One of the ways to organize your network so that it is easier to manage and protect is to segment it into smaller, interconnected subnets. Using a virtual LAN, or VLAN, you can easily and conveniently set up separate subnets, and connect ports from various switches, or even separate buildings, so that they are a part of the same broadcast domain. You can learn more about the virtues of VLAN’s, as well as how to go about configuring them, by watching the Configuring VLAN’s screencast by David Davis on SearchNetworking.com
It can be very useful to have a network map. A graphic depiction of the layout, devices, and interconnections of the network can help with planning and troubleshooting, as well as asset or inventory control. Microsoft included an automatic network mapping feature in Windows Vista that uses the Link Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD) protocol to detect and visually illustrate a map of the network. They felt that domain administrators may not want every user to have the ability to map the whole network, so in systems connected to a domain the feature is disabled by default and must be enabled via Group Policy. One BIG caveat- there are no Group Policy settings to control this feature in Windows Server 2003. They will be in Windows Server 2008, but that doesn’t help you today. Check out Enabling Windows Vista’s Network Mapping feature on domain networks at SearchNetworking to learn how you can turn this feature on in a domain system.
Microsoft is taking off the gloves to do battle with Google. They are going head to head on Internet search, Internet advertising, and web browser toolbars. It is hard to imagine Microsoft playing the role of underdog, but in these areas Microsoft is stepping out of their dominant arena and facing Google on Google’s home turf so to speak. Microsoft has unveiled adCenter, their answer to Google AdSense. Like AdSense, adCenter lets companies or individuals market their products and services via the web based on targeted keywords. As an incentive, Microsoft is letting users start adCenter accounts for as little as $5 and they are throwing in an additional free $50 worth of advertising. Sign Up for a Microsoft adCenter Account, and get your message out to a potential 97 million customers. With the browser toolbar, Microsoft has updated the Windows Live Toolbar to version 3.0 and they have added some cool new features. Users can initiate a search from anywhere on the web page, or highlight information on a web page to get more details. You can preview maps, weather, or stock data from the Windows Live Toolbar, and add custom buttons for quick and easy access to the features and information you use most. In addition to the pop-up blocker features found in most browser toolbars, Microsoft also provides extra security to help protect your web surfing from phishing scams or malware attacks. Click here to download Windows Live Toolbar for free.
MPLS seemed to be one of the big network buzz words of 2007, overshadowed only by VoIP. It seems like everyone is racing to implement MPLS networks. What is the big deal? What does MPLS even stand for? Well- I can answer that last one: MultiProtocol Label Switching. In a nutshell, MPLS is faster and easier to manage than traditional networking protocols or architectures. MPLS provides a cost-effective and flexible solution that is better suited for high-bandwidth usage such as voice and video. You might connect the dots and ascertain that the popularity of VoIP and video technologies is a primary driver behind the push for MPLS. TechTarget’s SearchNetworking site has a great introduction to MPLS. Their MPLS guide covers MPLS basics, Understanding MPLS network components, MPLS architectures, MPLS and quality of service (QoS), and Using MPLS with VoIP. To become better acquainted with this hot technology, I suggest you take a look at the MPLS Technology Overview.
If you are a road-warrior and do most, if not all, of your computing from anywhere but your desk in your office, you need to know how to stay connected. Whether you are in a hotel, driving down the interstate, waiting for a flight at an airport, or stopping off for a cup of coffee, you want to be able to access your email, the Web, and other Internet-based resources. There are some emerging and cutting edge technologies that are not quite ready for primetime, but, according to network expert Lisa Phifer, you basically have to choose between 3G and WiFi. Take a look at this overview for more advice from Lisa about the pros and cons, and the factors you should consider in choosing which wireless platform works best for you.
The number of VoIP vulnerabilities seems to grow each week as researchers continue to poke holes in this hot new technology. Thus far though, there really haven’t been any attacks, or even exploits developed for the vulnerabilities. That may be in part due to the fact that each VoIP vendor seems to have their own proprietary protocols, and attackers like to focus on common protocols so they can leverage their skills against more than one vendor. Some have speculated that 2008 will be the year that VoIP will be slammed by some major attack. I tend to feel more that there will be attacks, but not necessarily the kind that will bring a corporation to its knees. Still, the vulnerabilities that have been discovered can have a significant impact if exploited and may affect regulatory compliance if left unchecked. Take a look at this article from Computerworld.com for some more insight and predictions regarding the security of VoIP.
Consumers typically play 2nd Fiddle to the Enterprise customers when it comes to IT strategy and development. Microsoft used to have separate operating system platforms for enterprise and consumer desktops with Windows NT Workstation and Windows 98, but that has evolved into one operating system platform, with variations to fit the enterprise and consumer desktop markets. Toward that end though, Microsoft seems to still build for the Enterprise, then strip out some features and functionality and repackage it for the Consumers. The Windows Vista operating system was released to business customers prior to its general release to the public. This same behavior has played out on the network side with companies like Cisco focusing research and development on the Enterprise, and letting new technology more or less trickle down to the Consumer market. End users are becoming more technically advanced and they are demanding more advanced tools and technology though. Companies like Cisco have to examine this trend and refocus their development strategy to ensure they don’t get left behind as the market shifts. Take a look at this article from SearchNetworking.com to learn more.
If you have to connect multiple sites that are not physically in the same building or campus, it can be a little tricky establishing the kind of connectivity and throughput you need for remote sites to work effectively with the primary servers across the WAN connection. Dividing the file size by the projected network bandwidth can give you a theoretical data transfer speed, but factors such as packet loss or the protocol used can add significantly to that time. Take a look at networking expert David Hughes answer to How do I calculate the time taken for a file to be transferred over a WAN link? to learn more about the factors that may impact your rate of data transfer and some tips to help you optimize your WAN connection.
You are probably familiar with the fact that IPv4 is more or less the standard that the Internet and networks of the world rely on. IPv6 is the emerging standard developed to expand the available pool of addresses as well as addressing a variety of performance and security issues in IPv4. So, why did we never hear of any IPv5 equipment? Do they just count by 2′s when they are creating IP standards? Apparently not. Network expert Silvia Hagen addresses the issue of the missing IP standard in answering the question “Why wasn’t there an IPv5?”
I know I am a broken record, or kicking a dead horse, or some other analogy about stating the same obvious thing over and over, but as the world adopts VoIP for voice communications they need to be aware of the security risks and take the appropriate steps to protect their communications and their networks. Sipera Systems has published a list of the Top 5 VoIP Vulnerabilities. If you have implemented, or plan to implement a VoIP solution, be aware that eavesdropping, VoIP hopping, vishing, toll fraud, and the Skype worm are all issues you should be concerned with. Take a look at Sipera’s Top 5 VoIP Vulnerabilities in 2007 list for more details.