Network Evaluation- Bryon Gaskin

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					Bryon Gaskin
Network Evaluation

                               Network Evaluation-Thomson

      The company I chose was Thomson. Of focus is local site in Marion. However I

feel that this still was still a learning experience for myself as well as the rest of the class

because on one hand I have already had a good deal of knowledge of our internal LAN,

and that can be a benefit to the rest of the class, this project forced me to go outside the

my local group of experts and gather resources from many different resources based

around the world.

      The intention of this paper is not to serve as a road map for a company to follow

when they are developing a local area network or a wide area network. The intention of

this paper is to give an example of real-world implementation of a LAN-WAN solution

and illustrate how a good portion of the trials and tribulations involved in network

management are more “management” than “network”. Most of the students in an MBA

program are not going to be in the information technology department, instead most

MBA students will be on the outside looking in. The opposite holds true for information

technology professionals, a good portion of technology professionals don’t understand

how information technology intertwines in the business of the company, and instead they

tend to focus only on issues they can see or are actually involved in.

      For security purposes some of the information presented may be a generalization of

information instead of actual data, for example IP addresses, router and gateway names

may have been changed, etc etc.
Bryon Gaskin
Network Evaluation

     A little background information about Thomson will help one to understand one

how difficult it is to manage and maintain a network, but also give some insight as to

some of the issues we are confronting today within and external to the company.

     Many people don’t know what Thomson does, until about the last 3 years Thomson

was known primarily for carrying RCA brand TVs and paying for the right to advertise

on the RCA dome. However changes in the business environment have forced a refocus

of Thomson’s efforts, primarily fueled by the shifting on manufacturing jobs to China

and the partnering of Chinese TV manufacturing company TCL. Adding to the changing

environment Thomson purchased Technicolor which has several locations around the

world and Grassvalley, each of which have presented separate but equally challenging

issues that will be discussed later. Today Thomson’s main products have moved from

items like TVs to items like MP3 players, DVDs, TV studio equipment, and studio

equipped vans and trucks.


     Computers: Locally, at my site we currently have approximately 250 windows

based PCs, 15 Windows NT/ Windows 2000 servers, and a combination of 6 SUN, HP,

and IBM Unix servers.

     LAN Equipment: The core of the LAN is an ACCELAR router, it goes off and

connects to over 25, 24 port Nortel network switches. There are a handful of switches

that then branch off and connect to 3Com hubs. At the time of the installation of the

3Com hubs it was prohibitively expensive to install layer 3 or 4 switches to locations

where there were was only a handful of low use computer that needed connected. For
Bryon Gaskin
Network Evaluation
example, you might have an office area that use up most of the ports for office computers

but you still have 3 or 4 printers you need to network. At the time it did not seem

feasible to spend $2500 for a Nortel Switch.

     The network is self is 100MB, there are 1Gigabit connections between all switches

and the core Accelar router, and from the switch to the client is CAT 5 cabling. Wireless

is not used in the location in which I work, however, it is used any many other locations

throughout the company. One of the main concerns is how to secure the wireless

network. Wireless is less secure because the medium through which the data travels is

exposed to potential threats by the mere fact that the signal has no physical barrier

preventing it from being intercepted. A traditional land line or (wired) network is

exposed to two general types of attack, internal and external. Creativity using firewalls,

routers and proxy servers helps prevent external attack. Internal attacks happen when

physical access to your internal network takes place. In a traditional wired network the

attack would take place when someone would plug his or her computer into a network

jack that was active. This normally took place when someone gained access inside one of

the buildings housing the LAN. With a wireless network, the distinction between the two

types of intrusion are blurred to some degree because now someone who does not have

physical access to the property or building housing the LAN can now launch both internal

and external attacks at the same time. The time saved by not having to run physical wires

to different locations in a building, would and should probably be offset in the additional

planning and monitoring that is needed to detect and eradicate breaches and threats.
Bryon Gaskin
Network Evaluation

     There are actually 6 connections to the that physically inter the building in which

we are housed. There is a T1 for the internal credit union, a T1 for the contracted

learning center that his housed in the building, there is a T1 for voice communications for

our company, there is Frame Relay connection for our data services, there is a ISDN

backup for data services, and an ISDN backup for a the external Cisco router used to

control the router. For data services the internal Accelar router connects via fiber cable to

a Cisco router that is connects to a Frame Relay. Although there are six access points to

the outside world, only two of them actually carry data such as email or allow internet

access to employees of the company. Only the Frame Relay and the backup ISDN line

are used by the company itself for external communication.

     WAN specifications:

     No employees locally have access to do any programming or analysis of the WAN

equipment. There are 3 people who have keys who can physically access the WAN

equipment. Management and programming of the WAN is done from France, hence the

need for ISDN backups to the external Cisco router. The location in Marion is directly

connected to headquarters via the Frame Relay.


     Network operating systems.

      Primary network operating system is Windows NT 4.0, which a majority of the

client operating systems being Windows 2000. Within the next 3 months a major

migration from Windows NT 4.0 to a Windows 2000 domain is planned.

     Network Maintenance:
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Network Evaluation
     Three primary software packages are used to monitor and maintain the network. A

program called “Netwatch” monitors each of the ports of each of the routers and

switches, this data is collected and stored and analyzed to find trends and trouble spots.

The next program that is used is called “What’s Up Gold” it is used to monitor if

attached advices are up and running on the network. For instance if a switch goes down

or the connection the internet goes down then either a “net send message is generated or

an email alert is generated or for more serious situations paging alerts can be generated.

The last piece of software used is Microsoft’s System Management Server or SMS. SMS

is used to collect information from attached network devices such as servers, computers,

printers and any other devices that has an IP address out on the network. Data pulled

using SMS is stored in a SQL database that can then be manipulated in a variety of ways

to pull out selected information about the attached network devices such as up to date

statistics on how many and what type of devices are connected to the network.


     Security is something that is taken very seriously within the company. There are

several security measures that are taken a variety of levels both locally and abroad. Lets

start with outside and work our way in. All of the access points to the internet sit behind

two sets of hardware based firewalls before ever coming in contact with any internal

network equipment. Access to the internet is granted via a series of proxy servers that

are arranged in a “round robin” setup. SMTP gateways set on both sides of the firewalls.

Certain types of files are not allowed to pass through the email systems such as VBS,

EXE, COM, and BAT files. If the are detected, the attachments are removed and both the

sender and the recipient is notified that the email has had the attachment removed. This
Bryon Gaskin
Network Evaluation
level of protection is done at the SMTP gateway as opposed to being executed at the site

level, thinking being, that most of the viruses in the wild will come from outside of the

network. All servers, desktops and laptops run virus protection developed by a company

called TrendMicro. Virus pattern updates and software updates are sent out via a

preconfigured spoke and hub setup. On the outside of a virus attacked, 1 administrator

can propagate updated virus protection to everyone connected network device is all of

Thomson’s computers including those in it’s recently acquired companies within 10

minutes, which equates to about 40,000 computers located in each of the 7 continents.

File level security using NTFS not only prevents unauthorized access it also allows for

tracking of access by user to specified resources. One of the most important parts of

security is constantly reviewing security logs to look for not only the occasional access

denied, but more importantly, spotting trends in allowed accesses. You can have the

tightest file level security, but often times the week spots are the end user themselves.

Many times users will walk away from their computers and stay logged in. This allows

anyone who walks past his or her desk to sit down and see what they see. To help

circumvent this problem, we implemented a screen saver policy using NT 4.0 Policy

Editor. Each time someone logs on, he or she gets a policy that locks out the computer

after 4 minutes of inactivity. The other thing that has been implemented is the forcing of

password changes. Each user is required to change his or her password every 30 days.

This is a doubled edged sword because on one hand the user is forced to change his or her

password more frequently, the more often one is required to change his or her password,

the more likely they password is to be written down and left where someone can see it.

     Network Issues:
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Network Evaluation
     The largest issue facing strictly the network locally, have to do with the ever-

changing business layout. Four years ago, there were 4000 production workers and 300

administrative staff. How there are a little of 800 production workers and 200

administrative staff. Constant reorganization causes major hardships for the network and

the network administrator. Often times a business decisions are made and IT is not

involved in the decision and what you will find is that some part of the network is taken

down when another department decides to take down a wall. External to my location

they have the opposite problem. The company as a whole is dealing with acquisitions

and all of the technological pains that go with acquiring companies that have different

types of networks and making them manageable. The problem is only compounded when

the business either acquires or partners with companies in other countries. However, a

good deal of problems that face not only network administrators and IT managers is the

politics involved in IT decisions. For example, the company has outsourced on a global

scale all of its telecommunications services including voice and data services. Over the

long run, this will save the company approximately 25% at the corporate level, however;

at the local level many places will go from paying services in the $2500 a month range to

upwards of $20,000 a month. The cost is justified to the company because of the

outrageous price for telecommunications in countries like China, Mexico, and Brazil. In

other words, established locations take paying a greater share of the total communications

charges than they were accustomed to and the newly acquired companies pay less than

they would have if they would not have had a global contract for their services.

     As in most situations, the biggest cause of problems is either miscommunication or

lack of communication. Stronger, more direct communication is essential in any
Bryon Gaskin
Network Evaluation
relationship between the business side of the company and the IT side of the company.

The truth is that in most circumstances IT is a function of the business and not the actual

business itself. This is an important concept for not only IT people to understand but as

well as management to understand. For the average business it is seen as an unnecessary

evil, because often time projects have high upfront costs and the returns are realized over

a long period of time. Adding to the strain between management and IT is the fact that

IT for the most part does not generate income for the company, at best, IT must be able to

improve cash flows by decreasing overall business expenses.