Rebuilding a Home Network

I'm not the typical home networking user. The demands I place on my network are more than what the average consumer might throw at a residential grade "all-in-one" router. After several nights of my Boxee box throwing a hissy fit with streaming video over my network, it was enough for me to make the decision to upgrade the LAN.

The amount of network traffic I produce on a regular basis might not be anything extraordinary in the eyes of professional users, but when it comes to the speed at which my network operates, I don't play around. With two Macbook Pros, two iPhones, two iPad 3's, and three printers all consuming wireless bandwidth, I decided some time ago that having my home media center adding traffic to my wireless network - a Boxee box, Blu-ray player, Apple TV and XBOX 360 - was not the best of ideas.

My personal experience with Netgear business-grade products has been a delight and I decided that if I was going to upgrade my infrastructure, I wanted to see what offerings they had. Since my network demands are different then that of a home user, I decided that going with business-class gear was better than trying to force a solution out of gear purchased from the local big box store. I've done that before and it never ended well.

My old infrastructure consisted of the following:

  • a bridged Comcast Dory cable modem
  • an Apple Airport Extreme Base Station handling routing Ethernet and 802.11n traffic
  • a 5-port Netgear Gigabit Switch connecting my media center

What I quickly noticed was that due to the amount of equipment I had on the network, there was an unusually large amount of broadcast traffic, in addition to regular network traffic. The only way I could ensure that the important traffic gets prioritized and doesn't lead to network congestion (and thus, slowing things down for everything on the network) was to implement a QoS solution.

My new infrastructure consists of the following:

  • a bridged Comcast Dory cable modem
  • an Apple Airport Extreme Base Station handling routing functions of Ethernet and 802.11n traffic - for now; later this will be bridged as a WAP
  • an 8-port Netgear GS108E smart switch
  • a 5-port Netgear GS105E smart switch
  • eventually, I'll be adding a Netgear FVS318G 8-port Gigabit VPN firewall as the brains of the network, handling routing functions

With QoS, I can now specify which devices on the network should receive priority. For example, without QoS, data packets sent from my XBOX to the WAN would be prioritized the same as data from any of the wireless devices. Since I'm an avid gamer, I enjoy latency-free play. With QoS, I can specify that any data transmitted from my XBOX receives priority over the network out to the Internet and any wireless devices such as a laptop or iPad will have their data transmitted with less priority. This is much more noticeable when I watch TWiT on my Boxee box while surfing the Internet in my living room. The video packets to the Boxee get priority while my background surfing and downloading receive less priority.

As a side note, the FVS318G allows for VPN, so I can easily remote into my home network safely and securely. It's handy for those times that I need to access something on my network's NAS away from home and it doesn't force me to load up a bunch of thumbnail drives/portable hard disks or take up valuable space on my laptop's hard drive. Anywhere I go that has an Internet connection, I have access. I'll definitely have to re-evaluate DynDNS, since the firewall supports connections using that DDNS service. Handy for residential-grade customers that need access to their network without having to upgrade to business-class service just for the static IP.

It may seem like a lot of overkill - I guess you could say I'm a bit of a control freak over my network. They way I see it, why would you pay a good chunk of money each month for a fast Internet connection just to experience network congestion on the private network side?