Changing Network Topology

I’m probably using the term “topology” a little loosely, but my home network is changing and that word sounded cool for a headline.

Basically, I’ve been having some issues with my current network setup and it is time to place priority on getting things right instead of keeping them working “on the cheap”. When your wife does photography work and the images are stored on her machine and backed-up over the network … the working of that network is paramount.

What I Have

Currently the network starts with my Airport Extreme (AE) base station. The cable modem runs into that and the AE handles the rest. The AE sits in my entertainment center on the main floor and directly off of it is hooked the Apple TV and then a long Ethernet cable that runs down to my basement office. This is where things get hairy.

That cable runs into a cheap 5-port gigabit switch which sits on my desk and I hook my 13″ MacBook Pro directly into when I am down there. Another long-ish cable then is run from that switch to another 5-port gigabit switch on the back wall of my officer above my workbench and the following are hooked up to that:

  • Brother laser MFP
  • FreeNAS box
  • Linux laptop (for research when working on machines)
  • single free cable for a client machine

I used to have another desktop machine hooked up on my desk, but I have since removed that. My wife’s 2009 MacBook is always connected via WiFi and so are the various iOS devices we have around the house and the Wii … that I should turn on to make sure is still working.

That’s the current setup.

Backups to the FreeNAS box have been inconsistent for the past month. That doesn’t make me happy (and forces me to do full backups to an external drive more than I want). Right now that is the driving force behind this reimagining of my network. I’m also constantly looking for better ways to do things.

Where I’m (Hopefully) Going

It comes down to cutting out cables where able and simplifying the devices on the network.

  • Replace FreeNAS box and my Airport Extreme with a single 2 TB Time Capsule. I don’t lose any ports, lose an entire box (plus the cable connected to it) and gain more than 2x the storage for backups. This would never be the ONLY backup for the machines, but it would be the primary backup and recovery box. It might be slow, but it is small, removes a power brick, and converges boxes. This would sit in the basement near the cable modem and would handle all of the traffic.
  • Use wireless for the Apple TV attached to the TV. Removes another cable.
  • The long run of Ethernet would run only from the Time Capsule to my office and into the two 5-port switches there. I would have a free port on the one at my bench with the removal of the FreeNAS box, which could be used for client machines.
  • I would use an Airport Express or two to expand the wireless coverage to weak areas in the future and also add AirPlay support to all areas of the house (I’ve been speaking with some people over Twitter recently about the best way to do that and I’m fairly certain I’ll put an Airport Express with speakers in my office in the future).

I think that is it. I would no longer have any cables running through my air ducts and would be eliminating some big boxes and power bricks in the hopes of cutting down on energy use.

Go ahead and throw your thoughts at me.