Welcome back to our series on WiFi networks. First, we explained the difference between the two major types of WiFi. Then we explained how to get your wireless network… uh… wired up and helped you decide the right WiFi format for you. Now let’s talk about security.
Secure Your WiFi Network
Before you get to work performing all of those high speed transfer of giant files, you have to consider security. Of course we know that every computer on your new-fangled wireless network has antivirus and firewall software installed. Doesn’t it?
But the dance of techno security doesn’t end with those two moves. In order to make sure you don’t have unwanted traffic eating up your bandwidth and eavesdropping on your traffic, you need to secure your WiFi network.
Fortunately new wireless routers come with security solutions built in. All you have to do is access your router’s front end through your browser and activate your wireless security. We suggest using WPA2 (Wireless Protected Access II) but WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) security will also provide protection, although to a lesser degree. Be sure to read your routers documentation to learn all about securing your wireless network. While you are at it we STRONGLY suggest changing your wireless router user-name and password. Just be sure to remember this information. If you take your laptop or tablet to a new location that has a secured wireless network, you will need to ask for their network password before you can access it. See, security keeps out strangers!
Now you are ready to go out in the world and stay connected wherever you find a WiFi signal! With your new knowledge you can check your mail at the coffee shop, play World of Warcraft at the library, or even get some CAD work done using AutoCAD or AutoCAD WS at your favorite Chinese restaurant! You can even use your new wireless network at home to stream Internet content to your smart TV or gaming console. The possibilities are endless and all because you cut the wire and went wireless!
Author: Curt Moreno
Welcome back to our series on WiFi networks. First, we explained the difference between the two major types of WiFi. Then we explained how to get your wireless network… uh… wired up. Now we’ll help you decide the right WiFi format for you.
Now that you know the differences between WiFi-G and WiFi-N, which WiFi will work for you? Well the answer to that question depends on what sort of wireless shenanigans you have planned. But it is the most important answer of all, because the wrong choice will lead to disappointing results.
Which WiFi Where?
The differences between the two flavors of WiFi discussed in Part 1 is about a bit more than speed. It is also about future proofing your investment. While WiFi-G is widespread and your existing laptop or tablet probably has the correct WiFi component, it is also old tech. That is why it is so widespread! If it were new tech then it wouldn’t be so widespread. Bummer, huh?
In addition to availability is WiFi-G’s limited bandwidth. As we noted in Part 1, WiFi-G has a maximum bandwidth of 54 megabits per second. On a good day. Whereas WiFi-N has maximum speeds of 300 megabits and above! Doesn’t six times the data transfer speed sound enticing? We thought that it might. Luckily WiFi-N equipment will also work on WiFi-G networks. So you’ve got the best of both worlds! But like WiFi-G, it has a drawback: availability.
Since WiFi-N is newer technology, you will not find as many WiFi-N routers at your local coffee shops and elsewhere. In addition you will find that only the most recent laptops and a few tablets have WiFi-N components already installed. If you are not fortunate enough to have such a unit, you will have to purchase a WiFi-N adapter. These units are available at most big box electronic stores and are sold by companies like Linksys and Belkin but do cost more than WiFi-G adapters.
Which WiFi Will Work?
When deciding which WiFi network type is right for you, you must consider the type of work you plan on doing. Does your work consist of test documents and the odd spreadsheet? Is tending your farm on Facebook the most intensive thing you do on your computer? If you have this sort of light workload, then WiFi-G is more than you can handle! Actually even if you have more technical duties WiFi-G will work, just not as quickly.
However, if your daily routine has you working with large video or audio files then WiFi-N is for you. Transfer rates of 300 megabits or greater per second can cut downloads from sites like Dropbox and personal servers to a fraction. You’ll find that your upload rates will be much faster on WiFi-N versus WiFi-G also. So when once you have that important presentation done, you can upload it and the accompanying videos with no problems!
Author: Curt Moreno
Welcome back to our series on WiFi networks. First, we explained the difference between the two major types of WiFi. Now we’ll explain how to get your wireless network… uh… wired up.
Setting Up A WiFi
Even though WiFi networks are “wireless,” at some point they must be plugged back into a wired, physical network. Normally this connection happens at your wireless access point, which may or may not also be your router. This type of unit is very common in big box electronic stores and sold as “Wireless Routers” by companies like Linksys and Belkin and many others. You may even already have such a unit installed and not even realize it.
The connection runs from this access point to the broadband modem via a physical cable. That cable is the bridge between the wireless and wired worlds, so the type of cable is very important.
Network cables classified as CAT 5 are rated for a maximum speed of 100 megabits per second. While this is fine for WiFi-G, it will become the bottle neck for WiFi-N networks. This is the dirty little wired secret of a WiFi network!
In order to get the most out of your WiFi-N investment you will have to make sure that all cables in your “wireless” network are rated as CAT 5e (enhanced CAT 5) or higher (CAT 6 or CAT 7). This category of cable will give you maximum transfers rates of 300 megabits per second and greater.
Author: Curt Moreno
So the whole world has gone mobile. Where we once had been tethered to our desks, chained for productivity’s sake, we are now free to roam the corporate wilderness. People are grabbing their tablets and laptops and running out the door to continue working at the job site, in coffee shops, and from home. And thanks to the wonders of wireless networking, you can keep right on working just about anywhere you go.
You are set up for wireless networking, aren’t you?
The WiFi Basics
Today it seems as if there is no place you can go and not be covered in wireless networking (WiFI) coverage. The price of access to everything the Internet has to offer is usually covered by simply having the right equipment to access the wireless network. Despite terms like “802.11a,”Wireless G,” and “Dual Band Networking” being prepared to take connect to most wireless networks is fairly straight forward.
We could go over EVERY flavor of WiFi there has ever been, but come on, this 2012 and we are data professionals. We’re not interested in ancient technology. That leaves two wireless horses in this race: 802.11g and 802.11n. Sound sort of intimidating, but it’s not. Just think of them as WiFi-G and WiFi-N.
By far the more widespread wireless networking technology installed today is 802.11g compliant. This specification of WiFi can carry a maximum data transmission of 54 megabits per second. this means that you could transfer 1 gigabyte in about 2.5 minutes across this type of network, at maximum speed. Of course, due to factors like interference, temperature, and distance, you will probably not be transferring at maximum speed. On average it is safe to double or even quadruple that time, under normal circumstances.
Newer, and thus faster than WiFi-G, is WiFi-N. Technically known as by it’s specification code, 802.11n, WiFi-N has a maximum transfer speed of up to 300 megabits per second. That is almost six times faster than WiFi-G! This means you could theoretically transfer 1 gigabyte across a WiFi-N network in less than 45 seconds! Theoretically. Unfortunately WiFi-N is limited by the same mitigating factors as all WiFi networks. This means that due to distance and other factors your WiFi-N network will most likely not operate at maximum speed. Once again, doubling or even quadrupling transfer times are normally considered a safe estimate.
Author: Curt Moreno
So far, we’ve discussed the value of building a network system for CAD operations. From an operator perspective, the workstation has the CAD application itself stored locally. But the files should reside on the shared storage device.
The next component of a network system for CAD operations is data vaulting. Data is the core of your business. All of your data — your CAD designs as well as your emails, customer records, documents, invoices — they’re all data you can’t do without. A data disaster can be crippling for a business, and the cost of downtime is typically in tens of thousands of dollars.
Offsite Data Vaulting
The solution is to backup your irreplaceable data from your desktops, laptops and servers with an offsite secure data vaulting service. This service should provide your business with the ability to back up your data offsite, to a dedicated backup server that’s managed 24/7 at a secure datacenter.
Did you know that 43% of U.S. companies experiencing data disasters never re-open, and 29% close within 2 years? The loss of revenue for each hour of downtime varies from industry to industry. Don’t let your company become a statistic.
Why Backup Online
Online backups are the easiest and surest way to protect your data. Backing up to an offsite server ensures that you can recover your data even in case of a physical disaster, theft or loss. Online backups also eliminate many of the error prone steps associated with traditional backup methods like tape. Users can restore ‘point in time’ versions of files without loading tapes one after the other.
With an online backup solution, your data is encrypted and compressed even before it leaves your computers. After the first full backup, only incremental block level changes are sent — optimizing bandwidth & storage usage.
How Offsite Data Vaulting Works
With offsite data vaulting, your IT department installs an agent on each computer (workstation /server) that you wish to protect. After the initial configuration, backups happen automatically and your IT team can monitor and manage the process remotely.
The best data vaulting services will backup your data off-site to the main office and replicate it to another office, giving you redundant backups just in case the worst happens.
Data backup is inexpensive insurance against a business disaster!
Authors: Mark Shaw and James Ecklund
Our first post introduced the idea of building of a network system for CAD operations. From an operator perspective, the workstation has the CAD application itself stored locally. But the files should reside on the shared storage device.
RAID – Redundant Array of Independent Disks
In general, you want to talk to your IT department about RAID, which stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. In essence, the term describes exactly what it is – computer data storage devices that are set up to divide and replicate data among different drives. The drives are separate, but the operating system enables them to function as one disk.
RAID has many levels. One of the simplest, called RAID-1, creates an exact copy of a set of data on two or more disks. RAID-1 is useful when read performance or reliability is more important than data storage capacity. RAID-1 can be set up on a CAD workstation itself, which is common in high end workstations to ensure their uptime as well.
RAID-5 and Higher
For comparison, RAID-5 stripes both data and parity information across three or more drives. It exchanges the dedicated parity drive for a distributed parity algorithm, writing data and parity blocks across all the drives in the array. If one drive fails, the duplicated data is still safe on other drives. RAID-1 and RAID-5 are two of the most common levels, but there are many more. Your IT department can help you develop a system that meets your company’s needs.
Taking every precaution is vital because recreating CAD work is hard work. Next, we’ll discuss data vaulting.
Authors: Mark Shaw and James Ecklund
A network system in a CAD facility is a vital part of the operations of any CAD production team. The nature of CAD work has value far beyond the price tag of the workstation, software and server. CAD files often have hundreds of man hours wrapped in data files – time and effort that equals money.
From an IT perspective, no CAD operator should have all the work he/she does sitting on a computer. It is essential to make CAD files available as shared files. Often, teams of people work on CAD designs. Plus other people need to review the work. It’s important to have a network that facilitates the review process as well as the data integrity. Updates of CAD software have continually improved the operator’s ability to work as a team. However, a solid network is still an essential part of the CAD production environment.
Don’t Rely on Luck
We had a client with CAD files sitting on his laptop that represented 150 man hours. He had been traveling extensively overseas, and he wasn’t able to back up his computer as normal. The hard drive failed. He was lucky. At great expense, we were able to retrieve most of his data. But besides the hefty bill for recovery, he lost the time involved in retrieving the data, not to mention the mental anguish.
So, given that your CAD files represent a huge chunk of your time and mental energy, how do you prevent catastrophic failure? You make sure you have your files stored in a secure location.
Authors: Mark Shaw and James Ecklund
The modern PC has become an electronic version of Grand Central Station, with connectivity options that add capabilities, allow data storage or transfer, communicates with the world outside, or with another computer on your local network. Choosing a workstation that has sufficient connectivity options may determine the longevity and usefulness of the system you acquire.
Network connectivity is standard on modern workstations, allowing you access to the Internet and to other workstations in your local network. A 1GB connection is common, though some workstations also offer WiFi connectivity. Typically your Internet connectivity will come from a network cable attached to a router, a cable modem, or a DSL modem.
It seems that you can hook almost anything to your workstation these days using the flexibility and chaining capabilities of USB. USB v.2 is generally standard, though newer workstations are beginning to incorporate USB v.3 with its “SuperSpeed” connectivity and power management options. USB has largely become the standard way to attach mice, keyboards, digital cameras, external hard drives, thumb drives, scanners and printers, so you want to be certain that you have a number of available USB ports.
USB does allow chaining of devices, but chains have a way of getting unwieldy. Some vendors include an internal USB connector to keep software dongles secure, and most have connections on both front and back of the system. Personal preference here: make sure there are USB ports readily accessible from your sitting position at your workspace — this means a few connections on either the top of high up on the front side of the case.
It won’t hurt to have a FireWire connection or two for use with devices that rely upon this connector to function. Also known as a IEEE 1394 High Speed Serial Bus, this connection was originally found on Apple computers, but the broad array of external devices are also useful with PCs using the FireWire port.
Most modern workstations also provide an eSATA connection. eSATA is a computer bus interface that’s used to connect host bus adapters to mass storage devices such a hard disk drives and optical drives. It provides a high speed data path for such storage devices.
Author: Ron LaFon