Home networking for numpties

Discussion in 'Computer Corner' started by Bass Trumpet, Aug 7, 2009.

  1. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Hi Everybody,

    I need a bit of help! I would like to set up a basic home network with three or possibly four PCs. Does anyone know of a good internet resource with all the information to help me set this up? (I am a numpty, so no long words)


    Would people recommend using a dedicated file server or Network Attached Storage?

    My plan would be something like this:

    Main Work PC (in the living room, so I don't want it on all the time)
    Media Centre PC (under the telly playing Blu-Ray, iPlayer, digital media etc.)

    The obvious choice would be to use the Main PC as a file server, but it lives in the front room and it quite noisy, so I need a 4th device tucked away in the spare room - either NAS or a low powered PC.

    Any advice greatly appreciated!
  2. on_castors

    on_castors Member

    For that scale, there isn't much to do other than get the bits and stick 'em together, although locating things depends on your router location I suppose.

    I have 3 PCs & 2 Laptops (one machine is Ubuntu, and gets little use) and a Media Streamer connected using a mixture of hard wired (for the machine next to the Router!) and Powerline ethernet through a 5 port 100Mbs switch that everything else is hooked up to. I turn off the wireless on the router, and the only time it is turned on is when I want to use a laptop in the garden.
    I used to use wireless, but the Mains works a LOT better, (the 200Mbs units have come down a lot in price, but mine are the 85Mbs ones, which I would not buy now the faster ones are so affordable) speed is mostly noticeable when it comes to streaming video, and backing up big files.

    I did buy a HP Mediavault to use as a NAS Media server, which was handy, but it didn't last at all long, and as a result I haven't bothered to replace it, due to the silly cost of a decent NAS box - although like you, I like the idea of it, and the VOLUME is a big issue too as well as much lower power consumption. (Surprisingly of the PCs, the laptops are by far the noisiest, the two Dell Quad core PCs by far and away the quietest)

    Using radio frequency remote control mains plugs attached to trailing sockets to each machine means I can completely turn off machines as necessary more conveniently, and save power a good bit this way, I try and avoid leaving machines on for hours at a time when not in use, and I am one of those people who turns off the router overnight when the system isn't needed, although lately one PC is on permanently - I am even umming and ahhing about setting up a PC in the bedroom, and using it as a media PC, due to some of the advantages it has over a video sender which I use now, but then go off the idea!
  3. johnmartin

    johnmartin Active Member

    I would suggest that for media storage you buy yourself a NAS box. I have three Icy box 4220 all loaded with a pair of 1TB drives. They're relatively cheap, quiet and easy to administer through a web browser. http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=HD-029-BT

    These three boxes contain all of the movies, music and photos and they are all switched on 24-7. In addition there is a work PC in my office, three media streamers (lounge and bedrooms), and three laptops. All of these PC's can access all of the media as the NAS boxes are setup to share their drives so its just a simple networked drive connection. The game consoles and even the TV are also connected to the network and have access to the media boxes too.

    As for network connections. I have a BT HomeHub. This provides wireless and is connected to three other network hubs throughout the house. The NAS boxes, computers and other equipment all connect into these hubs. I do network maintenance as part of my job so all of the cables are chased in behind walls with only the wall mounted sockets showing in the rooms where they're needed. All my laptops connect wirelessly.

    With modern equipment it really is as simple as plugging it all together and off you go. If you have a broadband router then you probably already have the necessary DHCP server to assign addresses to everything and you won't have to touch it or know anything about how it works. It does get a wee bit more technical when wireless is involved but most providers supply a network setup disc with a wizard application to make things easy.

    Some things to note.

    1) I have never found powerline network connections (sending the network through your mains electrical wiring) to be very reliable and tend to shun it. It really depends on your house. Ours is relatively old now and the wiring probably is nowhere near as good as new builds. Powerline adapters also tend to want to be plugged directly into a wall socket and not into surge protectors or multi socket adapters.

    2) Don't entrust all of those precious digital photos to a single hard drive. My NAS boxes are all set up to synchronise their photo and music libraries between themselves. That way if any one drive fails I still have two copies left. As for the movies, well I have the original discs. it would be a pain to rip them all again but not the end of the world.

    3) For a beginner I think the NAS solution is better as the setup is all done through wizards. With a file server PC you would have to delve into the OS to set these things up manually.

    4) The NAS boxes I have linked also provide a print server so you can share a printer across your network.

    5) Wireless is useless for video streaming but adequate for music.

    If you need any help explaining things or setting up then feel free to pm me.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2009
  4. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Thanks chaps! I've just ordered a NAS hard drive caddy and a couple of hard drives to throw at it.

    I'll let you know how I get on!
  5. on_castors

    on_castors Member

    Apart from being expensive (when you might just use an old PC that might be lying around!) 3 NAS boxes running all the time willl use pretty much as much power as 1 PC with 2, 3 or 4 HD inside though, all you would need is a basic XP system and something like a uPnP server eg. Nero or Cyberlink, then there is NO configuration at all, it just does it's own thing, even Windows Media will share files through it's own "server" but it's flakey with other hardware. That PC will also act as a print server! Linux would be better for this, but form most WIndows users, it's as easy to stick with Windows!

    Running BT Broadband must be pretty horrendous when you hang a few PCs off it! I found it pretty appalling with one! I am a bit far from the exchange to get real speed, but even I get 8/9+ with Bethere, friends can get double that, which makes me a bit envious.

    Hard wiring a network is ALWAYS the better option, and nothing comes close, but most people are not going to use it in domestic situations, it is just too much bother to chase into the walls and under floorboards, other than when close to the Router, unlerss you are doing a full remodelling on the house.

    Don't know where you get your information about powerline ethernet, but believe me, if you have a problem, ANY problem at all, and you only have one phase of the 415v 3 phase supply connected at home, (which is the norm) then you have a real PROBLEM, because there is something sadly wrong with your mains wiring, and you have a lot more to worry about than how to connect up a few PCs! :eek: As you say, wireless is hopeless for video streaming, which is why powerline or cat5 or 6 cable is the choice - the 200mbs units are pretty vital for HD streaming though, the 85mbs work OK with lower quality. Even 100mbs network hanging off cat5 cable will cope no bother with HD.

    Whatever server arrangement, without putting extra HDs inside PCs, it is easy enough to use a USB HD for a second backup. I tend to backup PCs to each other, and keep a second backup on a standalone USB disk for convenience. At 65 quid for a 1Tb drive, in domestic situations, why have the bother of setting up RAID or anything more complex. I still backup really valuable data off-site too, with online backup, but again, I wouldn't fancy that on BT Broadband with those slow upload speeds, especially with wireless dropping out!
  6. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    I too am very anal about back ups! I keep a copy of everything on my Mum's computer 200 miles away and two USB hard drives (one in the house and on in the boot of the car!)
  7. johnmartin

    johnmartin Active Member

    Nothing wrong with the house wiring. Its all been checked out my electrician and he says its all fine. I've just never found a stable powerline solution and I've tried plenty. It wasn't my first choice to send cat 6 through the house, the wife gave me too much grief. When I explained to her that she would get a complete redecoration out of it too she was a bit more amenable. Our mains supply is probably too noisy, so causes too much packet dropout. It does work, but its just painfully slow, especially with stuttering video. I have no doubt these solutions will work for some, my brother has a very stable setup, but then he's in a four year old new build.
  8. MrsDoyle

    MrsDoyle Supporting Member

  9. HaleStorm

    HaleStorm Member

    If you are setting up a media streaming PC, it might be worth getting a copy of Windows HOME Server, very reliable, built on Server 2003 Tech, and easy to set up and configure
  10. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Thankyou all you lovely people!

    Now using the Netgear Sc101 NAS with wired and wireless networking. Not without it's hiccups - especially after the missus tidied the drive caddy away and placed a blanket over the top making it overheat and cut out :(

    Still, all ok now! Thankyou for all the suggestions folks!
  11. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Oh, and I've just completed networking the two laptops as well! :cool:

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