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Maintaining Your Shop's 'Circulatory System'

20 quick fixes to keep your network flowing smoothly.

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By Stephen Beals

Digital systems rely heavily on networks. If the computers that run everything make up the brains of today’s printing systems, networks are the veins and arteries that pump the lifeblood of data through the system. The brains couldn’t function without them. But like the human circulatory system, networks can become clogged or beat irregularly, and when that happens, the entire system can become endangered and even fail.

For the most part, network problems simply slow everything down. Staying with my human-body analogy, it’s quite possible to have systems that are clogged and slowing things down without even noticing any symptoms-the slowdown takes place gradually over time, and it is barely noticed until things have become so bogged down the whole system seems sluggish.

For human systems, diet and exercise are the best prescriptions for keeping the circulatory system at prime operating efficiency. For computer systems, it is a matter of searching out and fixing a number of possible causes.

What follows is list of 20 quick fixes to keep your network flowing smoothly. For organizational purposes, I’ve placed each into these categories: "protocols and settings," "browsers, FTP, and e-mail," and "hardware."

Protocols and settings
Load balancing: The idea here is to determine who is using the system resources and how. How much data is actually flowing through your network servers at any one time? If there is high demand, data can be rerouted through a different server or partition to free things up. Also, is the server being accessed remotely? If so, adding a server in the actual building where the data is needed can relieve congestion. It doesn’t need to be an expensive piece of equipment to have dramatic results if the traffic loads are out of balance.

Turn off IPX: This is known as a very "chatty" protocol, and turning it off improves overall throughput. Also turn off NetBEUI, assuming you are using TCP/IP. If for some reason you need these legacy protocols, you will not be able to do this.

Routing protocols: You are probably already using some routing protocols rather than inefficient static protocols.

Increase default values: For send and receive buffer space, increase to at least 64k on all clients and servers.