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USB 4.0, here we go again …

Ever heard of the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF)? Chances are you have lived your life up until this point and never realized such an entity even existed. Obvious by its name, they are the group that decides the fate,
follow through and future of the USB tech standard. And they are set to make some changes, once again.

Odds are you probably, only now, have a few devices that utilizes the USB 3 type-C connection as its primary source of power and data. And while we’ve had USB 3 in various capacities and form factors, the type-C interface really helped cement the concept that version 3 is here and is now the future.

Funny how time flies, because the USB-IF have published their specification for USB4. Beginning in 1996, USB as we’ve come to know it has been the largish Type-A, only fits one way, connector. Now over 20 years we have USB 3 Type-C and everyone’s dreams were fulfilled with the universal style connector that can be plugged in via any orientation. However, our dreams will not be dashed, nor will we have to buy all new cables, yet again!

USB4 will operate on all Type-A and Type-C style plugs and be backwards compatible with USB3.x and USB2.x devices. The real difference is now it is also compatible with Thunderbolt 3. The Thunderbolt technology was designed and licensed by Intel exclusively for many years. It has always been a faster way of transferring files than USB, thankfully, that’s finally changing now as USB and Thunderbolt finally unite. The current USB3.2 spec caps out at 20 Gbits per second, while Thunderbolt 3 tops out at 40 Gbit per second! The only trouble is that any device that wants to announce its USB4 will work with Thunderbolt 3 will still need to be certified by Intel. A fact which makes Thunderbolt the less common standard in the industry as it allows Intel to exert certain control in the mix.

USB4 will also feature USB3 Power Delivery technology with a peak capacity of 100w of electricity over the cable. It will also feature intelligent and dynamic bandwidth sharing. This will allow it to automatically adjust data rates to what is demanding it more at that time. An example might be a large file transfer to an external drive would take precedence over video
frames being pushed to your monitor. This will squeeze every last bit of efficiency out of its new 40 Gbit speed abilities.

When will you see your first USB4 devices? This year, 2020. But like with other versions of USB it will take awhile to fully catch on, so you have plenty of time. At least the baby can stay in with the bath water since each new standard supports the last. That means you can keep the gear you like, longer – and that’s a good thing.

FNGi COVID-19 Response

To: All FNGi Customers
Re: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Readiness/Planning

With the current uncertainties, I want you and all of our valued clients to be certain and confident that First Network Group is here to serve your needs and those of your customers. To that end, I want to update you on our status and planning.

Please know that while all things Coronavirus (COVID-19) remain fluid and subject to change, at the present time, our departments remain open on our regular 24/7 schedules, we are actively monitoring and managing your network and server infrastructure. All DHCPatriot work continues as normal in upgrades and support. As well as providing end-user technical support, call center service, and Lawful Intercepts to your customers, and we stand ready to be there for you.

We have escalated internal policies and procedures that minimize the risk of exposure to our employees and their families as we are confident that you have too. Departments that are well suited to work-at-home have already begun the transition as practicable. 

In addition and at this juncture, we have no plans to close our offices, but if the need for that arises we will also migrate all call center services to a telecommuting model. That transition should be seamless for you and your customers.

Again, we see no need for those alternate operations at this time. 

We are honored to be at your service, and as always, feel free to call or write as questions arise. 

Respectfully,
Stephen C. Walter
Founder, President & CEO

Optical Network Solutions

First Network Group, Inc. offers our own line of FNGi branded optical networking components.

This includes optical transceivers for 1G, 10G, 40G, 100G, and beyond; as well as CWDM and DWDM solutions and cabling.

Our transceivers are sourced from major manufacturers (the same ones that make the OEM-labeled products) and programmed and tested by one of the leading suppliers in the industry. Custom programming allows these modules to appear the same as OEM models to switches and routers. We can provide direct replacements for existing OEM models. In some cases, we can offer similar models that exceed the distance specifications, or use different wavelengths.

If you have more complex needs, we have CWDM and DWDM mux/demux options, as well as a variety of custom cabling and patching solutions. CWDM and DWDM allows many separate connections over a single fiber strand or a pair of fibers. This can significantly relax the demand for fiber strands and open up additional opportunities for services and redundancy.

Our optical transceivers have a lifetime warranty. We also provide a full catalog of optical cabling, as well. A variety of lengths, fiber types, and connectors are available. Let us know what your needs are and we will find a solution that fits!

Contact Randy Carpenter for more details and for a custom quote.
rcarpen@network1.net or 1-800-578-6381, option 1

Wi-Fi 6 is Here

Does your laptop support 802.11n, 802.11ac, or 802.11a10? If you don’t know you’re in luck and if you didn’t realize one of those protocols was not real, your life is about to get better.

The Wi-Fi Alliance, the body that sets all the standards and protocols for each for of Wi-Fi technology, is finally going to drop the archaic numbering and lettering scheme. The next revision of Wi-Fi will be known as Wi-Fi 6
(technically 802.11ax).

“For nearly two decades, Wi-Fi users have had to sort through technical naming conventions to determine if their devices support the latest Wi-Fi,” said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance. “Wi-Fi Alliance is
excited to introduce Wi-Fi 6, and present a new naming scheme to help industry and Wi-Fi users easily understand the Wi-Fi generation supported by their device or connection.”

The naming scheme will go backwards as well.

  • Wi-Fi 6 to identify devices that support 802.11ax technology
  • Wi-Fi 5 to identify devices that support 802.11ac technology
  • Wi-Fi 4 to identify devices that support 802.11n technology

The Wi-Fi alliance has approved the new logos and descriptions of the naming system to be used by anyone meeting the standard (basically everyone).

And even though we are now past the big holiday shopping season, we’ve only seen a few of these products enter the market and be branded as such. Look for all of that to change as consumer network manufacturers begin
their push to the new labeling standard in earnest now.

Calix Cloud Support

Does your company use Calix Support Cloud (or Compass) to manage end-user services? Our End-User Technical Support team is fully trained in this system and ready to assist your customers 24 hours a day!

If you haven’t already set up our access for your customers, contact us today to get started!

Wi-Fi Protected Access v3

Currently, the best way to secure your wireless networks is using Wi-Fi Protected Access v2 (WPA2). However there are still some issues regarding how this system functions. Last year’s KRACK vulnerability has proven that
this 13 year old security protocol needs redone.

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES2018), the Wi-Fi Alliance debuted the version 3 of WPA, increasing the security capabilities of the process in several ways.

WPA3 will now support 192-bit encryption natively (with an assumed 48-bit initialization vector) and the Dragonfly Protocol (aka: Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE)). Even the link between the device and the router, for example in on a public network, will be entirely encrypted as well.

The Dragonfly Protocol (SAE) allows for a cryptographically strong shared secret for securing other data– e.g. network communication. SAE is resistant to passive attack, active attack, and dictionary attack. It provides a secure alternative to using certificates or when a centralized authority is not available. It is a peer-to-peer protocol, has no asymmetry, and supports simultaneous initiation. This will take most of the pressure off of users who do not create secure of varied enough network passwords and make linking devices (mesh networks) easier and just as secure.

The Wi-Fi Alliance has just finalized the spec on WPA3, so don’t look for it to enter the consumer realm in the current hardware cycle. Devices that feature WPA3 abilities are expected to reach the market in Q3 of 2018. WPA3 will only work if both devices are capable of using it and first party support from all major operating system vendors is expected in a timely manner. Until then and even after, WPA2 is not going away entirely. This cut over to WPA3 will be a natural and gradual process as new equipment and software come out that can utilize it.

While waiting for WPA3 firmware and hardware to be released to the public, currently the safest method of securing your WIFI is to utilize WPA2 security with AES encryption. While there are ways around WPA2, the likelihood of that happening compared to other security measures is quite low. Other best practices is to remember to rotate your password every few months or not broadcasting your SSID so people out snooping won’t even see your network. It’s also a good idea to log into your router and check the various devices attached to your network and take an inventory every few months as well.

Western Digital Intelliflash Logo

Expanded Your Storage

First Network Group now offers an expanded lineup of storage offerings to cover a wider range of applications and price points.

We have partnered with Western Digital to offer their line of IntelliFlash storage systems as an alternative to
NetApp’s offerings that we continue to support. These are both very good options for primary storage for
virtualization and other critical workloads.

The Western Digital IntelliFlash line consists of models ranging from hybrid flash+disk to all-flash and NVMe to cover many different use cases and budgets. Hardware options are significantly simplified compared to other vendors and all software features are included. All systems run the same operating system and have the same management options, which also simplifies deployment and operation.

We are now also offering white-box storage systems that can run various different operating systems, such as FreeNAS, standard Linux, or nearly anything else. These come in at a much lower price point that fully-integrated systems. These options will not have the same sort of high-availability options and advanced management as Western Digital IntelliFlash or NetApp. They do, however, serve as perfect second or third tier storage for non-critical or backup needs.

First Network Group’s engineers can build you the perfect combination of primary, disaster recovery, and backup storage to meet your needs, all integrate with the appropriate servers, networking, and software. In addition, we can monitor and manage your entire IT infrastructure to reduce the need for local, highly-trained, dedicated employees or to free up your existing employees to do other important duties.

For more information on our storage offerings or any other server or networking needs, call Randy Carpenter, VP of IT Services at 1-800-578-6381, option 1.

¶Λ$$W0®d5

We’ve all been thru setting up a password and told to use upper and lower case letters, special characters, symbols and numbers. They can be annoying and make passwords difficult to remember.

Well you have a man named Bill Burr to thank for this concept. In 2003 Bill was a manager at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). He created a guide on how to create secure passwords, known as the “NIST Special Publication 800-63. Appendix A.”

Ever since then software and websites have relied on the suggestions of this document to create secure passwords. The only trouble is that when Mr. Burr wrote this document he was not well versed in computer security practices. The core idea is that a short password made up of random characters and symbols would be much harder to break down than a short password that’s more human friendly. And while that does hold true, short random passwords are not as secure as once thought.

Even though Mr. Burr has admitted that he now regrets most of what he did, it’s not all his fault. Fifteen years ago, we all knew much less than what we know now about what it takes to crack passwords.

The best passwords are long passwords that can be easily remembered phrases instead of shorter passwords with a random use of characters.

  • Example: P@55w0rd would take between 9 and 24 hours to brute force or solve.
  • Example: MonkiesdrivecarsonThursdays would take 17 octillion years to brute force

While including upper and lower case, numbers and symbols can help secure a password, ultimately password length with a minor mixture of randomness creates the most secure passwords.

No matter how secure your passwords are it’s always a good idea to change them routinely (at least once a year). And using a more human-friendly long password will take some of the sting out of remembering all new passwords again.