How do you manage your home network?

In 1999, when I worked as a service tech, I got a bunch of friends together, bought a couple boxes of Cat 5 Ethernet cable and wired the home my wife and I were building. We put about 20 network drops into the house - most of them upstairs and a couple on the main floor - it terminated in my basement. That basic setup has lasted me quite a while - but it didn’t take into account:

  1. Wireless of any sort - it was just starting to come out then.
  2. The amount of connected devices that currently need access to the Internet.
  3. The volume of data that we have moving around the house at any moment. (Netflix/Plex/gaming everywhere.)

Now, almost 15 years later my house network needs some loving:

  1. The network switch in the basement only has 2 x 100Mb ports - the other 6 are 10Mb. Time to upgrade!
  2. We have more than 25 devices that use the network on a daily basis - the vast majority of them are wireless.
  3. Where our main TV area is, I’ve run out of Ethernet ports so I had to install a small switch to handle the TV, Bluray, Xbox, Satellite and Apple TV.
  4. We often have unexplainable slowdowns on our wireless - and I don’t have the visibility into my own network to know why.
  5. Our wireless is provided by a single Time Capsule in the front of the house - in the back, the backyard and the basement, it’s pretty spotty.
  6. We have a Plex TV server that provides streaming to various locations in the house - sometimes it just doesn’t stream fast enough - and there’s no visible reason.
  7. We have a 100Mb/7Mb internet connection - and it’s time to have that available anywhere.

My goals for our home network are:

  1. Provide visibility into our network to help to figure out - what’s happening now - what is using the network. Where is my bandwidth going?
  2. Provide some basic services to our network - possibly with sovereign. (In the beginning, when I didn’t have 3 children I used a BSD or Linux server to provide network services - that stopped when I ran out of time to administer yet another box.)
  3. Provide better network coverage - into the backyard if possible - so that when it’s nice enough to be outside - we can still have network access when desired.

I already know that:

  1. I need a new switch. 16 port 1000Mb at a minimum. But are there decent - and not super expensive - ones that can give me meaningful usage stats?
  2. I need some sort of router that helps with network visibility. If I use a PC I will likely be able to get more visibility - but you never know.
  3. I likely need some sort of small home server. It needs the ability to add/replace failing and/or newer/bigger disks - installing the OS and other software will allow more flexibility - but it will be yet another thing to manage.
  4. I will need to create some sort of better wireless network - maybe extending it with a couple DD-WRT wireless routers.

Update: Saturday December 28, 2013

  1. Gigabit switch - check.
  2. Got a new Apple Airport Extreme installed in my living room. Better coverage and better placement.
  3. Have setup the Shaw router a little better and have simplified my network some more.

Still to do:

  1. Integrate my old Time Capsule into the network and extend the range.
  2. Setup a home server to hold all of our movies etc.
  3. Setup a firewall with some sort of Ultra compact PC.
  4. Get a Skydog.

What are you using to manage your home network?