Category: Networking

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, working from home has become the new normal as many employers and employees have dealt with social distancing, lockdowns and the closure of corporate offices. Advances in technology and computer technology has made this transition relatively smooth, with people able to create a fully connected home office using a suite of hardware and software. In this article we will examine some of the amazing technologies that are in use today that have really come to the forefront since 2020. Read further to find out how you or your company can utilise video conferencing, Office 365, cloud backup solutions, VPNs, managed antivirus, remote IT support, and remote desktop access to work effectively from anywhere in the world.

Here is just one example of how technology has greatly benefited a company during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of our clients was still utilising on premises servers with separated data sets. They did use dropbox in a very basic sense, but the amount and complexity of the data meant that a better solution needed to be found. Luckily just prior to the pandemic OJ Networks recommended and was able to deploy a nationwide Office 365 and SharePoint solution for multiple offices around Australia. This allowed them to seamlessly shift to working from home when the lockdown orders were issued and staff were able to remote in via Office 365 to continue their work without disruption. Staff were able to login to their ‘server’ as if they were in the office and they could work from any location, allowing them to continue their business as usual. We often hear from this client as to how lucky they were to set this up prior to the pandemic as there was no downturn in productivity and they would not have been able to function as a business without it!

Now lets explore some of the options in detail, what benefit they provide and how they may assist your business in working remotely.

What technologies are available?

Video conferencing hardware: webcams, headsets, microphones, speakers – These allow you to call and have remote video meetings via Skype or Zoom. When working remotely it can be hard to maintain a connection with colleagues.  Video conference calls let you stay in touch with co-workers, teammates and managers and maintain the productivity of face to face meetings.

VPN (Virtual Private Network) – A VPN allows you to connect securely to another network over the internet. It creates a secure tunnel between the user computer and office computer or server. Using a VPN allows employees to safely access company data from any network, public or private. These are crucial for businesses to avoid man in the middle attacks. This is where data is unencrypted and can be snooped upon by malicious parties.

Office 365 – Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud based services including emails through Exchange Online, file management and storage through SharePoint and OneDrive, collaboration and chat through Teams along with cloud connected versions of popular applications (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, OneNote). All programs can be used online through a browser, and all files can be accessed from the cloud, wherever and whenever they are needed. With Office 365 employees are able to work together and collaborate together, with the ability to work on the same document even in separate locations.

Third Party Office 365 Backup – Having a third party Office 365 backup system in place allows you to keep important business documents and emails secure and safe. It ensures that you can restore any data quickly in the event of any accidental or malicious deletion, user error, ransomware or data corruption. If there are ever any issues with the Microsoft Servers you have your own completely separate version of all of your files and emails.

Managed Antivirus – Its important to have one of the highest rated Anti-Virus products on the market protecting your workstations, laptops and servers. A managed antivirus solution goes one step further in allowing IT admins to remotely monitor any virus outbreaks on your network and act quickly to respond to any issues.

Remote IT Support – IT Support companies can now effectively monitor and manage your computers and networks remotely. To do this they utilise remote management tools which give insights into any issues that your devices are experiencing. Along with management tools they usually install a remote access client to connect to your device quickly and securely. This saves you time, as there are no travel costs involved. With this scenario it doesn’t matter whether users are working from home or out of the office, the IT support personnel can log on to their computer and fix any issues.

If you are struggling with this shift to working from home, either as a business or an employee we can help you! From something simple such as supplying a webcam, to assisting you to set up remote access to your office through a VPN, setting up cloud emails and applications through Office 365 or anything in between get in touch with us today.

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If you have a multi-storey home or a very long one that is made of concrete, you may find that the Wi-Fi signal from your modem/router doesn’t carry right through the house. This can be frustrating as your mobile devices keep switching back to 3g when they lose the signal.

There are a couple of options to fix the issue.

One is a wireless repeater. This is an access point placed within wireless range that connects wirelessly to your existing router. It boosts the wireless signal from its position. With this solution results vary widely and even change day-to-day.

A much better solution we have found is to use Powerline devices. These connect into the 240v power system of your house to work as a substitute for Ethernet (blue cables). Plug one in where your router is and connect it into the router. Plug the other one in out near the dead spot and you will have a solid Wi-Fi connection throughout your house. Powerline devices do rely on the power outlets being on the same phase and circuit. We have Powerline devices in stock and can install and configure them on-site if you are faced with this issue.

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This was my first real adventure into the land of vLans. I had setup very basic port-based setups before but this scenario required an 802.1Q Tagged vLan. The client runs serviced offices and required that the offices could share the internet but would not see each other on the network. The clients themselves use part of the office and had the requirement for several more ports than the other offices so it was allocated more ethernet ports on the switch. The gear used to complete the task is an inexpensive Netgear 716T 16 port Layer 2 Smart Switch and the very robust Draytek Vigor 2830n+ ADSL2+ Security Firewall Router.  Normally if your client can afford it, such a scenario would be played out using High-end Cisco gear.

The outcome we looked to achieve is shown on the right.

Basically it is as follows…

  • Port 1 & 2 – vlan 20 (192.168.2.x)
  • Port 3 & 4 – vlan 30 (192.168.3.x)
  • Port 5 & 6 – vlan 40 (192.168.4.x)
  • Port 7 & 8 – vlan 50 (192.168.4.x) – same subnet as Ports 5 & 6 however the vlans keep them separated. Reason for same subnet – the Router only has the capacity for 4 subnets.
  • Port 9-15 – vlan 10 (192.168.1.x)
  • Port 16 – “Trunk” port to Draytek Router

Yes – if there weren’t too many devices connected to all the networks, we could have allocated all the vlans to the same subnet but we were trying to prove what could be done at the same time as creating a functional result.

First we enabled and then created the vlans in the Vlan Configuration menu in the Draytek 2830.

For some reason if every port on the Draytek is not allocated on this screen (even if it is not in use), the Draytek displays the error “Please set one vlan group at least! Please check port[x]”. If someone could tell me why this has to be done I would be interested to know. In any case we mapped vlan 10,20,30,40,50 to port 4 and allocated the subnets of LAN1-4 as shown in the image. You could set priority to the vlans if you want to prioritize certain traffic. We have not set that here. Then we enabled the various subnets under general setup and enabled DHCP on all of them. If you wanted to enable inter-lan routing you could do so here.

 

 

 

 

 

Because the GS716T has it’s own IP address for management, you will want to allocate it an IP address in the Draytek in the subnet where you want to manage it from. Find the mac address and add it to the Draytek under ‘Bind IP to MAC’. Here we gave it 192.168.1.2. The Draytek Router is 192.168.1.1.

Before plugging the two devices together, you are going to want to configure the GS716T. By default if it cannot find a DHCP server, it will use the address 192.168.0.239. Set your network card on a desktop or laptop to an address on that subnet and connect to it.  You can use Netgear’s tool – the smart control center manager to find the switch or push in the button the front labelled “restore factory settings” to set it back to the default IP. The button labelled reset simply restarts the device keeping the current settings.

Go to the “switching” menu -> vLans and setup your various vlans. Here we have setup vlan 10,20,30,40,50 and left the defaults in the switch.  Then go to vlan Membership under advanced. Select the vLan ID that you want to manage at the top. Then click on the little drop down for Port. This will open the boxes for each port. Flag each port member that you want to be a part of this vlan with a “U’ for untagged. On Port 16 that we are trunking to the router, we flag with a “T” for tagged.  Press “apply” at the bottom. Do this for every port range that you want to apply to a vLan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now you need to setup the PVIDs – this is the default vLan ID for a port if the packet is untagged. Under Acceptable Frame Types we left this as “Admit All” becuase the other setting of “vLan only” only allows tagged vLan packets. We turned on ingress (inbound) filtering which means that only vLan traffic passes through.  It works fine with this off but I figure it would stop unwanted network traffic. Make sure this is off though on your “trunk” port. We left port 16 (where we were managing from) as PVID 1 so we could continue to save the settings.

Finally set the Management vLan to the vLan you want to manage from under “System” -> “IP Configuration”. In this case vLan 10 – and apply. From this point on you will need to be on a vLan 10 port in order to manage the switch. Connect the switch and router together and your devices into the switch and watch the magic happen.You should get the correct subnets and not be able to ping other subnets (except the router).

 

 

 

 

 

I may have got some of the terms wrong and I’m happy for you to correct me if that is the case. I just hope this has helped someone else trying to achieve a result like this with affordable networking equipment for small businesses.

If you are on the Sunshine Coast and need Networking and IT Support, don’t hesitate to give us a call.