitely have to agree on the central wireless location. It's 2 stories plus the basement so all of the networking equipment will probably be in the living room on the central floor.

So if I understand correctly if I got let's say a 4-port wireless D-link gaming router or Linksys router and then attached an 8-port Linksys switch to that everything would run smoothly? Before posting I was under the impression that multiple switches or routers would severely cripple my connection and also that computers connected to the switch would not be able to connect to the internet. I suppose I'm kind of confused on the whole router vs. switch differences. I also may be confused a bit just because this is my first networking project that requires more than 4 wired connections and it's hard to find a router with the right amount of ports that I need. But like I said if I understand correctly I should be able to go from

Coax cable out of the wall --> Cable modem --> Wireless Router --> Wired Switch

and everything wired could plug into both the router and switch?

Thank you for the response Iceblue
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December 20, 2006 4:59:37 PM

Quote:
So if I understand correctly if I got let's say a 4-port wireless D-link gaming router or Linksys router and then attached an 8-port Linksys switch to that everything would run smoothly?
First caveat you need to know: I'm not a gamer. But I am a computer professional who has experience with small office and home networks. "Run smoothly" may have a different meaning for a gamer than an office network user!

But, it will work fine as a network topology.

A combo device like the D-Link contains a router, a wireless access point, and a 4 port ethernet switch. Logically it is no different than having each of those things as separate devices. Performance is another matter, however.

The function of a router is to separate your LAN from the WAN (i.e. internet) or from other LANs inside your house. It performs a couple of vital functions, such as the DHCP services (which assign IP addresses to all your attached devices), and some nice and useful functions (such as a hardware firewall).

The function of an ethernet switch is to connect the two devices who want to talk with either other using ethernet. 100BASE-T is a star topology network - that is, there is only one computer or other client device on each wire (with the exception of a crossover cable, which has a computer on each end, but nothing else). Anytime you have more than 2 devices on a 100BASE-T network, there must be a device somewhere, into which all the wires feed, performing the switching function.

The wireless access point just provides a connection point between the wireless clients and the wired LAN. This is true whether or not it is built into a combo router device.

I certainly would not advise you to spend big bucks on high performance networking infrastructure unless you know from experience that your use of the network will require it.
December 20, 2006 5:10:34 PM

A couple of other points:

As a general rule, separate devices - modem, router, access point, switch (especially those designed for commercial use) will have higher performance than combo devices.

In a gaming setup, where everyone is going to be pounding the internet connection simultaneously, the performance of the router is probably the most important consideration. Try to read reviews and pay attention to WAN-to-LAN and LAN-to-WAN throughput performance and the number of simultaneous connections it can maintain. Be aware that a "connection" in this context is a logical connection and is typically greater than the number of physical connections, sometimes a lot greater.

Also, keep in mind that your network's LAN-to-WAN performance will never exceed your broadband service's upload speed. So, again typically, your internal wired network will have much higher performance than your internet connection will. IOW, there is no point spending extra on the router to get a LAN-to-WAN performance of 50Mbps when your broadband service is only 3Mbps.
December 20, 2006 5:32:30 PM

I appreciate your advice it was very helpful. I think as of right now we will be looking at the Linksys cable modem, D-link DGL-4300 (I would get the Netgear Rangemax but have been very unimpressed with Netgear's performance), and a Linksys 8-port switch. This should give me a total of 11 wired ports so there should always be a free one unless we add a NAS device which is a possibility to use as a music server. We're limiting torrent schedules to late night only when we're asleep, and gaming will definitely be a big factor in our network and this looks to be like the best setup based on what's available now as long as everything will be able to connect to the internet and network with each other using this setup.

Any opinions on that setup or other suggestions/advice would be very appreciated also. Thanks for the help so far
December 20, 2006 5:51:49 PM

Quote:
D-link DGL-4300 (I would get the Netgear Rangemax but have been very unimpressed with Netgear's performance), and a Linksys 8-port switch. This should give me a total of 11 wired ports ...
Actually, this will leave you with 10 open ports. One port on both the router and the switch will be used to connect to each other, leaving you with 3 ports on the router and 7 on the switch.
December 20, 2006 10:51:02 PM

Ah ok. I wasn't aware that a switch didn't have a separate port for the router to input too. 10 should be sufficient anyways. Thanks again, I really appreciate the help.
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