i just inherited a barely functioning network for a student housing cooperative of about 150 people. in it's current state, as i understand it from the previous person in charge of the network, we have working wireless access points and working ethernet cords going to working gigabit switches going to a barely functioning gateway (right now a simple home router) to one of three possible outbound connections. it is possible to connect to the network through the wireless or ethernet, but especially during peak hours, packets / connections are likely dropped or otherwise get no response. my intuition tells me to replace the gateway with something that can handle multiple outbound connections (WAN) and one inbound connection (LAN), while the rest of the network seems suitable for now.

i'm somewhat knowledgable in Linux (been using Debian after first Arch Linux) and i want to use as much open source as possible, but i'm confused whether or not a simple server that i could easily understand will work for this situation. do i need specialized hardware to handle the switching more effectively? if so, what are my options? (i found this, thoughts?) or if a Debian server would work, anything else i should about the specs required for this type of server?

also links to any useful information on using open source to maintain this type of network would be most appreciated. <3

P.S. crossposted http://redd.it/yybp2.

  • I'd have to agree with Matt's answer. Before attempting to fix the problem you need to define the problem properly. Is the router not working because it's, well, crap? Is it not working because it's unable to cope with the current "reasonable" workload? Are people swamping it with bittorrent? – Rob Moir Aug 28 '12 at 9:50

Sounds like you need a better router. But given that your network is full of students, they are probably trying to run torrent as well. So while a router that can load balance will help. If they are running torrents all day long then it'll hammer all WAN ports and you'll still have a slow network.

A little while ago I had a similar problem, although with far fewer users. Nevertheless I had a lot of outbound connections and crappy voip.

There's a guy that goes by the nickname "toastman" who created some mod's to the open source tomato firmware (which is also a flavour of sorts of linux) that can run on a lot of hardware. Whether or not you use tomoto I do recommend you read his QoS intro. http://www.linksysinfo.org/index.php?threads/using-qos-tutorial-and-discussion.28349/

Once I implemented some QoS rules based on what he was describing I had snappy internet for all users, and could download big files and still use the VOIP phones quite happily. Without it... well, you already know all about that.

So what are the options. 1) You have a PC already acting as a router by the sounds of it. It's running debian at the moment.

Sounds like you don't know too much about debian. Might be easier to trash it and install something like pfSense. This should handle the load fairly easily even if it's a fairly basic PC. Also pfSense can do traffic shaping.

There are other options along those lines... like ipcop, smoothwall or vyatta that may do the trick.

I don't normally recommend paid products to people, but because I will in this case because they are just so good and just so inexpensive. And here it is: an RB450G + case from Mikrotik.

What can you do with it? well for starters...

Load balancing: http://wiki.mikrotik.com/wiki/Load_Balancing_over_Multiple_Gateways

Also, per user queues for bandwidth sharing: http://wiki.mikrotik.com/wiki/Manual:Queues_-_PCQ_Examples

To learn more about mikrotik see here: http://www.mikrotik.com/software.html#

They are fast and cheap. Slightly less expensive than the TP Link but with more features and faster. They are based on linux underneath. I know you're probably wondering about the quality. Well, I used to work at an ISP that installed mikrotik gear in a number of places and used the more expensive RB1100 for their core routers. They are good gear and well maintained and supported and there is a huge user community. So it's worth looking at. The good thing about this is, you can play around and set this up and gradually move WAN links across to it. If you install pfSense you're going to trash what you have already and take the network down for a while... that might not make you win any popularity contests!

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