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Home office network/LAN woes

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January 11, 2013 11:14:36 PM

Hi Folks,

I'm after some troubleshooting or product switching advice regarding my home/office network setup. I work from home and have a home LAN with multiple devices connected. The problems I'm seeing is low transfer speeds between systems, across the LAN.

The overall internet connection speed is good. The problem is really slow speed on transferring medium/big files from one system to another. Across wired-only connections, I might see 2MB/per second speeds from PC1 to any of the other PCs on any floor, on a good day. It's often down around 1.5MB. This is commonly the case with files from 500MB up through double-digit GB multi-file transfers. Also, we commonly see issues where one system (or multiple) 'drop off' the network and can't be seen or transferred to. Sometimes they can be seen by another PC but lack permission to transfer to. Security settings appear correct.

As the diagram below will show, I have 10 desktop PCs, 2 laptops, a networked printer and several tablet devices and game consoles connected across a wired and wireless LAN. This is across a three floor home; most is wired with good quality cat5 cable and the wireless connections run off a WAP on the 2nd floor and a WAP extension on the other side of the home on the 1st floor. Internet connection speeds are good and pretty reliable but we see lots of problems transferring large files from one PC to another, whether across wired or wired/wireless connections.

All systems are very clean, all run Kaspersky IS and are kept up to date religiously. Most of them are upper mid-range spec systems with all the PCs being high-end custom builds. They all have at least a 100MB network card/NIC. All are running Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit except two of the basement systems that get little use. Most of the systems have at least 8GB of DDR2-1066 or above.

I've checked the cables (and replaced most, including the router-switch cables) for problems and don't find any. BIOS also doesn't find any network cable problems on the systems that can trace it.

The connection (externally) is a 60MB down, 2.5MB up cable connection that performs well on speed tests and big file downloads. No connection drops, or very rarely.

So, to cut a long story short (too late!) I'm stumped. I'm not terribly knowledgeable about home/small office networking issues and am not sure on how to best troubleshoot/proceed. I know we have a lot of devices connected but really only 1-3 PCs are working or using substantial bandwidth at the same time. Only one PC is ever trying to move large file/files internally too.

I don't know if we need new/better hardware or cabling or have other config issues. I'd appreciate any tips or advice on tests to run or guides on how to troubleshoot/configure to get the best possible internal transfer speeds. Thanks in advance!


Image Key:
solid green lines are cat5 wired connections
broken red lines are wireless connections
all cables are straight and kept as short as possible - the longest line from 2nd floor Router to the basement switch is 2 floors straight down - perhaps 30' at the most.

More about : home office network lan woes

January 12, 2013 4:28:56 AM

Thats a reasonable LAN infrastructure you have there. A couple of things spring to mind from your diagram:

1. I would use your TP-Link 4 port router to host the connections to each other switch if possible rather than cascading the switch links from basement, first floor and Wireless G through the TP-Link 8 port switch.

2. Make sure each PC has its NIC (network card) set to 100mb/full duplex if possible. In this way you know that there is no chance of an auto setting being negotiated at the switch end of the link at 10mb half duplex.

3. Try a file transfer between two PC's connected on the same switch, e.g basement PC1 to PC2 and see what the transfer rate is. You should get near maximum thorughput. Remember that LAN/WAN speed is measured in megabits per second not megabytes, therefore a 100 megabyte file is 800 megabits (adding in IP protocol transmission overhead I always add another 10% so say 900 megabits). With two PC's connected at 100 megabits per second full duuplex, the transfer should take 9 - 10 seconds at most.

If this works in the timeframe quoted above, then try the same transfer between say, basement PC1 and 1st floor PC1. The timeframe should not be much different (if at all). If the transfer is significantly slower then the issue will most likely reside with the switch hardware and/or the negotiated speed between switch to switch links.

Again its possible that the switch to switch port speeds are running at less than 100mb full duplex. I don't know if you can configure the port speed on your TP-Link 4 port router but if you can make sure they're set to 100mb/full duplex.

As for devices dropping off the network, how have you set up your IP configuration?
You should ideally use your router as the DHCP server and set a lease time as high as you can. Also make sure that if you a required to specify a range of IP addresses for DHCP to allocate, that you have enough to cover each device (from your diagram I'd say 25 IP addresses should do)

Try pinging from one PC to another PC on another floor. Go into a command prompt and type the following (replace the IP address with whatever the address is of the device your pinging:

Ping 192.168.1.10 -t -l 1472

This will run a constant ping of 1472 bytes to the destination IP address. The response times should ideally be well under 10ms (more like 2 or 3ms)

Try the same to your default gateway IP address. you can also use packets above 1472 bytes as this will test the switch's ability to fragment packets greater than the maximum ethernet packet size (vital when doing large file transfers)

Hope this gives you a starter for ten.
January 12, 2013 7:32:45 AM

.

There could be many reasons why your network is behaving that way so I suggest you eliminate the possibilities using a small isolated network.

1. Set a two PC network on the 2nd floor. Cable modem connected to 4-port TP-Link switch connected to PC1 and PC2. Disconnect everything else to the test network

2. Switch off all devices for about a minute before switching them on to allow the devices to reset. Switch on you're devices in this order: cable modem, switch after 30secs, PC1 after 30secs, PC2 after 30secs.

3. Transfer files (100MB, 500MB, 1GB) from PC1 to PC2 and measure the speeds.

4. Repeat #3 but this time from PC2 to PC1.

Then post the results here. How you proceed next depends on the results.


.



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January 13, 2013 10:25:00 PM

RSMRSMRSM,

thanks for the suggestion. I followed the steps, above. Transfers from PC1 to PC2 at 200MB, 500MB and 2GB (assuming the sizes here are good enough gauges, even though they don't match your suggestion) come in between 30 and 45MB per sec. At least, that's according to the transfer dialogs. The time to transfer would support this for all files. I did this both ways, from PC1 to 2 and 2 to 1.

Where to? :) 

January 13, 2013 10:27:27 PM

Sinister - thanks for your detailed response too. I'll reply to this in more depth tomorrow morning. I see some good questions but I'm not altogether sure on how to answer or address so may need more info.
January 14, 2013 3:14:34 AM

9-Ball said:
RSMRSMRSM,

thanks for the suggestion. I followed the steps, above. Transfers from PC1 to PC2 at 200MB, 500MB and 2GB (assuming the sizes here are good enough gauges, even though they don't match your suggestion) come in between 30 and 45MB per sec. At least, that's according to the transfer dialogs. The time to transfer would support this for all files. I did this both ways, from PC1 to 2 and 2 to 1.

Where to? :) 


Ok, so you got 30 to 45 MB/s in your isolated network. Though it seems about half what a gigabit network should give it is waaaaay better than 2MB/s, isn't it?

Now that you've got a good benchmark try connecting the first floor switch to the second floor's then connect one PC to the second floor switch. Run a quick file transfer test to get an indication of the network speed. If you get practically the same throughput then keep on adding PCs and switches to the network until the speed drops dramatically. This will identify what device is causing the slow down.

Post which device caused the slowdown and post the speed you get. We'll troubleshoot from here.



.
January 17, 2013 2:55:05 PM

So, I went back and ran tests along the lines your outlined and find that the transfer rate remains roughly similar among the wired PCs, but then things got complex. I'll do my best to explain below:

1. Transfers between PC1-5 on the top floor all remain in the 30-45mb speed. These are all wired connections.
2. Transfers between PC1-5 and wired PCs on the first floor and basement are relatively similar, 25-30MB. Transfers in the opposite direction remain similar too. I tested these with only one PC hooked up on each floor and with several/all. Speeds remain similar.
3. I still see occasional/semi-frequent drops where PC1 on the top floor can't 'see' PC1 on the 1st floor. Normally rebooting the unseen PC resolves this. It's as if the network discovery sometimes goes off? Also, some PCs request/require a password and username to access from another. This isn't something I've ever configured and I'm not sure how to turn it off. We don't need it. They're all connected to the same W7 Homegroup. Smaller issues.

Then the complexities... if I add wireless devices to the test and run transfers, the original problems start to come in. Increases in the PC's 'unseen' issues present. The transfer rate between wired PCs can go way down again. Wireless PC to wired can be as low as 1-2mb per sec. So, it would suggest the wireless part of the network is part of the issue here?

Not sure where to go in terms of troubleshooting the main issue and the PC 'drops' and password/login issues. Again, any help is much appreciated.

January 17, 2013 4:00:06 PM

The big problem I see is stacks of switches. Each switch port only handles X amount of traffic, whereas internally at least decent switches allow full speed to each port. So if you have say an 8 port switch uplinked to an 8 port switch, all at 10/100, and everything tries to talk at once, each machine can do only 1/8 the available bandwidth, and if the switch does it right, shows you have 100, but basically hands off transfers in a round robin sort of fashion...

Get rid of your stacks of switches, and go to a single larger switch, in your case, due to the high amount of ports used, at LEAST a 16 port switch. Even then you would still have to hang a few devices off your router. If you can muster the bucks, a 24 port with everything hung off of that would be best.

Likewise, you show a wireless G access point. Most everything I own wireless does Wireless N. Pretty sure that Ipad, and those kindles do too.

So why not upgrade your network to a good quality Wireless N router, and a good quality 16 or 24 port switch? If you can pony up the bucks go with a gigabit switch. It's worth the extra if you can do it. Then you can upgrade the PC NICs whenever if they don't already support gigabit...

At that point, speed through to your ISP is the remaining bottle neck, and really, not a whole lot you can do about that without piling on a mess of bucks for specialized data lines that only really make sense for business applications or if you are independently wealthy...

The network diagram for using a 16 port switch would be...

Home-Network-For-9-ball by dbhost3006, on Flickr

Of course the diagram would look like the following for a 24 port switch.

Home-Network-For-9-ball-24-port by dbhost3006, on Flickr
January 23, 2013 12:38:09 AM

dbhosttexas et al,

thanks for the further detailed feedback. I've run more tests and can't isolate the culprit/culprits. Guessing the wireless connections with their unpredictable bandwidth usage may be a problem, and the older wireless WAP. We'll see - I'm ordering the following, to go the wireless N/wired router and 24-port gigabit switch path for wired connections:

TP-LINK TL-SG1024D Unmanaged 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit Desktop/Rackmount Switch
TP-LINK TL-WR1043ND Ultimate Wireless N300 Router, Gigabit, 300Mbps, USB port, 3 Detachable Antennas / IP QoS/ QSS Button
Plus new cat6 cables, coming in around $300, all together.

All the PCs in the house have gigabit speed NICs which hopefully means they'll take advantage of the 1000MBPs for wired connections. This should let me go with your second diagram, with some work, where everything hooks up directly to the 24-port switch. Hopefully, once set up this will iron out some of the slow speeds and drops, averaging something far above the patchy 35MBPs or less, to date.

On that front, anything I should be aware of in terms of config (on each PC, re: network settings and wireless settings) to ensure the best speeds and stablest interconnectivity between machines as possible? Again, all running W7 Ultimate, bar one old XP workhorse.
January 23, 2013 12:42:06 AM

Quick PS: I've not ordered yet - will do in the morning probably. I wondered, having read conflicting articles, if there's any need to go to Cat6 cables? My Cat5 cabling is in good shape, no kinks, etc. Some say cat5 won't support gigabit speeds whereas others suggest it will. I'm leaning toward buying new cables to be sure but wouldn't mind saving the $100 or so, if not really needed.
January 23, 2013 1:23:57 PM

If you have Category 5e cable, then no need to upgrade to get to gigabit. If you have cat 5 and it is short runs, then it *should* work even though it's not blessed for that application. I have 2 runs of 10' cat 5 patch cables to my switch and data flow over them is fine...

IF you are on the fence between upgrading cable, and not sure if you should go cat 5e or cat6, go with cat6. There is a minimal difference in cost, and once 10 gigabit copper ethernet gets reasonable for home networks, you will already be wired for it.

I can't comment on TP Link stuff as I am totally unfamiliar with it. However I see a lot of folks on these forums talk well about it... Sometimes one switch MFG will be more sensitive than another to the cable being used, but that is pretty rare these days... And at least what I can see in the promo photos, that switch has all the diagnostic LEDs you could want, and was well enough designed to integrate the power supply (I despise external transformers, always have...).

I did look at the models you mentioned on Amazon, the switch looks good. As does the router, however I am curious. Why the N300 instead of the N600 router? Take a look at the TP-Link TL-WDR3600 if you are wanting to stay with that brand. Not sure if anything you have can take advantage of it, but I did notice when we swapped out Linksys N300 for an N600 router, my android phone WiFi woke up really well...

Your price tag of $300.00 seems like that would include a low $$ spool of category 6 cable. Pricing I saw as of 5 minutes ago...

Switch $110.00
Router $49.99
1000' Category 6 riser pull box. $79.00

That totals up to $238.00 which is an awesome deal on the capacity you are shooting for.

Depending on the config you are aiming for, but I assume you want to route cable through walls to wall plates / keystones and then run jumpers to the machines. You will need some RJ45 connectors, keystones, a crimper, and a punch down tool. Since you already have category 5 I assume you have cat 5 / 5e rated keystones in place... Those have been common for nearly a decade now. If not, they can run your price up a bit. Don't worry about getting Cat 6 rated at this point. The keystones are danged expensive for cat6, and from what I have seen in actual production, cat5e keystones will work on 10gb copper networks.
January 23, 2013 5:08:25 PM

Dbhosttexas,

thanks for the additional cable clarification. I'm pretty sure I have Cat5e throughout but I'm going to pick up the Cat6 cables anyhow, just to be sure. Not a bad price when buying in bulk. I have 3 long run cables too and what I read suggests the cat6 cables are better for that.

I've used TP Link gear quite a bit in the last 3 years. Only had good experiences in terms of internet connectivity. I went with them after headaches using netgear and d-link and on reading good reviews. So far, so good. Obviously, the origins of this thread suggest otherwise, with network problems, but I don't think the hardware itself is the problem here.

I opted for the N600 too - similar price for additional features and good reports on wireless connectivity performance.

Should have all the pieces by the weekend and will hook it up then. Expect me back here with numerous headaches and questions by Monday. ;) 

Thanks again!
January 23, 2013 5:12:51 PM

PS on the routing - whoever build my house put in some neat custom 4" plumbing pipes to route network and TV cables so it's a simple matter of routing them through the vertical pipes for the long run from the 2nd floor to the basement. It's a big a-frame style house with closets/utility rooms in the same spot on each floor so routing cables through them hides them nicely. On the long cables, I bought already connected ends just for convenience and will make up the other shorter cables from the spool.

Anyway, fingers crossed it works out when I start hooking it up next weekend. BTW: were there any network config settings I should check on each W7 system? I see hundreds of NIC specific settings but can't understand many of them, so leave them at default.
January 27, 2013 9:49:53 PM

9-Ball said:
PS on the routing - whoever build my house put in some neat custom 4" plumbing pipes to route network and TV cables so it's a simple matter of routing them through the vertical pipes for the long run from the 2nd floor to the basement. It's a big a-frame style house with closets/utility rooms in the same spot on each floor so routing cables through them hides them nicely. On the long cables, I bought already connected ends just for convenience and will make up the other shorter cables from the spool.

Anyway, fingers crossed it works out when I start hooking it up next weekend. BTW: were there any network config settings I should check on each W7 system? I see hundreds of NIC specific settings but can't understand many of them, so leave them at default.


You are seriously lucky. I am having to use fish rods to pull cable through 2x4 wall cavities in my house to route cable... Love the house, hate most of the 1980s construction methods...
February 5, 2013 2:31:56 PM

Reporting back on this after getting the new setup in place over the past weekend. Using the aforementioned TP-Link TL-WDR3600 and the 24-port switch, everything appears to be working much better. Even external internet speeds are faster, so far. No communications problems with other systems on the network, except the XP systems and I think I know why. Also the internal transfer speeds are way up from the earlier snail's pace. So far, so good. Thanks all, for the help/suggestions.
February 5, 2013 5:55:17 PM

Glad to be of assistance! Sounds like an awesome projecct.
February 9, 2013 3:32:22 PM

I have this great Program that works great for me, and I think it I will work for you too "Long Path Tool"
February 9, 2013 8:12:24 PM

I just reread this thread (bored, trying to relax...) and I just noticed I never saw your comments on Netgear and D-Link...

While my experiences with Netgear equipment has been nothing but stellar, my most recent Netgear piece of hardware is an 8 port fast ethernet switch bought new in 2000. I ran a Netgear broadband router for a few years, and then replaced all of that back in probably 2002 with an SMC Barricade 7008ABR that I literally just replaced a little over a year ago...

For a short while back in 2004, when I was single I had a roomate that had a D-Link Wireless router that was utter, and complete garbage. The NICs were always failing, and in general I didn't see anything from that brand I was all that interested in... So I had him hang the D-link off of a wired connection on my SMC and had it acting as merely a WAP, and it sucked even at that.

My first WiFi router I got here for me was a gift from my Brother in law, (He travels for work, is divorced and his ex cleaned his clock, so he kind of stays with us when he is in town, sort of payment I guess.) when I switched my cable internet service from Earthlink to Comcast, he gave me a Linksys E1000. Not a bad router, but somewhat slow. We upgraded to the EA2700 and love it, but could use the USB connectivity for a RAID box.

I honestly never heard of TP-Link until I stated browsing here. Nobody local has them, and they don't come up in conversation often on the other forums I am on... Good price tags, and really nice features... Looks a LOT like them, and TrendNET could be made in the same factory, using the same designs and parts, but with some slight changes in features... If that stuff you picked up is half as well made as the TrendNET stuff I have been around, it will be good and obsolete before it's dead...
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