Essential Steps to Network Architecture

Essential Steps to Network Architecture

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in Infrastructure Management, IT News

Everyone has seen security checkpoints at the airport. They ensure that only those people who belong at the gate can reach them, and also that there are no bad actors on airplanes. But why are there so many gates? Luckily, they’re labelled in a sequential and logical fashion. So at the airport, multiple security checkpoints keep things safe, locked doors ensure I can’t enter areas I don’t belong, and accurate labelling helps direct everyone to where they need to be, safely.

Network segmentation works similar to security checkpoints and gates on network traffic.

So what is network segmentation?

In very short terms, network segmentation is the concept of taking a computer network and breaking it down, both logically and physically, into multiple smaller fragments. Physical segmentation involves breaking down a network into smaller physical components. It involves investing in additional hardware such as switches, routers, and access points.

While physical segmentation can seem like the easy approach to breaking up a network, it’s often costly and can lead to unintended issues. Think about having two Wi-Fi access points right beside each other, each broadcasting different SSIDs. This would be inefficient and cause many conflicts.

Logical segmentation is the more popular method of breaking a network into manageable chunks. Usually, logical segmentation doesn’t require new hardware, provided the infrastructure is already managed. Instead, logical segmentation uses concepts already built into network equipment, like creating separate virtual local area networks (VLANs) that share a physical switch, or dividing different asset types into different subnets and using a router to pass data between the individual subnets.

Segment a network to achieve the following:

Enhanced Security

By ensuring different groups of devices pass through a firewall, you can apply access control lists to the traffic and enable the concept of least privilege. It also allows the traffic to be inspected by security tools for potential threats. In a world where nothing ever went wrong, there’d be no need to contain a breach or attack. But the reality is that attackers can affect an entire network, unless they’re limited to a local subnet. And when things do go wrong, segmentation significantly reduces your mean time to resolution by narrowing the focus area of your troubleshooting and protection efforts.

Increased performance

Smaller subnets mean fewer devices on each subnet. Fewer devices mean you can build and enforce more granular policies, like access rules, and file permissions. Fewer hosts also mean less traffic and a smaller broadcast domain. Reducing the broadcast domain reduces ‘noise.’ All in, network segmentation contributes to better performance across the entire network and its segments.

Here are some common network segmentation methods:

Creating a guest wireless network

Theoretically a client’s guest network could be both wired and wireless but, almost always, the guest network is primarily wireless. By implementing a new guest SSID and ensuring it’s configured to provide wireless isolation, you’re effectively creating a segment for each user of the guest Wi-Fi, allowing them to see the internet without accessing anything else on the rest of your network.

Creating a voice network

Unlike guest networks that are typically wireless, a voice network is normally wired. Low latency and low jitter are extremely important for voice-over IP phones (VoIP) to get the best call quality, and mixing it with data traffic can reduce that quality. Voice networks are generally segmented into a separate VLAN and use a dedicated IP subnet range, away from routine data traffic.

Separating user groups from services

Does every user need access to the entire network? Should the receptionist in your client’s office be able to pull reports from the accounting system? Probably not. By separating user groups and services into their own segments or subnets, you can create groupings of similar users and services. You can then build data traffic around these groups, ensuring the right people can access the right things.

If you’re experiencing network issues, SOS can help get you where you need to be today.

 

Information Technology Then and Now

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in IT News

technological audit

Looking back, 1995 was a pretty big year in IT. Almost 40 million people had Internet access, and that new email thing was catching on. The World Wide Web was exploding. Though some predicted the Internet was just a fad, many more went all in, kicking off what would become known as the dot.com boom:

 

Netscape, Microsoft, and Opera all launched their first web browsers.

Search engine AltaVista came online.

Amazon and eBay had just opened up shop.

Jerry Yang and David Filo registered Yahoo.com.

Hotmail launched.

 

Despite all this online activity, in 1995 a typical small or mid-sized business handled nearly all of its networking and computing on site. IT closets were crammed with servers plugged into hubs and bridges. Shelves and shelves of servers in the IT closet, all beige of course. Beige ruled in this land of office PCs. Everything was wired. And enormous.

 

In September, Microsoft made history with the launch of Windows 95, which, for the first time, added a graphical user interface to the company’s operating system. The product raked in $30 million in its first day of sale. Floppy disks, the 3.5” kind, were still plentiful though were slowly being supplanted by CDROMs. Phones sat on desks and were connected through wires. Cell phones — while not quite the bricks they used to be — were still big and relatively uncommon. No one had a Palm device. Software was purchased in a literal box and installed by hand on computers or servers.

All of this hardware was typically maintained by a team of IT specialists. It wasn’t uncommon for a company of under 50 employees to have four or five full-time IT people: a database specialist, a network specialist, a desktop specialist, and so on. If you managed an IT network in 1995, you probably handled Novell, Microsoft NT, and UNIX. And though user-facing operating systems were moving to a GUI, you spent your day in the command-line interface.

In 2019, more than three billion people worldwide have Internet access. Email is ubiquitous, along with instant messaging and texting. There are nearly 1 billion websites online right now, and that number climbs by the second. Good, unused dot.com domain names are scarce on the ground, giving rise to dozens of new top-level domains to satisfy demand.

And that typical small to mid-sized office now?

 

Laptops, not huge tower computers.

Smartphones (likely brought from home by employees) that come on and off the corporate network throughout the day. Wi-Fi everywhere.

VoIP for desk phones — if the company even has desk phones anymore.

Storage? It’s all in the cloud. All automatic.

 

Software is also in the cloud. Users buy and use what they want as they need it. They no longer need to go through IT for that. Companies still have network infrastructure on site — routers and switches have largely taken the places of hubs and bridges, and now there are wireless controllers, firewalls, perhaps a load balancer. But most of those servers are gone. So is the specialized team that used to maintain them. Now, a company of 50 employees might have one IT administrator, a generalist who keeps everything running. The budget that IT used to have for purchasing equipment and software for the office, and completing complex projects, has shifted away. It’s been allocated to finance, marketing, HR, and the other lines of business so they can buy the SaaS tools they need. No one knows what a DOS interface looks like anymore — except the IT administrator, who’s still working in the CLI all these years later.

 

So what’s the upshot of all this change?

 

In 2019, the IT function is more critical to business than it has ever been. In 1995, a user could work happily and productively all day long and not once need to access the Internet. Not being able to print was an inconvenience, sure, but they could do something else while that was being fixed. Now, if the network goes down, so does the business. Every system and every person in an organization relies on the network to get things done. And yet, IT no longer has the specialists or the budget to manage this business-critical operation. To make things worse, the IT administrator’s tools have not kept pace with change. It’s no wonder that in-house IT teams are struggling.

IT is overdue for a system that makes network operations easier, a system that recognizes the nature of today’s hyper-connected businesses. At SOS we understand these systems through and through. Partner with us today.

Typing Out Loud: Business Messaging Apps

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in Blog, IT News

laptop

When the first human being had something worth saying, there’s a good chance that they didn’t say it very well. In the 21st century, quality communication still isn’t second nature to us. It’s a challenge for some organizations, maybe a bit simpler for others, but even that is dynamic. What works today may not work for a different team tomorrow. Or even the same team once personnel promote, or change roles. However, humans love to talk. So how do we do it better?

In the early days of the internet, AOL instant messenger gained huge traction, based solely how easily it brought people together to discuss anything and everything, from video games to history to music. One could type a quick message, rather informally, and receive a quick message back. The conversation continued almost in real time. It is neither time-consuming, nor complicated. This paradigm eventually that gives rise to SMS text messaging, and now anyone can choose from an array of images to convey everything from love to sarcasm, that much quicker.

How does this work in the modern business climate? As millennials occupy an increasing share of the workforce, so too does the number of people who still use phone calls as the primary method of communication. This can be reflected too in the quantity of emails sent every day: 205 billion, or more easily stated as 29 emails daily for every man, woman and child on Earth. Email has many advantages, but for quick, internal communication, those advantages don’t work. Email isn’t seen as immediate, often causing delays & bottlenecks in decision making when more and more of the workforce doesn’t occupy the same space.

Enter the team chat apps.

These apps encourage quick, brief messages to transmit messages on a total ‘opt-in’ basis. Even in a group chat, you can parse what you need and get back to another task, or contribute to the conversation as you see fit. If someone specifically needs an individual, there are ways to alert them through the app to get their attention. Also, messaging apps create an ongoing and persistent conversation among multiple contributors simultaneously, either based on need or topic.

Slack, Microsoft Teams, HipChat, and Google Hangouts have grown in popularity primarily for the need for instant communication that was missing in the workplace. And while each one has their advantages and disadvantages, they all provide a baseline of instant communication with varying features, depending on an organization’s operations. Software development teams tend to use Slack, or HipChat, because of their seamless integrations with other applications & tools that developers use often. If you already have Office 365, depending on your plan you already have Microsoft Teams available, and that is useful to almost any business for instant chat communication, from retail stores to supermarkets to doctor’s offices.

If you’d like to know more about which app is right for you and your business, talk to our expert engineers today.

Office 365- The Best Option for Business Email

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in Cloud Hosting, IT News

Since the early 1980s, Microsoft is the premier choice in business software. Certain industries might use proprietary software specific to their products or services, but it’s almost impossible to find a company that doesn’t use a word processor, spreadsheet or presentation planning software in their daily operations.

On-premise servers have been a significant barrier to entry for smaller organizations that required a stable and secure email platform that was also easy to use and familiar to current and new employees alike. Another server was needed to share files and folders to everyone in the company, along with other essential services. This is no longer the case with Office 365. However, Microsoft makes it a bit difficult to understand the exact difference between the packages it offers, by constantly improving and expanding its business functions and security features.  Sorting through the available options to find the ones essential to your business can be a daunting challenge in of itself.

 

Here’s a brief breakdown of the packages available:

 

Office 365 Business Essentials: $5 per user per month.

 

Includes:

  • Web based version of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook & Access)
  • Web based services (Exchange, Sharepoint, OneDrive, Teams & Skype)
  • There are no additional security features offered at this level.

 

Office 365 Business: $8.25 per user per month

 

Includes:

  • Web based version of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook & Access)
  • Web based OneDrive & Teams (Free Tier)
  • Desktop downloads of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook & Access)

 

Office 365 Business Premium: $12.50 per user per month

 

Includes:

  • Web based version of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook & Access)
  • Web based services (Exchange, Sharepoint, OneDrive, Teams & Skype)
  • Desktop downloads of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook & Access)
  • Additional Security features such as two-factor authentication, and secure encryption in transit

 

Determining which of these plans fits your business best begins with assessing factors like the number of users you have, which features those users will need on an individual basis, and just how beneficial some of the newer Microsoft products might become.

 

Another huge benefit to Office 365 is the ability to upgrade at any time, so it makes sense to start with a smaller plan with fewer features to be decisively cost-effective as your business needs change or your organization grows. Along with the feature to subscribe to small business focused apps like Microsoft Invoicing or Connections, which are included in Office 365 Business Premium, this is truly a robust platform that gives control of services and pricing back to the user.

 

SOS helps thousands of users across the nation get the most from Office 365, and ensuring that migrations to the platform occur seamlessly with as little downtime as possible. If you’re thinking of making the jump, contact us today to consult on getting the most from your IT services.

Staff Augmentation: A New Take on Outsourcing

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in IT News

When thinking of a managed IT service provider, the small to medium business comes right to mind. MSPs offer an amazing value to SMBs, providing robust IT support for a significantly reduced cost compared to having their own IT staff. As your business grows, operations typically demand permanent in-house IT staff for support and maintenance. Even with new in-house IT staff, is it time to divest from an MSP?

 

Absolutely not.

 

Growing an enterprise is the epitome of success, but with transition comes change, and change can always be uncertain. New IT directors and management find themselves spending hours documenting, learning about infrastructure and equipment, and more on-boarding task, leaving the day to day IT support to newer, less experienced personnel going through the same on-boarding process. This is where staff augmentation can help your business thrive.

 

For example, Company A has decided to create its own IT department after years with an MSP because of tremendous growth in their market. But their budget doesn’t allow for the 10 person staff actually needed to manage and support their infrastructure this year, they can only hire 5, including management. The additional new hires will have to wait until the next fiscal year. But in the meantime, they still need the support, so what can they do?

 

The MSP can work alongside in-house IT staff, typically taking tiered responsibilities away from the client, for a fraction of the cost of full-time employees. The MSP will handle front line help desk on basic issues, the most time consuming and routine, so that Company A’s IT team can focus on working efficiently with the burden of being of understaffed removed. Working this way, managed services providers become a force multiplier for the client’s dedicated IT team, allowing them to work as they need knowing that the organization’s employees are still having their IT needs supported, while staying within budget and resource constraints. The MSP becomes a strategic partner for the customer, supporting them through whatever situations may arise.

 

Are your IT needs outgrowing your current team’s bandwidth? Don’t let IT employees burn themselves out with overwork. Consider staff augmentation with SOS Technology Group, and partner with us at every stage of your business.

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