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Input on gigabit switches

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September 6, 2011 12:18:13 AM

I am looking to replace a couple aging 10/100 SMC switches at our city library and upgrade the network to gigabit capabilities. Most all of the computers at the library now have a gigabit NIC, but the switches are quite old and will only run at 10/100 speed.

We are currently budgeting to get these switches replaced, and I was hoping to get some input on specifics I should keep in mind, or even specific switches that might fit the bill. I am very pleased with HP brand switches, but that isn't necessarily a requirement.

Currently we have a little less than 48 required connections, but I'm thinking it would make more sense to get two 24 port switches now and add a third 24 port switch a little ways into the future. Now, since these switches will be directly connected to each other as well, I know I need to be careful about broadcast storms, correct? What kind of switches should I look at getting to avoid this? Ideally we need to keep these switches as simple as possible as we need others to be able to configure them as well (if they need to be configured.) Basically, as plug-and-play easy as possible the better, even if we have to sacrifice some features or have to find the best method of interconnecting to give us basically configure-free usage. Would the only option be to get a couple layer 3 switches?

Thanks in advance for all of your help!

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September 6, 2011 4:22:49 AM

I would definitely go with layer 3 switches. You will want the ability to set up VLANs, especially if you are using wireless solutions as well. *Especially if the library provides open wireless to the general public*

I personally prefer cisco switches, but I have worked with HP procurves before, they are fairly simple to set up and have certainly fullfilled any task I've asked of them. The most important thing is to stick with something you feel you are comfortable managing and configuring. Learning your way around a new switch OS can be stressful, especially if you are working a little out of your comfort zone. That being said, DON"T WORK TOO FAR OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE. There is a reason that there are professional network installers/managers/techs. it's complicated when you get into switching and routing on a large scale. Messing something up can lead to intermittent problems that are a complete nightmare to track down later.

I would go with the 48 port switch, instead of the two 24's. The 48 takes up 1u *not sure if you have a rack or not with a network of this size* and will allow you a cheaper solution than two 24's. It also still allows you the option of adding a 24 in the future. As a library you should qualify for ERate, so definitely find out as much as you can about Erates for the switches you feel comfortable with. You may be able to even use Erate to get a pro to install and set it up for you.

hope this helps
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September 6, 2011 4:00:00 PM

Roagie, that's great information, thank you! Layer 3 switches are at least double the cost of a managed Layer 2 switch, but if it's best to just go with a 48 port switch, it looks like the best bet for them are going to be layer 3 anyways.

I've not really configured HP switches before, but one reason why I am leaning towards them is I hear many come with a powerful GUI utility as well as CLI for configuring the switch, and they are quite a bit cheaper than similar Cisco switches. Does Cisco now offer switches with a GUI configuration, or still all CLI? I was told once that 48 port switches have a tendency of more port failures than 24 port switches, is that really true?
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September 13, 2011 3:32:14 AM

Best answer selected by choucove.
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September 17, 2011 4:14:51 AM

The HP Procurve GUI is perfectly fine and will work for most configuration issues, the HP CLI is more detailed and will allow for more granular control over things. The GUI even has a handy green/yellow/red light feature that gives you an overview at a glance.

I have not had terribly bad luck with 48 port switches. I've only ever had 4 ports fail on me, and that covers a fairly long span of time. That being said I have no first hand knowledge of 48 port switches being better or worse at port failures, they do come in modules that are replaceable *depending on model* so that isn't a huge deal either.

There are in fact GUI tools for managing and configuring switches. I personally am not too familiar with them, but I know some fairly decent net admins that use them. Cisco has a few but some of that software is built for very specific business setups.

If HP fits what you are looking for and is cheaper then by all means have at it. I wouldn't be scared at all of choosing those switches, as long as they met my needs.

Again hope this helps.. :D .
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