There is a paradox known to everyone who works with technology: the more ways you try to improve a thing, the more variables you introduce and the more problems you can have. Your network is a good case in point. A network of two computers and a printer will seldom run into performance issues but try to add devices, and your speed immediately plummets. What went wrong?
Bigger networks are not inherently slower, but your DIY solution may have been the root of the problem if you installed switches in your network. We know, hiring a cabling pro to install an Ethernet cable properly for a new device is expensive, and that expense might seem hard to justify if you see a place where you can buy a four-port switch and a Cat 5 cable for thirty bucks. But here are just a few of how your "cheaper and easier" solution can backfire and cost you money in the long run.
Scenario 1: Your switch is older than you realize.
Ethernet connections, like chains, are only as strong as their weakest link. A company's network connection might have been put in place by several successive "generations" of IT people, meaning that a switch or cable could have been there longer than anyone on the IT team without anyone realizing it. Older hardware was built for older connections, and, even if it seems to work exactly as it was designed to work, it could be throttling speeds for the entire network. This problem grows particularly dire if an old switch is poorly placed — in a critical spot, for example, between your router and the rest of the network or between servers. Not recognizing and finding the unknown switch when upgrading your entire network to modern hardware could cause your entire operation to be hamstrung if you do not hire a pro.
Scenario 2: Your switch is failing.
Old hardware that is chugging along and blissfully unaware of the modern age is far from the worst thing an IT professional must fear. All switches eventually fail, and when they do, it is not always easy to tell where in your network the problem is. It is especially hard for a non-specialist to spot the problem when the failure is not hard but intermittent. A switch may turn on when you press the "on" button and display the correct lights for years, even though its performance is compromised. Very few standard network diagnostic checks will catch this problem, although it is not uncommon.
Scenario 3: Someone created a loop.
If you spent a busy day upgrading and rerouting your network, and at the end of it found that either nothing would run or that your speed is down to a crawl, you may have a network loop. All that means is that both sides of the same cable are plugged into ports on the same switch. It is not a hard problem to solve once you find it — but it is an easy mistake to make and can be hard to discover in a large network. Network loops are a significant reason we do not recommend using mini switches under a desk or above a ceiling tile.
Scenario 4: Your "switch" is not a switch.
A switch not being a switch is a particularly common problem in home networks managed by non-technical people, but it can happen to anyone. A hub looks similar to a switch; they're both small plastic squares with one input jack and some output jacks. They may even be on the same shelf as the supply closet. But a hub broadcasts its input to all output devices, causing data packets to collide. A switch manages connections actively, preventing most packet collisions and decreased performance to which hubs are prone. Switches are so cheap that one rarely sees hubs for sale anymore, but any device that has been plugged into your network for a while could be a hub.
Instead of handling your network yourself with whatever solution is cheapest and most accessible at the time, call a professional and have it configured the right way the first time. Request a FREE Consultation for a Network Assessment here. If you have any questions about our services, do not hesitate to contact us.