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DHCPatriot 5.3.0 has been released

Arguably the most important new feature in this build is the floating IP support implemented with Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol (VRRP). This is the last piece of the puzzle in making the DHCPatriot completely high availability.DHCPatriot logo

Previously, the router would need to be changed to force authentication traffic to one DHCPatriot device or the other in the case of outage. Using VRRP allows a third IP address to “float” between the two devices. This allows the router to be configured to force authentication traffic to this third IP address. The IP address never goes down as long as at least one DHCPatriot device is functional.

Other enhancements in this version include: Searchable Option 82 information that is stored with the sessions; Template based configuration of static address definitions in standard DHCP for quick configuration of ONT networks, for example; Optional protection of the authentication page against automated clients via a simple math problem; Checking stored credentials against the RADIUS server during an un-suspend operation; Optionally send RADIUS ALIVE (interim-update) packets upon DHCP client lease renewal; Optional RADIUS forwarding to external devices that need a RADIUS accounting stream.

Patch notes for this release:

  1. Floating IP (VRRP) implemented. It is now possible to add a third IP address to the DHCPatriot system that will float between the two devices. This IP address should be used with the captive portal page and possibly as the destination address when administrating the machine. Restrictions to using VRRP are that the DHCPatriot system devices must both be in the same subnet and the floating IP must be in that same subnet as well.
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  2. Optional simple page for protecting the database from being accessed by pre-auth / unauthenticated automated clients such as Weatherbug. This page asks a simple math problem before proceeding to the actual authentication page for pre-auth users. The page has no images and no database access. Automated clients such as Weatherbug will not answer the question and proceed to the login page. Continue reading

The Need for More Bandwidth

The internet is still growing very quickly. During the last decade, bandwidth demand has forced even the smallest ISPs to upgrade their upstream connectivity as well as expand the offerings to their customers. As high-bandwidth options such as fiber-to-the-premise becomes more common, so does the need to match those faster offerings with larger connections upstream.

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Providers that once had only a couple of T1 lines are now see ing the need for multiple high-speed connections of 1 Gb/s and beyond. First Network Group, Inc. is expert in every step of the process of providing high-speed connectivity. We can assist in designing your network, choosing the appropriate hardware, installing and configuring the equipment, as well as providing ongoing maintenance and monitoring.

FNGi partners with Juniper Networks, who manufactures the network routers and switches required to provide you with a robust and scalable network for customer as well as upstream connections. Juniper’s security appliances provide protection for your server infrastructure and internal network, while seamlessly integrating with your overall network infrastructure. We will work with you to come up with the custom solution that best fits your needs.

Contact Randy Carpenter VP of IT Services at 1-800-578-6381, option 1 if you have any questions, or would like to order.

Windows 8.1 Update Rolling Out

Microsoft’s latest operating system Windows 8 is receiving an update known simply as Windows 8.1. The update will be available for MSDN, TechNet customers and the general public on October 18th. OEM partners of Microsoft have received the final release already and will start shipping products with Windows 8.1 installed by the end of September.

Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 is not a “Service Pack” update that we have become accustomed to with earlier versions of Windows. Previous “Service Packs” were a compilation of fixes and patches available for the OS and rarely included major operating system changes. Windows 8.1 will fore go this concept and actually add substantial updates to the operating system itself. The new rapid release cycle that Microsoft is working with will trade the old release model for whole operating system updates similar to how Apple currently handles their updates to OSX.

Windows 8.1 will be provided free from Microsoft and the official release will come via the Windows Store App within Windows 8.

Some of the changes to expect with Windows 8.1:

  • The Start Button is BACK! Clicking it will bring up the Start Screen however, not the Start Menu from previous versions of Windows.
  • The Start Screen and Modern apps will work better on smaller displays (think 8 inch tablets) and more pixel dense large monitors.
  • The Start Screen can be more heavily modified with background images and different tile sizes.
  • Snap Views will support more than two apps and feature variable re-sizing.
  • Searching across local and network storage has been greatly improved. Searches will also include online results from Bing.
  • The Windows Store has been redone to make it easier to find useful apps and manage them more easily.
  • Internet Explorer 11 will ship with the final release and see many improvements over the current IE10.
  • Several updates to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) feature. Including NFC pairing and native Miracast support.
  • More VPN client support and new auto-triggered VPN
  • Improved security measures including Remote Business Data Removal, improvements to Windows Defender and Device Lockdown.

First Network Group, Inc has been hard at work preparing for this update. Our technicians are ready on Day 1 for the first customer who needs help.If you aren’t already taking advantage of our 24×7 End User Technical Support Center contact Cory Lykins, VP of Tech Services at 1-800-578-6381, opt. 6,  for more information.

NETWORK SECURITY: THE FUNDAMENTALS

From foreign governments to domestic villains, hackers have made big headlines in the first half of 2013. Fears range from the next virus to cyber attacks that take down nationwide utilities or telecommunications. It is quite possible that Network Security (or Cyber Security) will soon rise to the level of the Y2K scare from the turn of the millennium. Unfortunately, the hyperbole that drives the media will not make your network more secure, nor will many of the “experts” that will be created during the frenzy. The good news is that Network Security is computer science, not rocket science, and it begins with solid fundamentals.

DESIGN. Good Network Security begins with solid network design. As an ISP or NSP, your network is only as solid as your upstream provider(s) – the first consideration in your network design. From there, security needs to be integral in the design of your own network infrastructure. While it is tempting to use consumer grade equipment in your network, low-end devices are rarely designed with security as a top priority, and often lack ongoing support to keep them up to date. The same applies to Operating Systems. Multi-user is not the same as true enterprise class. Deploy secure network segments (VPN) where needed, do not rely on simple Network Address Translation to protect your valuable data or equipment – NAT is not security. Secure networks fundamentally rely on an OS that is designed with security in mind and has updates available as technology and threats change.

MAINTENANCE. From firmware (think BIOS) to Daemon (think Web or Mail Server software) to your OS, updates need to be installed once they are field proven. Whether a Patch Level Update (PLU) or a full upgrade to a new version, security fixes should be installed as they become available. This applies to your ROUTERS too. Put your trust in someone who is a full-time administrator who is an expert in the field and who stays abreast of necessary changes. Legacy equipment that is no longer supported by the manufacturer is inherently insecure. Make replacement of obsolete equipment a part of your security budget.

MONITORING. Monitoring your network and reviewing the relevant logs greatly increases your odds of finding a breach, or even an attempt. Monitoring the activity and performance of your network is a critical component of a secure network.

Those of you who are First Network Group IT Services Customers already work with a security savvy IT staff who can deliver a level of Network Security that will let you sleep at night. If you are not yet working with the FNGi IT Services staff, contact Randy Carpenter, VP of IT Services or 1-800-578-6381 option 1 to get started today.

Steve

Stephen C. Walter, President/CEO

Custom Solutions Using Standard Building Blocks

First Network Group’s IT Services department specializes in building solutions for your entire server and networking needs. We specialize in custom solutions based on tried and true building blocks such as NetApp storage and Juniper Networks routers, switches, and firewalls.

NetApp-logo (black)NetApp provides the ultimate in centralized storage, vital for server virtualization, high availability, and disaster recovery. NetApp has a single operating system, which runs across their entire line of enterprise storage devices.

This is in contrast to many competitors who have several product lines running different software, and it greatly reduces the complexity of configuration, making management much easier. NetApp’s systems provide storage access via NFS, iSCSI, and Fibre Channel protocols. There is a wide range of systems from small enterprise systems, to large, multi-rack systems that can serve thousands of servers. All systems are available with a High-Availability option, which adds a redundant controller to prevent outages caused by controller failures. Software features include point-in-time data snapshots, and replication to remote sites for backup and recovery.

Juniper Network solutions are a perfect choice for your needs. Juniper’s core routers power a significant portion of the Internet backbone. The same technology that is in use on their big core routers is available in their smaller routers and other networking devices as well. Like NetApp, Juniper has a single operating system across their entire line of routers, switches, and firewalls. This makes the systems more secure, and simpler to manage. Juniper’s support is second to none, and available at very reasonable prices (generally less than half the cost of competitors).

Let First Network Group, Inc. assist you in specifying your storage or network needs, install the gear, and maintain it going forward. No experience needed on your part. In many cases, you don’t even need to have somewhere to put it. We can host it for you.

Contact Randy Carpenter VP of IT Services at 1-800-578-6381, option 1 if you have any questions, or would like to order.

Red Condor E-mail Security

redcondorlogo“First Network Group, with EdgeWave’s Red Condor product, provides e-mail security for ISP’s and businesses…”

E-mail security is a necessity these days. However, preventing viruses, trojans, and spam from getting to the inboxes of your users can be difficult. Many solutions rely on your email server to do filtering.This can consume valuable resources on your server, and can eat up costly bandwidth on your internet connection. The filtering rules can also be very difficult to maintain and update, leading to malicious mail making it through your filter, or legitimate mail getting trapped by the filters.

First Network Group, with EdgeWave’s Red Condor product, provides e-mail security for ISP’s and businesses without having to install anything on local servers. A hosted solution is available that prevents unwanted email from even entering your network. Or, if you prefer, appliances are available that can be hosted inside your datacenter, but still separate from your mail servers. Both offer the same protection, which is backed by a team of EdgeWave engineers that continually update the systems to defend against new attacks. Many First Network Group customers are already usingRedCondor, and it has proven to perform betterthan alternatives, while still maintaining an attractive price.

Contact Randy Carpenter VP of IT Services at 1-800-578-6381, option 1 if you have any questions, or would like to order.

Are you ready for some football?

Our Customer Care Center provides 24 hour access to a live person for a great many of your customer needs. If your service offering includes television service (either CATV or IPTV)  then you are probably aware of how important consistent and functional television service is during the NFL season. And football season is fast approaching.

The NFL’s fan base is estimated around 181 million people. Last year it produced 23 of the 25 highest-rated TV shows of the fall season and Week-One games alone this year had 105.9 million fans watching.

Our Customer Care Center data shows a 20% increase in television related calls during the NFL season as compared to any other time of the year. If television is part of your total package, then the NFL is the silver bullet to viewer satisfaction. Are your customers able to reach a live person if they are having television issues during the big game?

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Are your on-call repair technicians able to get a real sense of issues about reported problems or are they left to guess from vague customer voice mails? If you do not have a live and informed call center that your customers can contact at these crucial periods you could be losing out on opportunities to not only resolve issues quickly but also to maintain overall customer satisfaction.

Our Customer Care Center can provide your customers around the clock access to a live person to entertain their questions and concerns. We can provide Tier 1 support and response for CATV, IPTV and 611, answer general questions, provide company info and billing information. We also provide after-hours problem resolution dispatching and paging as well as sensitive data collection and submission for law enforcement agencies. All of these services can be customized to best suit your service model and your customer base.

If you aren’t already taking advantage of our 24×7 Customer Care center contact Cory
Lykins, VP of Tech Services at 1-800-578-6381, opt. 6,  for more information.

Confused About IPv6?

IPv6 Act NowThere has been an avalanche of information regarding IPv6. So much, that it can be confusing. We have also seen publications and presentations given that provide old or incorrect information, adding to the confusion. There have been many changes in how IPv6 is deployed over the years, especially with regard to how IPv6 addresses are handed out to end-users.

First Network Group, Inc. has the resources and information you need to plan your IPv6 deployment. Contact Randy Carpenter at 1-800-578-6381, option 1 today to discuss your needs.

NetApp Storage Systems

Today’s world revolves around data. Making that data highly available while scaling for the future is more important than ever. There are also increased needs for data retention and off-site backup for compliance and business continuity.

NetApp storage systems are highly available and scalable. A single software platform across all systems provides for easy management, and easy upgrades. Integrated features provide for point-in-time snapshots and easy data mirroring to other systems in remote locations to protect your data. Thin provisioning and de-duplication allow for ultimate storage efficiency, greatly reducing the amount of storage needed.

SAN and NAS connectivity provide for flexible solutions that are a must for virtual server configurations. First Network Group, Inc. is a NetApp Gold Partner. FNGi can build a NetApp system that meets your needs for performance, scalability and resiliency.

First Network Group, Inc. has the resources and information you need to plan your IPv6 deployment. Contact Randy Carpenter at 1-800-578-6381, option 1 today to discuss your needs.

A Better Way

We have all seen the jokes online, on TV shows and in movies about a bewildered customer needing assistance and calling their technical support only to find the person on the other end is unintelligible and incapable of helping them.

The key to running a healthy call center is efficiency; however, perceived “efficiencies” can erode true customer service. The “shotgun approach” defines efficiency as moving the employees from call-to-call as fast as possible while trying to fix only the most common problems. Typically, this approach does not get to the heart of the customer’s problem or provide a good customer service experience.

Our call center’s focus is to be quick and efficient, by making sure we have available staff for every caller in a timely manner, but how we get there is a little different from other places. We actually train our employees. We do not use one-size fits all scripts nor do we rely on software alone to provide automated guidance.

To achieve this model we maintain a vast Knowledge Base of solutions and information. Our employees are taught how to quickly get at the root of a problem with deductive reasoning and then to apply information from our Knowledge Base, not because they are told to, but because they understand that is the correct course. If an employee does not understand a concept or construct about the situation, they escalate the call to a more senior technician and, after the call, they discuss the remedy so they can gain that knowledge. Our call center approach builds problem solvers, not drones.

This approach creates an efficient environment because there is little to no wasted time with an employee wandering off in the wrong direction or wasting time redoing steps repeatedly. Knowledge is the key, not scripts, not hand holding but knowledge that can be built and expanded upon. While we are focused on making sure our time to first contact is as low as possible (current average is: 1.26 minutes) we are flexible enough to make sure that customers requiring special attention or have larger needs are also taken care of correctly. Striking that balance is not easy but it is imperative to run a successful call center and support network. Join the First Network Group family today and offer your Internet customers – broadband and dial-up – cellular, CATV/IPTV and landline, our outstanding technical service.

Contact us today to find out more information about this incredibly useful service. Ask for me directly, Cory Lykins , V.P. – Technical Support: coryl@network1.net or call me at 1-800-578-6381, option 6