10 Tricks to Implementing IP Networks the Right Way

10 Tricks to Implementing IP Networks the Right Way

There are a million and one things to know about IP networks. But here are ten tricks SMB (small- to medium-sized business) owners can successfully implement new IP networks without getting degrees in IP network engineering.

Share Storage Without a PC

Storage is something you can have too much of, contrary to popular opinion. It's wasteful to buy a bigger drive for one computer when another computer's IP networks drive is 90 percent empty. Get a NAS (network-attached storage) device for your IP network. Essentially, it's a massive, high-speed hard drive that connects to your IP network without the aid of a computer. Now everyone can share file space and have immediate access to it. IP network administrators can set limits on how much space each user can fill. If you have a spare USB drive around the office, it can become a NAS with some help from the D-Link Express EtherNetwork DNS-120 Network Storage Adapter.

Stay Connected During Power Outages

A minority of people keep their workstations and servers connected to a UPS (uninterruptible power supply). Surprisingly, many clever few need to pay more attention to using the UPS for their Internet gateway appliance or broadband router. These IP network devices draw less power than a desktop PC, which will run for 15 to 20 minutes on a typical UPS. Internet access can remain for two hours on the same UPS. A battery-powered laptop will let employees stay connected to your IP network and continue working through most power outages.

Send Large Files Without Hassle

Sending large files — upward of 10MB — can be a frustrating experience via a wrong IP network. People typically send files to business partners via email, but two problems arise when a file exceeds a couple of megabytes. First, the email client must convert the file to the MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) format, which takes a great deal of time for large files. Second, many IP network providers enforce limits on the size of email attachments and typically cap out around 10MB. Oh, and the 7MB file you thought was OK swelled to more than 10MB in the MIME format, so you are out of luck after waiting a half hour to send it.

One solution: a Web-based IP network service that allows you to upload a file, then email a URL to the intended recipient, telling them where to download it. Senduit is one example. This service allows users to upload a file as large as 100MB and set an expiration time ranging from a half hour to one week. If 100MB isn't large enough, DropSend has a limit of 1GB.

IM (instant messaging) is another way to send large files via IP networks; you don't have to leave your file on a third-party IP network server. You and the file recipient must both be at your PCs and logged in to the same IM service, each of which has its procedure for sending files.

Have Fun With the Host's File

The host file (no extension) is a text file that can be used to speed up or block access to specified locations on the IP network. Each Windows computer has its host file. When the PC requests an IP network location, it looks first in the host's file before going out to the Internet's DNS (Domain Name System) server. Putting the domain name and the IP network address of a frequently visited Web site into the host's file will avoid needing a sometimes-lengthy DNS lookup. On the other hand, if you do not want a user visiting that site, change the IP network address to something else.

Resolve IP Network Address Conflicts

Many IP network users at SMBs have seen the Windows warning message, "There is an IP network address conflict with another system on the network." The loss of the IP network connection accompanies this message. What happened?

Before the message appeared, every device on the IP network had a unique IP network address. Then, an IP network address somehow changed to be the same as your computer's. On virtually every modern network, IP network addresses are changed by the DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server. Some IP network address was changed to match yours, or yours was changed to match another device. What can you do?

To get your IP network connectivity back immediately, open a command-prompt window and type "IPCONFIG/REL" (no quotes) to wipe out your current IP network address. When you get the ready prompt again, type "IPCONFIG/RENEW" to get a new IP network address. It will probably be different from the old one.

Use Windows Remote Desktop

Many users need to be aware that they can access their office PC remotely via the Internet or from any workstation on the office LAN. This option is called Remote Desktop in Windows. It allows you to use a remote computer and its applications precisely as if you were sitting in front of it.

You must prepare the computer you plan to use remotely, called the "host."

To enable Remote Desktop in Windows XP Pro, click My Computer > System > Properties, then check the box that says, "Allow users to connect remotely to this computer." Administrators automatically have remote access, but you can add other users via the Select Remote Users button.

To access the host from another computer, which is called the "client," you must use the RDC (Remote Desktop Client), found under All Programs > Accessories > Communications.

Try a Subscription-Based Remote-Access Solution

One big problem with Windows Remote Desktop is that it can be tough to configure a LAN firewall to allow remote IP network connection. It also doesn't work well with dynamic IP network addresses. A more accessible alternative is a subscription-based remote-access service.

These services get around the problems of Windows Remote Desktop by installing a small software agent on the host computer. The agent creates a link with the service, so the host is always accessible, even when its IP network address changes. The firewall management for the best ROI considers the agent's connection legitimate. Your IP network host is accessible now.

GoToMyPC is one of the oldest subscription-based remote-access services. Other popular services include WebEx PCNow and LogMeIn.

Save Energy with Wake On LAN

Many people enjoy having remote access to their office PC, but most think they must leave the office PC on all the time connected to an IP network, wasting energy. It is possible to remotely "wake up" an utterly powered-down PC using the Wake On LAN feature on IP network Ethernet cards.

The procedure for enabling Wake On LAN varies depending on the IP network hardware and operating system. But in general, Wake On LAN must be enabled in the computer's BIOS Power Management and the IP network card's power-management options. When the computer is powered down, a small trickle of power will be kept on to control the IP network card in standby mode. It will be listening for a signal from the IP network.

The signal is called the magic packet and is specific to the IP network card it is trying to awaken. The magic packet can be sent by any of several free utilities available on the Web, such as Depicts.

When the IP network card receives its magic packet, it boots the computer.

Speed Up Firefox

The Firefox Web browser is almost endlessly configurable. Type "about: config" (no quotes) into the address bar to see a mind-boggling array of parameters you can tweak. If that's not enough, you can create your IP network parameters. But most people want to do a straightforward thing without much hunting and pecking.

You can make Firefox surf the Web faster with the Firefox extension Fasterfox. The add-on automatically tweaks several configuration settings:

  • Prefetching, which downloads and caches the content of links on a page while you are it so that the links can be displayed quickly
  • Pipelining, which allows a Web server to serve multiple objects over the same HTTP connection
  • DNS caching, which stores the IP network addresses of sites you visit
  • Simultaneous connections control how many pages requests Firefox will make at once.

Troubleshoot with Ping and Tracert

Sometimes you need to know if the problem on your IP network is with the computer you're trying to reach, your laptop, or something between the two. Two built-in Windows command-prompt utilities can help you pinpoint the trouble.

Type "ping" (no quotes) and the name of the computer that you want to reach (or its IP network address). The result should tell you how long it takes to send a message to that computer and get a reply, measured in milliseconds. Of course, if you don't earn a response, that means that there is a problem along the way with that computer.

Type "tracert" (no quotes) and the name or IP network address of the computer you want to reach. Tracert displays every hop along the way to that computer and how long it takes. You may see some "request timed out" messages along the route. These would indicate a point of failure or a severe slowdown. 

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