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Category: Network

The Damage of Disconnection: How To Proactively Prevent Network Issues

We demand a lot from our IT resources – and as possibilities expand, and the amount of data we process mounts, we can find that the performance of our infrastructure is left lacking. Network performance monitoring solutions can give oversight of the operations of enterprise networks, freeing up resource to present availability in response to peaks in demand, and keeping overall performance running well.

Such network monitoring tools can be proactive – running real-time analytics, minimizing network disruption and downtime and solving issues that crop up quickly. And of course, this will save you time and money in the long run.  But if you’re in the process of managing a growing start-up enterprise, heavily reliant on strong IT infrastructure, then you may encounter problems as the network grows quickly.

You may identify issues with effective monitoring that slow you down in identifying where a problem has its origin. Fixing problems can take longer than anticipated – and all the while you could be losing business. Here are some ways in which you can effectively optimize your network for maximum performance, minimum downtime and disruption to service:

Understanding The Set Up

Any attempt to remedy performance issues depends on your understanding of what’s happening within your network at any given moment. While people tend to automatically assume the network itself if, at fault, it may actually be PCs or servers that are causing problems. A tool like Compuware’s Vantage can help you pick up on problematic clients, bad performance on a WAN link, or badly constructed SQL on a server. This type of analysis tends to reveal issues existing on the system that you haven’t even been aware of – structural issues with the initial set up for example. If you take the time to collect all the information then you can head off most problems before they even impact on users. Adding bandwidth without first performing this type of diagnostic can be an expensive mistake, and the solutions that work for you will depend on the environment your network operates in. Opt for auto-alerts to let you know when an unusual event is occurring- you can usually set them up as emails or even text messages to your phone. There may be external factors that get flagged in this way, such as a neighboring WLAN coming online that then impacts the performance of your own network.

Future-proof Your Network

It’s important to factor in future requirements as well as stabilizing current demand. Build in future proofing measures through planning at the outset for increased capacity requirements. Capacity planning functionality in diagnostics will give you the required level of details about where future potential losses in data and packets lie by identifying areas prone to traffic slow down. If you are using too little bandwidth, it can cause as many problems as overload by contributing to underwhelming performance. Take a preventative approach to managing resources and data, and your network will run much more efficiently over time, for a small investment at the outset.

Keep Network Oversight

You need full visibility to keep everything running smoothly. It helps you to check on the flow of authorized traffic –and see any unauthorized requests too. Flagging up even currently non-critical issues with server, routing, bandwidth and network allows you to prevent issues before they become damaging to operations. If you have ‘blind spots’ such as increased traffic data or unexpected application performance, it can also make you aware of these.

Make it Visual

Dashboards are the ideal took for optimizing the performance of your network. With access to instant, at-a-glance information about performance, up/down status, storage, and wireless capacity – whether that’s on the premises or in the cloud – you’ll be able to see your network’s internal characteristics using endpoint data informatics. This can also help when it comes to collaborative working – any suppliers, associates, and vendors can also be notified of current network issues and work together on analyzing multiple layers of data.

Understanding the Cost

Business is all a matter of tackling competing priorities and resource demand. So it’s important to understand – and be able to explain to others – why network integrity needs to be prioritized. Understanding the true cost of issues can be a matter of quantifying it regarding lost revenue, damage to productivity or your business reputation taking a hit, which can cost you, future clients. Attach some solid numbers to these outcomes of potential downtime and outages, and you have a very convincing argument for investing in robust architecture and diagnostic tools.

Quick, Easy, and Cheap VPN for Mac

If you are not paranoid about using open Wifi service at coffee shops, hotels, and other public establishments, you should be. Time and time again it has been proven that such locales can be extremely dangerous for doing mundane things such as checking your email or posting to your Facebook account. If you are unlucky enough to be sitting near one sniffing snooper looking for login credentials to be passed over the air, and you can quickly find yourself locked out of everything you thought was your own.

I recently tried out Hotspot Shield, a quick and easy way to get yourself up and running on an encrypted VPN. This one is for Macs, but there are probably many other solutions out there if you are on Windows, Linux, or others.

Hotspot Shield has a free version, but for $29.95 it’s well worth it to have the ads removed and get a bump in speed. In fact, the speed of this VPN solution is what impressed me the most. I didn’t notice any lag in surfing around the web.

Once you have it installed, it’s just a click of the button in the task bar to launch the VPN and get yourself routed through the tunnel. It takes about 3 seconds to connect.

With a third party VPN solution such as this, you aren’t covering your tracks or surfing around in complete anonymity, mind you, but you are at least securing what you are doing from the prying eyes of anyone on the same Wifi (or other) network as you.

VMware – RHEL / CentOS 6.2 – Network Issues

Howdy folks,

I just grabbed CentOS 6.2 (don’t know if it’s an issue in 6.0, 6.1), but an installation with the “Basic Server” within VMware Fusion 4.1.1 delivered no IP address etc. when leaving DHCP/NAT as the default.

Finding: Seems, either something is goofed in the dhclient or NetworkManager (now default for RHEL 6.x).

Fix: I brought the network interface up “ifup eth0”, then ran “dhclient eth0”, obtained an IP and ran “yum update -y”, after which (I noticed dhclient was in the updates), I was able to reboot and all worked well.

Not a big deal, as you could have just manually configured your network script, but maybe it will help someone. 🙂

Practical Security: Resources from the US Government

If you live in the USA, did you know that your tax dollars are being used for some really good purposes?

You better believe it.  For example, the NSA provides some great guides and tools for securing your operating system, whether your are on a Mac, or running Windows, Linux, or Solaris.

Some of the guides can get a little complex (especially the Linux and Solaris ones), but even if you do some of what they suggest, you are increasing the security of your OS and are likely to learn a few things at the same time.

There are more resources from other parts of the government as well.

Cacti on Fedora 10 – Part 1

— Cacti on Fedora 10 —

One thing I’ve noticed about the Ubuntu community, is they have some really great
guides for configuring server packages. However, I like Fedora…….I guess it’s the hat or something.
While there is a Fedora Doc site, it’s lacking guides for most things that are in
the Fedora repos.

I’m planning on joining the Fedora team and submitting such docs in the future. I figured
this would be a great place to test some of my guide ideas.

I’m using a cross between the docs at the cacti site and my own trial and errors.
This will be a multi-part HOWTO. The first write up, will walk you through everything
needed to get cacti up and running on Fedora 10 from scratch.

—————–

0. I’m assuming you have Fedora 10 already installed and ready to go. 🙂

—————–

1. Installing Cacti and all the requirements: (mysql server, apache, etc.)
# You can simply copy and paste. If you’re not in the sudoers file yet, either add yourself or switch to root.

sudo yum install -y mysql mysql-server httpd mod_ssl php php-snmp php-mysql net-snmp net-snmp-utils rrdtool cacti

# Almost everything will be done for you (so no need to follow the Cacti Manual 100%)
# However, it’s good to read and understand where all the core files are.
# So either visit the cacti site or check the docs under /usr/share/doc/cacti-0.8.7b/*

—————–

2. Setup the MySQL server:

# If you’ve just installed the MySQL server, you’ll need to configure the root account & password.
# If you already have a mysql server installed and configured simply skip the “mysql_secure_installation”.

sudo service mysqld start
sudo /usr/bin/mysql_secure_installation (answer all questions as needed/desired)
mysqladmin -u root -p create cacti
sudo mysql -p cacti < /usr/share/doc/cacti-0.8.7b/cacti.sql

# Open the mysql database and configure the cacti user privs/password etc.

mysql -u root -p mysql
mysql>GRANT ALL ON cacti.* TO [email protected] IDENTIFIED BY 'SOME-PASSWORD';
mysql>flush privileges;
mysql>exit

——————

3. Configure the cacti database configuration settings:.

Backup the default config.php (/usr/share/cacti/include/config.php), which actually links to “/etc/cacti/db.php”
Then edit “/etc/cacti/db.php” and specify the database type, name, host, user and password for your Cacti configuration.

sudo vi /etc/cacti/db.php

$database_type = “mysql”;
$database_default = “cacti”;
$database_hostname = “localhost”;
$database_username = “cactiuser”; <—- created via the cacti.sql script
$database_password = “cacti”; <—- change this to the above ‘SOME-PASSWORD’

—————–

4. Configure Cron to run the poller script:

# Make sure your /etc/cron.d/cacti looks like so. (you’ll need to remove the #)

*/5 * * * * cacti /usr/bin/php /usr/share/cacti/poller.php > /dev/null 2>&1

—————–

5. Start up mysql and apache:

# Start/Restart your MySQL and Apache servers.

sudo service mysqld start
sudo service httpd start

#Point your web browser to:

http://localhost/cacti/ or https://localhost/cacti/

Continue with the installation via the web browser, when you get to the page that locates “rrdtool” etc.
make sure everything is “FOUND” and has the correct path.
IMPORTANT – at the bottom of this same screen change the default “RRDTool Utility version” from 1.x to 1.2.x.
Click “Finish”

Log in the with a username/password of admin. You will be required to change this password immediately.

You can now start creating new devices per the Cacti users guides or poke around and figure it out.

—————–

6. Alter the cacti.conf file for access:

Note: Once you’ve got everything set up the way you want and are ready to access your new Cacti install from
else where, you’ll need edit the /etc/httpd/conf.d/cacti.conf file.
Simply alter the Allow statement as needed.

#
# Cacti: An rrd based graphing tool
#
Alias /cacti /usr/share/cacti
Order Deny,Allow
Deny from all
Allow from 127.0.0.1

—————–

7. Make sure mysqld and httpd are running on boot. 😉

sudo chkconfig httpd on
sudo chkconfig mysqld on

—————–

In part 2, I’ll walk you through examples of configuring various devices.

Take care.

DB