I just took responsibility for a network at my work, I'm not trained to do anything around a "professional" network like this one but the guy that was actually "liable" for it has not been able to get the job done and things are getting pretty crappy.

We are a 40 people organization that depends on having internet and VOIP services up and running 24/7. I would say the network is pretty simple but still, we are experiencing some weird problems.

What we are talking are 2 T1s and 2 DSLs running with 4 wired routers (or switches, I don't know) and 4 wi-fi hotspots. I understand that one of the T1s is connected to a VOIP server while the other one should give us a constant and secure Internet. The 2 DSLs are running on different hotspots for people who have trouble with the "main" network.

In the network there are 4 network printers.

The problems we are experiencing are:

  • Some people plug in to the wired network and get no IP.
  • Most people have troubles getting any of the printers to work, some people find a couple of them while some people cant even find one.
  • Wi-Fi is extremely slow compared with the wired alternative.

The things I would like to fix:

  • I don't know if there is any way of cascading or balancing the T1 and the 2 DSLs so they work in one transparent network and we get the most of them.
  • I would like to fix the problems with the printers and the connections for everyone
  • I would like to be able to monitor and understand what is happening in the network.

Of course (as everyone) we are limited due to economic reasons to try to spend the less we can. So, I would rather do it myself (even if I have to read books or learn new tools at night) than paying an expert or getting new software or hardware(open source alternatives of course are more than welcome) but most of all, I want to know my options and their prices. What do you people recommend? Do you need more info of the hardware (like exact models of the routers, and T1s/DSL?)? What can I do to have a good network experience?

Thank you very much, I know its a pretty "noob" question or situation and I hope you can understand my position.

Update: Apparently here's how it works: There are 3 separate networks, the wired network, the DSL network and the wireless network.

The wired network has the following elements: T1 (Cisco 1841) connected to a crappy wireless-n router(wrt160n v2) that nobody has the password to connect and then to two switches/hubs that are wired to all the office, the main one is a D-Link Gigabit Switch(DGS-1016D) and a secondary(cascade) of a Linksys fast ethernet auto sensing 10/100 EFAH16N. The biggest concert here is that they connected the crappy wireless-n router to work as the DHCP because they didn't know how else to get it working, i find that adding a crappy equipment (it's funny how the other 3 equipment in that network look like they are professional and this one looks like a 20 bucks crappy router). What is the best solution here? who should be doing the DHCP?

The DSL wireless network is the modem and the router and works fine. The wireless network is again, a little weird and I need some explanation here too; Its a T1(Cisco 1841) going to a 3Com Supertack II(wired switch) and then 1 cable go to each wireless hotspot directly (being WRT300 wireless-N same model all of them). Now, I don't understand if they have static IPs, or who is doing the DHCP. Almost all the problems are related to this network (since everyone wants to use wireless) and asking the sysadmin(who is clearly; again; not doing hes job) got me the next answer "The problem is that all wi-fi routers have the same name and the same frequency and I have advised that we change them to have different names but the guys in management told me they need to have the same name"
I have never configured more than 1 wi-fi router to work with others and don't know how that works, any insight here?

Well apparently (without considering the printers) my efforts are in understanding how some hot-spots should be configured and a DHCP server, it doesn't seem that hard =) Thanks everyone for your useful answer.


First you should draw network diagram - what connected to what and when and in general make an audit of network. Information for wired routers would be appreciated :)

Next - break problem into smaller problems:

  1. Wired routers IP problem - maybe dhcp server is failling sometimes, the question is - if this service is provided by routers or there is specific dhcp server in the network. Maybe this problem could be solved (at least temporary) by using static ip addresses.

  2. How printers are connected in the network? What protocol is being used to access them (windows printer sharing, other?)

  3. Wi-fi is slower, but it depens how much it is slower for you. Could you give us models of wi-fi gear?

  4. To balance network wit T1 and 2DSLs is not very easy task. Some high availability network solutions require provider support. It's possible to setup rules such that some connections would take dsl, some - T1 routes if some uplink fails. (start here - http://www.linux.org/docs/ldp/howto/Adv-Routing-HOWTO/)

  5. Monitoring - depending on the devices you have they should support snmp and you could use cacti, zabbix or similar software for monitoring.

Again - first step would be to have clear network information.


some updates from me also :)

looks like first you should connect DGS-1016D to T1(Cisco 1841) instead of wrt160n v2. Afaik Cisco 1841 can be setup to be dhcp server for your static network, so this would be the first thing to do. If you run wrt160n in bridged mode - then dhcp addresses will be setup for wireless clients also.

wrt160n probably should be connected to Linksys (and do not forget to disable dhcp servers on it).

For wi-fi - network name should be the same, AP name - of course, different they could/should be working on different channels.The same situation as above - if it is bridged mode - dhcp addresses should be provided by Cisco, if not - by wi-fi routers, but please make sure that each of them are assigning addresses from different range.

enjoy networking ;) m

  • i will post it first thing in the morning; thank you very very much – DFectuoso Jun 9 '09 at 8:37

Find a friendly support company and get a years support contract. Ask them to talk you through all the stuff they do so you can see what was done and how. After a year you'll have a pretty good idea how it all works.

I have done this (as the friendly support guy) and as long as both sides are interested and enthusiastic it works very well. The chaps I've helped still retain me, but now only to help them with big scary issues. So it's a win-win situation.


  • Great advice, do you know what would be the price range for a year contract for a network this size? i mean just to have an idea – DFectuoso Jun 9 '09 at 7:19
  • I know what the prices are in the North West of England, but no idea what they are anywhere else! I would guess the entry level option would be a few hundred pounds as a retainer then you'd pay by the hour when they actually do work. That's the way we work, though for your few hundred pounds we also remotely monitor the server, backups etc. – John Rennie Jun 9 '09 at 17:17

Two suggestions:

(1) The three most important network issues are DNS, DNS, and DNS. You don't mention whether you're running a local DNS server, but my experience has been that 75% of all network weirdnesses and problems can be directly traced to DNS problems. Make sure your DNS is rock-solid before you go any further; call in outside expertise to take a look if necessary.

(2) With only 40 users on the network, why not use static IP? That would eliminate DHCP completely as a source of woe, and you're really not getting much benefit from DHCP with a small-ish LAN.

  • 5 years later but still... we have 5 users and there's no way on this earth I'd run all static. Devote :100 to :199 as DHCP range and the server will keep track of all the MACs. Our 5 user network is over :200... :P – Chris K Jan 1 '14 at 9:25

I recommend the following book as a good introduction to the subject:

Upgrading and Repairing Networks book cover
(source: safaribooksonline.com)
Upgrading and Repairing Networks, Fifth Edition

By: Terry W Ogletree; Mark Edward Soper Publisher: Que Pub. Date: 2006/05/11 Print ISBN-10: 0-7897-3530-X Print ISBN-13: 978-0-7897-3530-0

I also recommend signing up to the Safari Books Online library - at $50 per month you have access to all their IT books, much more cost effective and easier to access and search than the treeware editions. Most books also let you download chapters or entire books as PDF .

-Some people plug in to the wired network and get no IP

Sounds like a probable DHCP issue to me

I would like to be able to monitor and understand what is happening in the network.

Check out a free utility from Microtik (Router manufacturer) called "The Dude". Yes, it's a strange name, but it will autodiscover all devices on your network and monitor them in real time. It can also monitor services (Web server, e-mail) and notify you if these go down.

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