Computers & Electronics

Suggestion (Hardware) for Office Network

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[OP]
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Nov 3, 2011
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Suggestion (Hardware) for Office Network

In our office, there are about 15 people connecting to internet on the network. Our modem (Cisco DPC3825 DOCSIS 3.0) is connected to a 24 port switch (or switch is connected to the modem). That's how we distribute internet to desktops and on one of the walls we have this D-link Dir815 (happens to be in the office and we use it as wireless) router put in wireless access point mode, because the modems' wireless range wasn't good enough (modem is behind the wallssss in the far corner of the office).

There were times that people in the office were complaining about their internet speeds (only wireless ones) . I rarely experienced slow internet connections and suspect that this happens when people's cloud backups are running but not sure. Our speed is 5/50.

We will now (have to) change our network and will put modem into bridge mode and add a router after the modem and that router will be distributing everything.

There are about 15 people (only 5-6 wired) in the office and most people use wireless. After you add people's wireless devices, at a peak time 30 devices are connected to this network.

My questions are;
1 - Is it OK to use this D-link as a router after modem? Do I need a better router?

2 - If I use this D-link as a router right after the modem, I will need an access point for wireless connections. What would be the best device for that access point? That access point will have wired connection (or doesn't have to but we have a wired port available for the access point).

3 - If I cannot use this existing D-link as a router, can I still continue using this as a wireless access point or do I need a better access point?

Thanks.
18 replies
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Feb 15, 2008
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I guess a lot of this depends upon what you want to accomplish. When I first arrived on a major university campus, the entire campus' gateway router, for literally thousands of users, had less CPU power than your D-Link probably has. But ultimately its a question of what do you intend to do with it, what sort of reliability/security do you need, etc. For example, running a custom firmware or a proper enterprise feature set might have given you the tools to meter each individual MAC address, so you could have potentially de-bugged your performance issue.

The 'ghetto' approach of using consumer-grade equipment may very well work just fine for you. But if you continue to expand rapidly, the number of systems, it is likely that it will become infeasible. Additionally, key management may become an issue -- you wouldn't want your former employees to have access to your office network, now would you? But changing every key on every machine every time an employee departs isn't exactly realistic and is highly disruptive to the workforce. So at some point, you probably will want to migrate to a RADIUS server that spits out keys based to individuals, rather than one common shared set of keys.

The time to start thinking about these things seriously is probably at your level of staffing, especially if more growth is anticipated. If you're still running on consumer-grade hardware for network infrastructure when you have 50 employees, that will pose some very serious difficulties.
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[OP]
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Nov 3, 2011
141 posts
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Thank you for the answer Mark. I was reading your finance related posts and didn't know you have experience in networking, too.

We are not concerned much about those. There is no complex VPN, or remote connection or anything. This is very much like a home network. People connect to internet (for email, and some online applications like Salesforce etc). They all can do the same things anywhere, where they have internet connection.

For now, this equipment seems to be working for us. We (most of the time wireless users) sometimes experience slow connection and we are worried about productivity when they experience this. I don't see any device/connection limits on our current router (that we use as access point) but I was wondering if that could be an issue with wireless users. Also there is a printer and sometimes people have difficulty printing due to "server connection error".

We don't expect more growth (if we grow, that means we need to move to a bigger place).

I didn't ask all my questions on my original post because I think my questions would be shaped depending on the answers I get. One of my questions would be,
"Do you think a router with QoS tracking ability will help monitoring those wireless connection problems?"

I guess we will get an access point and use existing D-link as a router.
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Oct 13, 2002
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If you don't plan to spend too much, I would add a "Tomato" router and enable QoS. You have to prioritize the *upstream* traffic in particular.

Also, find out the wireless network situation around your office. Choose the channel that is less crowded. I am personally not a big fan of DLink routers ....

If possible, connect the users with wired as much as possible.
[OP]
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Nov 3, 2011
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Thanks for the reply Willy. I don't know what would be "too much" but our budget is $100 for this...

Could you explain more on "tomato" router? Is this a firmware only? This would be fun to experiment, but if it won't work my boss wouldn't like it. Also looks like existing router "D-link" is not compatible with it.

Also one "network expert" told me to use "real" access point rather than this router being used as an access point. I don't know what advantage would I have by getting a "real" access point...
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tanerci wrote: 1 - Is it OK to use this D-link as a router after modem? Do I need a better router?

2 - If I use this D-link as a router right after the modem, I will need an access point for wireless connections. What would be the best device for that access point? That access point will have wired connection (or doesn't have to but we have a wired port available for the access point).

3 - If I cannot use this existing D-link as a router, can I still continue using this as a wireless access point or do I need a better access point?

Thanks.
1) OH GOD NO! I would rather print out my packets, stuff them into an envelope, and hand them to Canada Post to deliver to my destination than use a D-Link router. Especially in an office environment.

2) It depends on how commercial you want to go. I <3 Ubiquiti UniFi APs.

3) With a better AP you won't need to use the D-Link. You can continue to do so in outlying areas, but I'd replace it personally.
tanerci wrote: Thanks for the reply Willy. I don't know what would be "too much" but our budget is $100 for this...
For that kind of budget I'd grab a Mikrotik. Impossible to crash and can handle loads of multiple users.
For under $100 you could get an RB951g-2hnd. Well under $100 and has decent wireless performance.
A few bucks more buys you an RB2011UAS-2HnD-IN which has better wireless performance.
Also one "network expert" told me to use "real" access point rather than this router being used as an access point. I don't know what advantage would I have by getting a "real" access point...
For enterprise applications, there's a bunch of neat features like seamless handoffs, power over ethernet, easy scalability and VLAN support.
I for one wouldn't put wireless devices on the same network as my wireful devices. Plus you can setup stuff like guest APs so they don't get access to your internal networks.
The only way to do this is with multiple consumer grade APs.
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Concerning whether you need a better router, I'd say in your case a consumer router could probably do the job. Wouldn't be ideal, but it should work. Wouldn't hurt to try it that way and only upgrade if needed. For an access point, you should definitely invest in something better, preferably a dedicated AP. They can handle multiple wireless connections much better without slowing down, dropping connections or just failing. There are many brands out there, one that I've used for APs is EnGenius.
[OP]
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Nov 3, 2011
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Death_hawk and Scycotic, thank you for your answers.

I guess we will keep the router for now and get an AP for wireless. We have to buy (I don't know why) the AP from Staples and D-Link is dominant at Staples. Would "D-Link DAP-2310 Wireless N PoE Access Point" be a good choice in our price range?
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tanerci wrote: Thank you for the answer Mark. I was reading your finance related posts and didn't know you have experience in networking, too.

We are not concerned much about those. There is no complex VPN, or remote connection or anything. This is very much like a home network. People connect to internet (for email, and some online applications like Salesforce etc). They all can do the same things anywhere, where they have internet connection.

For now, this equipment seems to be working for us. We (most of the time wireless users) sometimes experience slow connection and we are worried about productivity when they experience this. I don't see any device/connection limits on our current router (that we use as access point) but I was wondering if that could be an issue with wireless users. Also there is a printer and sometimes people have difficulty printing due to "server connection error".
I agree with the suggestion of splitting the gateway and the AP function. You may also want to look into adding an additional AP or two throughout the office, on different frequencies. If you bridge it all together, then you can switch between them fairly transparently, especially if the same SSID is used.

No need to throw the D-Link out. Just turn it into a pure bridging wireless AP. Acquire a device that can run DD-WRT, Tomato, or heck, even pfsense to be your gateway. Acquire a second access point, set it to a different channel, and put it in a different area. Stick to the 2.4GHz stuff for now.
et I guess we will get an access point and use existing D-link as a router.
I'd suggest the opposite, AP's can be pretty dumb. But routers, you want some fairly decent software behind them.

QoS won't generally help you much. Most of the time, its overhyped. My suggestion would be to counsel users to not use the cloud backup services at full speed. Usually the transmission speeds can be throttled.
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tanerci wrote: Death_hawk and Scycotic, thank you for your answers.

I guess we will keep the router for now and get an AP for wireless. We have to buy (I don't know why) the AP from Staples and D-Link is dominant at Staples. Would "D-Link DAP-2310 Wireless N PoE Access Point" be a good choice in our price range?
I also don't recommend DLink equipment. Out of the options they have, Amped, Cisco or Asus would all be better likely. Look at reviews.
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Mark77 wrote: I'd suggest the opposite, AP's can be pretty dumb. But routers, you want some fairly decent software behind them.
Agree. I am a big Tomato fan and they work fairly well for small businesses and offices. And IMO, Tomato is reliable enough for low(er)-budget business use.
Mark77 wrote: QoS won't generally help you much. Most of the time, its overhyped. My suggestion would be to counsel users to not use the cloud backup services at full speed. Usually the transmission speeds can be throttled.
I don't agree. Without QoS (and the properly tuned classifications), the upstream bandwidth could easily be eaten by all the cloud-based upload (which, based on my observation, becomes more and more popular and demanding). It's particularly troublesome if the users are allowed to use their own devices. If OP has plan to have any VoIP-based communication devices, QoS is a must. At the very minimum, VoIP and DNS should have the absolute highest priority. Everything else can be tuned based on different needs.

With QoS, the upstream behavior is much more predictable and controllable.
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I'd avoid ASUS for consumer level routers as well. Learned the hard way there's a warranty capacitor in the RT-N16. Had 4 of them fail in two months. all were installed around the same time.
[OP]
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Nov 3, 2011
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Thank you everyone for your comments. We will either get a router (supporting tomato) or an AP. I am leaning more towards AP.

For router, I am thinking Asus n66 (after reading this thread - best-bang-buck-router-1426701/ )

For AP, I have limited choice from Staples and probably "Amped Wireless High Power Wireless-N 600mW Gigabit Dual Band Access Point" will be my choice (after reading reviews and comparing with other available APs).

Most probably, new device (whatever we get) will be used as an AP.

Both are a bit higher than our budget, but I will try to convince my boss. I wish, I could buy both. Unfortunately, we can only get one with current budget...
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death_hawk wrote: 1) OH GOD NO! I would rather print out my packets, stuff them into an envelope, and hand them to Canada Post to deliver to my destination than use a D-Link router. Especially in an office environment.
:lol:

death_hawk, if we ever meet, I'm buying you all of the beer.

I've been using Asus routers for many years with Tomato firmware and QoS enabled, both in office and residential environments.
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I thought consumer grade routers had limitations in regards to the number of simultaneous users ? ( ie accessing the internet simultaneously at the moment in time) .
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l69norm wrote: I thought consumer grade routers had limitations in regards to the number of simultaneous users ? ( ie accessing the internet simultaneously at the moment in time) .
Consumer access points, yes. Consumer routers, the limit is the CPU, rarely some kind of exact number. Doubtful OP will exceed the limits of the Asus N66 chosen.

Personally if I'm going to buy a router anyway I'd get a business class one, but OP's choice.
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l69norm wrote: I thought consumer grade routers had limitations in regards to the number of simultaneous users ? ( ie accessing the internet simultaneously at the moment in time) .
Not generally. Especially not if you load one of the open source firmwares. The 'commercial' ones tend to have better firmware, support for things like RADIUS, etc., multiple SSID capability, VLANs, etc. As well as other feature-sets such as rogue AP detection.
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l69norm wrote: I thought consumer grade routers had limitations in regards to the number of simultaneous users ? ( ie accessing the internet simultaneously at the moment in time) .
It's not really a number but rather usage.
Consumer grader routers can't handle loads very well. Even worse when you do QoS.

So you can (and I have) brought down a consumer router with a single computer.
PianoGuy wrote: :lol:

death_hawk, if we ever meet, I'm buying you all of the beer.
I can't turn down all of the beer :lol:
[OP]
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Scycotic wrote: the Asus N66 chosen.
Not chosen yet. I am looking at the Ubiquiti APs and hoping the visual design will appeal my boss to buy something not from Staples. The problem with Ubiquiti looks like there are only a couple distributors in Canada. If not, I am leaning towards "Amped" AP at Staples.

If our existing D-Link fails as a router for the office, I will have the chance to force my boss buying a better router.
Scycotic wrote: Personally if I'm going to buy a router anyway I'd get a business class one, but OP's choice.
Do you have any suggestion on this? I prefer something with minimum time consuming (configuration - configure and forget)

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