Network Infrastructure and IT
Network infrastructure is a key part of business operations in this day and age. Even a small 5 person office will have some basic networking equipment, a shared printer and perhaps a backup device (I hope!). Keeping this equipment well organized, secured, clean and cool will help prevent service outages and extend the life of your equipment.
Turn a mess (left) into working order (right).
Small Office Computer Network Equipment Rack
This is an excellent example of a network rack for a small office with up to about a dozen staff with room to grow to support up to about 36 staff. As shown the rack includes:
An APC rack mount UPS (on the bottom) which can keep the entire system running during a power outage/breaker trip (actually on the very bottom you’ll notive a small Linksys network attached storage NAS200 appliance which is just an inexpensive backup solution) A trixbox VoIP PBX (second from the bottom) which operates a low network phone system with powerful business features A quality custom built network server (third from bottom). This rack mount case includes room for up to 8 hard drives in a raid configuration for reliable data storage A Linksys RV082 internet router A Linksys network switch to connect everything (includes power over ethernet on 12 ports for phones) A neat patch cable organizer to keep things neat A patch panel (top) where the wires run through the building terminate and allow easy connection to network equipment
Large Office Computer Network Equipment Rack - Day 1 - Preparing the Equipment Rack
This network was in desperate need of an overhaul. The first two pictures show the state of the network before we started. The switches were all sitting on the ground leaning against the wall with a rats nest of various lengths of patch cables connecting to the buildings patch panels. If one client was down, it was hard to know where the point of failure was and be able to move them to another switch port or replace their patch cable. The servers were mostly tower style machines and were rather struin about on the floor and shelves. The only people who new exactly which machine did what and where it was supposed to connect were people with the “mental knowledge” of the network having worked here for sometime. I can’t imagine what they’d do in the “your IT manager was hit by a bus” scenario.
The new rack will eventually replace everything in this room, but it will be a multi-week project with most upgrades happening on the weekend to avoid service interuptions for the business. On this first day the goal was simply to prepare the new rack and get everything into place for the future. The new HP Blade Server Chassis and HP San Storage are not connected or powered at this point. The old servers are still behind the rack while we work on the new infrastructure setup. At the end of this project we will virtualize the 6 or 8 servers in there accross 3 blades in HP Server chassis. One of the blades is quite a bit nicer than the other two which will be running the critical business systems (mostly just the accounting/ERP Software on SQL Server).
Large Office Computer Network Equipment Rack - Day 2 - New Network Switch
The new HP ProcCurve 5406zl Modular Network Switch arrived and we are ready to continue with our network rack. This switch is fully manageable, all components are hot-swapable (except the switch core supervisor) and is fully PoE with redundant power supplies. This network is home to some 50 Avaya VoIP phones all powered via PoE and run on their own VLAN. One advantage of this modular switch is that administration for all switch ports is in one interface. So we can easily report entire network health, aggregate PoE usage, and more without logging into 4 different switch interfaces.
After having setup this switch, I can say this is the best administrative interface I’ve seen on a switch. You don’t really want to tell managers/clients that its cheaper and easier to setup a >$12k switch than it is to setup 4 “prosumer” grade switches, but it is! We setup seperate VLANs with QoS provisions, provisioned PoE, setup SNMP monitoring and secured the switch management interface within a couple hours. No surprises or gotchas that we have found so far. We’ll see how the switch stability is over time, but so far I have good faith in this product (the old switches had to be reset/power cycled every 30-60 days).
The NeatPatchII is the black plastic cable organizers you see between the switch and each patch panel. I love this product (you’ll see it in the pictures of all the rack overhauls I done). It keeps all patch cables organized and accessible. I can pull out any one cable without moving any of the other patch cables. It also keeps all the patch cables conforming to the recommended Cat5e minimum bend radius for networks. Network wires don’t like to be bent with hard 90 degree angles as it can ruin the smaller twisted pair wires inside the cable.