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Last edited on April 2nd, 2012 by gnat   

Network Hardware


What networking hardware will I need to host a LAN party?


This is completely dependent on the number of attendees you will be hosting. Make sure you have the appropriate length and number of ethernet cables to connect your entire setup. On explicit request, you can probably get most attendees to bring an ethernet cable.

The following configurations will work with various sizes of LAN party:

2 to 10 Attendees.
A single hub, switch or router can suffice.

11 to 24 Attendees.
A 24 port switch or hub. A router running DHCP would be convenient, but static IP's can work fine for an event of this size.

25 to 40 Attendees.
Two 24 port switches with gigabit uplink to each other. A router or server running DHCP.

41 to 120 Attendees.
Many 24 or 48 port switches connected to a gigabit master switch. Ideally have a spool of ethernet cable and crimper on hand. High-capacity router or server running DHCP.

Over 120 Attendees.
Consult your local network tech. This will entail a configuration of high-capacity hardware and a whole lot of ethernet.


What's the difference between a hub, switch, and router?


Hub
Your basic networking equipment, more and more uncommon as they are being phased out by the switch. Information is broadcasted to all computers connected to it. With many computers this can cause a traffic saturation, which is why the switch was invented.

Switch
The switch is an intelligent hub. Instead of broadcasting traffic, it is only directed to computers which it belongs to. Generally the most common type of networking equipment (minus the ethernet cable) at a LAN party. Sometimes used in conjunction with 1 or more routers. Smaller LAN parties (under 50 people) can potentially use a single switch to fulfill all of their networking needs.

Router
Much like the switch, but can provide services such as automatic IP address assignment (DHCP), and NAT translation (for hooking up many computers to the internet at once using only 1 IP address). Generally there is one router at the base of a tree of switches. Can be used as a switch if advanced features like DHCP are disabled.


Finding network hardware.


If you cannot scrounge the hardware up from your friends, and your venue does not supply it, you'll need to purchase some network hardware. If you want to get your equipment cheap, look no further than eBay and Craigslist. Keep in mind the shipping time and cost. If you want warranties, and can pay a little more, go for retail.

A couple of 10/100 switches, with gigabit uplink, and an 8 port all gigabit switch is a very versatile combination. Just add more 10/100 switches as needed.

When it comes to Ethernet cables, retail can be expensive. A bulk spool and a crimper is time consuming. Ideally, look for a wholesaler in your city. You can find 25ft for around $2 if you know where to look. Hunt around!

Notes on switch performance. What is "non-blocking"? What is "full duplex"?
Make sure your switches can handle full speed on all ports simultaneously; this is referred to as "non-blocking". It's a good idea to also check the switch's bandwidth or switching capacity specification to make sure the numbers add up. Example: For a 24-port 10/100 Mbps switch at full duplex (100 Mbps in both directions), the switch bandwidth specification should be at least 4.8 Gbps. Make sure you add in bandwidth for dedicated uplink ports, which count just like normal ports.

The majority of 10/100 switches manufactured nowadays are non-blocking, but make sure you check for any gigabit gear you are considering. A 24 port gigabit switch should have 48 Gbps of total bandwidth. Anything less, and you're not getting "non-blocking" performance.


Static IP Addresses


If you're using a router, or server with a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) service installed, you can ignore this section. If you plan on having a LAN party with only static IP's, be sure to give your guests a piece of paper with their unique IP at the door. You'll need to set up their machines to use the static IP manually, on Windows you can set it up like this:

  1. Go to the control panel and look for "Network Connections". Open it.
  2. Right-click on the network adapter you are going to use and choose properties.
  3. Find and select Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), click the properties button.
  4. Change the radio-button from 'Obtain an IP address automatically' to 'Use the following IP address'.
  5. Enter the unique IP you want this computer to have. Example: 192.168.1.69
  6. Set the subnet mask to 255.255.255.0
  7. The Default Gateway and Preferred & Alternate DNS server fields can be left blank.
  8. Push OK twice.

To test out your configuration you can go to the command prompt and type "ipconfig" (without the quotes) to see your setup.

To test your connections with other computers, type "ping IPADDRESS" (without the quotes, and with the IP of the machine you which to test the connection to replacing IPADDRESS).


Next section: Promoting your LAN Party.