SOHO Network To Go

Years ago at a former employer, I designed a product called the “Rapid Deployment Network” (RDN). It was basically a robust back office system pre-configured and packed into a small-ish cabinet so that it could be shipped overseas and plugged in. Bam. The RDN business never took off because it didn’t fit will with the procurement model of the intended consumer but I find myself revisiting the problem for my relocation to Ghana.

mini-server

I want to take a fully functional SOHO office network with me that I can plug into an Internet connection and go. However, I am very cognizant of my weigh allowances for air freight so I want to pack as much as I can into as little weight as I can. And I’d like to keep the overall wattage down.

My server is based on a Mac Mini running Windows Server 2008 R2.

net-gear

I’m also taking along some network hardware that runs cool without fans:

  • Cisco 851 router (firewall and VPN feature set) –> max 26 Watts
  • Cisco WAP4410 Wireless N access point –> max 10.1 Watts
  • HP Procurve 1810G 8-port managed gigabit switch –> max 15 Watts

That puts my maximum power consumption of the core network infrastructure at 201.1 watts but most of the time it will be idle at maybe 30 to 50 Watts.power

In addition I have an APC Smart-UPS 750 uninterruptible power supply. It is basically a 500 Watt, 750 Volt-Amp battery and inverter appliance that connects to the server via USB. This allows the server to safely shut itself down before the UPS runs out of power. Along with the UPS, I have a 500 Watt step-down transformer and voltage stabilizer to smooth out power going in.

I’m pretty satisfied with what I have cobbled together. The are two main issues which are essentially logistical.

  1. The UPS and the voltage stabilizer are fairly big and heavy. 31 pounds for the UPS which contains actual lead. The transformer/stabilizer has big copper coils inside it an weighs in at 14 pounds.
  2. Should the hard disk inside of the Mac Mini fail, it is a real bitch to replace it. You need a sand paper, a putty knife, spudger, tiny phillips screw driver and a steady hand.
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3 Responses to SOHO Network To Go

  1. Interesting ideas; it would be nice to have a picture of the assembled gear in a small cabinet.
    I was wondering why would you choose separate router/switch/ap vs. using the all-in-one models from Linksys or similar.
    The problem with the weight of the UPS could be solved by contacting APC directly in Ghana (apc.com/gh shows a couple of local distributors, who could also provide the heavy transformer).

  2. Brian Reiter says:

    Hi Jorge,

    I did not choose an all-in-one model for a few reasons.

    1. Most West African houses are build from masonry and iron rebar which causes a lot of reflection and diffraction of radio signals. It is not a foregone conclusion that wherever the leased line is terminated is a location that can provide adequate wireless coverage for the parts of the house where we need it. It is also possible that more than one AP will be required.
    2. The Cisco 800-series router that is all-in-one with an N access point is much more expensive than the combination I selected and is rated for throughput that is totally unrealistic for Ghana.
    3. The Cisco 800-series has a nice VPN and stateful firewall capability. I have also had much better luck with the reliability/longevity of actual Cisco gear than Linksys and other consumer-grade stuff.

    I haven’t tried to find a local GH APC distributor but I have found that many organizations are importing their gear directly from the States or Europe. My children’s school, for example, ships all of their computer gear from the USA.

    Cheers.

    -Brian

  3. Pingback: SOHO Network Up and Running in Accra « Thoughtful Code

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