Tag Archives: tech basics

Tech Tuesday #11: Are We Business-Grade?

Another Tech Tuesday, where we answer reader questions!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Cathie from Rindge asks….

My new technology company says I need to replace my router…or firewall…not sure which. The sales guy said my D-Link is not made for business. Is he just trying to sell me a more expensive one?

Thanks, Cathie…most small businesses have a single device that acts as both a router (moves traffic between networks) and a firewall (inspects each  packet of traffic and allows/blocks based on a set of rules). Many small-business techies use the words interchangeably now, but you’ve almost certainly got a single device that does both.

Here’s a nifty older picture (despite the mid-90’s iMacs the theory still works)

But the bigger question is….

GMC Professional Grade Logo

Is it “professional grade?”

The simple answer? It depends. Many businesses can get by with less-expensive, consumer-grade networking gear. It’s 2013 and nearly any firewall/router you can buy will give a few years of trouble-free connection to the internet.

Take this one, for instance. It’s a TrendNet N150 Router. This is a typical $40 consumer-grade router.
TrendNet N150 Home Router

A basic Internet and Wireless connection! Who could ask for anything more?

Well… Looking at the specifications…this is a router that does not claim to have a Stateful Packet Inspection Firewall.

It might be nice to set up a second wireless network for guest access.

And, setting up more than a few connections at the same time the lil TrendNet will start to lag….

and what happens if something doesn’t work? Send an e-mail to Trendnet support and hope for the best?

Level up!

So we can consider an entry-level business firewall…like the Netgear FVS300.
Netgear FVS318

These cost around $200. For the extra money we get:

  • Better network speed
  • Real SPI firewall
  • Phone or chat support
  • VPN connections (limited)

What could be better?

Well…

“I want to block job hunting/porn/shopping websites, except on my computer… or at break time.”

“We use voice over IP phones, how do we make sure that gets priority?”

“We need a reliable connection between our two buildings…”

“Our regulations say we need to monitor for unauthorized access…”

“Can I get a report of what websites employees are going to?”

“Can this system collect evidence in case of an attack?”

This is a job for a Sonicwall! (Or Cisco ASA, or WatchGuard, or Meraki, or Fortinet)
Sonicwall TZ-series wireless Threat Management System

Here’s where we leave the “router/firewall” and enter the “Unified Threat Management” systems. These devices have:

  • Comprehensive router/firewall systems designed for setup by a professional technician
  • Additional services like Intrusion Detection, Web filtering, Remote administration, and incident logging
  • Secure wireless systems that offers segmented guest access
  • Reliable, highly-secure VPNs for remote and site-to-site connections
  • 3G/4G wireless backup connections

What are YOU using for a firewall? Drop a post in the comments!

Got questions? Send them to CharlandTech via Facebook, post as a comment on this article, Tweet ‘em to @gregc00 or @CharlandTech, or find another creative way to get them to us.

Tech Tuesday #8: Buying Safely Online

Tech Tuesdays. It’s your chance to send in your tech questions, and we’ll answer one per week for everyone. To ask a question, just message us. They can be on any topic from security to cloud computing, or anything in between. And we’re featuring Media Mondays over on the CT Media sister page. Be sure to fan us over there, too!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Jeanne from Fitchburg asks, “How do I buy stuff online without getting scammed?”

There’s one absolutely foolproof way to NOT get scammed with a purchase: Don’t buy anything.

Failing that, there are a few quick and easy tips:

  1. Use a credit card, NOT a debit card (or PayPal, etc). Even when playing with well-known vendors it’s always best to play with someone else’s money. If you buy something that isn’t as advertised (or a big company charges you twice for that new platinum-plated toaster oven), it’s a world of difference. The debit card holder sees their money taken immediately…calls the merchant, calls the bank, and after a couple days the errant money finds its way back into its proper place. The credit card holder calls the bank, fills out a form, and the problem goes away. I’m not a big fan of credit cards and consumer debt, but this is why credit cards are essential in 2012.
  2. Use only well-know vendors or stores. Yes, google shopping says that joesplatinumtoasters.com has the same toaster for 20% less than anywhere else, but is it worth it? If anything in this post is news to you….stick with Amazon, buy.com, and other stores where you can return online purchases in-store.

    Elite <em>Platinum</em> 23 Liter <em>Toaster Oven</em>

  3. Factor in shipping costs. You can buy an aftermarket front bumper cover for a 2006 Subaru from Amazon.com for $81. The tiny print below says, “+ $70.01 shipping.” One can buy the same bumper from a local auto parts store for $92 including tax
    .SUBARU LEGACY OEM STYLE FRONT BUMPER COVER
  4. There’s more to this than money, though. If you know what you want, it only makes sense to buy online from a reputable vendor and save money. There are times when we don’t really KNOW what we want/need. Perfect opportunity to get into “buy local” mode and go to a store to take advantage of their knowledge…and buy something! It is pretty lame to get the info from a local expert then go home and order from Amazon to save 5%.
  5. Make sure your computer is updated, with antivirus software, and stop to think before clicking the “Buy Now” button.

Got questions? Send them to CharlandTech via Facebook, post as a comment on this article, Tweet ‘em to @gregc00 or @CharlandTech, or find another creative way to get them to us.

Tech Tuesday #6: Battery Basics

Tech Tuesdays. It’s your chance to send in your tech questions, and we’ll answer one per week for everyone. To ask a question, just message us. They can be on any topic from security to cloud computing, or anything in between. And we’re featuring Media Mondays over on the CT Media sister page. Be sure to fan us over there, too!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Nadine from Leominster asks, “Should I keep my laptop plugged in or let the battery discharge?”

Laptop batteries have come a long way from the old Ni-Cad batteries of the 1990’s, and (for the most) part Nickel-Metal-Hydride batteries from the early 2000’s.

There are a lot of myths about how to best maintain your laptop and battery. There are also a lot of “best practices” that are not feasible in real life. The average laptop battery lasts about 3 years. This varies widely depending on how you treat the battery.

First Key point: Laptop batteries HATE HEAT. Their ideal storage temperature is ZERO. As in freezing. Every degree above freezing shortens the lifespan of the battery. So use your laptop on a desk, on a table, on a hard surface, or one of those laptop coolers that I always used to make fun of.

Similarly, tossing a running laptop into an insulated bag is not so helpful. Let it get into suspend or hibernate first.

Second key point: Laptop batteries are damaged by full discharge. Which means, turn it off BFORE the battery is completely dead and it shuts down.

 

Third key point: Laptop batteries have a finite life. That means that the chemicals inside the battfery degrade each time the system is discharged and recharged. So while there’s no “memory effect” per se…a partial discharge of the battery has the same effect as a full discharge. So it makes sense to charge the battery fully, unplug, and discharge it to 5-10% left then do a full charge.

Fourth key point: Today’s laptops are smart. Use the power features. They can shut down the DVD (if there is one), reduce brightness, slow down the processor, and take many other measures…simultaneously reducing power consumption (giving you more time per charge) and heat (giving you more charges per battery).

It can be helpful to remove your laptop battery when running for long periods of time on AC power. This can reduce the battery’s exposure to heat and cut the number of unnecessary cycles.

Got questions? Send them to CharlandTech via Facebook, post as a comment on this article, Tweet ‘em to @gregc00 or @CharlandTech, or find another creative way to get them to us.