We're a smallish business about to move to a larger space, so I have a question about the way we've wired our network. Our current scheme is to use smaller switches (8 ports) at each "cluster" of desks, as shown here. (A cluster includes four workstations, and usually a printer and scanner, so generally 6 devices total). Each 8-port switch connects to a central 24-port switch. We have four such clusters, and everything has been fine. When we move, we'll have two more of these clusters. I just want to make sure that this setup is OK as we expand. I suppose the alternative is to run a dedicated ethernet cable for each desktop/device, but this would require a lot of wiring, and also a much bigger central switch. So I'm just curious as to reactions this design. Thanks in advance. Picture is here

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    have you verified that all your cubes are no farther than about 250 foot radius from the location of the new centralized switch? Ethernet allows 300 foot runs, but reserve some overhead for vertical transitions, patch cabling, etc... – Mike Pennington Aug 28 '13 at 15:17
  • Thanks for the tip. I think that a 250-ft distance will not be a problem, but I will double check. – Ben S. Aug 28 '13 at 15:21

Practically speaking, your setup as is will work.

For maximum performance (and less hardware to run/power - all those 8-port switches add up) a single 24 (or, as expansion might require, 48) port switch and wires is better (so long as the wires are less than 100 meters - which you have said they should be); any pair of devices can be connected directly with that setup, and one computer in a cluster using bandwidth to the file server will not impact another computer in the same cluster accessing the internet - in the current setup, it will. How much that's a problem depends on use/expectations.

A middle path, if the switches allow, would be to use a trunked pair of ports from each 8 port switch to the central switch - it's not AS good as the one-big-switch option, but it's better than 4-6 switches connected by a single port to the central switch.

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  • Question: assuming new switches are to be purchased, do many switches allow trunked connections? – Ben S. Aug 28 '13 at 21:11
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    You have to check before buying - never assume. Most "smart switches" do include that - you'll see either "trunking" or "LACP" in the features. A smart switch has some way to interact with the switch, either via a web interface (the switch has an address of its own) or a dedicated management interface (or both.) – Ecnerwal Aug 28 '13 at 21:23

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