Archive for networking

A Big Move and Lots of Learning about Networking Fundamentals

I have been trying for a couple of months now to find good links and helpful information on what it takes to move a company, specifically the data center, as that is what I am responsible for.  As I move through this process though, I realize that I need to do a lot more than move some servers and routers. 

The past two days have been spent meeting with cabling companies trying to get a handle on what we need to get the the phones to ring and the computers connected to the internet and our servers.  It seems I need a cabling company to come and wire my building.  What they do is run all the wires from our server room to the rest of the building, but there is a bit more to it than that. 

There will be a demarcation point where the T1s will be dropped, I am most likely installing a T1 and a PRI, and the companies that drop those will only do that portion.  From there, I need to extend the demark to the MDF in our server room.  Because we are moving into a large warehouse, I also need to have them create an IDF and run fiber from the MDF to the IDF. 

While I am learning on the fly, I am finding it hard to find helpful articles on the web that explain this all.  Most sites focus on telephony or data networks but don’t explain how it all fits together.  If anyone out there knows of sites that explain all of this well I would love to see them.  I plan to share all I learn here, and hope that I expain it in a way that will make sense to me and others when I am done.

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Firewall video and software – Systm and IPCop

I was surfing around looking for tools to help me learn more about networking and TCP/IP packets and I came across Systm.    It is a DIY show for geeks that has a bunch of shows on how to setup “geeky” stuff, like a home NAS and Media Center and yes, Firewall.  So after listening to the show on firewalls I decided that my very next project will be to setup an IPcop firewall system at home for testing and learning.  I understand from the show and by looking online that there are many people out there using it, so I should be able to setup it up and get help and learn a few things as well. 

Now if I can just dig out a complete system from my closet at home I will be all set. . .

Wireless Network Standards

I have to setup a wireless router here and wanted to do some reading while I wait for my items to arrive.

I found a decent beginners article on the TigerDirect Site that has some pretty good information, includging a nice breakdown of the differences between the four standard protocols; 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n.

802.11a – Bandwidth up to 54 Mbps
Due to a higher frequency range, this standard may not have as much distance as other options. Was created about the same time as 802.11b

802.11b – Bandwidth up to 11 Mbps
Uses the 2.4GHz radio signal, which is common for other devices such as microwaves and wireless phones, so it may have trouble with interference from other devices.

802.11g – Bandwidth up to 54 Mbps
Uses the 2.4GHz frequency, but supports more users and has a greater signal strength.

802.11n – Bandwidth up to 300 Mbps
Uses the 2.4GHz frequency, and supports more users than 802.11g and has the best signal strength of the 4 options.

It is also important to note that 802.11g and 802.11n are backward compatible with 802.11b.

Hamachi Instant VPN

Ever since hearing about this great little tool from Steve Gibson’s Security Now! podcasts I have gotten a ton of use out of Hamachi.

I needed to access my desktop from outside our NAT at my last job.  I needed to let an Exchange consultant into our server here for a one time fix.  I needed to change a setting on my backup job here on a server, but I was at home.  I wanted to check my email from an insecure wireless access point in a public location.

There are times when you need a VPN solution that is not over complex or expensive, like the instances mentioned above.  I have found that in these times, Hamachi does everything that I need it to do.

If you are new to VPN entirely, I recommend this site to help you get your head around the idea.  If you know what a VPN is and you know you need one, give Hamachi a try.  It is easy to install, very easy to use, and best of all, it is free for personal use.

Also, I highly recommend a subscription to Steve Gibson’s Security Now podcast for anyone new to computer support who needs to get up to speed on all things security related.

Basic Networking Information

I have not had much opportunity to do much physical networking other than connecting to them in Windows, so I am trying to catch up and figured I may as well start at the beginning.  For that reason, I have been reading the Ciscopress book CCNA ICND1 (yes, I do hope to someday become CCNA certified).

In the book, they recommend a website that I have just been looking through, which seems like a great place for beginners to start.  The website is LearnTCPIP.com and it has video/powerpoint presentations on TCP/IP, Subnetting and some other beginner networking tutorials.  Don’t get me wrong, this is very basic information, but it does explain it well.  I wish I had known of this site when I first started out.

Another site that I have found to be very useful is the Petri IT Knowledgebase.  There is a wealth of information here, and my favorite post, and honestly one of the most useful for gaging how I am doing on learning all I need to know is this series on Interview Questions.

How to Terminate a Network Connection

Keystone jackThere are days in this IT life that I hate.  Like days where I spend 8 hours or more trying everything I can think of or read about to get a hard drive to boot, only to have it boot once and mock me  the other 7 1/2  hours.

There are days like today though, when the simple task of running and terminating cat6 cable is enough busywork to keep me happy.

In truth, neither my previous Help Desk position or my Lab Manager job required that I lay cable, so I have never had the simple pleasure of runnig wire and creating wall jacks (keystone jacks).  So I did actually learn something today.  I found lots of very helpful information at the Lanshack site, so I highly recommend you go there to start.  The information listed below will probably not be helpful on its own.

Here is how you terminate a cat6 cable with a Keystone jack:cat6 cable

1.  Strip back some of the protective coating from your cat6 cable. (As shown to the right)

2.  Untwist your paired wires so you have 8 individual wires.

3.  Lay out your cables so they match the picture of either the 568-A or 568-B standard that should be somewhere on your jack or patch panel.  We used the Cat6 Keystone Jacks from CablesToGo and they were great to work with (shown above).  My husband swears by the cheapies they sell at Menards here in Chicago though, and I will admit they look nicer, but are harder to read.

4.  Using a punchdown tool or a screwdriver, push the wire all the way down to the bottom of the jack.  We bought a cheap punchdown tool that made this job a breeze ($14 from Newegg.com). 

5.  Trim the ends of you wires if you didn’t use a punchdown tool.

6.  Place the plastic protective cover on the jack.

7.  Mount your keystone jack in a wall mount of you choosing.

How-to Setup a Managed Switch

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I switched a switch.  I replaced a 24-port switch with a 48-port switch, and went from an HP to a Netgear switch, both managed.

So I can remember what I did, here are the steps I took to setup my switch:

1.  Plug in the modem cable that came with the switch to a computer on-site and the switch console port.

2.  Plug in power adapter.

3.  Connect to the switch via HyperTerminal if using Windows XP, if using Vista, you will have to download a terminal emulation program.  In HyperTerminal setup a new connection with the following settings:

  • Baud rate – 9,600 bps
  • Data bits – 8
  • Parity – none
  • Stop bit – 1
  • Flow control – none

4.  Typed in user and put in the values given.  Then typed ezconfig.

5.  I setup the network parameters, giving the switch its network address.

6.  Logged out of HyperTerminal and logged into the switch via the web to finish the configuration.

Switched a Switch

Today I had to come in early to change out a 24-port 10/100/1000 switch to a 48-port 10/100/1000 switch.

 Now I know that technically, this is not a big deal and is pretty straight forward, but let’s keep in mind that a year ago I was a desktop tech who hardly knew what a switch looked like.  Today I am installing them.  I have made progress, even if it is in baby steps.

We got a Netgear GSM7248 Managed Switch from Newegg.com and it was here in two days with standard shipping.  I game with easy to follow instructions and so far has been great.  Now I need to watch it and lable all of the connections, which will take considerably longer than it did to install it.

I will keep posting as to how this switch is doing, but we only paid $1,160 for this switch.

Wireless Specs

I have been out of the wireless “loop” for about 2 years now, as I have not really had to deal with routers or cards much. At home, DH has setup our network, so short of finding the connection, I haven’t played much at all.I had one of my customers ask today about 802.11n and had to sheepishly admit that I had not even heard of it. 802.11g was new the last time I was trying to connect wireless cards. He needed to know if he paid the extra $30 for an 802.11n card if it would work in his 802.11g router. I assumed it would, but did double-check for piece of mind and of course it does.There was a very good article posted on the Wireless & Mobile page in NetworkWorld that helped me understand the new specification. Looking around their site a bit, I see that 802.11n has been in the news for a bit now. I guess I need to add Network World as one of those sites I check first thing in the morning for IT news and information.

Switch Work

I hardly know which of my issues to attack. . they all seem so darned overwhelming. How is one to learn all of this anyway? I keep reading and circling and reading. . .neverending circle this is.

Anywho, I enabled Spanning Tree on the Graphics switch today, as it had lots of collision errors. I need to watch it for a couple of days and then see how things are going, but no one is crying that it brought down the network or anything so that is good I guess.

I turned this on, because the manufactuers book of instructions lists it as the first thing to try if the network runs slow, processes fail or users can’t access servers or devices. Sounds like us eh? So why not? No new immediate errors yet, so will keep watching it and see what happens and try to run a test to see if files transfer any quicker with this feature engaged.

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