I am here hoping you guys might be able to give me some information I can take to my owner and get the entire building rewired. We are an old school (built in 66) that has been converted to a Manufacturing plant. Currently the network is horrible. We have multiple people running Solidworks and CAMworks at the same time and we have 7 servers that are being accessed constantly; ERP, 2 Temrinals, Exchange, 2 Domain Controllers, and a File Server.

Right now all of the servers are in a rack and the servers are fairly new. We have a total of 14 switches scattered in the building for approximately 60 PC's and 15 printers. The connection right now comes in through TWC business as fiber and goes about 200 feet to our server room and then hits the filters and firewall and goes 200ft back to the origin to hit a patch panel and switch. The switch is a good 3com switch put the patch panel goes out to all of the switches scattered about and it only has CAT5 cabling hooked up. Right off the bat, nothing is gigabit.

I know this is lengthy so I will get to the questions. I am not a networking expert but I know enough to be dangerous. Lets say a user opens up a CAD file over the network. Between him and server are 2 switches and the network connection is terminated and remade twice. Is the risk of losing data everytime it hits a switch and terminates and remade again a big factor do you think?

I ran a speed test on my PC for the LAN. According to it, it takes me 3 seconds to transfer a file 100mb in size to and from the server, and there is only one switch between us and its gigabit. To send and receive to his PC is 10 seconds each. What can you guys tell me to explain to my owner that this needs to be redone?

  • Are all four pairs terminated to each port/drop? If you are "splitting drops", then it should be redone. All switches should be gig -- there's no reason not to. Cat5(e) is perfectly acceptable. – Ricky Beam Jan 26 '15 at 22:45
  • If you're able to transfer a 100MB file in 3 seconds you're getting 266 Mb/second. Not bad! – Ted Quanstrom Jan 27 '15 at 3:20
  • Did any answer help you? if so, you should accept the answer so that the question doesn't keep popping up forever, looking for an answer. Alternatively, you could provide and accept your own answer. – Ron Maupin Aug 11 '17 at 3:29

If there isn't an 'in your face' requirement to repair the infrastructure that's in the building right now, then you're going to be fighting an uphill battle. Most managers (and users, for that matter) are willing to accept sub-par service as long as it works; mainly because they want their IT gear to last until it dies.

If a degraded level of service has been provided for long enough, people will not communicate issues anymore. They'll simply accept it as what it is, a crummy system, then complain to their coworkers and think it's your doing (you personally). I can't tell you how many times I've run across a user that's had a different issue and, upon further diagnosis, found out there was bad wiring or auto negotiation was turned off that resulted in pathetically slow speeds. My response is always to the flavor of "I can't believe you never said anything...".

In essence, if your managers don't see a legitimate need for better resources, they'll accept the heartache is business-as-usual and tell everyone to suck it up and move on. As a network engineer, a big part of your job is going to be communicating those requirements to your higher-management that doesn't entirely understand what you need or why you need it. You can interpret that as 'salesman'. A method that's always worked for me is giving them cold, hard facts, but do not forget the sugar coating...

Correlate things that actually matter to them. A few off the top of my head:

  • Amount of errors/loss (total) - Attempt to get across roughly how bad it is and why they should care.
  • Estimate the time spent waiting - Turn it around into a real business objective; no manager wants to hear "Collectively, your employees will waste 3 hours a day waiting for network resources. 3 hours a day = 15 hours a week = 780 hours a year = ($40K average salary) = $15K a year." Go crazy, but don't lie.
  • No continuity plan - Relay how detrimental it will be if that cabling failed en masse (however unlikely). If the people that are fed by those poor resources are important, then mention that.
  • Provide transparent estimations on cost - This may give some people knots, but it will signal them that you're serious and you know what you're talking about. This isn't some hop-scotch idea that you dreamt up last night; you've considered the risks important enough to bring up in a business meeting.

This is the most difficult part for people: If the facts don't add up to legitimately support your case, then perhaps there aren't any serious issues and you should really consider if it's as bad as you're making it out to be. We've all made things out to be worse than they are from time to time, but if you find yourself digging deeper and deeper for an issue, then maybe there isn't one.

If the facts do add up and they still don't want to take action, then just wait for the day you can say "I told you so... err, with all due respect" and perhaps next time they'll listen and take your proposals more seriously.

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  • I'd also point out that while Gig is great, 100Mb is still more than sufficient for most networks. But if you need some leverage, tell him that you just bought a Linksys for $30 yesterday that was higher speed than your business network. – Ryan Foley Jan 26 '15 at 22:24
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    He doesn't need to go buy all new Cisco Nexus switches. Used gear off eBay would do just fine. I would avoid the cheap desktop crap from Best Buy, etc. (been there, thrown a lot of dead ones in the trash) – Ricky Beam Jan 26 '15 at 22:48
  • This answer is specifically about cabling. – Ryan Foley Jan 27 '15 at 9:09
  • See second paragraph wrt "crummy network" due to "slow". Wiring is rarely what makes a network "slow". If there are errors due to old wiring, then yes there's a problem. (errors caused by physical plant is a problem - period) Cat3 would be a problem. Split ports (one cable, two ports) would be a problem. Slow is mostly a function of his switch/routing gear, but yes, limited to what the cabling can support. He's not said what cabling is used. (is that cat5 everywhere or just between switches?) – Ricky Beam Jan 27 '15 at 20:49

Thanks Ryan.

I honestly am about to be at that part of just waiting for something horrible to go wrong. Users are seeing downtime. I actually had a user this morning email be that it took 5 minutes to launch a solidworks file over the network and another 5 minutes to save that file. I am having him come into my office this afternoon to test the same file because I am gigabit into the network.

I can understand that some people think that if it works then that's great, lets not mess with it. I will tell you guys, to back up my wanting of a remodel, that being in an old school building cabling is laid out in the ceiling in a horrible fashion mixing power, network, and video cables with each other and leaving spools of extra cabling leading to a station up there to be found. I pulled more than a trashcan size bundle from a switch that was removed over 2 years ago.

In a scenario I had a PC constantly dropping connection. I didn't have any method of troubleshooting because there were no other connection dropping into the ceiling. I had to track down the cabling and before it even got into the ceiling the line was terminated one already. I then had to pop ceiling tile after ceiling tile to track it all down. It took me a few hours and I found 2 switches piggybacking off one another in another room. I replaced it with a 16 port switch but what I found around the switch would amaze you. Almost every connection to that switch had a spool of cabling that then terminated again with a random keystone jack then ran another cable to actually get to the switch.

PC---------{terminates at keystone randomly in the ceiling}---------[switch]

Its this kind of thing that is found all over the building. I have multiple users struggling to stream solidworks and CAMworks files over the networks to their desktops but cant because it crashes. They have to pull the file off the network to their local PC then open it, work on it, save it, then put it back on the network. I personally think it needs done, especially with some of the projects he wants to come down the line including VOIP and IP Cameras.

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  • If users are currently seeing extreme hold-ups, now would be the time to send an email outlining everything so you can CYA later. – Ryan Foley Jan 27 '15 at 13:52
  • We are having a meeting about it soon so I will bring it up then. I am getting some more testimonials together and will present to the owner – Individual101 Jan 27 '15 at 14:55
  • If this is the case, your physical infrastructure is a pure nightmare. It's what we call a stack of band-aids -- a bunch of quick, "one off" solutions. It's time to bring in some pros to string the correct type and number of drops to the places they're needed, and install some decent managed gig-e switches. (unmanaged switches tell you nothing when something is wrong.) – Ricky Beam Jan 27 '15 at 20:54

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