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Local Area Network
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LAN Speed Test v3.4 by TotuSoft Simple Software Solutions
LAN Speed Test
One of the things you must consider when you start examining QuickBooks Performance in a multi-user environment is your equipment. Equipment can be divided into two basic components, your hardware and your infrastructure. In today’s article we will look at the infrastructure, commonly know as your ‘local area network’.
If you want quality performance out of QuickBooks on a local area network, you need to be running a true 1000 mbps network. Needless to say, QuickBooks should never be run over a wireless network, and Intuit specifies that wireless networks do not conform to the minimum standards for the product, nor do they support QuickBooks running on a wireless network.
But notice that I just mentioned that QuickBooks should be run on a ‘true’ 1000 mbps network. I am not certain how many times I have arrived at a client who professes to be using a 1000 mbps (Gigabyte) network only to find that it is performing at speeds well below 1000 mbps; in some cases less than 100 mbps. You give the client a speed measurement for their network, and they look at you puzzled as if to say ‘how is that possible, I purchased a new 1000 mbps switch a few months ago?’ There is a lot more to a 1000 mbps network than just a 1000 mbps switch, and even 1000 mbps network cards in your computers.
Of course determining if your computer has a 1000 mbps LAN Connection is critical to the establishment of the network. To check your network connections, type ncpa.cpl in the search box of your Windows OS (no matter which Windows OS you are using). The Network Connections window should pop-up. Now right click the network connection listed, and then left-click on Properties. Select Configure and then open the Advanced tab so you can locate the property specified as Connection Speed or Connection Type. If you left click on that property, the Value field should show up. You need to insure that 1000 mbps (or 1.0 gbps) Full Duplex, shows up.
While most network cards are set to Auto-negotiation, intended to properly pair your connection with other devices on the network, this is the place where we want to discuss LAN Duplex mismatching. A link is degraded when a device (like your workstation) and its link partner (like your server) and switch, are configured so that the duplex settings do not match. In other words, your computer network card is set to half duplex and the server is set to full duplex. In such a case applications, like QuickBooks, may frequently timeout and retransmit data continually, causing a very slow connection regardless of the configured speed. This is why it is essential to check all of your network connections. Many “Network specialists” recommend that Auto-negotiation be turned off when the network is assured of the Gigabyte status of all components, and manually configure all devices on the network to use the same speed (1000 mbps) and full-duplex settings.
Now let’s look at that 1000 mbps Switch. While managed switches give you more control over your LAN traffic, they can potentially degrade performance by unnecessary routing in some cases. So called ‘Smart switches’, that include rate limiting and traffic monitoring, can also reduce performance ever so slightly, but over the long haul that degradation may outweigh their benefits. In buying a Switch, do not go for the ‘bottom dollar’ box-store offerings, these low-end switches tend to have diminished cycle life issues, and may gradually over time become bottlenecks in your network; they are more prone to port failures as well as overall failures, than better quality equipment. Routers follow the same principles as switches, whether they are router/switch combinations or solely your router; the same high quality standards should be applied to routers as switches.
So what about your copper, your wiring that is; since almost no LAN’s other than the most sophisticated will be using fiber? While Category 5e cables will support 1000 mbps LAN speeds, they are not optimized for them. Category 6 cable is now considered the standard for 1000 mbps Ethernet networks, especially over long runs. Category 6 cable is made up of four tightly twisted pairs of 24 gauge wire separated from each other by a spinal divider within the outer jacket, this design decreases cross talk distortion and provides increased bandwidth and performance over Category 5e cables. As with Category 5e cables, the maximum allowed length for Category 6 cable is 328 feet (100 meters). Any cable run exceeding the maximum allowed should make use of an extender/repeater/booster in order to maintain performance. Many network installers refrain from using Category 6 cable because it is more difficult to run, more difficult to terminate properly, and of course is more expensive. But testing shows improved performance for Category 6 cables even when all other parameters remain the same.
Unnecessary connections are prime bottlenecks. I don’t know about you, but I have seen multiple installations where a user’s desk was relocated about 3 feet, and rather than buy a new cable to go between wall plug and computer, they purchased a ‘through-connector’ and a 4-foot patch cable. That unnecessary and unshielded connection can almost always be attributed to some degree of performance degradation.
Well we have pretty well covered the components that should make up your infrastructure with one exception, power protection. It is essential that your network components such as switches and routers be power protected, in the same way that any computer running QuickBooks should be protected by an Uninterruptable Power Supply.
Now that we have our network in place, how can we be certain that it is performing up to par? There are a variety of tests you can run, and utilities on the market, but as far as I am concerned LAN Speed Test v3.4 by TotuSoft Simple Software Solutions1 is the easiest way to test your true network speed. If you have a Windows machine and a target network share, you can run this powerful tool (see figure 2 above). LAN Speed Test does this by building a file in memory, then transferring it without effects of windows file caching, all the while keeping track of the time required, from which it computes the network speed. (A version is available for MAC OS X users). If you are using a server, you should also use their LST Server v.1.3 product which allows a test between client workstations and the server without hard drive limitations, producing a more accurate reflection of LAN performance. If you don’t want to shell out the cash for their professional products, TotuSoft still maybe your answer, offering a Free Utility called LAN Speed Test Lite, which will also measure file transfer speed across your Local Area Network. Testing takes only about a minute or so.
Proper performance testing can determine bottlenecks such as an improperly configured LAN card, a bad or partially broken network cable, a failing switch port, or router going bad. All of these can significantly impact your QuickBooks operating performance.
In future installments of this series, we will look at additional factors and solutions for resolving performance bottlenecks, and improving QuickBooks performance.
1- LAN Speed Test v3.4 is a product of TotuSoft Simple Software Solutions