Hardware for gigabit

As part of my series of posts on gigabit Internet connections I had a friend ask about hardware, which is currently spread across multiple posts. Here’s what I’m running with a bit of details for each item. I’ll go from the outermost layer inwards.

Guidelines and goals

All equipment must be low power.

No cooling fans.

Reliability is worth paying extra.

Modem and router

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The modem is supplied by Spectrum, as their only approved model, and is DOCSIS 3.1. A bit bulky but low-power, reliable and delivering the promised speed. It’s linked via a short cable to my Ubiquiti ER-4 router/firewall. I had to upgrade from the ER-X as explained here, I wasn’t able to get line speed out of the ER-X and rather than fight that I upgraded to the ER-4. So far, it’s been great and I recommend it without hesitation.

Backbone switch

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I wanted a backbone that’d handle lots of load, give me the ability to monitor/tweak, and generally be awesome. For an ethernet switch, that means

  1. Fully non-blocking; i.e. handle 100% traffic, bidirectionally, across all ports.
  2. Managed, with a web interface
  3. Media ports so I can add fiber if necessary

I bought the TP-Link TL-SG2216 which is a 16 port version; you can get more ports in the same switch. It’s been a good choice, right now I’ve got some bug with SSL on the web interface but the switch and SNMP have been flawless. I should have paid for more ports; if you squint at the picture you can see a 5-port dumb switch I had to daisy chain in to add more ports. Ahh well.

WiFi

I have had much better luck using access points as opposed to all-in-one, so I use and recommend that. In my case, that’s the no longer sold Apple AirPort Extreme 802.11ac in access point mode. I disable disk sharing, DHCP, etc, etc and it runs for months and months with no problem. Note that I have very heavy usage, with upwards of 50 clients ranging from laptops, IoT, phones, tablets, etc, so the split AP/router configuration should also work for small biz or advanced home networks too.

A bit more detail about Wi-Fi Gigabit internet, the WiFi link.

DHCP and DNS

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That’s my four-drive Synology DS416play. It’s a drive server, basically, but Synology makes great software so I also run other services on it that I used to host on Debian:

  • Local DNS and forwarding. I can resolve internal hostnames and also forward to 1.1.1.1 and 9.9.9.9 resolvers.
  • DHCP server – hand out permanent and dynamic IPs on my class C subnet.
  • TimeMachine and NFS backup, then mirrored to Amazon Drive for off-site backups.

It’s a great little machine and my second Synology. Quiet, reliable and fast – I run the dual gigabit links to the switch and use the bridged mode, so I’ve got ~200MB/sec available.

Pi Hole ad blocker

I mentioned this in Staying sane and well-read with tab sets ad blocking and RSS – I adore this thing! I use a gen-1 pi for hardware and it provides DNS-level ad filtering for every device on the network.

Note that the DHCP server on the NAS gives out the Pi-hole’s IP as the DNS server to use, and the Pi-Hole is setup to use the NAS as its upstream. That way you get ad blocking plus local resolution. Takes a bit to configure that way but the results are excellent.

Battery backup

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After an outage I added the APC Back-UPS Pro BR1500G and external battery pack. Since the entire set of hardware uses 65 watts, this provides around 300 minutes of power, more than enough to keep running and nicely avoiding server problems due to the short 1-second glitches that I see about once a week.

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Computer engineer from San Diego. Obsessed with hardware, software, timekeeping and elegance.

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