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Top 5 unusual pieces of network hardware

Networks are easy to design – Right?

Setting up and managing a corporate network infrastructure can be a daunting task. We all know how to do it. All one needs are firewalls, routers, and switches. Correct? What else is there? Quick dive into other pieces of hardware that are often used but not often discussed.

1. The Load balancer

Forever you have had one server supporting your company needs. If anyone wants to get a file or a service, they go to that server. But times have changed, everyone is working from home, and the server is now often overloaded. If you add a second server, how does one ensure that the traffic is balanced between them? F5 Networks makes a great like of local and site load balancers. A load balancer ensures that traffic is balanced between two or more servers and two or more data centers. Load balancers are instrumental in preventing network downtime due to backend server failure by redirecting requests to another standby system.

Older hybrid DNS-based solutions are complex and costly, and developers rely on less secure and reliable DNS-only solutions. However, the evolution of cloud computing in the corporate world has increased the accessibility of load balancing technology. Developers no longer have to compromise on functionality and security. Instead, they can choose from a wide array of practical and affordable options. Current load balancer technology allows enterprises of all sizes to integrate load balancing technology into their network easily.

2. The Modem

Seriously, who uses a modem anymore? Modems were great back in the 1990s and early 2000s. Why would we need one now? Simply put, Plain-old-telephone-service (POTS) is not likely to go away anytime soon. A modem can be reliable backup access into a network when a hack or down network lines has blocked access to your data center.

A network manager may decide to have disparate fiber connections to the network and feel safe. But if there is no “back door” or safe and secure alternative route into the data center, all the expense and design in building a network will be for not. A simple telephone line supporting a 56k or faster modem is far less money than a fiber connection.

Alternatively, a network administrator may decide to install a DSL “modem” or router to direct traffic through an alternative route into the network. Typically, internet service providers (ISPs) include a modem with their subscription plans. An ISP might offer a router as part of their service offerings. However, these consumer-grade modems may not have the security protocols and speed necessary for a corporate network. Furthermore, ISPs charge monthly rentals.

A network manager might simultaneously choose a DSL modem for internet and telephone lines. An enterprise-grade DSL modem with security could solve both the security and backup access issue.

Before you choose a third-party modem, make sure your ISP allows it. Some providers restrict use to the one they provide. If you are free to buy your modem, make sure you purchase a compatible model that supports your router’s speed capabilities.

3. The Fiber Multiplexer

Okay, you have your router, firewall, and switches. What else might you need? Let’s assume you decide that the risk of one fiber connection to the network going down is too risky, and you wish to get two. One fiber connection sitting there doing nothing is not efficient. You wonder how you can connect two pieces of fiber so that you get twice the bandwidth and have both backs up each other. Simple: get a fiber multiplexer.

multiplexer helps expand your network’s bandwidth by combining different channels into one standard line output. This output is then transmitted on a single fiber over your network. A “mux” is a must for businesses that need a high-capacity network, handling vast volumes of data quickly.

A fiber multiplexer ensures a fiber network’s maximum potential, which helps optimize network investments. The bottom line is that a multiplexer can help you save a lot of money in your networking sector. Incorporating multiplexers into a corporate network is a better long-term decision than separate channels for each data source.

4. The PDU – Power Distribution Unit

Next to anyone’s desk today is a simple power strip. One attaches the monitor, your desk lamp, a computer, a monitor, and likely your VoIP phone and whatever other treats you may have at your desk. These strips have limited functionality. Some have switches to turn the entire unit on or off, and some have on/off buttons by port. Of limited value would be monitoring power consumption and turning on or off a port by remote control.

However, with a remote data center, turning on and off a port or monitoring power consumption, these functions are critical. One wants to do as many remote tasks as possible without going to the data center.

APC, Server Technology, Tripp Lite, and Raritan make many different remotely operated “switched and metered” and “metered” power distribution units. Switched units allow a remote operator to switch on and off an electrical port. Metered units will enable one to monitor the power used. Almost all are rack-mounted and are handy tools in building any corporate networks.

5. A Current Firewall

Are firewalls unusual? No, but keeping your firewall up to date is remarkable. Most network managers assume that since “we have a firewall,” that “the box” is checked.

Firewalls are essential and protect your corporate network from hackers. In addition, they provide detailed reports around daily data traffic and support multiple internet connections. Not keeping your firewall current with firmware or attaining a newer more powerful unit essentially is letting your company or home be unprepared for the hacker who uses more modern and faster equipment.

Most cyber-attacks are possible because of human error or management neglect. Employees succumb to phishing scams and malicious emails, sometimes compromising the entire organization’s security. A firewall controls employee internet usage and access to specific websites and makes data breaches less likely. Neglecting to keep your firewall and other network security current is also a way to guarantee that your company is not secure.

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Feba Maryann
Feba Maryann is a freelance journalist who writes for websites and magazines in Asia and North America. She is currently pursuing her Integrated Masters on Computer Science Engineering with a specialization in Data Science from VIT, Vellore.

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