I work on a iOS based software house and we recently moved office. We now have 10 iMacs, a couple of time-machines and 15 between iPhones/iPads.

The requirements we have are the following: - Wired gigabit network for iMacs and backup-devices. We need to transfer a lot of data between iMacs as quickly as possible, but not constantly. Usually there will be 2-4 computers transferring data between each others for a short period of time; - Wireless network, separated from the wired one (for mobile devices and clients) but on the same internet connection; - Scalable up to 30 wired devices; - Accessible from outside: it would be nice, perhaps not in the first months to be able to set up a vpn to access some iMacs from home. Mac compatible client for the vpn is a must.

Right now we are using a wireless network attached to a netgear cheap-router. I guess I'd need at least a better router, a firewall and a switch. I'm quite lost among all the options for these devices.

Any advice will be appreciated. Just speak your mind and tell me what you would do in my situation. Budget is not tight but I'd hate to spend money for equipment I would not really use.

I've seen a couple of questions on the same topic but none of them have requirement for giga-bit and/or are related to macs.


  • Your question is too open-ended. I'm not sure what it is that you want help with. – Starfish Jan 15 '12 at 15:47

There's nothing wrong with sticking with the cheap router out to the Internet as that won't affect the speed of transfer inside the office (and no matter how bad the router is, and netgear are pretty bad imho, they'll still be faster than the connection itself).

For the office itself you probably need a better quality switch, as cadeyrn says, one with a good backplane speed - and one that supports jumbo frames and can be set to lock down duplex settings to a constant rather than auto-negotiate. To be honest, you can't go a lot wrong here with any major supplier of quality networking, but if it were me I'd be looking at HP Procurves because I've found them to be reliable and a good balance between power and performance.

As for wireless, while I appreciate you need to use it for the sort of work you're doing and as much as I enjoy the convenience of it myself at times, I'm not convinced that "fast", "reliable" and "30 clients" belong in the same requirements list... don't get me wrong, there's some decent kit out there that will improve things but it will always be a big compromise.

  • I thought about having a better router to separate the wired and the wireless network without needing a L3 switch. How would you keep them separated that? – duhanebel Apr 4 '11 at 14:16
  • with a programmable switch you can create VLANs for wired clients and traffic from wireless access points, so you can choose how (or indeed if at all) things are routed between those networks. – Rob Moir Apr 4 '11 at 14:31
  • but how can I route only certain traffic from the wireless network to the wired one to let, for example, the iPhone to sync with an iMac? – duhanebel Apr 4 '11 at 15:51

Just some thoughts:

  • for wired network:
    • search for at least 10Gbit backplane and 1Gbit/port, managed switch (Linksys would do IMHO)
  • for wireless:
    • look at MIMO solutions (TP-Link for small budget)
    • AirPort, if you really want Mac support in every way
  • for firewall,
    • if you want power and unlimited possibilities, see Zorp
    • if smaller would be enough, see Untangle

And of course, the possibilities are unlimited.

  • A 10Gbit backplane is overkill. Even if you are transferring big files between 4 computers, your hard drives will slow you down more than your network capacity at this size. Also, why specify a backplane at all, when data is invariably going to be transferred through a 1 GB switch, and into the 1 GB adapter on each iMAC? – Mark Lawrence Apr 4 '11 at 14:12
  • Those firewall solutions look very good. But I don't think I need that kind of power. What I need is a simple filter between internet and the internal network. Anything less expensive/big? – duhanebel Apr 4 '11 at 14:18
  • @Mark Lawrence: 10Gbit to share among the 1Gbit ports, and yes, the hard drives are slow, but calculate: 1 Gbits/sec means max. 125 Mbytes/sec, and a SATAII drive can easily produce 80Mbytes/sec, so it's not an overkill IMHO. – petermolnar Apr 4 '11 at 14:40
  • @duhanebel: a list for smaller and less expensive: link ;) – petermolnar Apr 4 '11 at 14:42

Here's my take:

Wired network - totally depends on your office layout. Are they all within a fairly short distance of each other, if so, then buying GB cable (cat 5e or cat 6) and putting them through one switch will be fine, such as a 24 port HP 1810G switch. I personally wouldn't do this if they are more than 8 meters apart, if they are more spread out, or you just like to rationalise your wiring, then I would split your clients between a couple of 8 port Netgear GS108T switches. Either way, 1GB will give you plenty and these are nice switches that are fast but are passively cooled so they don't make a noise.

Wireless network - Mimo probably okay, 'n' class probably nice, for small office setups I like the Draytek 2820, because they are very, very reliable, they have a bunch of routing and security options built in and they are cost effective.

From the sound of it, you want to establish different security settings on your wireless network than your wired. That's fine, a good place to start is by putting them on different IP ranges, and then adding a security filter for any crossover traffic. It's all possible with the Draytek 2820 and one or two other SME routers. The cost may simply come from finding someone to configure it for you rather than doing it yourself. Another advantage to a Draytek router is that they have built in VPN functionality. If you buy two, and install one at home, you can set up a permanent VPN tunnel, allowing any computer at home to be on the same network as your office. Bear in mind that you'd lose the ability to shunt big files around from home, unless you've got great adsl. But for a set and forget level of convenience, point to point VPN is great.

  • 8 Meters? Where exactly are you getting that figure? GB over copper can function just fine at far longer distances than 8 meters. – EEAA Apr 4 '11 at 14:36
  • Also, you should clarify what you mean by "GB cable". Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, MM fiber, SM fiber, etc. – EEAA Apr 4 '11 at 14:40
  • I don't think I'll need more than 20 meters of cable between the switch and the farthest computer. Of course it's more than 8, but I though cat6 cable could run for more than 20 meters. A single switch solution would be better because there's not much space to lay small switches around. – duhanebel Apr 4 '11 at 15:33
  • About the wireless, I guess a simply DMZ the whole wireless network, routing some service through (to let the iPhone sync with iMacs). I guess the Draytek can do it. – duhanebel Apr 4 '11 at 15:39
  • I will tell you why 8 meters is relevant, and it's nothing to do with latency... its because if you are wiring ten computers to one switch (like the 24 port HP 1810 I recommended) and they are >8m around an office, say spanning over an 20 meter space, you are going to have a lot of cable hanging around. Some people would say that's not a problem, especially if you have ceiling/underfloor cable routing, but if you've got just a couple of tables, then making a bone span shape out of 2 routers is the way I'd do it. But that's because I like tidy cables. – Mark Lawrence Apr 4 '11 at 17:48

You choke point will be the wire. It depends on how long a run it is from the farthest workstation to the server. Cat 6 may give you 100mbs but you cannot go any faster cat6. And if you use wall jacks and terminal blocks, that will also be a restriction. But I doubt your getting over 10MBs on wireless. Get the best wire you can and stay away from interference sources.

  • Terminal punch-downs rarely affect the speed of the network unless there is extra interference introduced and it is done poorly. GigE is rated to 10 gigabit per second, not 100 megabit per second - a two order of magnitude different. – Scrivener Apr 4 '11 at 19:37
  • Thats wonderful. But there is a big difference between manufactures claims and the real world. As I said, the choke point will be the wiring system. The problem here is we have people voting who may have no experience at installing wiring and measuring results. But when someone starts transferring large files and timing them, you will come face to face with Reality and Physics. The problem with these sites is that know it alls vote on these questions. They often vote down if they don't like the answer. It does not matter if the answer is correct. – Joe in Michigan Apr 5 '11 at 1:04

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