On Sep 28, 2012, at 12:53 AM, RavenManiac wrote:
Hey networking gurus. I need some help.
I currently own an Apple Airport Extreme 4th Generation, Dual-Band router connected to a Gigabit Ethernet with a FIOS Network. I’m getting about 20 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up locally and 20/5 on the west coast. Obviously, my Internet speeds are good.
However, I’m having a lot of issues with this router’s ability to handle a lot of network traffic. Here are the devices that are routinely connected to the Airport Extreme:
- Mac Pro 2 x 2.8 Ghz Quad Core -wired
- Macbook Core 2 Duo - wireless
- Alienware M14x - wireless
- ReadyNAS NV+ - wired (backup only)
- Roku XS -wireless
- PS3 - wired
- Several network printers
My kids and I are always on our computers, and my family routinely streams Netflix on the devices above. The bottom line is my Airport Extreme can’t keep up with the traffic and as a result everything gets bogged down.
I’m not sure this is totally the issue here. A lot of these uses you describe are heavy in one direction – down. At least on my connection here (a symmetrical T1) when the downstream becomes overtaxed with a big continuous download, upstream performance is seriously degraded. The reason for this has to do with how the networking protocols work. Each request for a packet sends a “are you there?”, waits for a reply, then sends a “start sending”, waits for data, then sends a “got it!”, waits for a reply, then repeats. For small requests, this process can interleave smoothly, and lots of traffic can pass without issue. But if your FiOS router (which I suspect is the true bottleneck here) gets overwhelmed with a huge download, it may not allow the other downstream control messages to get through. So even though your internal network bandwidth is massively faster than your pipe to the Internet, only one (big) thing can happen at a time.
I notice this whenever there’s a big software update going on on another Mac on my network. Suddenly the Scripty Actions stop working, because they can’t ping out to Google to see if my Mac is on line. (A ping is 56 bytes, the massive download is many hundreds of Gigs.)
In addition, wireless range is crummy, partly because the Airport Extreme is housed in a GreyFox metal network panel located within our hall closet. Recently, we’ve been leaving the network panel door open, which helps wireless reception a little.
I would definitely let the AirPort out into the air. Keeping it in a (partial) Faraday cage does not help radio reception.
In our 110+ year-old house of stone and petrified wood and plaster, we have an AirPort Extreme on the third floor, and an AirPort Express on the first floor, both roughly centered on the footprint of the house. This gives us great coverage everywhere. We don’t use the Extreme for any of its Gigabit Ethernet switch capabilities, though, just as an access point. The network sharing is done by a Cisco Internet to Internet router, attached to the Netopia T1 router. Various Gigabit Ethernet switches hang off the Cisco, and handle the connections between the other wired Macs. The Express is set up as a wireless repeater – it’s not hooked back to the Cisco.
=> Xserve (external port)
=> Gigabit switch
=> Mac Pro
=> Xserve RAID
=> AirPort Extreme
~> Mac mini
~> MacBook Pro (x2)
~> AirPort Express (range extender)
=> Xserve (internal port)
Still, I think our network is just too taxed. Does anyone have any recommendations on a router that offers better Wi-fi range and has a faster processor that can handle our load? I looked at this website, but I’m unfamiliar with some of the better rated brands.
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I would first get the AirPort out of the closet, and let it be a dedicated radio link, rather than trying to force everything through it. You’ve got it sitting where it is so that you can have short cable lengths, which is a great idea, but it forces a compromise with the quality of radio service. If your AirPort sits out in the middle of your house somewhere, connected by Ethernet back to your wiring closet, it will do a tremendous job of extending that wired network through the air. Recent Extremes have three radios, can do all sorts of tricky things with WiFi to get the maximum speed through. As I said earlier, you may hit a limit of your FiOS hardware, with its ability to keep up with simultaneous traffic. But at least you will give everything a fighting chance.
Here’s the Cisco I have: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps9925/index.html They’re not very expensive, as such things go.
Would having two routers help my situation?
Yes, but only let one of them be a router. Having more than one router acting as a router is not easily configured with consumer-grade hardware. You need what’s called a Managed Router, which needs a masters in IT to configure.
Any help or advice is greatly appreciated.
Hope this helps,
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