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Sonicwall VPN Question

So I received the following email from someone asking about a VPN connection between remote offices and a main office:

I have a TZ170 with a static IP (dsl) at my so called corporate office (server resides in this office). The appliance is set for DHCP for the clients that are set up on the inside of the firewall at that corporate office.

All my remote offices have a basic setup with either cable or dsl (no static ip), behind a modem and a dlink router. When more than one person in the same remote office connects to the tz170 at corporate, both clients experience awful delays and disconnections. If only one client connects in that remote office it works great, but as soon as you add another person from the same office that try’s to connect forget it, nothing but problems. Is this because the tz170 is seeing to tunnels coming from the same ip (isp assigned)?

Will purchasing another tz170 for the remote offices solve my problem? Is there an additional configuration that I am missing in the tz170 that will enable me to do this ?

Here is the response I sent:

You are absolutely on the right track. The problem you are having is that more than 1 person from the same public IP address is establishing a tunnel.

There is not a good way to establish a tunnel using a VPN client from more than one client behind a NAT device to the same central VPN device. In this case, the user has a D-Link router as the NAT device. Some devices do a better job of handling the NAT for IPSEC VPN traffic, which is what the Sonicwalls use. The only thing he could try in this case, other than the guaranteed solution of implementing a remote-office VPN gateway device, would be to ensure that the D-Link is upgraded to the latest firmware and has the appropriate IPSEC pass through settings. The most reliable solution, though, would be a VPN appliance to maintain a site-to-site VPN device at each remote office.

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Mobile Accessories for Laptops/PDAs and I would imagine Tablets

So I found this post via Scoble’s link blog asking about a stand for Tablet PC’s. There are a couple of sites that I have used to find things like this, and they have a number of stands for laptops and other devices in cars. The company that makes most of the things that I have found is Arkon Resources, but I have found there stuff being sold through (and bought them through) Your Mobile Desk. If you can’t find them there, then I don’t know who would have it.

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Nonprofit blogging, etc.

So I am working on some ideas for ways in which nonprofits, one in particular with whom I am working, can use blogging and the web. Obviously there are tons of places out there that make that possible, but I thought I would post some links here of various articles and resources I have found so far. I haven’t yet crystalized any thoughts around them, but I am reading all of this and coming up with ideas.

Sites of interest:
Non Profit Web Marketing
Internet Marketing for Non-profit Organizations
Nonprofit Blogging and Content Aggregation
Blogs for .orgs
Social Entrepeneurship and Project Management
Virtual Volunteering Guidebook

Let me know if you have any other ideas of places I should look. I am particularly interested in the idea of creating online communities and using those communities for the purposes of fundraising, information sharing, and overall mission promotion.

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Exchange 2003 Recovery Storage Groups

I attended the MS Technet Briefing yesterday that covered both Virtual PC 2004, which I have already started using myself, and Exchange 2003 disaster recovery, which I have experience with in prior versions, but not so much in 2003. I was blown away by the new Recovery Storage Group feature. The presenter demonstrated both a recovery of deleted items from a single user’s mailbox, and he showed what was called a dial-tone recovery of an Exchange Information Store.

For anyone that hasn’t done an Exchange disaster recovery, this may not be that impressive, but here are the steps for a single-server disaster recovery of a crashed Exchange Private Information Store (not a crashed Windows server). This outline assumes a good backup from the previous night.

  1. Information Store crashes, and the administrator is notified.
  2. Administrator stops the Exchange services and moves the corrupt copies of the priv1.edb and priv1.stm files to another location for possible recovery at a later time.
  3. Administrator restarts the information store service and the IS fails to mount. Administrator mounts the IS and is informed that this will result in the creation of a blank database. Administrator accepts the warning. USERS ARE NOW ABLE TO SEND AND RECEIVE EMAIL. Total elapsed time to this point should be less than 10 minutes.
  4. Administrator creates a recovery storage group in the Exchange System Manager disaster recovery section.
  5. Administrator begins a restore of the Exchange database to the RSG. (This will happen automatically, since the mounted blank database that is currently in use is protected from overwrite by the restore process, and the RSG database is automatically configured to allow an overwrite by a restore. The administrator does not have to tell the backup to do anything other than restore the IS backup.)
  6. At this point, Administrator has a choice to either begin an Exmerge of the data from the restored database into the newly created blank copy, which could take a significant period of time, or to swap the recovered database with the live blank one and then import only the new items from the mostly blank database.

As anyone who has ever done an alternate server recovery with Exchange can attest, this process is incredibly simple and fast!!!! Way to go, MS. This feature, alone, is almost worth the cost of an upgrade to Exchange 2003.

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Iomega Rev35 Drive

This article at PC Magazine is a review of the new Iomega Rev35 drive, which stores 35GB of uncompressed data on a removable disk. The drive attaches via USB 2.0 to any PC with a USB port (it is backward compatible with USB 1.1, though the speed would probably preclude use on a non-USB2 machine). There are plans for a Firewire version that will support Mac OSX, but that is not yet shipping. The drive has some pretty impressive statistics, and according to the Iomega site, it is qualified to work with many of the major backup software platforms, such as Veritas Backup Exec 9.1, Dantz Retrospect, and CA Brightstore. The only real down side I see at this point is the cost of the media, coming in at around $50 per cartrdige. Anyone who needs more capacity and better reliability than a DDS 4 tape solution, though, would do well to consider this.

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How blogging can provide unsolicited possibilities

I have been writing this weblog now for less than a year now. During that time it has come to be a resource for many different things, but it has provided me with several unexpected opportunities. By having a weblog that anyone can use, I have been interviewed by two local newspapers, the Bucks County Courier Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, and I recently received an offer for a free piece of software for the purpose of reviewing it and publishing the review on my site. In the past it has been difficult for a small site or individual like me to even be noticed by organizations like the Inquirer or by companies producing software. Further, software and hardware companies haven’t had a mechanism for finding people like me with influence over the buying decisions of others, nor have people like me had the opportunity to influence such a large group of people.

I guess what I am saying is that there is some serious potential for people to consider when starting a weblog, it doesn’t just have to be a time consuming endeavor – it can provide real results. I haven’t even mentioned the clients I have gotten because they found me through my weblog. If you are reading this and have thought about creating a weblog, you should give it some serious consideration.

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Great article on employee use of the Internet at work from Wired magazine

If you have employees and an Internet connection at your office, you should read this article. It discusses the differences between how users responded to a survey about personal use of the Internet and what actual experience has shown. The highlights include:

  • 6% of survey respondents admitted to having downloaded spyware onto their computers, while administrators estimate that 30% of their corporate workstations have been infected with spyware at one time or another;
  • IT managers estimated that 10% of help desk calls were related to non-work-related applications – usually problems created by spyware;
  • employee use of non-work-related applications and related bandwidth strain has slowed down a mission-critical project at one-third of respondents’ organizations;
  • 21% of employees who responded to the poll said they use streaming media to do such things as listen to Internet radio or watch live newscasts via the Web. But only 6 percent admitted to ever downloading and storing any non-work-related video clips or music onto their work computer;
  • IT managers responding to the poll estimated that, on average, roughly 10% of their company network’s disk storage space is taken up by non-work-related files, such as MP3s, photos and movies;
  • The majority of employees surveyed said they spend between one and five hours per week using the Internet at work for personal reasons;
  • 14% of employees admitted to playing online or downloaded games at work;
  • 27% of those surveyed said they feel using the Net for personal reasons made them more productive at work;
  • 49% said they would rather give up their morning coffee than their ability to use the Internet at work for personal reasons.

These are very interesting results, and every employer or business owner should be aware of the realities associated with personal use of the Internet by employees. At the same time, those employers should also be aware that they are typically asking employees to do much more with fewer actual people than we have in the past, as evidenced by the increasing productivity percentages that are reported in economic data every month. There needs to be some sort of a balance between what the business needs and what an employee needs for staying happy and healthy, but I would definitely agree that spyware presents one of, if not the, biggest dangers to corporate networks and computers today, and it almost always results from personal use of the Internet on work machines.

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Sonicwall Content Filtering rating request

I have noticed a number of people on various sites stating that their site had been classified incorrectly as pornography or something objectionable. If that happens, you can look up and request a re-rating for any site at this location.

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My second Sonicwall roadshow

First, I want to apologize for the lack of posting this month. This has been a very busy time for me, and I haven’t had a lot of time to keep the posts coming. I will try and pick it back up a little.

To that end, I attended my second Sonicwall roadshow in as many months today. It was held in Valley Forge, PA, and was presented by Greg Croce, the Sonicwall Territory Manager, and Tom Bulthaupt, the Territory SE and Eastern Region SE Manager. They provided an overview of the new Sonic OS 2.x enhanced firmware, which was primarily a rehash for me from the last roadshow, but I did get a couple of nuggets of information that were new.

The biggest piece of news is the impending release of the new SonicWall Pro 5060, a six-port gigabit ethernet solution that will come in two flavors (6 copper ports, or 4 copper and 2 fiber sx/sc ports). It looks like the box is going to retail for either $9,995 or $11,495 with 1 year of the new IPS deep packet inspection service included in the price. On the presentation slide for the 5060 was a little blurb mentioning a new product that is ultra hush-hush, the SonicPoint, which should probably be an integrated security/wireless roaming solution that will work with the Pro series of firewall appliances. We’ll have to watch closely for the announcement on these products when they are more readily publicized.

The other useful tidbit I got was the impending release of 2.5 firmware, which should be by the end of this quarter and will address a number of requests, including source-based routing in SonicOS enhanced for forcing certain IP addresses and/or protocols to use a specific WAN interface in a load balancing/failover configuration.

I continue to be impressed with the recent flurry of innovation out of the folks in Sunnyvale. Keep up the great work!

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Gateway is closing all the cow stores

I found this one through the Wall Street Journal online edition – Gateway has decided to close all of its retail stores as it struggles to find its niche in today’s computer market. I owned one Gateway machine, and I have a few clients that own nothing but. My opinion of them has been that they change the components of their computer models too frequently, and one never knows exactly which parts are going to be there when you open the box. That perception, however, is just that – a perception.

What I do think about this is that Gateway is losing what might have been its only competitive advantage in that it had clearly marked service depot locations in most major metropolitan areas. If someone did not purchase on-site service from Dell or one of the other providers, then it can be difficult to find someone to actually service a hardware failure. With the closing of the retail outlets, which also served as drop-off service locations, their customers will have to purchase on-site service or seek out other options for hardware problems.

I also wonder how the lost service revenue will affect the company’s bottom line. This should be an interesting move, since other computer manufacturers have moved to increase their presence, as with the Apple stores and the Dell kiosks in malls and other high-traffic areas. Only time will tell if the little company from South Dakota can pull it out.

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