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The Changing Network Environment (1.4)

The network environment continues to evolve, providing new experiences and opportunities for end users. The network is now capable of delivering services and applications in a manner that was once only dreamed about.

Network Trends (1.4.1)

Just as the way we work, play, and learn impacts the network, the availability of a robust reliable network has an impact on our daily lives.

New Trends (1.4.1.1)

When you look at how the Internet has changed so many of the things people do daily, it is hard to believe that it has only been around for most people for about 20 years. It has truly transformed the way individuals and organizations communicate. For example, before the Internet became so widely available, organizations and small businesses largely relied on print marketing to make consumers aware of their products. It was difficult for businesses to determine which households were potential customers, so businesses relied on mass print marketing programs. These programs were expensive and varied in effectiveness. Compare that to how consumers are reached today. Most businesses have an Internet presence where consumers can learn about their products, read reviews from other customers, and order products directly from the website. Social networking sites partner with businesses to promote products and services. Bloggers partner with businesses to highlight and endorse products and services. Most of this product placement is targeted to the potential consumer, rather than to the masses.

There are many predictions about the Internet in the near future, including the following:

  • By 2014, traffic from wireless devices will exceed traffic from wired devices.
  • By 2015, the amount of content traversing the Internet annually will be 540,000 times time the amount that traveled in 2003.
  • By 2015, 90 percent of all content on the Internet will be video based.
  • By 2015, a million video minutes will traverse the Internet every second.
  • By 2016, the annual global IP traffic will surpass the zetabyte threshold (1,180,591,620,717,411,303,424 bytes).
  • By 2016, the number of devices connected to IP networks will be nearly three times as high as the global population.
  • By 2016, 1.2 million minutes of video content will cross the network every second.
  • By 2020, 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet.

As new technologies and end-user devices come to market, businesses and consumers must continue to adjust to this ever-changing environment. The role of the network is transforming to enable the connections of people, devices, and information. There are several new networking trends that will effect organizations and consumers. Some of the top trends include

  • Any device, to any content, in any way
  • Online collaboration
  • Video
  • Cloud computing

These trends are interconnected and will continue to build on one another in the coming years. The next couple of topics will cover these trends in more detail.

But keep in mind, new trends are being dreamed up and engineered every day. How do you think the Internet will change in the next 10 years? 20 years?

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) (1.4.1.2)

The concept of any device, to any content, in any way is a major global trend that requires significant changes to the way devices are used. This trend is known as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).

BYOD is about end users having the freedom to use personal tools to access information and communicate across a business or campus network. With the growth of consumer devices, and the related drop in cost, employees and students can be expected to have some of the most advanced computing and networking tools for personal use. These personal tools include laptops, netbooks, tablets, smartphones, and e-readers. These can be devices purchased by the company or school, purchased by the individual, or both.

BYOD means any device, with any ownership, used anywhere. For example, in the past, a student who needed to access the campus network or the Internet had to use one of the school’s computers. These devices were typically limited and seen as tools only for work done in the classroom or in the library. Extended connectivity through mobile and remote access to the campus network gives students tremendous flexibility and more learning opportunities for the student.

BYOD is an influential trend that has or will touch every IT organization.

Online Collaboration (1.4.1.3)

Individuals want to connect to the network, not only for access to data applications but also to collaborate with one another. Collaboration is defined as “the act of working with another or others on a joint project.”

For businesses, collaboration is a critical and strategic priority. To remain competitive, organizations must answer three primary collaboration questions:

  • How can they get everyone on the same page with a clear picture of the project?
  • With decreased budgets and personnel, how can they balance resources to be in more places at once?
  • How can they maintain face-to-face relationships with a growing network of colleagues, customers, partners, and peers in an environment that is more dependent on 24-hour connectivity?

Collaboration is also a priority in education. Students need to collaborate with assist each other in learning, to develop team skills used in the workforce, and to work together on team-based projects.

One way to answer these questions and meet these demands in today’s environment is through online collaboration tools. In traditional workspaces, and with BYOD environments alike, individuals are taking advantage of voice, video, and conferencing services in collaboration efforts.

The ability to collaborate online is changing business processes. New and expanding collaboration tools allow individuals to quickly and easily collaborate, regardless of physical location. Organizations have much more flexibility in the way they are organized. Individuals are no longer restricted to physical locations. Expert knowledge is easier to access than ever before. Expansions in collaboration allow organizations to improve their information gathering, innovation, and productivity.

Collaboration tools give employees, students, teachers, customers, and partners a way to instantly connect, interact, and conduct business, through whatever communications channels they prefer, and achieve their objectives.

Video Communication (1.4.1.4)

Another trend in networking that is critical in the communication and collaboration effort is video. Video is being used for communications, collaboration, and entertainment. Video calls are becoming more popular, facilitating communications as part of the human network. Video calls can be made to and from anywhere with an Internet connection, including from home or at work.

Video calls and videoconferencing are proving particularly powerful for sales processes and for doing business. Video is a useful tool for conducting business at a distance, both locally and globally. Today, businesses are using video to transform the way they do business. Video helps businesses create a competitive advantage, lower costs, and reduce the impact on the environment by reducing the need to travel. Figure 1-25 shows the trend of video in communication.

Figure 1-25

Figure 1-25 Trend of Video in Communication

Both consumers and businesses are driving this change. Video is becoming a key requirement for effective collaboration as organizations extend across geographic and cultural boundaries. Video users now demand the ability to view any content, on any device, anywhere.

Businesses are also recognizing the role of video to enhance the human network. The growth of media, and the new uses to which it is being put, is driving the need to integrate audio and video into many forms of communication. The audioconference will coexist with the videoconference. Collaboration tools designed to link distributed employees will integrate desktop video to bring teams closer together.

There are many drivers and benefits for including a strategy for using video. Each organization is unique. The exact mix, and the nature of the drivers for adopting video, will vary from organization to organization, and by business function. Marketing, for example, might focus on globalization and fast-changing consumer tastes, while the chief information officer’s (CIO) focus might be on cost savings by reducing travel costs of employees needing to meet face to face.

Some of the drivers for organizations to develop and implement a video solution strategy include

  • A global workforce and need for real-time collaboration: Create collaborative teams that span corporate and national boundaries and geographies.
  • Reducing costs and green IT: Avoiding travel reduces both cost and carbon emissions.
  • New opportunities for IP convergence: These include converging video applications, such as high-definition video collaboration, video surveillance systems, and video advertising signage onto a single IP network.
  • Media explosion: The plummeting cost of video cameras and a new generation of high-quality, low-cost devices have turned users into would-be movie producers.
  • Social networking: The social networking phenomenon can be as effective in business as it is in a social setting. For example, employees are increasingly filming short videos to share best practices with colleagues and to brief peers about projects and initiatives.
  • Demands for universal media access: Users are demanding to be able to access rich-media applications wherever they are and on any device. Participation in videoconferencing, viewing the latest executive communications, and collaborating with coworkers are applications that will need to be accessible to employees, regardless of their work location.

Another trend in video is video on demand and streaming live video. Delivering video over the network lets us see movies and television programs when we want and where we want.

Cloud Computing (1.4.1.5)

Cloud computing is the use of computing resources (hardware and software) that are delivered as a service over a network. A company uses the hardware and software in the cloud and a service fee is charged.

Local computers no longer have to do all the “heavy lifting” when it comes to running network applications. The network of computers that make up the cloud handles them instead. The hardware and software requirements of the user are decreased. The user’s computer must interface with the cloud using software, which can be a web browser, and the cloud’s network takes care of the rest.

Cloud computing is another global trend that is changing the way we access and store data. Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service, in real time over the Internet. Cloud computing allows us to store personal files and even back up our entire hard drive on servers over the Internet. Applications such as word processing and photo editing can be accessed using the cloud.

For businesses, cloud computing extends IT’s capabilities without requiring investment in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. These services are available on demand and delivered economically to any device anywhere in the world without compromising security or function.

The term cloud computing really refers to web-based computing. Online banking, online retail stores, and online music downloading are all examples of cloud computing. Cloud applications are usually delivered to the user through a web browser. Users do not need to have any software installed on their end device. This allows many different kinds of devices to connect to the cloud.

Cloud computing offers the following potential benefits:

  • Organizational flexibility: Users can access the information anytime and anyplace using a web browser.
  • Agility and rapid deployment: The IT department can focus on delivering the tools to mine, analyze, and share the information and knowledge from databases, files, and people.
  • Reduced cost of infrastructure: Technology is moved from on-site to a cloud provider, eliminating the cost of hardware and applications.
  • Refocus of IT resources: The cost savings of hardware and applications can be applied elsewhere.
  • Creation of new business models: Applications and resources are easily accessible, so companies can react quickly to customer needs. This helps them set strategies to promote innovation while potentially entering new markets.

There are four primary types of clouds: private, public, hybrid, and custom. A private cloud offers applications and services intended only for a specific organization or entity such as the government. A private cloud can be set up using the organization’s private network, though this can be expensive to build and maintain. A private cloud can also be managed by an outside organization with strict access security.

Cloud-based services offered in a public cloud are made available to the general population. Services can be free or are offered on a pay-per-use model, such as paying for online storage. The public cloud uses the Internet to provide services.

Hybrid clouds are made up of two or more clouds (for example part custom and part public), where each part remains a distinctive object, but both are connected using a single architecture. Individuals on a hybrid cloud would be able to have degrees of access to various services based on user access rights.

Custom clouds are built to meet the needs of a specific industry, such as healthcare or media. Custom clouds can be private or public.

Data Centers (1.4.1.6)

Cloud computing is possible because of data centers. A data center is a facility used to house computer systems and associated components, including

  • Redundant data communications connections
  • High-speed virtual servers (sometimes referred to as server farms or server clusters)
  • Redundant storage systems (typically use SAN technology)
  • Redundant or backup power supplies
  • Environmental controls (for example, air conditioning and fire suppression)
  • Security devices

A data center can occupy one room of a building, one or more floors, or an entire building. Modern data centers make use of cloud computing and virtualization to efficiently handle large data transactions. Virtualization is the creation of a virtual version of something, such as a hardware platform, operating system (OS), storage device, or network resources. While a physical computer is an actual discrete device, a virtual machine consists of a set of files and programs running on an actual physical system. Unlike multitasking, which involves running several programs on the same OS, virtualization runs several different OSs in parallel on a single CPU. This drastically reduces administrative and cost overheads.

Data centers are typically very expensive to build and maintain. For this reason, only large organizations use privately built data centers to house their data and provide services to users. For example, a large hospital might own a separate data center where patient records are maintained electronically. Smaller organizations, which cannot afford to maintain their own private data center, can reduce the overall cost of ownership by leasing server and storage services from a larger data center organization in the cloud.

Technology Trends in the Home (1.4.2.1)

Networking trends are not only affecting the way we communicate at work and at school, but they are also changing just about every aspect of the home.

The newest home trends include “smart home technology.” This is technology that is integrated into everyday appliances, allowing them to interconnect with other devices, making them more “smart” or automated. For example, imagine being able to prepare a dish and place it in the oven for cooking prior to leaving the house for the day. Imagine that the oven was “aware” of the dish it was cooking and was connected to your calendar of events so that it could determine what time you should be available to eat, and adjust start times and length of cooking accordingly. It could even adjust cooking times and temperatures based on changes in schedule. Additionally, a smartphone or tablet connection gives the user the ability to connect to the oven directly, to make any desired adjustments. When the dish is “available,” the oven sends an alert message to a specified end-user device that the dish is done and warming.

This scenario is not far off. In fact, smart home technology is currently being developed for all rooms within a house. Smart home technology will become more of a reality as home networking and high-speed Internet technology becomes more widespread in homes. New home networking technologies are being developed daily to meet these types of growing technology needs.

Powerline Networking (1.4.2.2)

Powerline networking is an emerging trend for home networking that uses existing electrical wiring to connect devices, as shown in Figure 1-26. The concept of “no new wires” means the ability to connect a device to the network wherever there is an electrical outlet. This saves the cost of installing data cables and adds no cost to the electrical bill. Using the same wiring that delivers electricity, powerline networking sends information by sending data on certain frequencies similar to the technology used for DSL.

Figure 1-26

Figure 1-26 Powerline Networking

Using a HomePlug standard powerline adapter, devices can connect to the LAN wherever there is an electrical outlet. Powerline networking is especially useful when wireless access points cannot be used or cannot reach all the devices in the home. Powerline networking is not designed to be a substitute for dedicated cabling for data networks. However, it is an alternative when data network cables or wireless communications are not a viable option.

Wireless Broadband (1.4.2.3)

Connecting to the Internet is vital in smart home technology. DSL and cable are common technologies used to connect homes and small businesses to the Internet. However, wireless can be another option in many areas.

Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP)

A wireless Internet service provider (WISP) is an ISP that connects subscribers to a designated access point or hot spot using similar wireless technologies found in home wireless local-area networks (WLAN). WISPs are more commonly found in rural environments where DSL or cable services are not available.

Although a separate transmission tower might be installed for the antenna, it is common that the antenna is attached to an existing elevated structure such as a water tower or a radio tower. A small dish or antenna is installed on the subscriber’s roof in range of the WISP transmitter. The subscriber’s access unit is connected to the wired network inside the home. From the perspective of the home user, the setup isn’t much different than DSL or cable service. The main difference is that the connection from the home to the ISP is wireless instead of using a physical cable.

Wireless Broadband Service

Another wireless solution for the home and small businesses is wireless broadband. This uses the same cellular technology used to access the Internet with a smartphone or tablet. An antenna is installed outside the house, providing either wireless or wired connectivity for devices in the home. In many areas, home wireless broadband is competing directly with DSL and cable services.

Security Threats (1.4.3.1)

Network security is an integral part of computer networking, regardless of whether the network is limited to a home environment with a single connection to the Internet, or as large as a corporation with thousands of users. The network security implemented must take into account the environment, as well as the tools and requirements of the network. It must be able to secure data while still providing the quality of service that is expected of the network.

Securing a network involves protocols, technologies, devices, tools, and techniques to secure data and mitigate threats. Many external network security threats today are spread over the Internet. The most common external threats to networks include

  • Viruses, worms, and Trojan horses: Malicious software and arbitrary code running on a user device
  • Spyware and adware: Software installed on a user device that secretly collects information about the user
  • Zero-day attacks, also called zero-hour attacks: An attack that occurs on the first day that a vulnerability becomes known
  • Hacker attacks: An attack by a knowledgeable person to user devices or network resources
  • Denial of service attacks: Attacks designed to slow or crash applications and processes on a network device
  • Data interception and theft: An attack to capture private information from an organization’s network
  • Identity theft: An attack to steal the login credentials of a user to access private data

It is equally important to consider internal threats. There have been many studies that show that the most common data breaches happen because of internal users of the network. This can be attributed to lost or stolen devices, accidental misuse by employees, and in the business environment, even malicious employees. With the evolving BYOD strategies, corporate data is much more vulnerable. Therefore, when developing a security policy, it is important to address both external and internal security threats.

Security Solutions (1.4.3.2)

No single solution can protect the network from the variety of threats that exist. For this reason, security should be implemented in multiple layers, using more than one security solution. If one security component fails to identify and protect the network, others still stand.

A home network security implementation is usually rather basic. It is generally implemented on the connecting host devices, as well as at the point of connection to the Internet, and can even rely on contracted services from the ISP.

In contrast, the network security implementation for a corporate network usually consists of many components built into the network to monitor and filter traffic. Ideally, all components work together, which minimizes maintenance and improves security.

Network security components for a home or small office network should include, at a minimum:

  • Antivirus and antispyware: To protect user devices from malicious software.
  • Firewall filtering: To block unauthorized access to the network. This can include a host-based firewall system that is implemented to prevent unauthorized access to the host device, or a basic filtering service on the home router to prevent unauthorized access from the outside world into the network.

In addition to the these items, larger networks and corporate networks often have other security requirements:

  • Dedicated firewall systems: To provide more advanced firewall capability that can filter large amounts of traffic with more granularity
  • Access control lists (ACL): To further filter access and traffic forwarding
  • Intrusion prevention systems (IPS): To identify fast-spreading threats, such as zero-day or zero-hour attacks
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPN): To provide secure access to remote workers

Network security requirements must take into account the network environment, as well as the various applications and computing requirements. Both home environments and businesses must be able to secure their data while still providing the quality of service that is expected of each technology. Additionally, the security solution implemented must be adaptable to the growing and changing trends of the network.

The study of network security threats and mitigation techniques starts with a clear understanding of the underlying switching and routing infrastructure used to organize network services.

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