Change Management in the HomeBy CWNP On 01/13/2009 - 7 Comments
Just how complicated can a home network get anyway? It seems that every time I turn around, mine gets more complicated...and expensive. In the beginning (years and years ago), it was just 2 computers and an ISDN router. Then ADSL - SWEET! Then 3, then 4, and pretty soon, a whole house of computers. I have two laptops for work stuff, and every member of my family (wife + three kids) has one - all wirelessly connected of course. Then there's the lab engineers that practically live in my basement with their work PCs, the lab test PCs, the Network Attached Storage (NAS) servers (primary and backup) which holds all of our family files, PoE Ethernet switch (to power the 5 APs), core Gigabit Ethernet switch, two Ethernet-attached printers, Application server (FTP, backup application, etc.), and it just keeps going and going forever. Holy cow batman.I just bought a Roku box. You guessed it - 802.11g. Then there's my iPhone, iPod Touches, and hey, friends drop by with theirs in-hand too. All that's just connectivity and file storage. That's the easy stuff. It's content filtering that's currently putting the smack-down on me. I need something network-based - perhaps a filtering proxy? But who wants to pay enterprise-class prices for SOHO-class use? Not me. What do I do when I want to add WinXP sp4 (ha!) to all of those PCs? Can I push a patch or service pack to a laptop over the WLAN with a click? Of course not. Patch management, connection/bandwidth control, and things like that for the home - impossible unless you want to install and manage warez copies of enterprise-class software on a home server (I strongly suggest you avoid this). What happens when Sarah - my teenage daughter - NEEEEEEDS to lose her Internet access for a day or two? Can I click on some icon on a network map and whamo, Internet access is MIA? Well, you *can* to that one if you have the right software - installed on ALL of your PCs...Cisco's Network Magic.
Do I need a Help-Desk class ticketing system for my home network to keep all of this stuff and these people running smoothly? When my Internet pipe goes down, there's instantaneous hell to pay around this place. Holy smokes. One of my 9 year old daughters (Abbey - The Abbinator) came running across the house tonight, arms waiving in the air, screaming, "the Internet is down, the Internet is down!" It had been down less than 2 minutes at that point, and was down for a total of 5 minutes due to a wireless infrastructure change. I think I may need redundant ISPs with a load-balancing Internet router...that terminates VPNs because I have to be connected to the Atlanta office 24/7. I might also need redundant wireless infrastructures and perhaps even a change management program where we discuss this stuff at the dinner table before it happens...maybe talking about a backout plan if I can't get the replacement controller online in less than 5 minutes. :( Mission critical? Perhaps yes. Good grief - it's a home network!
OK, then there's wireless. My house is an RF nightmare. 5 APs to cover this place - and it's not because my house is so big if that's what you're thinking. Real wood panel walls (from the 1960's), tile half way up some bathroom walls (yes, we know it's a bit dated), and every other RF issue imaginable. If I'm the average home user, how am I supposed to know about RF planning and design, channel reuse, co-channel interference, controllers and lightweight APs, single versus multiple channel architectures, site surveying, and all of that? What's the chance of a decent home wireless deployment? Zilch.
What's my point in all of this focused griping? To emphasize the need for SOHO-class network design, management, and control. It's totally missing in the industry. It's a free-for-all in the home. It's plug-and-pray. You call "the computer guy" in your family, and then he/she comes over and makes a mess of it all because they know only a little more than you do. What's the average home user supposed to do? 5 autonomous Apple APs? Sell all of my PCs and switch over to OSX? :) Somebody has got to build some stuff for the SMB market that's priced for SOHO (because many homes operate as an SMB on a SOHO budget). Please start with network-based content-filtering.