In part 1, we looked at the hardware components of a basic network including modems, firewalls, routers, switches, and WAPS. Using these devices, we can create various kinds of network architectures with various kinds of uses, fail safes, and protections. The most basic set up (seen below) is what you will find most commonly in homes, studios, and small business where they haven’t had to expand or upgrade their network architecture just yet.
In the previous post we discussed the uses for multiple switches, such as granting access to additional Ethernet ports. But what would the purpose of an additional router be and why would you want to run multiple? Well, running secondary routers can provide a number of benefits – additional ports, extending wireless coverage, or even just a back up in case something goes wrong with the primary one. The first two of these three benefits are usually achieved in a “LAN to LAN” set up and is what most people use to cascade routers and extend their home or businesses Wi-Fi coverage.
The most important use case for “cascading routers” in a composing set up however, is using a second router to isolate devices and create a network in the studio separate from the rest of the network in the building be it your home, office, or other studios on the same primary network. This is usually achieved via a “LAN to WAN” set up. Isolating your multi-computer composing set up as its own network improves performance as it keeps other computers on the network from eating up bandwidth and maintains that just for the connected devices.
You may be aware of the following two ideas: 1) every device on the network has to have a unique IP Address and 2) the router (generally) is the one that assigns IP Addresses. What happens when you have multiple routers in a network? In a LAN to LAN, the second router can be thought of as an additional switch, and thus is plugged via the Ethernet port on both routers. You will have to manually adjust the IP Address of the secondary router, and since you only change the last octet (the number after the last decimal) it appears as a different device on the same network and the primary router will still be assigning IP addresses to the network.
In a LAN to WAN, you connect the WAN port of the secondary router to the Ethernet port of the primary. You manually change the IP Address of the secondary router, manipulating the second to last octet, which makes it appear as a separate network from your primary router, and this secondary router is what assigns IP addresses to the devices connected to it.
!! Regardless of which cascading system you use, you should use your best router as the primary one.
So for example, if the primary routers IP address is 126.96.36.199 then all of the devices on its network will be 188.8.131.52 through 184.108.40.206. In a LAN to LAN, the IP address of the secondary router might be 220.127.116.11, so it appears to be just another device on the main network. In a LAN to WAN, the IP address of the secondary router might be 18.104.22.168 and the connected devices may be 22.214.171.124 through 126.96.36.199. Think of that 2 as designating an entirely separate channel for this secondary network (aka a sub-net) to run on, and essentially that is what it is doing. There are a few more steps to setting up and configuring cascading routers than just connecting them in the required manner and changing the IP address but this is just the general idea to help get the point across.
!! It is also important to note that in an optimal multi-computer composing network, each of the computers are set with static IP Addresses. This provides a much more reliable connection, which is important for more server-based applications like Vienna Ensemble Pro. I will make a future post about how to do so on both Windows and Mac in the future. Also, be sure disable Wi-Fi on your composing machines as this will improve performance and force the traffic to go over ethernet.
You can cascade more than two routers, and have both options available. Outside of secondary routers, you can add additional switches, firewalls, and servers. There are more “advanced” networking gear and architectures (multi-tier network models with multi-layer switches etc), but that may be beyond the scope of a self-maintained music studio and you would usually hire somebody specifically for setting up and maintaining this. As with everything else, understanding how they work and how they are set up is the most important. From there, you can design it with multiple sub-nets, firewalls, and switches with enough routers to provide coverage for whatever your needs.