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Small Business Network Advice

Last response: in Networking
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March 9, 2012 7:45:29 PM

I am an IT specialist for a small business (more specifically a healthcare clinic) and I need some advice on some network issues I am running into.

For starters, let me give you the specs of our network so you fine readers can get a better understanding of my situation.

I. We have a T1 connection for our main internet source. There is currently only 1 T1 and it is not bonded. (~1.5Mb speed)
II. We currently have approximately 50 users online at any given time. These users have tasks that range from scanning documents to be uploaded to an offsite server to just using our EMR client (Electronic Medical Records).
III. There are two main ways users connect to the network, WIFI and Ethernet. The main routers are providing DHCP and giving the computers in our network a specific range of IP addresses (192.168.x.x) There are 5 wireless routers (I think) in various locations throughout the building acting as a hotspots.
IV. All connections go through a switch box and eventually to a Firewall then out to the internet.

Now, to where I need advice. This system was set up well before I arrived to take the job, and as such I am still trying to get access to many of the core systems. (For instance it took 3 months and a hell of a lot of trouble to get the firewall passwords so I could upgrade to a better system.) I have been asked by the office manager to fix the issues they are having with speed and overall reliability with their internet and network.

The Problems.

I. Ping of over 200ms at peak hours to our offsite server, causing major slowdowns in the day to day functions at the office. This often causes users to time out of their programs and sometimes requires a complete cold boot of the computer they are using to recover (The EMR is a finicky beast).
II. Terrible speed in general. I know that's because of our 1.5Mb connection, but its still on the list.
III. I'm concerned about the wireless routers and the number of computers on each. They are by no means balanced in terms of location or usage.

The solutions that I have tried (they were not my ideas most of the time, but the ideas of the previous IT specialist and his boss) have only created larger problems than they solved. For instance, I was told to purchase 3 additional DSL lines to supplement our T1 connection, I proceed to do so, only to find out that the IT specialist (the old one's boss mind you) has no idea that those 3 lines would come as separate connections. He was supposed to be the one to actually Load Balance them. So now we're sitting on 3 active DSL connections that do nothing.

What I wish to ask is, what can I do to get more speed (preferably without speeding an arm and a leg) and help alleviate some of the stress that is currently on this network? Is there a way to utilize these DSL connections or do I need to drop them? Will Load Balancing even work with a Firewall in place? And the biggest issue at hand, Will upgrading the raw speed actually do anything to help, aside from browsing and the like.

If any reader requires more info about something specific, I will do my best to provide it. Thanks for any advice that is given!

Additional Information about our area.

The highest speed available is 6Mb/s on DSL. The highest speed via Bonded T1 is 3Mb/s.
The manager will not remove the T1 because of its reliability.
March 10, 2012 6:36:56 AM

Can you provide any info on what kind of hardware you are using? Are you using a load balancing device? Also any info on how your network is setup (map) would be good. What is fastest DSL line you can get besides the T1?
March 10, 2012 7:01:13 PM

I'll have to wait to till I get back to the office to get details on most of the switches and such, but I can tell you pretty much how our set up goes.

T1
|
Cisco 1800 series Router (giving DHCP and providing the CSU/DSU adapter)
|
Cisco ASA 5505 Firewall
|
Switches - All ethernet user computers link here
|
Wireless Routers

We are currently not using a load balancing device - I was concerned about its compatibility with our firewall. Also, the fastest DSL connection is 6MB/s in the area. There is also a fiber connection running nearby, but its hard to get an accurate price on such things. I hope that is a useful map, if not, tell me what kinds of things I need to add. The manager is will to pay anywhere up 1400$ a month for this stuff, so any suggestions are welcome.
!