Here’s a good thought problem. You’ve successfully set up and configured a home network with every sort of device you can imagine: wired desktop PCs, Wi-Fi laptop PCs, a game console, an all-in-one printer, a shared NAS drive, and a streaming TV link. However, at work your confidence vanishes when it’s time to connect LXI- or LAN-based instruments to the company network.
Maybe it’s because you’ve been conditioned to see your IT department as the Bad Guys (no offense IT readers—it happens). You can shift your perception by recalling how much you complained the last time your work network crashed. It’s a dirty job, but IT has to be hyperprotective, and it’s easiest to say no to anything that even remotely risks the integrity of the network.
So, how do you shore up your confidence and get your LAN/LXI instruments connected? The quickest path may be a choice between two simple pieces of networking hardware—a switch or a router.
If IT is adamant about keeping test instruments off the network, offer to put your system behind a router. This makes your instruments invisible to the rest of the network and IT. You’re creating a private network that you manage just like the one at home. You put your PC behind this router, then configure the router to open a gateway to that port—and only your PC appears on the company network. Everything looks the same to IT.
If your IT department is open to the presence of test equipment on the network, simply put it behind a switch. The switch isolates the instruments from torrents of company network traffic, keeping your test network operating at top speed while allowing the IT infrastructure to expose your instruments to the intranet. This is ideal when you want to share instruments among team members because they can easily find and directly access the test system.
Networking topologies are infinitely flexible so there are many other ways to confidently connect. There’s one key advantage to the simple router or switch approach: Most people will be up and running in no time. And you can become friends with your IT department.
If you connect via a switch, simply connect a LAN cable between any port on the switch and the IT-supplied port, such as in the wall, then to your computer, and each instrument to an open port on the switch. In the case of a router, you connect the WAN port to the IT-supplied port and everything else to the open ports. If all else fails, read “System Developer Guide Using LAN in Test Systems: Network Configuration,” an application note available at http://cp.literature.agilent.com/litweb/pdf/5989-1413EN.pdf.
If you need help choosing a switch or a router, once again start with IT, which may have a suggested or required choice. If you will choose your own, here are a few pieces of advice:
- Buy a quality brand. Switches and routers are relatively inexpensive devices. Don’t try to save a few dollars in this part of your system. The more expensive units will have better performance and more capabilities.
- Go for performance. Most switches today offer gigabit LAN, but many routers still have 100-Mb ports. If possible, go for higher performance equipment. Even if the instruments have 100-Mb ports, the gigabit support equipment generally runs faster.
- Buy enough ports. The difference in cost between a four- and eight-port switch is negligible. Save the aggravation and get the larger switch or router. If you can’t find a convenient eight-port router, buy a four-port router plus a switch.