Someone had a question about their cable modem, and people immediately assumed that they were talking about a home network. As a consultant, I deal with lots of business networks that use business-class cable for their primary WAN & Internet connectivity. I know that a cable modem isn't going to be considered "enterprise-level" but at the same time, there are sizable small businesses that are using the technology. Should questions about this be disregarded altogether just because the same technology could be used in a home?

If you use the same technology in a business that you could use in a home, is it no longer considered "network engineering" just because the equipment doesn't cost thousands of dollars?

I know this community is still growing, but sometimes it feels like we are being unnecessarily exclusionary.


  • I cant understand why YLearn's answer was not accepted... the community decision both here and in other questions is that SOHO is off topic... Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 3:13

6 Answers 6


I don't consider the hardware to be a sticking point, but there is value in the context. The asker may be working with a linksys wireless router, but if they are able to frame the question in a conceptual context then I would consider it in bounds. This, of course, precludes the mention of such hardware platform. I am certainly far less inclined to read a question regarding a wrt54g, but I am certainly inclined to read a question regarding nat or static routing.


I would exclude home networks and strictly consumer devices (SOHO/business lines would be acceptable - but including CPE devices, which you often have no control over), and some small businesses. I would draw the line at "is it managed by an IT person." Whether this is full time or part time employee of the business or a consultant/contractor.

My reasoning being that if you don't have a "professional" working on it, it isn't an engineered network.

  • 3
    Plugging in networking devices with no knowledge of the technology or lacking a configuration in my mind constitutes this as something other than Network Engineering. Upvoted. Commented May 26, 2013 at 9:17
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    Just because there is a "professional" working on the network, doesn't mean it's a professional network. Plenty of idiots in the IT industry. I would draw the line at "does this question blend in with the others", or does this seem like a question that belongs on SuperUser.
    – Libbux
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 5:54
  • @TheLibbster, I agree in principle and you can find a bit of clarification on my stance if you check my first comment in ytti's answer. However, I generally expect better questions and to be able to answer at a higher level to a professional rather than a non-professional.
    – YLearn
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 5:59
  • @YLearn I did read that comment, and I agree - as long as it "sounds" like it came from a professional and is a good (non duplicate) question, then there's nothing wrong with it. As for 'SOHO' devices, I think we need to be more clear with the line between the SO and the HO in "SOHO". Small offices can still have very complex networks and entrprise class equipment which would be comparable to that of a datacentre. But we don't exactly want to be answering people's residential cable questions about why they can't send or receive emails.
    – Libbux
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 6:04
  • @TheLibbster, I can't resist - check my comment on the answer from rnxrx below. Combine that with I think SOHO should be covered when managed by a "professional", and I think I cover that concern with SOHO as well.
    – YLearn
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 6:07
  • @YLearn I saw that as well, and was just summarizing and reiterating my support for your remarks.
    – Libbux
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 6:08

I'd like to accept any SOHO question if it is clearly defined and answerable.

Who manages the network, what purpose is the network ran for and what equipment is being used in the network seem not to be good indicators about the quality of the questions you can ask about the network

I'm sure we've all had our share of queries from home users, with sufficient data provided that we've been able to tell them where problem is and what is causing it, such question I feel would be completely on-topic. 'why my comcast sometimes lags', otoh, not.

  • 1
    If you notice, I do include SOHO in my A. I also agree that there are amateurs who are just as knowledgeable as professionals and can ask a good question. As long as it "sounds" like it came from a professional, that should be enough (I don't ask that we start looking to verify professional status or anything), which I believe your A points towards. As far as consumer devices, they are simply often too buggy to be acceptable devices. I ran into one two years ago (brand new, just purchased) that was classful and wouldn't work on a classless network properly. We shouldn't support those.
    – YLearn
    Commented May 25, 2013 at 15:00
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    Someone might have to professionally support the cheapest, most horrible POS CPE that comes bundled in their product. You probably could have contributed some pretty kick-ass questions about that sub-par device you had.
    – ytti
    Commented May 25, 2013 at 15:04
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    Agreed, and I also (probably poorly phrased) included supporting CPE devices, since one doesn't have a choice. However, I wouldn't want someone who chose to buy the vendor XYZ $15 AP coming here to ask why it wasn't working properly.
    – YLearn
    Commented May 25, 2013 at 19:32

To be honest, I did not vote to close the question for the exact reasons you gave. There was no way to tell if the OP was using business-class cable (as they did not specify this), so I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, but on the chance that they were inquiring about non business-class services I wanted to make it clear that NESE is not the place for them to come and get free tech support for their home Internet connection.

However, the end answer even if they were using business-class cable is still the same.

I agree with YLearn's ultimate delineation - "is it managed by a an IT person?"


I would suggest that SOHO device questions can often fall into being too localized and that SOHO problems are already well addressed elsewhere, while there is a reasonably common set of devices in use in non-SOHO networks whose questions aren't well addressed elsewhere.

If a question is well-formulated, well-researched, falls within the usual boundaries (i.e. no product recommendations) and isn't specific to SOHO device xyz then it ought to stand on its own merits. As I said, though, there are just a tiny number of places that can genuinely entertain high level straight networking questions. I think the strictness on serverfault has led to a better overall site and would personally like to see the same over here.

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    Many people use SOHO to refer to consumer devices. They are two different classes of device. I think consumer devices should be out, and still like my differentiation that SOHO devices managed by a "professional" should be included.
    – YLearn
    Commented May 27, 2013 at 15:39

I can understand that people cant be expected to support SOHO users with configuration and support for the whole lot of CPE devices and routers. But I feel that educating SOHO users about the technology involved, or generic troubleshooting procedures wouldn't be a bad idea since most of the technology and processes are very similar to what you use in an enterprise segment.

People from all walks of life come to other Stackexchange websites looking for answers, I dont see why non-IT folk looking for answers should be shunned away at this site.

As long as the question has sufficient data, and isnt a duplicate of what is already discussed I think it is a good question

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    Think of this site like ServerFault, which is a professional targeted site. They redirect home/non-professional questions to SuperUser. I think there is plenty of room for interested non-professionals and that they can ask/answer good questions. Please read my answer above and my comments in ytti's answer for my stance (which makes room for SOHO or even non-professionals).
    – YLearn
    Commented May 27, 2013 at 2:13

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