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An organization I help with operates in a large warehouse. Their network consists of a Clearwire modem hooked up to a consumer wireless router upstairs. Most people upstairs connect via secure wifi. One person has an ethernet line. Another ethernet line goes out through the rafters about 200 ft and connects to another consumer router downstairs. About 10 users at a time might connect to this router wirelessly. One of the ethernet ports on this router is connected to one more router about 100 ft away, and about 100 users at a time might try to connect to this router.

Lately their network has been pretty flaky and I'm sure their network architecture is mostly to blame. Ideally I'd have them hire somebody to rewire the whole building to allow for a central hub, but budget constraints are budget constraints. Are there any reliable ways of chaining network devices without significantly disturbing the existing ethernet wiring throughout the building?

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100 users connecting to a single wireless AP? – JamesRyan Apr 9 '11 at 18:53
@JamesRyan I did say might try to connect. Ideally, they'd all be able to ;) – kenwarner Apr 9 '11 at 19:46

Unfortunately this is a vague issue and it needs to be narrowed down.

One of the first things that needs to be done is to make a chart clarifying what the problem is, and for whom. Chances are fixing the wireless network will improve your network greatly, but that might not be the real problem. One of the main questions would be , are the people who are physically wired in experiencing problems? If so, then that shifts the focus from the wireless issue to a server/application level issue, perhaps upgrade from older switches to gigabit etc.

Wireless is not as good as a physical cable. Especially with consumer wireless routers/access points. They're designed for a few people to surf the internet, not a business network.

Chances are the wireless network isn't operating as well as it should be. Few options:

  • ensure you're running WDS so the network is seamless
  • look at wireless channel settings
  • Run Netstumbler or another program to see what wireless networks are around you
  • change the wireless channel to one that's less used
  • if you're running Wireless G, switch to Wireless N
  • Get higherend SOHO wireless access points, expect to spend $500+, not $50.
  • Consider getting managed/smart switches and setup vlans where you can prioritize traffic, and setup traffic shaping policies

In a perfect world, you would have network drops to all machines possible, and a good wireless access point for the few people who cant use a network cable.

You can connect as many routers/switches into a network that you want to (there is a limit with old 15 year old hubs but not new switches), but each one introduces more failure points and potential quirks when dealing with consumer equipment.

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