Saturday, April 4, 2009

IT early pains

With our new office we rented space and I hired a group (Rockport Technology Group) to come in and do the wiring, phones and basic network setup. They're a great bunch of guys that i've used before and they always do a first class job. What I was left with was a CISCO ASA5505 firewall, 2 Cisco 521 WAPs, a 48 port GigE switch, a Nortel BCM 50 phone system and a Keyscan card reader system for physical security. 

With that gear I have a wired and wireless network as well as phones and card access for my office which can sit about 40 people. Note that I haven't mentioned an internet connection. Thats because we don't have one yet (!). I ordered dual T1 lines from Verizon, but T1s take time (4-6 weeks). The fallback was Comcast since they were supposedly in the building already and had a 2-3 day install time. Even though they pre-certified the site/install when the guys turned up they found no Comcast in the building. They said they need to run cable to the building and they need to wait for the ground to thaw first (yes, though its April our ground is frozen after you get down a few inches -- welcome to New England). So I cancelled that order. I had had 5 phone lines installed by Verizon for the normal phone system so we asked them to convert one to DSL. You'd think that would be fast, but it takes Verizon 7-10 days to do that too. The DSL should be live next Tuesday. The T1's follow 3-4 weeks later.

So I have an office full of people that need internet access, what do I do? My crazy fallback idea from the beginning was to use my Verizon Aircard. I bought it a while back and used it to be on the net at all times, in the car, in airports, etc. Its a decent card and fast. So in the beginning I had it in my MacBookPro and was just doing internet sharing from it to the Airport. Apple makes this dead easy and it works well. The problem is the office space is 7K+ sq ft so there's no hope of covering much range that way. I could try to extend it with other network gear like Apple's airport express but i'd be buying them to use them for a week or two. I could try to bridge it to our new Cisco wifi but that was still coming online and having its own challenges. The other issue was that I needed to use my MacBookPro for stuff and so the network connection would come and go based on what I was doing which didn't help the others.

What I didn't have were any servers set up yet. I had bought 2 of the new Nehalem MacPros to be used for "IT stuff" and decided to use one of them to bridge to the net. I used one with the base Leopard install, installed the aircard and Verizon software and turned on internet sharing bridging the aircard to the wired ethernet port. Since the Cisco WAPs (wireless points) were also connected to the same network, all of a sudden everyone had internet access whether they were on Wifi or wired. The Verizon software (VZ Access Manager) just pain stinks. I have a conspiracy theory on these cell companies and the aircards -- its that when you use too much bandwidth they drop the connection just to see if they can stop the traffic, if nothing else its a brutal throttle. VZAccess doesn't automatically reconnect. But if you look in your network settings when connected with VZaccess, they have a new network location setup with the Verizon modem. In that new location I added in the ethernet port I wanted to share. I also set that location to be my location whether I was connected or not. I then when into the advanced settings of the modem through the OSX network preferences pane and set it up to auto-reconnect, never disconnect etc. With that done the network drops at times but reconnects without my involvement and we've had a productive few days downloading tools, updates, email etc. Its no speed daemon but its something you can live with.

I used that same MacPro to create the VMWare environment for the management apps for the Nortel and Keyscan pieces that I spoke about in my previous post. I also created a basic file shares so we could move things around internally.

Now I needed a real server with permissions for the different elements of the business, that was stable, could be backed up etc. More on that to come.