What’s The Difference Between Internet, Intranet, & Extranet?

The terms intranet, Internet, and extranet are often used interchangeably; however, there are some important differences between them. To better understand these differences, it is useful to look at the prefixes.

The prefix intra means within, inter means between, and extra means beyond. So how does this translate to online-based networks?

Basically, the Internet is an open entity that anyone in the world can access. It is open to everyone who has a working computer or device and appropriate Internet access.

An intranet is a private network that is typically limited to authorized users.

For example, most major organizations operate some form of intranet that only employees of the business can access and use. Intranets are usually employed to support a corporate culture and objectives and provide a platform on which employees can share information, communicate, collaborate, and network.

They are generally faster than the Internet because the information is stored on local network servers as opposed to being accessed from data centers throughout the world.

An extranet combines some elements of both the Internet and intranet. It is open to people both within and outside an organization; however, only people who have pre-arranged authorization can access it. An extranet is a restricted network that some, but not all, members of the public can access. A company may develop an extranet to create a mechanism by which it can connect with suppliers, customers, and other external agencies without making the content visible to the general public.

Network Security: What Does Your Firewall Do For You?

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

“Security.” It’s a word that we are all familiar with, but it can have many different meanings depending on context. Security to people nearing retirement age may mean financial security for their future.

At a large event like a concert, it could mean both security guards and the overall security of the event.

However, as time goes by, the word security has become increasingly related to the digital world.

Using the Internet to pay bills, access banking information, or even applying for loans is commonplace. We must be prepared to protect our identity and personal information.

Now, whether you are talking about your home or your business, network security starts with a firewall.

So what is a firewall?

A firewall, in terms of network security, can be a physical device that your incoming and outgoing data is routed through. It could also be a program on your device that can strengthen and supplement your devices’ security.

Both of these have different capabilities and purposes and can be used individually or together.

While there are different types, their essential function is the same. A firewall is put in place to allow or deny traffic, based on a set of security rules.

In a business setting where many staff members use a computer daily, a firewall can be put in place to block unwanted traffic.

A simple security rule to check for secure certificates can stop unwanted traffic easily.

Websites have security certificates, so when you access a page, your firewall can check the certificate. If the certificate is digitally signed and known as trusted, the firewall will allow traffic to proceed.

Search results can often display links of potentially harmful websites.

A firewall adds a layer of security making sure your employees don’t accidently find themselves on a website that could compromise your network.

This same principle works for home networks and can allow you to set some security rules. These rules can be put in place to help keep Internet usage safe, especially with children around the house. A firewall can also block certain content.

In an office setting, you could turn off access to social media to stop staff from accessing sites that aren’t needed to complete work.

It can block certain search engines and even limit the use of unsecure versions of websites.

At home, you can block content from websites you don’t want your family to have access to.

There is also the option of having active network times. You can have your Wi-Fi network only active during business hours, keep your kids off their devices at bedtime, or limit access to certain days.

There are many other things that your firewall can do to help keep your network safe.

Keeping your network secure has the potential to save you thousands of dollars, depending on the number of devices and your dependency on those devices.

Safety and security always has a high value to you. It can also help you rest easier knowing that either your business, or your family, is a little bit safer.

Do I Really Need A Firewall For My Business?

Ron Cochran is a senior help desk technician for Tech Experts.

Before we answer that, let’s look at what a firewall actually is. No, no actual flames of any kind are involved whatsoever.

A firewall is a barrier or “shield” intended to protect your PC, tablet, or phone from the data-based malware dangers that exist on the Internet. Data is exchanged between your computer and servers and routers in cyberspace, and firewalls monitor this data (sent in packets) to check whether they’re safe or not.

This is done by establishing whether the packets meet the rules that have been set up. Based on these rules, packets of data are accepted or rejected.

While most operating systems (desktop and mobile) feature a basic built-in firewall, the best results can usually be gained from using a dedicated firewall application, unless you know how to set up the built-in firewall properly and have the time to do so.

Firewall applications in security suites feature a host of automated tools that use whitelisting to check which of your applications should accept and reject data from the Internet — something that most users might find far too time consuming to do manually.

So it makes sense, now that it’s clear what a firewall is for, to have one installed and active. But just in case you’re still doubtful of the benefits…

Everyone who accesses the Internet needs a firewall of some kind. Without one, your computer will allow access to anyone who requests it and will open up your data to hackers more easily. The good news is that both Windows and Apple computers now come with built-in software firewalls (although the Mac’s firewall is turned off by default).

But businesses, especially those with multiple users or those that keep sensitive data, typically need firewalls that are more robust, more customizable, and offer better reporting than these consumer-grade alternatives.

Even a relatively small business engages in exponentially more interactions than an individual, with multiple users and workstations, and customers and suppliers. These days, most of those interactions are online and pose risks.

Not only are businesses exposed to riskier online interactions, the potential damage from each interaction is also greater. Businesses frequently keep everything from competitive bids and marketing plans to sensitive banking and customer data on their computers. When unprotected, the exposure is enormous.

Firewalls also allow computers outside of your network to securely connect to the servers that are inside your network. This is critical for employees who work remotely. It gives you the control to let the “good” connections in and keep the “bad” connections out.

Hardware firewalls must be compatible with your system and must be able to handle the throughput your business requires. They must be configured properly or they won’t work and can even stop your network from functioning entirely. You can use multiple hardware firewalls to take advantage of differing strengths and weaknesses.

Some industries (like medical and financial services) have specific regulatory requirements, so it’s important to consult your IT professional before choosing a firewall to make sure you’re not exposing your business to unnecessary liability.

It’s also important for you, or your IT service company, to constantly monitor the firewall to ensure it is up and working, as well as to ensure that it is regularly updated with security patches and virus definitions.

If you currently are not protected by a firewall or would like to inquire about an upgrade to your network infrastructure, please feel free to email (info@mytechexperts.com) or call (734-457-5000).

Should Your Small Business Use A Domain Network?

Luke Gruden is a help desk technician for Tech Experts.

If you have 5 or more computers that are sharing files and are constantly being worked with, a domain network would be in your best interest.

A domain network using a server has many benefits to a work area, a work building, or even multiple buildings using VPN. The flexibility, security, and convenience of a domain is, in most companies, invaluable. Sign into your account from any computer that is a part of the domain and you no longer need to use only your personal computer to access files.

If something were to happen to your computer, you could just use another computer to sign into your account and continue working without much downtime. This is also a far more secure way for users to access other computers as they have to use their credentials and only have the permissions that their credentials provide, not those of the computer itself. As long as users are not sharing passwords, you can have every user accounted for, policies implemented, and control what they can and cannot access when it comes to Internet, files, and programs.

Secure file-sharing is an easy and basic function of a domain server with Active Directory, which all the computers connected to the domain have access to. If you wanted only certain users to have access to certain files, you can have folders set up that prevent unauthorized editing, but still could be read — or even not be seen at all.

Having 5+ workers able to access the same set of files to edit as needed is an amazing way to save time and improve project efficiency. Everyone can see the file as it is saved or changed and they can continue to edit records as necessary without ever having to go on the Internet or transfer the file. Just get on any computer on the domain and you have instant access to the files that you need without a second thought.

Active Directory is your IT department’s best friend when it comes to handling large or small groups of computers as IT can access the domain server to make adjustments to other computers without ever stopping the work flow.

Forgot your password? Your IT can very easily use the server and reset your password for you without having to go to your computer. Setting up a new computer that needs certain printers and drivers installed? IT can set up the server to push those standard programs and drivers without having to install each individual program. Need to set up a new user account? It’s created on the server and the user can be accessed on all computers. There are so many possibilities that open up when you have a server domain available for your workstations.

We have only scratched the surface of what’s possible with a domain server and the amount of time and effort it can save for everyone in the company. I believe every business that is looking to grow should have a domain server early on as it will be easier to set up and can evolve to your needs as your company grows.

If your company needs help setting up a domain network, you can count on Tech Experts to take care of it.

Top Seven Network Attack Types So Far In 2015

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

There’s no doubt that small businesses are under attack from hackers and cyber-criminals. Typically, small companies have less secure networks and looser security standards, making them easy targets.

The latest Threat Report from McAfee Labs details the types of attacks against small businesses. The chart shows the most common network attacks detected in Q1 2015.

Denial of service attacks – 37%
A denial of service (DOS) attack attempts to make a resource, such as a web server, unavailable to users. These attacks are very common, accounting for more than one-third of all network attacks reviewed in the report.

A common approach is to overload the resource with illegitimate requests for service. The resource cannot process the flood of requests and either slows or crashes. [Read more…]

Remote Employees And Network Connections

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

As businesses begin to downsize their ecological footprint, the need for remote or satellite employees grows. Business leaders and owners are now faced with the daunting question on how to allow remote employees access to their existing network without compromising network security.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is through the use of VPN.

VPNs allow secure access to business resources by creating encrypted pass-throughs via the Internet. The Internet, combined with present-day VPN technology, allows businesses a low cost and secure means to extend their networks to their remote employees.

The two most common methods in which to set up remote access are IPsec (IP Security) or SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). Both methods work well and both have their advantages depending on the needs and size of your business.

VPNs created using SSL technology provide remote-access connection from almost any Internet-enabled location or device using a web browser interface.

No special client software needs to be preinstalled on either device. This makes SSL VPNs a true “anytime, anywhere” connection to company-managed desktops.

There are two different SSL VPN connections to choose from: clientless and full network access.

Clientless requires no special software. All traffic is transmitted and delivered through a web browser.

There is no need to install or download any unique software to establish the connection. With clientless access, only web-enabled programs and apps are able to be accessed, such as email, network file servers and local intranet sites.

Even with such limited access to network resources, this style of connection is well-suited for most businesses.c868266_m

Additionally, because there is no need for special software to be supported by the IT department, businesses can cut down on managed overhead.

A full network access VPN allows access to almost any program, application, network server, and resource connected to your business network. Unlike clientless access, full network access connection is made through the use of VPN client software. Because the client access software is dynamically downloaded and updated, it requires little or no desktop support.

As with clientless access, you have the ability to customize each connection based on employee access privileges. If your remote employees require the full functionality of installed programs and applications as if they were sitting inside the office building, utilizing a full network VPN connection is the obvious choice.

IPsec based VPNs are the staple of remote-access connection technology. IPsec VPN connections are created by using installed VPN client software on the user’s workstation and connecting device.

Client software allows for greater customizability by modifying the VPN client software. Businesses are able to configure and maintain the appearance and function of the VPN client, which allows for easier implementation for connections with other desktops, kiosks, and other special need cases.

Many businesses find that IPsec connections meet their requirements for the users, but the advantages of self-updating desktop software, accessibility from non-company managed devices, and customizable user access make SSL VPNs a front runner for remote-access connections to your office.

If you have any questions or would like more information about how a VPN can help your company, you can reach Tech Experts at (734) 457-5000.

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Why Is Network Security Important For Your Small Business?

Michael Menor is Vice President of Support Services for Tech Experts.

Network security is very important to all networks big or small. The purpose of network security is to prevent loss, through the misuse of data.

There are a lot of issues that can arise when network security is not properly implemented and maintained, a few issues include, but are not limited, to the following: data destruction, data manipulation, and breach of confidentiality.

The most important layer of security is physical security, this should be the first line of defense for any network. An organization can have all the access rules, logical security policies, and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) in place, but nothing beats being protected at the physical level.

One of the simplest steps is to lock the door, for example the server room or network closet should have a physical door and lock that secures it. This can also include any items that may be vulnerable to theft or physical damage.

Another form of physical security can be having surveillance cameras monitoring the premises. This gives an organization that extra sense of security, especially after hours.
Earlier we discussed ways to secure the physical network, but what about the logical network? You do not want to be on a network that does not challenge you for logon credentials to access systems.

This is where authentication and password security comes into play. Securing a network with usernames and passwords can prevent unauthorized access to data and also provide measures that prevent unauthorized changes of systems.

System administrators can also implement a password complexity policy, which requires users to have passwords that are of a certain length, and contains a combinations of alphanumeric and special characters. It is also wise for users not to use any personal identifying characters in their passwords because this is usually the first things hackers look into.

The Internet is not a secure place, viruses pose a big security pad lockrisk to a computer network because there are so many out there. Without antivirus protection, a computer can get infected and may even infect other computers on the same network.

Depending on the purpose, or payload, of the virus, the viruses’ creator may have designed the virus to steal or delete information, render a system useless by using all resources, or even use the computer as part of a botnet. Antivirus software provides protection against most, but not all viruses.

Not only should users frequently update and scan their computers for viruses, but they must also be smart when browsing the Internet because many viruses can disguise themselves as legitimate software.

Firewalls are a great way to control the internal network traffic and also incoming traffic from the Internet.

While antivirus protection helps to protect a computer from potentially unwanted programs and viruses, a firewall can help to control network access into a computer system.

There are two types of firewalls: software- and hardware-based firewalls. Both provide similar functions, but it is best to implement a hardware firewall because it gives a system administrator the ability to make changes to a system as a whole, rather than at individual systems, or endpoints.

Within the firewall there are policies which allow or deny traffic based on the needs of the network. The most secure policy is a restrictive policy which denies all network traffic, this policy only allows essential network traffic to traverse the firewall.

If you have any questions about your network security give us a call at the office, (734) 457-5000, or email info@mytechexperts.com.

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Why An Organized Cabling Plan Is Good For Business

by Jeremy Miller, Technician
When you need to begin to cable a building for a business it is a good idea to plan ahead to prevent many issues that you can encounter.

Cabling can be different for every organization. Some organizations move into a new building and need to cable the entire building. Other business may only need to add to the existing cabling.

It would be best to look and see how the cables can all be run throughout the building. Most commercial buildings have drop ceilings that make it easier to run cable.

You will want to check which directions you can run cable. There may be walls or boundaries that are not able to have cable ran through them.

You will also want to develop a standard wiring scheme or convention. This will make everything easier in the long run.

Most organizations have adopted the wiring standard T-586B. If you continue to wire all cable with the same standard then it will make the job easier for you and anyone who needs to add an additional cable after your installation.

There are some things to keep in mind while running the cable. It is best to leave about a foot of extra cable in a single loop above your drop.

This will ensure you have enough cable if you make a punch down error, or want to upgrade in the future. Don’t create a coil of cables as this will cause a magnetic field that will disrupt the data.

With all of this in mind you will need to determine exactly how many data and voice drops you will need to install.

Make a document detailing which room needs what cables and where they need to be placed on the walls.

It is best to color coordinate the cable, for example you would use blue cable for data, white cable for voice, and another color if you need to run other cable such as Ethernet cable for a security system. This will let you easily detect which type of cable you are working with.

If you are installing phones you will want to punch down the same pairs of wires in the same order. This will allow you to terminate the phone systems in your telecomm room more efficiently. Efficiency is essential when undergoing a time-consuming project.

Cable management is important regardless of how many cables you have ran. Your telecomm room can easily start to get out of control with all of the different cables coming into a single location.

There are many ways of organizing your cable, but it is best to plan this before you begin to run any cable. This will also make sure that all of your cables will be long enough to reach the punch-down panel in your telecomm room.

If your business needs help with a cabling project or if you have any questions about cabling give us a call.

The Benefits Of Proper Networking For Your Business

By Tech Experts Staff
Many times a company’s network tends to be a difficult part of their infrastructure to decide what they really need.

There are many different ways of configuring a network depending on the company’s needs.

A network can be as simple as having your Internet Service Provider’s modem connected directly to a workstation or as complex as having thousands of workstations and servers connected to a company’s network around the world.

Deciding on what is needed for your network is completely dependent on the intended uses of it. Many factors contribute to this; security, size of network, locations, speed necessary, etc.

For most small companies, they can usually get by with a simple router that has a built-in firewall solution.

While the simple routers take care of giving access to users hardwired to the local network, and in some cases via a wireless connection, they don’t offer the features that a higher end router would.

Many companies have multiple sites that they want to have access to all the same files. One solution is purchasing cloud storage to accomplish this.

While that would be a great idea if you needed access when you are not on your companies network, a much more economical solution is to have a virtual private connection (VPN) setup between sites.

If a VPN is setup between sites the traffic is encrypted with a shared key between the routers which allows the two of them to pass traffic to each other without anyone being able to see what it is.

This allows you to safely send confidential information to members at a different site.

The biggest advantage of a VPN between sites is the ability to have one server at a centralized location and allow all of your sites to have access to it.

This alone can save thousands of dollars when it comes to the network build, you only need one server.

When it comes to having a server, if properly configured they can provide a significant amount of security on the network.

Servers improve security by offering centralized management and providing a means to allow or deny access to files on the network.

For instance, you may have accounting files on a network that you only want certain employees to have access to, with a server you can assign specific users access to these files.

Some routers also have the ability to manage bandwidth. This provides companies the ability to manage the amount of data users can use for different applications.

Many large companies need the ability to control how much bandwidth is being used and what is using it. With higher end routers you have the ability to do this.

On the business class firewalls we generally install at businesses they offer a large package of security tools to help protect your network.

Our business class firewalls offer all of the routing capabilities of the simple, home user routers but also offer antivirus, web filtering, antispam, intrusion prevention system (IPS), and vulnerability management.

The business class firewalls drastically improve a business’s security as well as offers many of the features listed above.

If your business is in need of network improvements to increase security and employee productivity, give us a call and we can offer you a network diagnosis to determine what your company’ needs are and where your networks weak points are.

Common Network Problems Resolved

By Tech Experts Staff
It’s amazing how easily network problems can turn into a huge headache for businesses and home users. If you don’t have guidance when purchasing equipment, or don’t know how to properly maintain and troubleshoot issues, you could be down for hours or days.

While network problems and questions are very common, there really are simple solutions to them. This month we’ll take a look at the most common network related questions and problems and how we generally resolve them.

The first question we regularly hear, most often from home users, is “How do I know what kind of equipment to purchase?”

That isn’t that hard of a question. Generally, with network equipment, it comes down to the old saying “You get what you pay for.”

When you buy networking equipment, whether it’s a switch to expand the number of available connections on your network, or a router, don’t buy the lowest priced one you can find.

There’s a reason one piece of equipment is more expensive than another. Generally, the price difference means drastic differences in the speed of the unit, number of available ports, range, and in some cases security features.

So, when buying network equipment, don’t scrimp – you’ll end up with a slow network lacking in features.

Even when you have good equipment in place you can still run into network problems. The most common issue on a network tends to be a malfunctioning device.

It is normally much less expensive to try replacing a device as a first step to resolving a problem than it would be to have a tech go around and test every device on the network.

For example, if your network is having issues with slower than normal connections, high latency, etc. it is entirely possible that your switch or router has begun to fail.

With consumer grade network equipment, routers and switches can fail as much as once per year depending on the quality of the device and how well you’ve protected it from power surges.

If you’ve replaced your router and/or switch, and you continue to have high latency and strange issues, the next step is to check your network cables.

The cables you’ve been moving around over the years and putting stress on may have faults that are causing problems.

At this point, a tech would need to go through and test the cabling to make sure there are no issues with them.

A cable that is either wired improperly or is starting to fail can cause problems that will affect a network in many ways.

Sometimes, depending on the severity of the fault, it can cause intermittent failures resulting in spotty connections. If a cable fails altogether it can prevent a user from being able to connect to the network entirely.

Once all of the cabling issues are straightened out and we know our devices are good, you may still have a computer acting up on the network.

In that case, it is possible that the network interface card (NIC) is failing. Sometimes this can be a hardware problem where the NIC fails, but sometimes it is possible that the software on your computer is causing problems with it.

For instance, a NIC takes drivers for the operating system to allow it to communicate on the network. If you have the wrong driver installed, or the driver is corrupt, it can cause a lot of network problems.

Another possibility is a virus or other malicious software installed on the computer.

Depending on what the virus is designed to do it could be causing the problem with your computer’s ability to connect to the Internet.

Depending on the severity of the infection and what it was designed to do, it is possible that a virus could cause the entire network to run slowly.

What it all comes down to is that it is really best to have a professional diagnose network issues and work with you directly when trying to get equipment for your network.

With the number of variables involved, if you don’t deal with networking on a regular basis it’s fairly easy to be confused.

Feel free to contact us anytime for advice on network upgrades and help diagnosing problems with your network, firewall, switches or routers.