Hello IT, have you tried turning off and on again?
February 8, 2011 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Hello IT, have you tried turning off and on again? I'm in need of a short extension cord, with a separate, big button toggle switch. Extra difficulty: It needs a short time delay before it powers back on. Any ideas? [specifics inside]

I manage IT for about 30 bar/restaurant/catering locations, and there are occasionally times when a network device (in this case, a firewall and/or a wifi router for customer's use) needs to be rebooted. This could happen day or night, when I'm at the office, at home, or out having drinks with friends.

The people at the locations are not that tech savvy, and change frequently. I have to direct them over the phone to where each device is, and how to unplug it. Usually its fine, but when paying customers for private events are waiting, they are looking at a mess of wires, get stressed, and it's much harder to settle them down and do they easy thing of resetting them.

I am really in need for is a power cord with a big button or rocker switch on a separate lead, that would cut the power, wait about 15 seconds or so, then turn it back on. It would make phone support so much easier.

Then all I would have to say is " go to the office, there is a big red button on the wall that's labeled 'firewall'. Press that. "Now go to the waitress station. There's another button labeled 'WIFI Reset.' Press that. You should be back up in about 5 minutes. If it's not, call me back.

The 15 second delay is important, because I want a true restart, short interrupts don't always work, and i don't want to stress the electronics on the devices.

I found this previous question, but it doesn't have the delay option.
posted by chambers to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What you're looking for is a power sequencer. Furman makes a bunch of different models, depends on how many ports you want and delay characteristics.
posted by Runes at 8:06 AM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

We use some of those in our DJ booths, now that I see what it is.

Those are nice, but have way more features and are much more expensive than I thought.

I would only need control of one outlet per unit, and about six feet of cable for the power button. My hopeful budget would be no more than $100 per unit, and substantially less if its just a cable.

Knowing the proper search term for what I am looking for is IMMENSELY helpful, though. Thank you.
posted by chambers at 8:30 AM on February 8, 2011

Why not just clearly label the powercords? That'll cost you like $5 per location.
posted by empath at 8:38 AM on February 8, 2011

Here's a cheap idea. Get one of these for each device. In the event of problems, direct your proxy to walk around and turn all of them off, then walk around again and turn them all on. If it takes 15 seconds to do the cycle, there's your delay.

Or, if the outlets need to be grounded, mount one of these in a steel outlet box, connected to a couple feet of cord. Screw it to the wall next to the router/modem/widget.
posted by chazlarson at 8:50 AM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

The cables are labeled, but all the wiring is bundled and hidden, especially in the publicly viewable areas. In the small offices, space is a premium, and most connections are not easily accessible. The firewalls and wifi units themselves are in somewhat out-of-the-way areas, so they are not fiddled with or damaged by spills, getting knocked about, or messed with. These steps had to be taken after several units were damaged over the years.

There is also the problem, which has happened before, is they either yank the wrong cord, or turn off an entire power strip, which, as luck would have it, also powered the Point of Sales servers. Murphy's law always seems to apply if I'm telling them what to do over the phone and wiring is involved. When they call they are so flustered that it's not working, they don't seem to listen well. In any other situation, with the same instructions, they're OK, but when they are stressed like that, some of them just kinda tune out.

These people really need just one big, clearly labeled button.
posted by chambers at 8:51 AM on February 8, 2011

Here's a cheap idea.

Interesting. With a little modification, that might be a candidate.
posted by chambers at 8:53 AM on February 8, 2011

This could work. Add a big label saying "WAIT 10 SECONDS BEFORE TURNING BACK ON"

(Alternatively, my parents' router is on a lightswitch that they know to flip on and off when things start getting funky.)

Also, you could try configuring your network hardware to reboot itself weekly at midnight, or move to a more robust solution? Even shitty networking hardware shouldn't need to be rebooted frequently at all (or, failing that, should be able to be done remotely). If you're using consumer-grade WiFi/Firewall stuff, try DD-WRT or another custom firmware and see if that improves your uptime.
posted by schmod at 8:56 AM on February 8, 2011

You could paint the outlet box and faceplate bright red, label it "ROUTER" or whatever. the router would be the only thing plugged into it, and it'd be nowhere near the POS power strip.

Maybe something like this, wired into the power cord[s]? No auto delay, but it's a big button.

I agree that the auto-delay switch would be best; heck, I'd like one for my modem and router in the basement. I hope someone finds an economical version.
posted by chazlarson at 9:02 AM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

The gear is pretty stable, but even with a reboot needed/recommended every 6 months or so, with 30 locations to deal with, the chance that one of the units gets a little goofy every few months or so is high.

It's not that it frequently occurs, it's that it rarely happens but at times I'm not nearby. I could be an hour and a half away from some some of our locations, and it needs to be fixed immediately. 95% of the time a reboot will do it, and the other 5% is hardware failure or problems with our ISP at that particular moment.
posted by chambers at 9:03 AM on February 8, 2011

Maybe something like this,wired into the power cord

Yes. Excellent. That's the kind of big goddamn button I need. It looks like you need to pull to release it, so that might be the delay right there. If necessary, and if it can work with low voltage, I might be able to modify the power adapter and put the button in between the device and the wall wart plug.

Unless there is a pre-made version of something like this around out there, this may be the answer.
posted by chambers at 9:10 AM on February 8, 2011

I'd expect that they're pretty dear [everything is "Call for pricing!", so I'd kinda expect three figures], but there are loads of options on that site for switch configurations. I just picked that one because it was the whole assembly, illustrated.
posted by chazlarson at 9:15 AM on February 8, 2011

List price was $63, and I could probably find one for maybe half of that. Very good find sir.
posted by chambers at 9:20 AM on February 8, 2011

What about this? It doesn't have the built-in delay, but it's less than $10 and you can stomp on it.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:47 AM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's a cheaper alternative to the Furman products. $120, so it's not exactly *cheap,* but it's very customizable, and does exactly what you want it to.
posted by schmod at 10:20 AM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can get "big red buttons" like that fairly cheap on eBay. I was looking for one a few months ago to use in a gag gift for a coworker, to mount it on a wooden plaque (after he was involved in an accidental Big Red Switch pushing in the datacenter).
posted by mrbill at 10:31 AM on February 8, 2011

Why can't those devices be rebooted remotely?

Some ideas about that, here (including a remote power trick...).
posted by notyou at 3:20 PM on February 8, 2011

Why can't those devices be rebooted remotely?

They could if they were working properly, but then they wouldn't need to be rebooted. But the real key is being able to solve the problem first by having them immediately address the 'usual suspects' first, and give me time to attempt to remotely access the devices to reboot them and see what's the matter.

For example:

This morning I awake to a phone call from a frustrated manager. An event was booked and was supposed to start in a few minutes, and they could connect to the wifi for use in part of the demonstration, but not get an assigned IP address. The manager could not get wifi on his phone as well like he usually could, so I could guess that it was not just this person's laptop.

So I know two suspects off the bat - either the wifi or the firewall. The firewall assigns addresses to the network, so that was my prime suspect. The wifi doesn't assign addresses, but could just be confused, so I decided to restart both. (if they had addresses and a wifi signal, I could look at the DSL line, but I'd check that while they rebooted from my remote VPN connection to the corporate office. The wifi box is in a inconvenient location, so I get a lot of static about that, but it was the only reliable, safe place at the time to position it. The building is large, and the firewall is near the main offices on the other side of the building.

By the time he reboots the wifi, I've logged in from home and have connected up to the store's firewall. I can reboot it from the web interface, and all works well.

If I can get a switch like the one I described, all the manager would have to do is push one red button by the wifi, then walk down the hall press the red button by the firewall, and see if it comes back up. If it does, he's saved valuable time, and if it doesn't, I'm going into the situation knowing a lot more than I did this morning.

I started thinking about the button idea, and started searching. It would solve so many potential problems, and would keep the managers happier knowing they can just try one thing, and it will probably fix it, and would keep me happier knowing I don't have to worry about them unplugging or fiddling about with something they shouldn't.

Also, I'm on call all the time, and remote accessing my VPN through my phone is a pain and fairly slow, and depending on where I am, I may not get a signal. If these guys could just push a button, fix it, and maybe NOT have to call me, I would be a happy happy man.

I may try and order a few of these, and a few of the ones suggested here and see if I can replace the switch with something else, or try and remember my electronic circuit design skills I haven't used in years, and see if I can find a compatible time delay relay switch diagram for 110v.

I'm just surprised no one seems to have built one yet. Well, off to the patent world for me.
posted by chambers at 5:47 PM on February 8, 2011

Here's a cheaper alternative to the Furman products.

Not bad, it would work well for small rack setups in the manager's offices, to control the dsl or cable modem, firewall, and network switches. I'm going to give them a try as well.

It's not so good for the odd places I need to put the wifi units, as we try to make them as invisible as possible while still getting a good signal for the entire room/building and we place higher up on small shelves to keep them from getting messed with.
posted by chambers at 5:54 PM on February 8, 2011

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