September 20, 2016 Nick Kozak

As remote workers become more and more prevalent in today’s workforce, cloud collaboration technology becomes more essential to doing business. There are two market trends that enable success in managing and communicating with a remote worker. First, VPN is becoming less and less intrusive and more user friendly. For example, leveraging a Cisco ASA with updated AnyConnect licenses and a Cisco phone allows devices to operate without a secure VPN connection on a fully supported Cisco deployment. Also, using VPN-less Jabber allows remote employees to work anywhere there is sufficient wireless/4G signal. You can be anywhere in the world and if you have connectivity, you can be reached on a desk phone number. Second, accessing files and systems from the Cloud is relatively painless as long as the workbook/pc is properly configured and managed. Clouds and applications have robust interfaces that enable easy access no matter where the location.

Leveraging VPN-less Jabber and Cisco phones without VPN at remote sites requires version 10 or higher of Cisco Call Manager. Organizations with outdated Cisco Call Managers should implement virtualization, as it will be the last time in the foreseeable future they will have to worry about the hardware supporting their Call Manager.

With the remote worker on the rise, companies need to be attractive to not only their current workforce, but also the workforces of the future. Remote Workers and Call Managers are going to go hand in hand as the technology that supports the dial tone on your phone continues to be layered with other feature sets and offerings. Mobile devices and tablets will continue to augment the workday and carry more operational value. By strengthening the work force through empowering these devices, the overall organization is improved.

June 11, 2016 Nick Kozak

The technology around circuitry is evolving. As a service provider, much of our business is involved in circuits. We feel the pain you feel when there is an outage. Recently in the Chicagoland area, there was an accidental fiber cut with Comcast that resulted in a six-hour outage for some of our clients. Not only does this bring our project work to a halt as we look at all solutions possible to bring clients back up, it exposes networks that do not have a back-up circuit. Many organizations site cost as the reason they do not have a back-up. There are ways of reducing that cost through Active/Active strategies.

MPLS has its place in the world, but it can be expensive. The reference to Public Internet is any non-guaranteed/bulk internet provider such as Comcast Business Class or Cogent. This also pertains to DIA circuits as well. To set a baseline, some obvious positives of these services are below.

MPLS:

  • SLA’s and performance guarantees
  • Secure route traffic and control
  • Easily monitored, maintained, and to troubleshoot

 

Public Internet/DIA:

  • Inexpensive per MB
  • Quick to install/turn up
  • Great way to handle non-mission critical traffic (Social Media, Streaming, etc.)

 

MPLS is needed for critical activities, especially with technologies such as voice, video, or anything that requires a secure, controlled circuit. Many of our clients use MPLS for their primary and their back-up with a larger MPLS as the primary for cost control. There are two ways to rethink this model; one is to use a Public Internet circuit for your bulk traffic and use an MPLS as a backup, and a way to route mission critical traffic.

The other way to rethink this model is a little more risky, but can save your organization money in the long run. One of our clients is using two Public Internet circuits at the majority of their sites, and only MPLS at a select few, larger sites. The purpose of this was to save money over the staggering rates they were paying for a nearly 100 site MPLS deployment. How did we do it? How does it work?

MNJ leveraged three existing technologies into one box. We used Cisco’s iWAN, DMVPN, and WAAS on a Cisco router, and put a router at each location. We put a central DMVPN hub into our core and centralized all routing protocols at this location. Utilizing WAAS, we are able to cover de-duplication and bandwidth optimization. Utilizing iWAN, the router is smart enough to determine which circuit is operating best and send traffic across the more effective circuit with performance based routing. Utilizing DMVPN, we were able to create a mesh network so that we did not have to place static routes at any of the client sites and we could simplify new site deployment

The benefit of this deployment is the client is able to save a great deal of money. By leveraging these technologies, the sites will perform nearly as effective as their MPLS circuits did previously, but at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, the DMVPN is smart enough to redirect traffic between locations directly instead of sending the traffic back to the core/hub every time, which saves on some bandwidth usage. While this solution may not be perfect for every organization, it is a good way to rethink WAN design when approaching the end of your existing circuit contracts.