Setting up separate subnets for your network. It doesn’t matter where your office is located. If you’re in Northwest Arkansas, you can be in Bentonville, Rogers, Centerton, Pea Ridge, Avoca, Hiwasee, Decatur, Siloam Springs, Gentry, or any other community. In Washington County, you can be in Springdale, Bethel Heights. The town really doesn’t matter.

What does matter is your network traffic getting through as smoothly as possible. Think of your network as a pipe. Now, you throw different kinds of candy in one end of the pipe, and you expect that same candy to come out the other end. Let’s say you’ve got some gum and some mints. So you throw a handful of gum and a handful of mints in, and at the other end of the network, you end up with a pile of gum and mints, which you have to separate. What if you could put a divider down the middle of that pipe and put gum down one end and mints down the other side? At the other end of the pipe, your gum and mints would come out already separated.

Networking. Works in a similar fashion. Many office networks are just one flat network, which means that if any machine starts broadcasting, in other words, sending a signal out to all other machines, as they sometimes do, then it’s going to get noisy. Every device on your network is going to hear that broadcast. And if enough machines are broadcasting at the same time, you end up with a broadcast storm that causes your network to stop functioning efficiently.

What can you do? Well, you can segment your network. You can put different devices on their own isolated subnets so that if they start broadcasting, other devices don’t hear them. One of the commonest things people do is to isolate their voice over IP phone. That’s because voice over IP traffic is more critical than other traffic. If you’re downloading a file and you drop a packet, the Internet protocols will automatically re-download that missing packet so that you end up with the full file that you requested. Phones don’t use that protocol.

Phones use a connectionless protocol. Why is that? Well, because it’s a lot faster. If phones used TCP for their protocol, then you may have delays while you’re speaking on the voice over IP call. And these delays would make the call basically unlistenable. So for that reason, phones use UDP, which is a lot faster. But, which, if packets get dropped, they are not retried.

So if you’re on a phone call, a crowded network, and you lose some packets, result is that the quality of your call drops, and you may not be able to understand the person on the other side. For this reason, it’s a good idea to segment your phones on their own network so that they’re unaffected by the broadcasts of other devices in your office. What you’re going to need to do in order to accomplish this is either a Layer 3 switch or a router and a VLAN aware switch.

Layer 3 switches are not cheap. You’re probably better off going with a router and setting up two different networks. Let’s say we set one up at 192.168.1 and another at 192.168.100. You tell your router to send out DHCP for your first network on one interface and for your second network on a second interface. Now, you connect those two interfaces to a VLAN aware switch. You tell the switch that the first interface is for VLAN 1 and the second interface is for VLAN 100. Your next step is to mark your switch ports to either be on VLAN 1 or 100. Ports that are on VLAN 1 will get their IP addresses in the 192.168.1 range. Ports on VLAN 100 will get their IP addresses in the 192.168.100 range. They will not be able to ping one another if you have your VLANs properly isolated.

You put your standard devices on one network and your phones on the other. Since we already have IP addresses hardcoded in the 192.168.1 range in the office where I have done this, I’ve made that VLAN 1. And connected PCs, wireless access points, and basically every other device in the office except phones. The phones are isolated on the 192.168.100 range, VLAN 100. This simple act has added a tremendous amount of reliability to the network by ensuring that the only traffic the phones receive are voice-over IP packets.

Now sometimes you can just plug your phones in and they’ll just work. If that’s the case, then you’re lucky. But as you add more and more devices to your office network, the odds are that sooner or later you’re going to run into glitches. And if you run into glitches, then you may want to segment your networks, as I’ve outlined above. Networking is not the simplest thing in the world. If you need some help, give me a call. I’ll be happy to come by and look your office network over and give you some good solid advice on… Getting the most out of it. I will also give you different options for different prices. I know that businesses. Don’t have a lot of money to spare, so they have to invest smartly in their infrastructure. I will help you do that, because I can relate. I can stretch a dollar, and I can stretch your dollar for you. So please give me a call and let me help you out if you’re having network issues.