When Lightning Strikes The Network

My home network had a bad week last week. One of my 24 port hubs is dead (well, it powers up and passes POST, but not a single data LED lights up). The WAN port on my SonicWALL firewall is fried (fortunately I had an unused port and was able to change the configuration to get back online). My Roku box no longer works on wired Ethernet (although it does work on Wi-Fi). I lost one port on my PBX. A VGA over Cat5 extender lost all 4 of its ports. The integrated Ethernet port on one of my computers is dead. It could have been much worse. I have lots of connected equipment and the vast majority of it is fine (the pattern around what was fried and what not is intriguing to say the least). Still, as I said, a bad week.
The culprit? A massive lightning storm in the area. We never lost power, but apparently the lightning must have caused a significant surge and fried lots of equipment connected to the phone lines (several POTS voice lines and a U-verse data line). Interestingly, all of the damaged equipment still works, I just lost lots and lots of ports, almost all on my LAN, and one on a PBX daughterboard.
I have significant power surge protection. But, obviously, none for the phone and data lines that come into my house. And while I know that this was a freak occurrence, it’s still been frustrating and expensive enough that I’ve been looking into the options for protecting phone and data. And the information out there is rather ambiguous, ranging from inline solutions with mixed reviews, to comments about the impact on performance, and more.
So, I’d like your input. If you have any experience with this type of surge protection, please share – the good, the bad, and the ugly is all appreciated. Thanks!

5 responses to “When Lightning Strikes The Network”

  1. Dave Ferguson Avatar
    Dave Ferguson

    I think a Belkin PureAV unit might work. It stops all sorts of surges. A little pricey but worth it.

  2. Scott Pinkston Avatar
    Scott Pinkston

    We’ve had good with surgegate products – A less expensive option are the APC standalone protectors – but they won’t catch all of it. The nice thing about the surgegate modular options so you can stack/protect it all.

  3. Nuri Cevik Avatar
    Nuri Cevik

    Ben, looks like inefficient grounding (Earthing system) fried your equipment ports. You may need a good electrician to check your ground @ home, Usually proper grounding is made by digging a hole on the ground and adding copper plates and using it as grounding. Most of the time they use neutral for grounding which is a huge mistake.

  4. Cornel Avatar

    Same thing happened to me last year, a few miles south of your location, only that the culprit was Detroit Edison during a storm pushing thru 200V rather than 120 for about 14-15 minutes, I actually stuck a multimeter in the outlet… fried a power supply on a pc, the main tv set and over 12 power strips including $30-40 ones one of which caught fire 🙂 lost 2 ports on my router. Overall the damage was only $500-600, but a lot of anguish and scared kids.

  5. Mark Conger Avatar
    Mark Conger

    I agree with Nuri Cevik. Proper grounding can limit or eliminate damage from lightning and surges. Also, if you don’t have a patch panel for your network and phone cabling, now might be a good time to implement one. This is sometimes called a Main Distribution Frame (MDF) in corporate server rooms. An MDF should have a good ground. As well, each incoming connection from the telco should pass through a grounding connector of its own. Lastly, don’t be surprised if additional failures occur on the equipment that had port failures. Sometimes electrical surges can push a circuit just shy of failure, and future usage finishes the job. If it were my place and home owner’s insurance covered it, I would replace anything that had a port failure. Hubs, switches, sonicwall, all of it.

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