Network Services: Some Things You Should Know Before Hiring a Consultant

Now that people are no longer working exclusively from their office, most companies have some form of network in place that allows employees to access the information they need even when they are not physically in the office. Teleworkers, business trips and multiple office locations are reasons to set up such a system. In order to keep a network secure, it is important to have an administrator who is responsible for adding and removing programs and users. This administrator can either be an employee of the company or an outside consultant who has been hired to manage the company network. A consultant can only be commissioned to set up a network or also to carry out regular maintenance and troubleshooting of the system.

Each user on a network has their own username and password, which provide access to a set of information appropriate to that user’s position and level in the organization. The network administrator must ensure that this is the case at all times. He or she may also be responsible for user support and help users with technical difficulties such as login problems.

A wide area network (WAN) is a network that, as the name suggests, covers a wide area. These are used by many companies and organizations to provide access to their network from different locations. Data can be transmitted over a WAN and between different local area networks or LANs.

A VPN, or virtual private network, is one way to give employees the ability to work remotely, which is useful for many businesses. VPNs use the internet to create a virtual network, just like the name suggests, rather than housing a private network in an actual physical location. There are several ways to set up and run VPNs, and a consultant can help choose the most effective ones for a given budget.

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To use a VPN from a remote location, a Remote Access Server (RAS) or Network Access Server (NAS) is required. These tools ensure that everyone connecting to the network has the correct credentials to access the VPN. Some VPNs can be accessed using off-the-shelf software, while others require special software to be downloaded before a connection can be established.

An important piece of hardware for any network system is a router, which connects networks and forwards packets between them. Similarly, a network switch connects devices on a network, filters and forwards packets between different parts of a LAN. Routers and switches are often combined in one device, making them difficult to tell apart.

Networks can be vulnerable to a variety of outside attacks, so an administrator needs to put security measures in place. One such measure is a firewall, either hardware or software, that analyzes data packets and determines whether or not they should be allowed onto the network based on whether they are potentially harmful. An intrusion detection service (IDS) differs slightly from a firewall in that it detects intrusion attempts and reports them so the network administrator can block connections if necessary.

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