Moving a whole network (bit by bit)

It worked! I managed to move our whole office network within the day.

Move where you ask? from one IP range to another IP range. OK, that’s only a software thing so I didn’t use a single screwdriver, but the significance of a move is quite huge from my perspective.
Computers on a network each have an IP address, so that they all know where each other are. There are a whole bundle of addresses that can be used in private networks and originally i set our network up on the 192.168.1.??? range (where ??? was the number for each computer). Unfortunately I discovered that this is now a range commonly used for free wireless network access at hotels. If i was using that range in a hotel I wouldn’t be able to VPN (virtual private network – a way of connecting to my office over the internet securely from anywhere else on the internet) into my office as the two ranges were identical.

The solution? Move the office network into a new range 10.x.x.??? – where the x’s are two numbers i chose at random and would remember, and the ??? the number of each machine.

The how?
To begin with, all of our machines had an IP address that i set by hand when I first install them. To save having to do this on every machine in the future I decided to use DHCP (Dynamic Host Control Protocol if i remember correctly) which is common and often on routers (3 of our routers can be DHCP controllers, but you only need one on a network). I set this up to give out addresses in the old network space and went round every computer, printer and server to make it get it’s IP address from the DHCP server. That took a couple of hours but at the end I could see that the router knew about every machine on our network.
Then, I changed the router to give out addresses in the new network and restarted every computer, printer and server. Checking the router again I could see that all the machines were known about on the new network.

Now the boring bit, I never gave our printers fully qualified host/domain names. If I had chosen to call them things like “laser.rkbb.co.uk” (i tend to use that domain for things inside the office because it is short) then all the PC’s would have been able to print to them at their new address. As I hadn’t done that, I had to go to every machine and manually change the printer settings to point at their new address. From this point on I might start giving every machine on our network a fully qualified domain name.

The bottom line: I moved the whole network in a day, and it worked. I do like it when computers work the way I expect them too 🙂

Computeried Diary for the whole office

I thought I’d make a note here about a great bit of software we wouldn’t like to be without. It’s called share360 and it’s a server based diary that everyone in the office can use. Actually it’s a bit more than a diary, it’s a “groupware” program which can handle email, form processing (like holiday forms, or any other business form you have that one person writes and another has to approve), project management, and several other things that help people work together in an office. We only use it as a diary system though.

The clever thing is that it runs on a web server (read web server as any old computer set up to server web pages – an old Pentium 2 within the office network would be fine) so that there is no software to install on each PC. The interface allows any user to add/amend/edit any other users diary (assuming they have the correct permissions). It’s one of the few programs I could find that allowed such simple group diary editing (Outlook only works for a single user unless you get expensive things like MS Exchange Server). We couldn’t live without this as any one of us in the office can book an appointment for anyone else.

We’ve had it for a couple of years and it has worked flawlessly in all that time. Better still, the makers are improving it all the time and minor feature updates and improvements are free. We paid a one-off licence fee some years ago for up to 10 active users, but it can handle hundreds on suitable hardware.

Guitar woes

My old guitar teach (who was very very good) has moved to another county. I must find a new one and resume my lessons. More on that another time (that’s why this is in posts waiting to happen!)