Category Archives: IT Services

Keeping Up with Updates

It is commonly understood that computer systems need to be kept up to date in order to keep them secure, and to fix bugs. End-user computers have updates that either automatically happen, or at least notify the user when they are ready to be installed. For servers, it is typical to have scheduled maintenance to install updates and reboot.

Unfortunately, network routers, firewalls, and switches are often not given the same care. There are several reasons that this may happen:

  1. The appropriate decision maker is not aware of the need
  2. There is a desire to not modify network devices that are deemed “working”
  3. There is a desire to not have any outages of network devices
  4. A support contract is often required to get the latest software.

For #1, it is simply a matter of education, which we hope this article serves to help.

For #2, it needs to be understood that by not keeping network systems up-to-date, you are potentially exposing your network to security issues, and denial-of-service attacks.

For #3, there are a variety of techniques to make your network redundant, so that outages caused by updates are minimal. These features also make your network more robust in general, protecting against device failure. First Network Group can help to design and deploy a network architecture that is less vulnerable to outages.

#4 should be considered as a required cost of doing business. Depending on the hardware vendor, the costs will vary. There are some vendors whose support contracts are significantly less costly than others. It is important to factor in the ongoing operational costs when deciding on the particular brand and model of gear for your needs.

The bottom line is that updates to all server, storage, and network devices are critical to keeping your network secure and available to serve your customers.

To discuss your options, contact Randy Carpenter, Vice President of IT Services: rcarpen@network1.net or 1-800-578-6381, option 2

Managed Hosted Servers and Off-Site Storage Now Available

Do you need to host a server at a remote location for redundancy or disaster recovery? Just need to host an important application, and don’t want the hassle of having to deal with the hardware and software yourself?

Do you require off-site storage for backups or disaster recovery? First Network Group, Inc. now offers fully managed servers, hosted at our location, as well as hosted storage solutions to meet all of your needs.

FNGi has a broad range of offerings, from shared web hosting to dedicated virtual servers to collocation of your own servers. Let us build you a solution that fits your needs. We specialize in ISP solutions for hosting mail, web, DNS and other services. Whether you need to cover a few users, or thousands of users, we have you covered.

Take advantage of our fully redundant network, protected by battery backup and on-site diesel generator. Virtual servers are hosted on a redundant server cluster which utilize a cluster of NetApp storage systems for ultimate resiliency. We also have options to have data replicated to an off-site system.

servers

If you wish to host servers at your own location, but need off-site backups, we can do that too. From simple backup storage to live synchronization of NetApp storage systems, we can cover your data backup and disaster recovery
needs.

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.

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.

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.