Networking

Gigabit Internet service is coming! Are you ready?

Gigabit Internet service is coming! While we have all heard about google fiber and AT&T fiber, Verizon FIOS, an announcement made by Comcast last week about a breakthrough served to accelerate the rollout of gigabit fiber. Comcast has successfully tested a DOCSIS 3.1 modem that allows them to provide gigabit internet service through its existing coax infrastructure with rollouts planned by the end of 2016.

As gigabit internet is coming, a common question is asked – what do I need to get ready? There are three things that you need to prepare – cabling, network, and client devices.

Cabling.

In order to take advantage of the maximum potential of gigabit internet, if you have wired connections – make sure your Ethernet cables in wall are Cat 5e or above. These are capable of support gigabit throughput.

Network.

One of the most critical links is in the modem and router. Usually the modem is provided by the Internet Service Provider. Some of these routers may include an all in one router and wireless, which may not work as well with our customers networks. In that case, you will need a router with a LAN to WAN throughput of close to 1 gigabit. In this case, there is only one option in the marketplace that is designed specifically for AV – the Pakedge RK1.

Now is also a good time to look at your existing switches. You will need to have 10/100/1000 (gigabit) switches throughout your network. If you have fast Ethernet switches (10/100), you will need to selectively replace those. I say selectively, because you may have parts of your network that is not concerned with gigabit service. For example, you may have a printer that is connected to a 10/100 switch.

It is also important to look at your wireless access points. You want to be on the latest 802.11ac wave 1 3 x 3 wireless. This is important because a 3 x 3 has a maximum theoretical speed of 1.3 Gbps (that is a maximum speed, but in actual usage, you will get about one half to two thirds of that due to attenuation and other real world conditions). Compared to a 2 x 2, a 3 x 3 is about 20 to 30% faster in real world use. Compared to 802.11n technology, a 3 x 3 is approximately 5 times faster. If you are going to replace your current 802.11n model to 802.11ac, please note that you may need more WAPs as the 5 GHz footprint is smaller than the 2.4 GHz footprint. Good options for a 3 x 3 wireless are the Pakedge WX-1 and WK-2 wireless access points.

RK-1-SocialMedia

 Client devices.

Finally, your client devices must be capable of supporting gigabit traffic. If you plan on streaming content to your computer, whether it is a laptop or desktop, you will need to verify that it has a gigabit port. If not, you may need a gigabit network adapter such as these –

  1.       USB to 10/100/1000 Ethernet (ideal for laptop computers or desktop computers with an available USB port) – http://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-1000-Gigabit-Ethernet-Adapter/dp/B00M77HMU0/
  2.       Gigabit Network Adapter card (for desktop computers) – http://www.amazon.com/Realtek-RTL8111C-Ethernet-Interface-SOFTWARE/dp/B007MWYCG2  

If you are connecting your computer to the network via wireless means, verify to make sure your computer has an 802.11ac adapter card such as these:

  1.       For desktop computers – http://www.amazon.com/TP-LINK-Archer-T6E-Wireless-Express/dp/B016K0896K
  2.       For laptop computers – http://ww.amazon.com/Bplus-7260-HMWG-Wireless-AC-Bluetooth-HMCPartner/dp/B00HJCBV64

Finally, make sure your AV streaming devices are capable of supporting gigabit traffic. Client devices connected to the network through a Ethernet cable must have a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port to pass gigabit traffic through. Client devices connected wireless must support the 5 GHz band and built on the 802.11ac technology standard. The 5 GHz is the one you will be transmitting your content on, as the 2.4 GHz is not capable of supporting that kind of speed (AC is a 5 GHz technology), and more importantly, 2.4 is subject to a lot of interference. Please note that to stream over the 5 GHz band, you may need to add more access points (assuming that your current WAPs do not have 5 GHz or may not be optimized for 5 GHz coverage

Should I upgrade to the new 802.11ac wireless access points? Some considerations to think about.

This year Pakedge introduced its 802.11ac based wireless access point (WAP) lines – the WK series and the WX series. The WK series is designed for residential and light commercial use, while the WX is designed for commercial use.

A common refrain we hear from our customers and resellers is “Should I upgrade from 802.11n to 802.11ac?” This blog will provide you with some things to consider as you make this decision.

What is the current wireless technology being replaced?
In terms of performance, there is a big difference between 3rd generation (802.11g), 4th generation (802.11n) and 5th generation (802.11ac).

  • 802.11g or “G” – There is no compelling reason not to upgrade from G technology. This technology is over 10 years old and is insufficient for many of today’s applications and services for a variety of reasons, including:
    1. It has a maximum theoretical speed of 54 Mbps and in real world situations, you will get less than half that. Many people have Internet services faster than G’s wireless transmission speeds.
    2. Multiple users streaming video will max out its capacity.
    3. It only operates on the congested 2.4 GHz band and is susceptible to interference, especially in an urban multi-tenant office environment or a multi-dwelling residential building.
  • 802.11n Single Band (2.4 GHz) or Single Band N – Unless there are very specific single purpose applications or that the local environment is interference free, there is no reason not to upgrade from Single Band N. Its main shortcoming is that it only operates on the congested 2.4 GHz band, and is subject to interference and degraded device performance, especially for those that are streaming high bandwidth and low latency content.
  • 802.11n Dual Band (2.4 and 5 GHz) – The decision to upgrade depends on the applications. The biggest difference between AC and dual band N lies in the performance and capacity of the 5 GHz band. AC is 5 times faster than its N counterpart, while supporting twice as many client devices (per WAP), and having a longer usable range (i.e. the coverage profile stays flatter longer before dropping off at the edge of coverage, thus providing you with higher throughput further out than N before dropping off). Consider upgrading if these are important to you.

Are you in a high interference environment?
The number one factor affecting wireless performance is interference. Most of the interference occurs in the 2.4 GHz band because many devices still use it. Legacy devices, still in service today, only operate in this band while other newer devices choose to operate in this band because of its longer range. In addition, the 2.4 GHz band has only 11 channels, of which 3 (channels 1, 6 and 11) do not overlap.

If you live and work in an dense urban area, you are in a high interference environment. This is easily verified by performing a site survey using a tool like inSSIDer or a built in application within your WAP (for example, you can use the site survey function in our W6 and W7 WAPS). In addition to interference sources within your own network, it is likely you have as much interference from your neighbors as well.

If your environment does not have a lot of interference today, there is a strong possibility that will change in the future as the 2.4 GHz band is only going to get crowded. Your microwave, cordless phones and any wireless cameras/monitors are potential sources of interference. In addition, many of the automation devices (wi-fi enabled and Zigbee enabled shades, thermostats, and appliances) operate on the 2.4 GHz band. As more and more of these IOT or connected devices become mainstream, and you or your neighbors buy and use them, the limitations of the 2.4 GHz band on performance will become clear.

We recommend upgrading to AC if:

  • You live and work in a high interference environment
  • You use a lot of high bandwidth low latency applications (e.g. streaming video, VOIP telephone service)
  • You have a large number of 5 GHz compatible devices that you use to consume high bandwidth, low latency applications
  • You wish to futureproof your network against a local RF environment that is likely to get more congested in the near future

What types of applications are you running?
The applications you use will be a major consideration in the upgrade decision process. Are you using your network to stream video? Are you using it to stream audio, to do internet surfing (reading), to print or data transfer? To do VOIP?

Some applications are sensitive to performance. High bandwidth/low latency applications, like HD/UHD video streaming, high resolution audio, VOIP, videoconferencing or AVB applications, require high performance whereas data transfer or print applications don’t have the same performance requirements. Even if you don’t use a lot of high bandwidth, low latency applications today, you may do so in the future as more and more content is being delivered in the form of video.

For these high performance applications, you want to be on the uncongested 5 GHz band whenever possible. If you use this band frequently, the decision to upgrade is based on your requirements. As stated previously, AC is 5 times faster than its N counterpart, while supporting twice as many client devices (per WAP), and having a longer usable range.

We recommend upgrading to AC if:

  • You use a lot of high bandwidth low latency applications (e.g. streaming video, VOIP telephone service) on the 5 GHz band
  • You have a large number of 5 GHz compatible devices that you use to consume high bandwidth, low latency applications
  • You wish to futureproof and scale your network against growth, both in the number of devices supported, as well as usage of high bandwidth, low latency applications
  • You want to maintain 5 GHz performance at long distances without having to buy additional N access points to make up for the performance coverage gap

What types of devices are in the network?
If you have a lot of 5 GHz compatible devices, they should always operate in that band instead of the 2.4 GHz band. This allows them to operate in the uncongested band, while freeing the 2.4 GHz band for the 2.4 GHz only devices and reduces performance robbing devices from the spectrum.

If you have a large number of 5 GHz devices, then the decision to upgrade is based on the applications you run. Coming from G or N single band, you should upgrade to N dual band or AC. Specifically, we recommend upgrading to AC if:

  • You use a lot of high bandwidth low latency applications (e.g. streaming video, VOIP telephone service) on the 5 GHz band
  • You have a large number of 5 GHz compatible devices that you use to consume high bandwidth, low latency applications
  • You wish to futureproof and scale your network against growth, both in the number of devices supported, as well as usage of high bandwidth, low latency applications
  • You want to maintain 5 GHz performance at long distances without having to buy additional N access points to make up for the performance coverage gap

What is your current ISP service?
Many users still have low speed service (10 – 25 Mbps) with no plans to upgrade. However, as more and more high speed Internet services are rolled out, many of the existing service plans are being upgraded for free. For example, Comcast has been upgrading its customers with 25 Mbps service to 50 Mbps, and some 50 Mbps service to 100 Mbps service. Even if you are at 25 Mbps today, you will find that many service providers are now routinely upgrading its customers to the next higher speed level at no charge (as long as their infrastructure can support it).

Consider upgrading to AC is this is happening in your local service area, or if high speed services are coming in the near future and you utilize a lot of cloud based streaming services.

all-AC

Keep Your Network in Top Shape with an Annual Maintenance Checkup

checkup

The network has become a critical part of the business and home infrastructure today. Professional IT managers understand the importance of the network infrastructure in daily business operation and invest significant time and resources to maintain their multi-million (and multi-billion) dollar network systems.

Just as you visit your doctor for an annual health physical, your network also needs an annual checkup to ensure that it is in tip-top shape. When was the last time you made a “house call” and checked on the health of your customers’ networks?

The Pakedge Technical Support team has compiled a list of network maintenance best practices and checklist to help you protect your customers’ networks and keep your customers’ Pakedge networks in top health.

Perform an audit of the current network installation

  • Review inventory against last recorded list of equipment. Verify brand, model, serial number, MAC address and IP address (if known) of equipment.
  • For equipment added since your last visit, record brand, model, serial number, MAC address, IP address (if known).

Check and update firmware on equipment

  • Review the list of latest firmware versions available on the Pakedge dealer portal (for Pakedge network equipment only)
  • Check firmware versions on equipment and update as necessary
    • Pakedge Wireless Access Points (WAPs) W6 or W7, must be updated in steps:
      1. W6 – if current is below v1.7 then update to v1.7 prior to v1.8 or v1.9
      2. W7 – if current is below v1.6 then update to v1.6 prior to v1.8
      3. After firmware update to v1.9, please factory default APs.
    • Pakedge WK and WX series access points, as well as the RE and RK series routers, can be updated from the cloud through the unit’s management menu. If you are not able to do so, please log in to the Pakedge dealer portal, go to the specific product, and then go to the Firmware tab to find the latest firmware version. With this, you can then update firmware manually.
    • For other products, including the K60D and R10 routers, the SX and SK series switches, please log in to the Pakedge dealer portal, go to the specific product, and then go to the Firmware tab to find the latest firmware version. With this, you can then update firmware manually.
    • For the C36 wireless controller and NP36 BakPak appliance, these can be updated directly through the unit’s management interface.
    • If you have the NP36  in your network, you can also update firmware for all the switches, routers and WAPs directly from the BakPak profile without having to go into each unit’s management menu.
    • If you have the C36 in your wireless network, you can also update the firmware for all the WAPs directly from the C36 management interface without having to go into each unit’s management menu separately.

Review device logs for messages and errors. Review any logs from BakPak Cloud Management System (if used) and logs stored in your network devices. Look for recurring messages and address any problems as necessary.

Check condition of wall ports and unused ports in network equipment. Verify no damage, no dust or other foreign materials (contamination), and check continuity. Check condition of fiber optic and copper cables – verify no broken tabs, exposed cabling, and other physical damage.

Perform wireless system performance optimizations

  1. Perform site survey to determine if there have been changes in the surroundings that clients or technicians are unaware of
  2. Verify if there have been added devices on the jobsite that utilize 2.4GHz as this may affect wireless connection if near WAPs.
  3. Check channels (pending amount of wireless traffic onsite and offsite – recommend channels 1, 6, and 11 since they do not interfere with one another for WAPs on 2.4 GHz band). Use results of the site survey to see what channels neighboring WAPs are operating on, and change channels as appropriate to mitigate interference.

Update network configuration settings. Review new equipment added to network since your last network inspection. Install any new devices (if any). Update network and device configuration settings.

Security

  • Usernames and Passwords. Review User Administrator Profile information on devices (routers, switches, access points) and update your security on your devices (i.e. username and password information)
    1. On 60C and/or 60D router models: verify that User section only has needed User Profiles set up for SSL & PPTP access
    2. On WAPs – update passwords as needed
    3. Guest networks (wired and wireless) – update guest network username and passwords
    4. Update VPN policies and passwords (as needed).
  • Verify devices connected to the correct VLANs. For networks with VLANs, verify that current and new devices have been assigned to the correct VLANs. Verify that previously connected devices are still connected to the right VLANs.
  • Verify devices connected to guest networks. Confirm that devices meant for guest usage (desktop computers, terminals, televisions, etc.) are still connected to the designated guest ports. If those devices have changed locations, it may be necessary to reassign the ports or update the wiring connection at the switch to the guest ports.
  • Review firewall configurations and reports. Re-subscribe to existing anti-virus, intrusion protection and other security management services (if needed).
  • Update website access control lists (whitelists, blacklists) as necessary.
  • Block unauthorized devices. Scan and identify wireless network for “rogue” devices and block access to network.
  • Update port forwarding. Review, add and remove devices that require port forwarding as needed.
  • Update Dynamic DNS (including Pakedge DNS) as needed.
  • Update Demilitarized Zones (DMZ). For routers with DMZ capabilities, review and update any devices to be placed in the DMZ.
  • Perform security audit. Perform other tasks on the network security audit and checklist.

Power Schedules. If there are network devices, or devices connected to the network that are on an on/off power schedule (through PoE ports or PDU control):

  1. Check to see if those schedules are still active, or if any changes need to be made.
  2. Add any new devices to the schedule
  3. Remove any devices from schedule (as needed)

Verify proper network failover operation

  1. Failover paths of existing equipment (if so configured)
  2. Redundant equipment connected in network
  3. Spare or backup equipment not yet connected to network

Create backup configuration files for all devices (including those devices that do not require any configuration updates) so as to be able to restore if necessary. (this does not apply if updating firmware and then trying to re-establish settings)

Check batteries and proper backup power operation. For devices connected to backup power or UPS sources, check battery condition and verify proper operation in fail-over mode.

Verify unobstructed airflow around vents. Check to make sure ventilation slots on network equipment and network racks are clear. Verify that there are sufficient clearances around equipment for adequate airflow. Remove dust with compressed air. Change out any dust filters.

Inspect for damage. Check equipment and racks for signs of any corrosion or other damage.

Check with the local Internet Service Provider (ISP) to see what services and upgrades are available

  • Contact the ISP to see what service speed tiers are available, or what new services/speed tiers are being offered, including any free speed upgrades
  • Perform a speed test (through a wired connection) to see what current speeds are and to see if ISP has upgraded customer incoming service speeds (either free upgrades or paid upgrades). If current speeds are not consistent with the subscribed service tier, the modem may need to be reset.
  • Verify modem compatibility with higher speed services that may be offered by the local Internet Service Provider.
  • If customer has upgraded service levels, determine if any equipment or network configuration settings need to readjusted.

Discuss network upgrade needs with customer, including:

  • Is there any consumer grade equipment in network that may require upgrading for better and scalable and performance, security or increased reliability?
  • Any plans to upgrade to higher speed services?
  • Will the site be expanding in the next six months? Any construction planned?
  • Will the network be supporting more devices in the next six months?
    1. Upgrade switches from 10/100 to the 10/100/1000 switches.
    2. Upgrade higher port count switches at the edge or in the closet
    3. Upgrade to a higher performance router
  • If there have been more wireless devices being used, consider upgrading to later model WAPs to support the increased wireless connectivity needs.
  • Project may need to utilize multiple VLANs – evaluate a change to managed switches if there is multiple home automation systems and devices integrated into the network.
  • Discuss if any network redundancy requirements have changed – determine if any new equipment to be added to the failover plan.

Discuss network health maintenance needs and planning with customer

  • Review checkup results with customer
  • Discuss any network monitoring and maintenance needs, including any automated monitoring needs (with BakPak Cloud Management System)
  • Develop and update network monitoring and maintenance plan.

 

Pakedge routers are not impacted by Misfortune Cookie vulnerability

On December 18, 2014, security researchers from Check Point Software Technologies have issued an alert about a critical vulnerability found on select residential and small business routers. An estimated 200 models and over 12 million routers are affected. Pakedge routers are not affected by this vulnerability.

We recognize that your clients use a variety of brands of networking equipment, and that it is possible that they may be at risk. Please review the quick action guide below to determine what action, if any, is required.

What:

  1. Critical vulnerability CVE-2014-9222 (aka Misfortune Cookie vulnerability) announced by researchers on December 18, 2014 that affects over 200 models of residential and small business routers (including all-in-on modem/routers) and about an estimated 12 million devices worldwide
  2. Affected routers can be taken over with administrative privileges and hackers can get access into your network and any connected devices. Your credentials and any data stored on connected network devices are vulnerable to theft and manipulation. Attackers can upload malware and viruses onto connected devices, as well as take control of them (e.g. cameras, etc.).
  3. The vulnerability is in the web server (RomPager by AllegroSoft, versions 4.34 and below) embedded in the device firmware.

What equipment is impacted:

  1. A list of the suspected vulnerable devices are listed by Check Point’s security researchers in the pdf here. Check back on a weekly basis as more brands and models are added.
  2. Popular brands include – TP-Link, Huawei, D-Link, Linksys, Zyxel and ZTE.  Other brands include AirLive, Arcor, Asotel, Atlantis, Azmoon, Beetel, Billion, Binatone, BSNL, Buffalo, CentreCOM, Compact, Conceptronic, Connectionnc, Delsa, den-IT, Edimax, Everest, Hexabyte, iBall, Iodata, Kraun, Lightwave, Maxnet, Mercury, MTNL, Netcomm, Nilox, Pentagram, Postef, PreWare, ProNet, Reconnect, Roteador, SBS, SendTel, SmartAX, Solwise, Starnet, Sterlite, Sweex, Twister.
  3. Pakedge routers and other networking equipment are NOT affected by this vulnerability. Pakedge does not incorporate the RomPager web server in its firmware.

What to do if affected:

  1. Contact the manufacturer or service provider (for leased units) to see if there is a firmware update addressing the vulnerability forthcoming.
    • If a firmware is available, install the updated firmware.
    • If no firmware is available or forthcoming, consider replacing the router with one that is not vulnerable
  2. Review your security policies and practices. Safeguard sensitive data using encryption and password protection. Store data on devices that can be disconnected from the network.

Where can I find more information?

  1. Detailed information is provided through a special web page made available through Check Point Software Technologies.
  2. Full list of affected routers
  3. US and Canada dealers – please contact your Pakedge representative if you have any concerns or questions at +1-650-385-8702 (sales) or +1-650-385-8703 (Tech Support).

Dealers outside the US and Canada – please contact your local in-country distributor if you have any questions.

Why Do We Use Blue LEDs?

blue

Energy-saving LED lamps are quickly replacing Edison bulbs these days thanks to their stronger, longer-lasting light and low energy requirement. This wouldn’t have been possible without the work of three scientists from Japan who were recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their invention of the blue diode.

Red and green diodes have been around for half a century, but they could not produce the desired white LED light by themselves—they needed to be combined with a blue diode for that effect.

Dozens of labs and companies thus attempted to create a blue diode for three decades to no avail. It was only 20 years ago that scientists Shuji Nakamura, Hiroshi Amano, and Isamu Akasaki used a high-quality gallium nitride crystal to create the first blue LED.

When Pakedge was in its early stages, blue LEDs had only been around for 10 years. Networking devices at the time used only green LEDs due to their low cost and availability. Despite these reasons, Pakedge still chose to use blue.

Why?

The blue LED was the final component in the white light that could operate on cheap solar power, potentially bringing light to parts of the world where over 1.5 billion people still lack access to electricity.

Blue represented something different–change. It represented the implementation of new technology to help improve the lives of its users. It represented innovation driven by vision, which is one of the core values of Pakedge.

Now blue LEDs can be found on networking devices everywhere.

Pakedge was the first networking manufacturer to use blue LEDs, just as it was the first networking manufacturer to clean up the look of messy wires in an A/V rack by placing ports at the back of a device instead of the front. Pakedge was also the first networking manufacturer to implement high-power access points, preconfigured VLANs, PoE innovations, industrial housing designs, virtualization of power controllers and PoE ports for controls, and much more. We don’t design products just to compete with what’s out there; we design what our users need.

And that’s why we use blue LEDs.

Pakedge Heads to CEDIA

CEDIA EXPO 2014 where you can see, touch, and be changed by the products and trends driving the residential technology. At CEDIA EXPO you will find the right type of advanced and fundamental training on home tech to help you conquer and profit from changes in the industry.

And guess who is going? You got it! Pakedge is heading to CEDIA again this year. Booth #820.

If you’re in the area, and want to come visit our booth, contact sales@pakedge.com for a free exhibit pass!

CEDIA 2014

Check out some Dealer Testimonials from CEDIA 2013.

Not your old school PoE switches – five things you can do with our new innovative PoE switches

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Thought you knew or saw everything on PoE switches? Think again – Pakedge has brought a new series of innovative PoE switches to the AV market. Moving beyond the traditional “PoE Out” switches, our lineup now includes the Powered by PoE switches (S8Wpde, S5Wpde, S8Mpd) and the new PoE pass-through switch (SE-5P2-EP). More information about our innovative switches can be found here.

The introduction of Pakedge PoE pass-through and Pakedge PoE Powered switch technology provides new levels of versatility to networks – but how can you use them in real life? Below are five practical places to use PoE passthrough and PoE Powered switches to enhance your A/V network setup and make your job easier.

In an Entertainment Center
Switches that are powered by PoE – like the S8Mpd, S8Wpde, and S5Wpde – are ideal for use away from a user’s main rack. Entertainment centers often have multiple devices that require internet connection – TVs, game consoles, media streaming devices, and more. By utilizing a smaller switch directly at the point of use, users can avoid the difficulty of running multiple Ethernet cables throughout a home to the main switch rack – and by using a PoE powered switch, users can avoid taking up yet another power outlet where so many power-hungry devices already reside.

Attics, Basements, and other rooms without power outlets
PoE Passthrough switches are ideal in retrofit situations that require the installation of an access point, a security camera, or other equipment powered by PoE – but that don’t have easy access to power outlets.  By utilizing the power provided by a PoE+ switch elsewhere on the network, multiple devices powered by PoE can be placed in areas without easy power access without the need for power outlets or costly and time-consuming rewiring.

Extending the length of a PoE cable run
PoE (And Ethernet in general) has a maximum length of 328 feet – a length that can be constricting in larger installations. If a main rack or PoE switch is located further than that from the device you intend to power, it will have to be run through an intermediate switch to “renew” the connection strength. By adding a PoE passthrough switch to the network as an intermediary stopgap, it’s possible to double the length one can run PoE – allowing devices to be powered much farther from the original power source.

At a Desk
A PoE passthrough switch is an ideal way to bring network connectivity to the devices used at a desk while also providing power to devices like VoIP phones. A single cable run from the main switch rack can provide internet connectivity to printers and PCs while powering and providing a network connection to the phone at your desk. Convenient screw-mounts and a tiny form factor allow for easy mounting to the wall or bottom of the desk.

Space constrained areas
Sometimes, you just need a way to add ports to your network – but there’s no room to work with. PoE powered and PoE passthrough switches (particularly the upcoming SE-5P2-EP) are small enough to fit almost any available area and, can be mounted almost anywhere – making them ideal for space-constrained areas. Because they’re powered by PoE, you don’t even have to find a wall outlet.