Building a killer home network and lab

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IT professional, Spiceworks forum authority, and Recovery Zone author Scott Alan Miller recently wrote an excellent article on how to build a killer home network. I really loved the idea behind the piece. According to him, your home network is something that can help build your professional portfolio, while also acting as a lab that lets you test things and mess around in ways that might get you tossed out if you tried them at your business. A home network grants you room to play around and really exercise your creative brain on a project that’s both satisfying and useful. Scott puts it this way:

A great home network is more than just an amazing learning experience, it makes for a perfect interview conversation starter, it is a portfolio piece demonstrating skills in cradle to grave LAN design and management, it shows dedication and initiative to the field and it sets a bar to be used when speaking to businesses.

Here are a few of Scott’s key considerations for building an awesome home network:

Plan for growth

As with a business, the best thing you can do is plan for progression, but budgetary constraints might prevent you from planning for massive growth. At home, you can get away with a lot more and you can really go big. Take cabling for example.  Scott suggests trying to make sure you’ve got more than enough cables for everything in your home network. It may seem like overkill, but Scott mentions that his home network has at least four cables going to each bedroom and six to eight cables for the master bedroom and living areas. By the time you add up the demands of devices like a Blu-ray player, a few gaming consoles, and a smart TV, six or eight cables might not seem as crazy as you think. Plus, who knows what new devices you’ll want networked next? It’s easier to plan for growth than to continually update as needed.

Take it to the extreme

Scott is dead-serious when he says you should take things to the extreme. He suggests virtualizing servers, ensuring that you have a domain controller, a home web server—even a guest website (yes, a site your visitors can look at when they login to your network as guests. How cool is that?). His ideal home network consists of things that make management and control easy (hence the domain controller) as well as things that make the user experience unique and fun, while also giving certain users full access (family members) and other users less access (guests). Remember, this is an ideal network—something any business would want. Using guests and family members in your experiment is not only fun for them, it’s useful for you because it will help you learn more about how people might interact with different network setups. This is useful knowledge you can apply professionally.

Don’t forget the backups

Home users are notorious procrastinators when it comes to system backups, but as with the rest of your home network/lab, this is your chance to go big and experiment. Backup all critical equipment, and be sure you can recover if something goes wrong. Remember, too, that a really solid backup plan will include local and offsite backups, so consider how the cloud fits in with your home network backup strategy—there’s no reason to skimp on backup and recovery when you’ve already gone all-in on everything else.

Build your dream

As we noted, a home network can be your dream network. Sure, there are budget considerations (virtualization can counteract some of them), but unlike a business, there aren’t many other constraints, and your biggest barrier is really your own imagination. Plus, the killer home network you build can show future employers a lot about your tenacity and ability to create something great. Even if it’s on a smaller scale, it still speaks volumes about what you’re capable of and also proves that you don’t just work in IT, you live in IT.

 

Casey Morgan is the marketing content specialist at StorageCraft. U of U graduate and lover of words, his experience lies in construction and writing, but his approach to both is the same: start with a firm foundation, build a quality structure, and then throw in some style. If he’s not arguing about comma usage or reading, you'll likely find him and his Labrador hiking, biking, or playing outdoors -- he's even known to strum a few chords by the campfire. Casey.Morgan@storagecraft.com

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