Out of sight, out of mind
May 8, 2006 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Recommendations for networking equipment in a Mac household? NAT, NAS, print server, and wifi

I have 3 macs and one laser printer in the house. I'd like to put the printer in a closet (which is wired), along with a networked hard drive (to be used chiefly for backups and storing media files) and the rest of my networking hardware.

I've already got a basic wired/wireless router (netgear wgr614) that works fine, but I'd be willing to replace it in the interest of spending money in one place to save it somewhere else, or just cut down on my total box count (not a lot of room in the closet). At some point I will probably need a switch downstream from the router , which only has 4 ports—eventually I'd like some kind of box in the living room to play back media files (possibly another Mac, but if I can get away with a UPnP player, that's OK too). It seems that various boxes offer some combination of the features I want, but it's not clear what the most efficient, effective, and inexpensive combination would be.

The house is wired with Cat 5e. Not sure if that will let me take any advantage of gigabit Ethernet.

I'm not too intimidated by the prospect of hacking on something to add features if it's really worth it (I know that a lot of these gadgets have hacking communities), but I'd really rather just plug it in and go.

I'd appreciate recommendations for hardware combinations, and warnings about any serious pitfalls to avoid (I already know to avoid the Netgear SAN box).
posted by adamrice to Computers & Internet (3 answers total)
I have an anti-recommendation: Stay away from Overstock's networking equipment. My D-Link router and a Netgear PCMCIA Ethernet card both only work intermittently.

Cat 5e should be fine for gigE if it's proper cat5e and not a hand-crimped patch cable wonderland.

I've had a good experience with the (pricey) Infrant ReadyNAS box I just invested in/splurged on. It takes up to 4 SATA drives and can expand a volume onto more/bigger disks (ie its got 2 320Gs now, in RAID 1 so I see 320 gigs free. If I add another 320, it'll switch to RAID 5 and I'll see 640 gigs free.). It'll do the print server trick too as long as the printer is USB. Its not cheap though, ~$500 empty plus disks, but the Just Work factor was worth it and you only need to lose a disk once to swear off single-point-of-failure storage products forever.
posted by Skorgu at 9:12 AM on May 8, 2006

To clarify, both the ethernet card and router were from The Big O and both are worthless. I'm reasonably sure its the source not the brand that causes the suckiness; other equipment from the same vendors works chez moi as well as in friends' networks.

Also, stay away from pre-N wifi gear. Stick to standards that are actually, you know, standards.
posted by Skorgu at 9:15 AM on May 8, 2006

I have a similar setup to yours minus the NAS- 2 Macs, a Windows laptop, and laser printer connected to a WGR 614. There is also a cable modem to my ISP. One of the Macs has built in airport and the laptop also connects wirelessly; if I read your question right you want to free up router ports for additional hardware (among other things); why not connect the 3 Macs wirelessly? I look forward to seeing what people say about NAS, because I have been thinking about something like that for backup and similar uses as well. Do you have the latest firmware for the router? That may add some of the functionality you need as well.
posted by TedW at 10:50 AM on May 8, 2006

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