I have worked for 3 different Internet Service Providers in my boring personal life. At all 3 companies I worked at, it was basically the same: Internet came in one tube and we split that off into a bunch of smaller and smaller tubes, until it got to someone’s house. I could tell you horror stories about customers all day long, but on the advice and consent of counsel, I will keep my mouth shut. I was advised that any breach of my nondisclosure agreement would lead to me losing my right thumb and I need that open jars of <insert name of trademarked chocolate hazelnut spread>.
pfSense & a Bunch of Cisco to the Rescue
Working for different ISPs, I got to see one side of the Internet that most people do not. Helping with networking at Laclede’s LAN is pretty much the same thing, but on a smaller scale. At the LANs, we get our Internet from SLU and in turn plug that connection into a pfSense router. Our router is most likely a bigger, more powerful version of your router at home (unless of course, you are using a prosumer or better router). We have 2 routers running side by side with an identical configuration on both. If the primary fails, the secondary can take over quickly without us having to troubleshoot for an hour or run to Micro Center for a whatever.
Usually the week of the LAN, I run down to SLU to do a bunch of testing on our connection to make sure things look like they should, and we do not have any hiccups. Over the years, we have had 2 instances where we lost Internet: a fibre cable cut and a power outage taking down a part of campus. Otherwise, our connection has been pretty good over the years while we have been in the Wool Ballroom. From our routers, we run 10 Gig fibre to two core switches and from there, 2 fibre runs to each table switch that is in the middle of each row of tables. Everything has redundant power supplies that plugs into different breakers. You will notice, that again, everything is doubled up. This is to make sure that in case someone accidentally blows a breaker or accidentally unplugs the wrong cable, everything stays up.
Monitor Like Your Life Depended on It
One final thing we do with our network, is graph everything. We can look at the incoming and outgoing traffic totals and see if a person having speed issues is having speed issues due to something on their end or if it is the router that is clogged. If it is the router, unfortunately there is not a whole lot that we can do. If it is LanCache (I will talk about LanCache and how we cache content in a different post), then there is a much bigger problem. We can also look at how much traffic was saved from going out of the Internet by going through caching or to someone else’s computer in the case of local peer to peer updates, such as Windows’ updates.
Wrapping Up Like You Forgot It Was Your Mother’s Birthday Party in 20 Minutes
Putting this all together, you get the high-level overview of the network at our LANs and start to see that we are kind of like your home. You get Internet from your ISP (SLU for us), plug it into your home router (pfSense for us), and then connect a switch (Cisco for us) to your router when you have run out of ports and need to hook up your computer, Xbox, or a printer.