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NBN compatible router?

[Note the information below is relevant to Fibre to the building only, this article is due for a rewrite]

Seeing as neither myself or a single one of my customers has access to that mythical telecommunications product the Australian NBN I haven’t bothered about this in the past. However I was specifically asked a modem/router future compatibility question a couple of days ago and I did some brief investigation and came back with this information, I have highlighted the main thrust of the info below:

Bit.com.au says this:

http://www.bit.com.au/News/346918,what-does-nbnfibre-ready-really-mean.aspxhttp://www.bit.com.au/News/346918,what-does-nbnfibre-ready-really-mean.aspx
An “NBN/fibre-ready” router means that the model [has] a Gigabit Ethernet WAN port, which allows for fibre or cable connections.

PC Authority says this:

http://www.pcauthority.com.au/News/291953,the-nbn-what-router-will-you-need.aspx
In an NBN equipped household the NTU effectively takes the place of the modem that you would currently use for ADSL or cable internet. This means the death of the commonplace modem/router hardware – moving forward you'll just need a router to spread internet around the home. At a base level this means that ‘NBN ready' modem routers have the capacity to disable the ADSL modem and take an internet signal directly.

The potential issue with such devices is that the hardware is designed around low ADSL speeds and may not actually cope with the demands of the highest end 100Mbit down / 40Mbit up NBN speeds. If you aren't going with this high end plan then router performance is less of an issue, but it is best to think of an ‘NBN Ready' ADSL modem/router as a transitional technology at best.

TPG have a good diagram here:
http://www.tpg.com.au/images/NBN-Equipment-Quick-Ref.jpg

I also found this useful FAQ on the NBN:
http://www.warcom.com.au/blog/wireless-router/nbn-in-australia-and-nbn-ready-routers/

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StableBit DrivePool disk software

A more technical article than normal... I have some new software StableBit DrivePool, sort of like RAID (redundant array of independent drives) sort of like JBOD (just a bunch of disks) but without the negatives. Allows you to add multiple drives to the drive pool and then access them as a single drive, D: drive for example. If you have a hard drive fail then you only loose the data on that drive the same way as if you had half a dozen independent drives in the system, but without the drive letter craziness and the inefficiently of that fragmented file space, if you have ever had a RAID system or RAID controller/motherboard fail you will know what I mean.

Also has the following features:

  • Can add drives with data on them already without losing or having to move the data
  • If a single drive gets pulled and inserted into another PC (for example if the PC has a failed motherboard) the files are just in a normal (hidden) NTFS folder.
  • Optional Balancing (optional rules)
  • Optional Protection (duplicate the data but less overall storage space)
  • Easy to add or remove additional drives

Have been testing this on my media centre and its working well I found and extra 100GB that was lost due to inefficiency.

https://stablebit.com/

StablebitDrivePool

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All my business users want to install [insert software name here]

"All my business users want to install [insert name here] software should I just let them do that."

Firstly you are probably only getting this question because the users can't actually do the install otherwise they would have already done it (most likely). Normal users should not be administrators on their business PC's so that they can't just install whoever software they want and effect the integrity of their nice clean windows install and windows profiles.

Adding to the base windows system setup adds more software to maintain and one more possibility for system compromise or data leakage. For example is a user wants to install dropbox think through the implications of this?

If sensitive business files are going up on drop box is that OK company policy wise?

  • Who are they being shared with?
  • What if that person leaves or is terminated?
  • Is it OK legislatively to store these files offshore (based on Australian privacy law).

There is also the productivity aspect as well obviously software not required for business usage isn't typically installed on a business PC.

Now I know this can get a bit sensitive staff wise especially if you have demoted people from what they were used to and it possibly sounds over the top but I need to give you an idea about "best-practice".

My opinion is that "best practice" dictates a process whereby the user puts forward the "use-case" for whatever software they would like beyond the standard setup to their manager and then if approved at that level it its run that by IT support and finally someone either installs the software (depending on the software) or just enters the administrator password for that user to allow them access for a one time install, sounds like a big deal but should only take 5 or 10 mins to approve a well-known bit of software if it's a good fit.

Alternatively if you really need to you could just give a certain user (and an accounts person is a good example of someone who needs specialised software see my other blog about MYOB) varying degrees of administrative permissions on their computer so that they can do what they need to.

However you need to consider the implications of that, for example even though the manager/director/CEO has the highest level of authority in the organisation and has the administrator passwords anyway they should still not be an administrator on their own PC for safety reasons (malicious software, virus, social engineering etc.).

I know its a lot to think about but its a "plan now or pay later" thing.

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"Server based mail"

Why do you recommend "server mail" what's the benefit?:

Microsoft Exchange (also included in the Office 365 subscription product) is a "Server based mail product" all the mail is maintained and stored on the server.

When using server based mail you start up Outlook, it makes connection to the servers and then synchronizes mail, calendar events, contacts and tasks both ways up and down (from and to your PC):

  1. Changes (new email, moved mail, created folders mark as read etc.) that you may have made in Outlook when you were offline (such as on a laptop or if the server was down) will be sent back up to the server
  2. Changes (new email, moved mail, created folders mark as read etc.) that we made on another computer or via web mail or a smartphone will be synchronized from the server down to your Outlook.

Additionally, Exchange server provides the same premium experience on mobile devices and tables such as Windows Phone and tablets, Android, and IOS.

The huge advantage to this is that all your computers/devices are kept in sync and changes made in one place (such as read and delete actions) will be mirrored to all your devices/access methods.

Isn't this the same as the free IMAP service I can get from my ISP?

If you have experienced IMAP you will have some understanding of how this works but IMAP is extremely limited by comparison. There are a number of other features such as shared folders calendar collaboration, remote wipe for your phone (for lost phones) available in exchange but that's enough information for now.

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Network/infrastructure monitoring

I have had a couple of people asked me lately about network/infrastructure monitoring. So I thought I would share with you a product which I use to monitor a couple of sites including my own internal infrastructure.

Without going into too much detail (and in order to get to the pretty pictures as quickly as possible) the concept behind network monitoring is to add certain sensors to constantly check for issues with servers, printers, routers, wireless access points etc. Conditions and levels are set for warning or full alerts depending on the device or service in question and notifications are sent to relevant staff if these conditions are triggered.

Without monitoring there is often no indication that things are going bad and the first thing that I hear is when all the users are locked out of the server. With monitoring I can see trends or emerging issues and restart a server or otherwise take some other action after hours or at a convenient time and thereby avoid a crisis. This type of product is not a magic bullet but it's a good tool to have and its saved me a couple of times.

Image 1 (below) is a listing of all the monitored objects on the network, note the memory warning on one of the servers:

PRTG1

Image 2 (below) shows the detail for that memory issue, note the yellow "warning' level and the red "alert" level on the graph.

 

PRTG2

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Digitalwelcomemat provides IT consultancy and services for business customers on the NSW Central Coast in Australia.

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