Home Networking Project – Five Years Later

*** NERD ALERT ***

If you aren’t a geek that loves all things techie, you might want to stop reading now! You have been warned!

*** END NERD ALERT ***

Almost 5 years ago, I was planning to switch from DSL to U-verse and I had decided that to make things easier for the future, I would run network cable throughout the house and create a Network Wiring Closet in a central location in the basement. I documented that project in this post and in this one as well. It has been almost five years since U-verse was installed and although the project was a success, I have made several tweaks to the network that have made things even better.

If you compare this picture of the Network Wiring Closet above to the one in this post, you will see that several things have changed. The first thing that changed within the first year was that the original gray AT&T Residential Gateway (basically a router), was replaced by newer version (black device standing upright on the shelf next to it’s battery backup on the left). During that first year, I had no end of trouble with the wireless functionality of both of the AT&T Residential Gateways. Any Apple devices in the house had an extremely difficult time keeping their wireless connections active over time. Something didn’t seem to work right with the way that they renewed the IP leases. I had thought that the issue was with the original older model Residential Gateway but it also happened with the newer one. By the end of the first year, I gave up on the built-in AT&T wireless technology. I turned it off and added a Linksys WAP300N Wireless Access Point. From that point on, all of my wireless issues disappeared.

The next major addition to the network happened about 2 1/2 years ago when Windows on my primary computer became corrupted and I had to rebuild the hard drive from scratch. Even though I had been backing up many of our important files to a portable external hard drive, not everything was saved. I decided that I needed a more reliable solution for keeping our important things safe. I added a Synology Network Attached Storage (NAS) device with two 2TB hard drives in a RAID 1 configuration. With one kid in college and another in high school, we can have up to three separate computers on the network sometimes. The NAS device allows us to store and share all of our pictures, music, videos, office documents, and even computer backups. Additionally, the NAS backs up most of its information to Amazon Glacier cloud storage for even more redundancy. You will also notice that I added an APC uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to allow the NAS to shut down gracefully in the event of a power failure. The UPS and the NAS can “talk” to each other and the NAS can begin shut down procedures when the UPS has been in battery mode for a certain amount of time.

The final additions to the network happened this past summer. Over the past few years, I have acquired several AirPlay speakers and have them set up throughout the house. They are a poor-man’s version of a home audio system. From the iTunes on my main computer I can play music all over the house. This summer, I decided that I wanted to also play music in the backyard when we are out in the pool. Unfortunately, the wireless signal being broadcast from WAP in the Network Wiring Closet in the center of the basement could not reliably reach the exterior of the house. I decided to add a additional couple of network jacks in the sunroom and hook up a second Linksys WAP to extend my wireless reach. You can see that in this second photo.

If you recall from my previous post, I have four rooms in the house with two network jacks in each. Because one port on my 8-port switch has to connect to the Residential Gateway, I wasn’t able to keep all of the network jacks active at the same time. By adding two more jacks in the sunroom, I made the situation even worse. My solution was the final addition to the Network Wiring Closet. I replaced my Linksys 8-port switch with a Cisco 16-port switch. This has allowed me to keep all jacks active and have a couple to spare for possible future expansion.

At this point, I can’t imagine that I would need to add anything more to this system. But, of course, only time will tell.

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2 Responses to “Home Networking Project – Five Years Later”

  1. dasportsguyJeff Says:

    Those are some nice upgrades! I like the addition of the NAS.

    • Kurt Magoon Says:

      I can’t imagine how I lived without the NAS before. The security of knowing that all of the digital pictures that we’ve taken for the past 10 years are stored on two redundant drives and backed up to the cloud gives me great peace of mind.

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