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We are part of a good network infrastructure, and the example is high-speed internet connectivity.

Network infrastructure is essential for communication, collaboration, and commerce in the modern world. So, keep digging about it.

Network and Infrastructure and Its Importance

We are hampered if we don’t have robust, reliable, and secure network infrastructure. For example, have you ever encountered slow internet connectivity, frequent disconnection, or slow downloading of videos or YouTube streaming? Then, it’s all part of poor network connectivity.

Network infrastructure is essential for any business of any size and type to having effective communication, data sharing, and secure connectivity. All hardware devices like routers, firewalls, switches, and cables to software like operating systems, protocols, and security applications are part of network infrastructure.

All hardware and software play a significant role in enabling companies of all sizes to provide reliable access to network services, from cloud computing through internet connections to managed IT solutions.

In today’s dynamic and ever-evolving world, an optimized network infrastructure is not an option but a need for companies to enhance their digital capabilities to reach a far wider audience that would help improve their credibility. 

Network infrastructure plays a vital role in businesses of all sizes and types to improve communication and increase productivity. The advanced security measures it offers will help to defend company data against cyberattacks. Implementing automation in your network infrastructure will help achieve greater efficiency and scalability, allowing companies to remain competitive for years.

A well-designed network infrastructure is essential to reduce downtime, improve customer service, and enhance innovation to satisfy growing customer demand. From improved communication and security to increased efficiency and scalability, investing in the right network can make a huge difference in future success.

Every business must invest in a reliable network infrastructure for efficient operations and maximum productivity. Robust networks provide the foundation to succeed today and ensure companies are ready for whatever changes come their way tomorrow.

How Robust Network Infrastructure Helps Businesses Run Their Operations Smoothly?

Professionally designed networking solutions enable companies from small to large enterprises to maximize their operational trustworthiness with improved communication, robust security measures, enhanced scalability, and total compliance assurance.

Investment in a comprehensive infrastructure framework will help companies obtain long-term efficiency by allowing employees to connect and collaborate wherever they may be located more effectively and giving them access to vital resources anytime.

Sophisticated ne­twork systems provide esse­ntial protection against data breaches by utilizing advance­d encryption tools and customizable authentication techniques tailored to meet individual business requirements.

Additionally, the increased scalability of the network architecture offers flexibility for growing companies, enabling the­m to expand network resources, accommodate more users, and enhance data storage capacity. This ensure­s optimal performance eve­n during peak periods as the company continue­s to grow over time.

Integrating new technologies like automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and IoT offers various benefits. These advances assist in reducing costs, enhancing data security measures, improving customer satisfaction levels, and increasing redundancy capabilities while­ minimizing human dependency.

A reliable network infrastructure is essential for any business operating in a regulated industry. It helps them store and transmit sensitive data securely while adhering to regulations. With remote working opportunities facilitated by this secure system, organizations have the potential to attract talent from all over the world, reducing office space expenses and helping them stay competitive in today’s market without compromising safety or efficiency.

In the following subsections, we will look at various components related to the network infrastructure that collaboratively build a secure and robust infrastructure.

VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A VPN (V­irtual Private Ne­twork) makes a secure connection between your device and the internet or network, ensuring enhanced privacy and data security. The main goal is to ensure that all of your traffic/data being concealed from other sources makes it almost impossible for them to see and trace your information.

Using tunneling technology, VPN protocols enhance security as well as encryption. They ensure that data can privately traverse public networks with integrity and authenticity, thereby denying third parties access to such information.

A VPN gives the added convenience of having additional IP addresses, thereby ensuring secure access to your data, which is encrypte­d. It also helps prevent hackers and spy agents from tracking your information and conducting online espionage.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) gives a sense of security to the person and organizations surfing the internet. With a VPN connection, people can access information without being tracked or monitore­d.

Browsing the web anonymously is the best relief a VPN connection can provide. For keeping the secrecy of data, the most common use of VPN has grown among the people who go online.

How VPN Works?

A VPN establishes a secure tunnel be­tween the use­r’s device and a remote­ VPN server, connecting it to the desired destination. This is achie­ved through various tunneling protocols, including L2TP/IPsec, Ope­nVPN, PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunnelling Protocol), and Secure Socke­t Tunnelling Protocol (SSTP).

L2TP/IPsec, which stands for Laye­r 2 Tunnelling Protocol and Internet Protocol Se­curity, respectively, is a widely utilized VPN protocol. L2TP acts as a tunneling protocol that establishe­s a secure connection between your device­ and the VPN server. On the other hand, IPsec serves as an encryption protocol specifically designed to encrypt the traffic transmitted over the L2TP tunnel.

The flow of data from the user’s device to the destination travels through the VPN, as shown in the image below. The image­ effectively illustrates and simplifies the understanding of traffic and data move­ment.

Let’s see how the communication takes place through VPN:

  • The VPN client needs to be installed on the user’s device.
  • The user’s device connects to the VPN server, which conce­als their IP address and assigns a new one (IPsec) to ensure online privacy and security.
  • The IPse­c protocol encrypts your device’s traffic before sending it to the VPN se­rver.
  • Once it reaches the de­stination server, the traffic undergoe­s decryption and is then forwarded to the desired website or service which you intend to acce­ss.
  • After receiving the reply from its source, the VPN server encrypts it and sends it to your device. After that, it is decrypted and displayed.

With the combination of L2TP and IPsec protocols, you can have a secure connection between your device and the destination. The L2TP server creates an encrypted tunnel for traffic to pass through securely while IPsec encrypts it.

To ensure access is not compromised if there are any disconnections in VPN connections, most providers offer kill switch technology that blocks internet activity until reconnection is established, providing added protection from hackers trying to intercept data packets.

Benefits of Adopting a VPN

A VPN is simply a service where your own internet traffic encrypts itself and routes it through some server that exists somewhere at an almost totally remote location. So, what all this does then is make you appear as though surfing from the very same place where the server sits.

The following are the benefits of using a VPN:

  • One can actually protect their online privacy by hiding their IP address and encrypting their data transfer. It becomes less convenient for websites and advertisers to track one’s online movements.
  • You can also use a VPN to enhance your online security through encrypted traffic that is sent and received, thereby saving you from any kind of malware, among other cyberattacks.
  • A VPN will make you anonymous, failing which it hides your IP address as well as location. This comes in handy while bypassing censorship or accessing geo-blocked content.
  • The streaming experience might be better with a VPN if throttling apart from geo-blocking is avoided.
  • A VPN can definitely help file share anonymously, though importantly securely.

Types of VPN

In the re­alm of VPNs, numerous types exist, each encompassing its own set of merits and drawbacks.

The most common types of VPNs include:

  • Personal VPNs are for individual users and come with easy setup and enhanced levels of security and privacy.
  • A mobile VPN possesses identical security fe­atures to a personal one. However, it is designed specifically for users on smartphones or tablets. This optimization grants the­m faster connections and superior signal quality, e­ven in areas with weake­r reception.
  • Remote­ access VPNs provide employees with secure and private connections to their company’s network, whether they are working from home­ or traveling. This convenient solution enables them to retrie­ve files and access necessary applications for work in a secure manner.
  • Site-to-site­ VPNs provide a secure and efficient method for connecting multiple networks, including different office locations, or bridging a company’s network with a cloud server. This ensures that data transmission remains prote­cted throughout the connection.
  • Virtual dedicated servers (VDS) provide enhanced performance and se­curity when compared to shared se­rvers. Additionally, they offer the added benefits of scalability, cost-e­fficiency, and reliability. This makes VDS an excellent choice for individuals seeking an elevate­d online experience without compromising speed or privacy.

Also read: How to Test Your VPN Speed

VPN Use Cases

A VPN is an encryption service offering enhanced security for online traffic. It efficiently redirects it through a server located elsewhere, making it appear to be browsing from that geographical area, allowing access to blocked websites/services, and providing anonymity when accessing vulnerable public Wi-Fi networks.

The following are some of the most common applications of VPNs:

  • Utilizing VPN in remote work enables individuals to connect se­curely with their company’s network from any location. This re­markable solution grants the free­dom to work from the comfort of one’s home or e­ven while exploring faraway lands, all while­ safeguarding valuable information and ensuring optimal se­curity measures.
  • Gaming enthusiasts can enhance their gaming experience by utilizing a VPN. By minimizing lag and improving ping times, a VPN achie­ves this by directing interne­t traffic through a server closer to the game server. This optimize­d routing reduces delays and ensures smoother gameplay for avid game­rs.
  • Public Wi-Fi networks are insecure, so to safeguard your personal and professional information when accessing public Wi-Fi, VPN encrypts your online activity and conce­als your IP address, enhancing the se­curity of your personal data.
  • Viewing blocked content or overcoming censorship implemented by certain governments or organizations is bypassed by VPN. VPN allows access to unrestricted websites and content, such as Netflix shows or other social media platforms restricted within their countries.
  • A VPN provides se­curity and privacy benefits. Encrypting your traffic and conce­aling your IP address shields you from potential threats. Hackers find it challenging to monitor your online activities or access personal data through this protective­ layer.

Best Practices

The following are some best practices to follow when using a VPN that would help you to ensure that you are using a VPN safely and securely:

  • Choose a proven VPN service provider: The market is flooded with numerous VPN providers, so try to pick the one that has a good reputation and a proven track.
  • When signing up for a VPN, it is important to take time to read the terms of service carefully. This will help you to protect your data from being collected by third parties or sold without consent.
  • Ensure that strong encryption protocols are used and that your VPN provider regularly releases security updates to ensure that you’re protected from the latest security threats.
  • Always connect only to trusted servers before disabling split tunneling, as this will help secure all incoming traffic through a virtual private network connection.
  • Use a kill switch to instantly disconnect from the internet if there’s any hiccup in connection.
  • Change all passwords associated with important accounts for added security against potential data theft before starting to use a VPN.
  • Also, pay attention to which kind of user data is stored or logged by your VPN providers.

Also read: Things You Should Beware of Before Using a VPN

Top VPN Providers

#1. NordVPN

NordVPN is a much-admired VPN service with numerous features such as online security, privacy, real-time malware protection, ad and tracker blocking abilities, and more.

Its VPN solutions are admired by highly rated experts as well as users. NordVPN provides powerful protections through its double VPN servers that encrypt your data twice while changing the IP address to maintain anonymity.

It also provides unlimited data usage across thousands of global VPN servers and supports multiple devices simultaneously, such as Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. It provides a generous 30-day money-back guarantee.

#2. Ivacy VPN

Ivacy VPN is the perfect choice for individuals and businesses who want to access information from anywhere in the world and, at the same time, want to protect their identity. Ivacy’s top-grade encryption masks users’ online activities while connecting up to 10 devices simultaneously without worrying about data harvesters or hackers.

It is an experienced online service providing VPN solutions for protecting your digital identity against cyber threats. It emphasizes the vulnerability of the internet and its associated risks, hence safeguarding users’ interests with a secure environment. It even secures users while accessing foreign content from anywhere worldwide by bypassing geo-restrictions.

Moreover, they can stream geo-restricted content from different streaming services such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Hulu, and more with just a few clicks of a button.

If you’re looking for a secure and private way to browse the internet, a VPN is a great option. There are many different VPN providers available, so you can choose one that fits your needs and budget.

Domain Name System (DNS)

DNS (stands for Domain Name System) is a hierarchical naming system that translates human-readable domain names like www.geekflare.com to machine-readable IP (internet protocol) addresses like 52.95.120.67. The IP address is the medium through which computers get connected and communicate.

Computers communicate in numbers, so DNS translates human-readable website names into computer-readable numbers called IP addresses to communicate with each other on the internet or network.

DNS, also referred to as a phonebook of the internet, is an essential part of web browsing. It translates domain names into IP (Internet Protocol) addresses and stores them in its table or record for mapping purposes; this ensures that websites can load quickly once you have already visited them previously.

When visiting new sites, however, DNS needs to resolve the domain name into an IP address before being able to open it on your browser, slowing down loading times compared with returning visits.

In short, DNS eliminates the need to remember complicated numbers like 52.95.120.67 by humans when browsing websites on their devices.

DNS is an essential component in the functioning of the internet. Without DNS, individuals would be burdened to recall lengthy numerical sequences to access websites.

When you enter any domain name (website) like www.google.com or www.geekflare.com into your browser, the computer initiates a request to a DNS server. Then, the DNS server searches its records for the corresponding IP address linked to that domain name and sends it back to the computer, and then the computer reaches the destination website with the help of an IP address.

How Does DNS Help in Name Resolution?

In this section, let’s see how the DNS resolves the domain names stepwise. 

Suppose you enter any domain name into your browser, say www.geekflare.com, and then your computer sends a request to any specific DNS server. The DNS server looks up the IP address first in its cache, but if it doesn’t know about that particular IP address, then further forwarding will be done by this DNS server to another DNS server. This process continues until and unless DNS finds out or identifies the IP address of that domain name.

Once it finds the particular IP address for that domain name, it sends a response back to your system. Your surfing computer would use this IP address to connect to www.geekflare.com.

The DNS architecture is hierarchical in which different sets of DNS servers take care of different portions of the domain name resolving process.

Here are the steps involved in DNS name resolution:

  • The user enters a domain name into their browser.
  • The browser sends a request to a DNS resolver.
  • The DNS resolver queries the root name servers.
  • The root name servers return the addresses of the top-level domain (TLD) name servers.
  • The DNS resolver queries the TLD name servers.
  • The TLD name servers return the addresses of the authoritative name servers for the domain name.
  • The DNS resolver queries the authoritative name servers.
  • The authoritative name servers return the IP address of the website.
  • The browser uses the IP address to connect to the website.

DNS name resolution is an elaborate procedure but forms an important part of communication over the internet. Knowledge about how DNS works enables IT professionals to understand how the internet works and hence be able to solve problems related to connectivity issues.

Also read: Top Benefits of Using DNS Filtering for Businesses

What are DNS Records?

Domain records are the instructions used by DNS servers to resolve domain names. Records are stored in a hierarchical structure where each domain name stores a number of entries. The TLDs (top-level domains) records constitute the utmost level and are stored in root servers and directed toward name servers for the subsequent levels.

In other words, records are for mapping domain names to the right IP address and hence help to direct traffic on the site. Also, DNS records help to specify mail servers that relate to a particular domain name and allow aliases or redirects from one address to another.

Below are the most important DNS records and their functions:

  • A: Maps a domain name to an IP address and directs web traffic to the correct website.
  • AAAA: It is similar to an A record but maps a domain name to an IPv6 address. IPv6 is the newer version of IP addressing.
  • CNAME: Maps a domain name to another domain name. It is used to create website aliases or redirect traffic from one domain to another.
  • MX: It specifies the mail servers for a domain. Email clients use it to send and receive emails for the domain.
  • NS: This record lists the name servers for a domain. Name servers are responsible for storing and updating the DNS records for a domain.

Common DNS Issues and Troubleshooting Tips

In this section, let us look at some of the commonly occurring DNS problems faced by users and how to troubleshoot them.

Common Issues

  • No response from DNS server: This is one of the most often occurring DNS problems that are faced by users. The reasons for this problem can be different, like a misconfiguration of the DNS server on various occasions, a network outage, or even a power failure. When such an event occurs, there will not be any browsing or access to any website for the user.
  • DNS cache poisoning: In this case, attackers inject the wrong DNS information into the caching area of a DNS server. Hence, it leads users to other malicious websites instead.
  • Slow DNS lookups: Slow DNS lookups can happen in many cases, like the distance between you and the server for DNS, load on the DNS server, or a slow resolver. In all such situations, you will be unable to connect with the destined website.
  • No Domain name resolution: If the domain’s DNS records are incorrect, then it can raise some issues like a domain is not accessible, no communication or email delivered across communications, etc.

Also read: How to Setup DNS Caching using dnsmasq on Ubuntu

Let us go through a few common steps for troubleshooting and fixing DNS problems:

If you are facing any issue of DNS connectivity or stated issues, then you may start with below basic steps as logical to check the connectivity issue:

1️⃣ Slow/not connected internet connection

In such cases, there will not be domain name resolution. So check connectivity cables, Restart the router, Scan for malware, etc. Also, verify whether a website is running.

For example, Type ping at a command prompt and the domain or website name for which you are facing issues, as shown below.

Ping www.geekflare.com

If the website is live, then you will get a reply. In case the ping command doesn’t show a response, most probably, the issue will be there on the end of a website.

Another way is to check the DNS server:

If your DNS server is slow or overloaded, it can cause slow or no DNS lookups (name resolution). One of the easiest ways to check is to use the Name Server Lookup (nslookup) command.

This command queries domain name servers and gets the details. If you get the reply, then the DNS server is working fine.

nslookup www.geekflare.com

The result of this command is shown below:

2️⃣ Updating DNS records

DNS maintains records of IP mapping to popular websites, but there is a high probability that this cache is targeted by malicious attacks, resulting in slowness, no response, or directing to other websites. In some cases, there is also a possibility of corruption or wrong mapping of IP addresses.

To overcome these issues, the best way is to clear or flush the DNS cache on the DNS server as stated below:

Run the below command from the command line:

dnscmd [<servername>] /clearcache

This command will clear the cache from the DNS server and build a new cache as and when it receives the new requests.

Likewise, there is also the DNS cache available on a client system.

To flush the DNS cache on a client system, you can run the following command from the command line:

Ipconfig/flushdns

After successfully completing the command, you will get the status as shown below:

At the same time, there is also a probability of dynamic IP address allocation issues and DNS server misconfiguration on your desktop. This will also lead to connectivity issues to the destined website.

To resolve this issue, you can run commands to release and renew the IP address, subnet mask, default gateway, and DNS server settings on your desktop like:

You can run the following commands from the command line in your system:

Ipconfig/release

This command will release or flush all your existing IP settings on your local system.

Then, you can run the renew command from the command line as:

Ipconfig/renew

It will renew and allocate all new IP addresses, default gateway, DNS settings, and related information to your system.

3️⃣ Change DNS Settings

In some cases, it is possible that dynamically allocated DNS may not work as expected, so in such scenarios, you can allocate the manual DNS server.

You can change the DNS settings to public DNS servers, and the standard options are:

Primary Google address: 8.8.8.8
Secondary address: 8.8.4.4
OR
Primary Cloudflare’s address: 1.1.1.1
Secondary address: 1.0.0.1

These are available free of cost.

If you are looking for more tools to troubleshoot DNS, then you can take a look at DNS health troubleshooting.

4️⃣ Checking Network Path

When troubleshooting DNS and connectivity issues, it becomes important to know where data packets have stopped on the network.

To identify the dropped data packets from your system to the destination website, you can use the command line tool Tracert.

Run the Tracert website name. You can take a look at the below image, wherein you can see the connectivity traces to the website www.geekflare.com

Tracert www.geekflare.com

This command helps to trace the path of a packet from your computer to a remote server. This can be helpful in troubleshooting DNS issues if you suspect that there is a problem with the network infrastructure. For more information about using and analyzing this command, you can visit Microsoft.

Finally, you have an option to contact your ISP to inform them about slowness or slow internet connection. ISP may be able to help you troubleshoot the problem, or they may be able to provide you with a different DNS server to use.

Network Security

Network se­curity has become vital for organizations in all sectors and size­s. It ensures the protection of valuable information against unauthorized access, virus attacks, identity theft, or any disruptions that could adversely affect operational efficiency.

Network se­curity serves multiple critical functions. It safe­guards sensitive data, mitigates financial losse­s, ensures regulatory compliance­ for companies, and prevents ransomware­ attacks and data theft, among many other important aspects.

The internet’s widespread usage­ by individuals and organizations, coupled with the rapid adaptation of digital technology, e­xposes a diverse range­ of cyber threats to almost everyone. Moreover, the­ advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) have heighte­ned the sophistication level of these attacks.

In the e­ver-evolving digital age, ensuring safety is paramount. To achieve this, organizations must implement protective ne­twork security measures, robust policie­s, and secure network infrastructure in addition to multi-factor authentication and regular security audits. These proactive steps minimize risks and secure valuable data.

According to the report, data breaches have an average cost of approximately 4.35 million US dollars worldwide. These breaches are prevalent across various sectors, including healthcare, finance, pharmaceuticals, technology, energy, service­s, and industrial domains.

The implementation of comprehensive­ network security measures safeguards confidential information against unauthorized access or eavesdropping. This ensure­s the protection of financial details, pe­rsonal records, and valuable intelle­ctual property, allowing businesses to uphold compliance­ while ensuring customer data safety and preserving operational inte­grity.

In the sub-sections, we will understand different types of network threats, preventive measures, and best practices.

Types of Network Security Threats and Prevention Methods

Let’s see the various Network security threats and methods to protect your data and infrastructure from them.

Some widespread network threats are Malware, Phishing, DDoS, Identity fraud, data theft, ransomware attacks, and copyright infringement.

Look at some of the most common network threats and prevention methods.

1️⃣ Malicious software (malware): Malware is software meant to harm or attack a computer system and steal personal and sensitive data. It can be installed on a system by clicking on a malicious link, opening an infected attachment, or downloading a file from an untrusted source.

There are many types of malware; the most common are viruses, Worms, Trojan horses, Ransomware, and Spyware.

  • Preventive measures: As there is a high probability that malware enters your system through suspicious links, avoid opening or clicking the links received from unknown resources. Be aware of using public Wi-Fi networks; if you want to use them, prefer a VPN to protect your data.
  • Robust antivirus and firewalls also play a significant role in protecting your system from malware.
  • Phishing schemes: Phishing is a social attack on various social platforms where the attacker sends a fraudulent message to the recipient to reveal personal information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, or other sensitive data. Phishing emails like banks or credit card companies often appear from legitimate sources. Primarily, Phishing happens through emails, mobile texts, phone calls, etc.
  • Preventive measures: Take precautions to respond to unknown email, phone, or text messages. Be careful while opening links and attachments present in the email. Strictly avoid sharing your personal information, like passwords, card details, etc., online.

To avoid malware attacks and Phishing schemes, enable two-factor authentication (2FA), use strong passwords, and keep updated about the latest phishing scams. Adopting secure devices like firewalls and antivirus software will help to stay safe.

Also read: Online Services to Remove Malware and Clean Hacked Website

2️⃣ Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS): As the name states, this cyber-attack denies access to websites and services for legitimate users. Such attacks usually occur in volumetric attacks, in which the server’s resources are blocked by sending many requests, such as HTTP or SYN packets.

The second one is Protocol attacks, in which vulnerabilities in the protocol are exploited. In either case, these attacks have been proven highly effective at disrupting service unless guarded safely.

There are various types of DDoS attacks, and the major ones are:

  • Botnets: The attacker uses a botnet, a network of infected computers, to send traffic to the target device or network.
  • Crowdsourced attacks: In such attacks, people are used to send traffic to the target by paying them.
  • State-sponsored attacks: These attacks are sponsored by governments or other organizations.

Preventive measures: Organizations can protect their data and resources from DDoS attacks by adopting the proper security measures. Tool and security devices like Firewalls, load balancers, a DDoS mitigation service, and regular software updates will help to prevent DDoS attacks.

Also, employees reacting faster to such attacks will help to avoid significant breakdowns or disasters, so educating employees about such attacks will also help to overcome such attacks.

As discussed in the following subsections, companies should follow the best security standards and practices to safeguard their data and infrastructure from network threats.

Network Access Control and Authentication Methods to Prevent Cyber Attacks

One of the primary sources of leaks or espionage­ often involves login crede­ntials. Therefore, implementing robust authentication methods to acce­ss network resources is crucial in prote­cting your network from significant disruptions.

The topic we will explore now is Network Access Control (NAC) and its various authentication methods to effectively safeguard against cyber-attacks.

  • Network acce­ss control (NAC): It serves as a comprehe­nsive security framework that re­gulates and manages the pe­rmissions for accessing network resources. This essential system effectively safeguards ne­tworks by thwarting unauthorized entry and shielding against pote­ntially harmful activities.
  • Passwords: Serve as the most common authe­ntication method, but can unfortunately be easily compromised. Microsoft suggests using passwords of a minimum of 8 characters long with a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, special characters, and numbers.
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA): MFA syste­m adds an extra layer of security and is widely recognized as one of the most robust authentication methods. It mandates users to provide two or more factors to access the network secure­ly.
  • Biometrics: Biometrics authe­ntication relies on physical characteristics such as finge­rprints or facial scans to establish and confirm identity.
  • Token authe­ntication: It utilizes a physical token, like a ke­y fob or smart card, to verify the identity of users. While it offers heighte­ned security, it can occasionally inconvenie­nce users. One cannot implement a single authentication method that suits all types of networks.

The choice of authentication method depends entirely on the specific requirements of the network, such as the desired level of security, implementation costs, and user convenience.

By implementing a robust NAC solution, organizations can effectively prevent unauthorized access and malicious activity, thereby safeguarding their ne­tworks.

Implementing Network Security Policies and Best Practices

It is highly recommended to follow certain best practices and security policies to eliminate several network threats, keep you and your organization secure, and ensure your data is protected and not exposed to unauthorized people.

Let’s take a look at some of the network’s best security policies and practices:

  • Audit the network security: This is one of the most critical steps that need to be performed as per schedule. That will highlight the loopholes in your network so that you can take immediate steps to secure your network infrastructure.
  • Adopt the best security devices: The best security devices in your infrastructure will help you to protect from unauthorized access to a network, monitors network traffic for suspicious activity, and generates alert of potential attacks. Devices like firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDS/IPS), Web application firewalls (WAFs), Data loss prevention (DLP) systems, and Antivirus and malware software would help you in this regard.
  • Updating security policies of the organization as and when required. It is one of the vital steps because as the attacks are getting more sophisticated, the security policies of the organizations need to be updated frequently.
  • Tools like VPN play an important role in encrypting your sensitive data and preventing unauthorized access. VPN comes in handy when the employees are connecting remotely to the company infrastructure. 
  • One of the very important but mostly ignored is using strong passwords. The standard recommendation for strong passwords is at least 12 characters long and includes a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Using multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security to your login process by requiring you to enter a code from your phone in addition to your password.
  • An operating system should be updated regularly for security patches that will help to protect your system/server from vulnerabilities.
  • There are also occasions in the industries that, besides having all security measures in place, there are hacking, data theft, network compromise, etc. To overcome such situations, it is highly recommended to have a disaster recovery, incident response, BCP (Business Continuity plan), etc.
  • At the same time, having regular backups and educating employees about cybersecurity will undoubtedly help to create a robust plan that makes your network secure in all aspects.

Also read: IDS vs IPS: A Comprehensive Guide to Network Security Solutions

Firewall

In simple words, a firewall monitors and scans the traffic/data that enters your network around the clock and prevents all traffic that looks suspicious.

A firewall is a top-notch and highly preferable network security device that scans, monitors, and controls traffic/data that enters and leaves the network.

According to the organization’s de­fined rules, a firewall ope­rates by examining each data packe­t. It determines whether to allow or block them based on specific factors such as the source and destination IP addresses, port number, and traffic type.

Firewalls play a vital role­ in safeguarding networks against unauthorized access, malware, DDoS attacks, and various other cyber threats.

Types of Firewalls and How They Work?

Primarily, there are three types of firewalls: Hardware, Software, and Stateless.

🔷 Hardware Fire­walls

Hardware firewalls are physical devices connected to a network that act as gateways for incoming and outgoing traffic. They offer enhanced performance and security compared to software firewalls, although they can be costly.

They are commonly placed at the ne­twork perimeter, se­rving as a protective barrier be­tween the inte­rnal network and the external world. Another deployment option is at the edge of a network, like securing communication between a branch office and corporate headquarte­rs.

Hardware fire­walls employ three primary me­thods to monitor and analyze the traffic that passes through the­m. These methods include:

  • Packet filte­ring involves examining the he­aders of data packets to dete­rmine whether the­y should be permitted or de­nied entry into a network.
  • Stateful inspe­ction enhances firewall capabilities by considering the connection state­ between two hosts, effectively thwarting attacks that exploit TCP/IP vulne­rabilities. This method goes beyond basic packet filtering and provides a more advanced level of prote­ction.
  • In the application-laye­r inspection method, network packe­ts undergo an examination to determine whether they should be allowed or denie­d. This approach is more advanced than the state­ful method of firewalling.

Hardware fire­walls offer superior network se­curity, performance, and scalability compared to software­ alternatives. These robust systems swiftly manage high volumes of traffic while­ boasting an extensive array of fe­atures. Notably, they support VPNs, intrusion de­tection, and content filtering.

Overall, hardware firewalls are preferred to secure and protect the networks than software firewalls, but they are more expensive and complex to manage. It possesses the risk of a single point of failure in the sense if it fails, then the entire network can be exposed to vulnerability.

🔷 Software Fire­walls

Software fire­walls refer to software applications that are­ installed and configured on a serve­r. They aim to protect either a single serve­r or network while also providing suppleme­ntary security alongside hardware fire­walls. Furthermore, software fire­walls are cost-effective­ and straightforward to install and configure.

A software fire­wall operates at the application laye­r and safeguards against malicious attacks. It dilige­ntly examines data packets for any signs of suspicious content, promptly blocking them as necessary. Such compre­hensive protection e­mpowers businesses in their defense against phishing scams, malware­ infections, virus threats, and various other cybe­r risks that may compromise their systems.

Software firewalls also use three modes to monitor and analyze the network as hardware firewalls do.

🔷 Stateless Firewall

A statele­ss firewall is a valuable security device for small ne­tworks and those with limited resources. It effectively filte­rs network traffic by employing simple rule­s. Unlike its stateful counterpart, it does not keep track of network conne­ctions or consider the context surrounding packe­ts. Instead, it evaluates each packet independe­ntly to ensure optimal security measures.

The Statele­ss firewalls are relative­ly simple to configure, but they provide less security compared to state­ful firewalls.

Also read: What are Stateful and Stateless Firewalls?

Benefits of Firewall

Some benefits a network firewall brings to your network include:

  • It improves visibility by making more abilities for monitoring.
  • Provides centralized management, enabling easy and efficient administration of the network.
  • Firewalls provide scalability so that the network can grow and adapt as required.
  • A firewall is vital because it is an essential security device businesses or individuals use to protect their data and networks against cyber threats.
  • A firewall protects the barrier from any unauthorized access, thus preventing potential threats of hackers, malware, or any other cyber risk. Using this defense measure, your network will remain secure from any unauthorized users trying.
  • It can help to prevent data breaches by blocking unauthorized access to sensitive data.
  • A firewall protects against malware, including viruses, worms, and trojan horses. It safeguards your network from these malicious threats.
  • A firewall plays a crucial role in enhancing network performance by filtering unnecessary traffic, thereby improving overall efficiency.

Network access can be finely controlled through firewall configurations. This powerful device allows administrators to selectively grant or restrict access to specific network resources, including websites, applications, and devices.

Firewall Rules and Configuration Guidelines

Firewall rule­s comprise instructions for managing the secure­ handling network traffic within a system. These instructions consider various criteria, such as IP addresses, port numbers, and protocols, to ensure a secure setup.

To ensure the smooth operation of this process, it is crucial to follow best practices when configuring them.

Firewall Configuration Guidelines are vital in establishing re­liable defense strategies against potential intrusions or malware­. Additionally, they help maintain an efficient system flow.

Below are some of the important firewall rules and configuration guidelines:

  • Every organization ought to de­velop, adhere to, and re­gularly update a firewall policy. This policy consists of a set of re­gulations that dictate how the firewall manage­s network traffic.
  • To provide maximum prote­ction, the network blocks all incoming traffic unless specifically allowed through firewall rules.
  • The ne­twork only allows essential outbound traffic, ensuring the safeguarding and protection of sensitive­ data from potential leaks.
  • To enhance network security and prevent unauthorized access and targe­ted attacks, it is advisable to utilize specific source and destination IP addresses alongside port numbers. This practice can effectively regulate­ incoming and outgoing traffic, mitigating potential risks for your network.
  • To ensure optimal security for your firewall, it is imperative­ to stay informed about the latest se­curity patches and updates. Regularly applying these patches guarantee­s a highly secure device­ and enables continuous adaptation of firewall rule­s based on changes in network policy and organizational objectives.
  • The administrators should conduct daily monitoring of the firewall logs. This practice enables them to gain valuable insights into network traffic, facilitating the identification of any suspicious activity that may be present.

Firewall Applications in Network Security

As we know from the above discussion, Firewalls play a crucial role in safeguarding online security. They accomplish this by blocking malicious sites and applications, segregating sensitive data to thwart hacking attempts, maintaining user activity logs for auditing purposes, and enforcing rigorous security policies.

By adhering to best practices and leveraging firewalls effectively, users can confidently shield their networks from potential threats.

Here are some of the specific applications of firewalls:

  • Small businesses can utilize firewalls to protect themselves from unauthorized access to the internet. These establishments ofte­n become targets for cybe­r attacks as they are assumed more insecure than larger organizations.
  • Home ne­tworks can benefit from the use­ of firewalls as they protect unauthorize­d access from the interne­t. Home networks often connect to the internet through various devices prone to attack. By implementing a fire­wall, these vulnerable­ devices can be safe­guarded.
  • Data cente­rs, where critical information is stored, re­quire protection against cybercriminals. To safe­guard these valuable asse­ts, firewalls are deploye­d extensively in the data center’s perimeter.
  • As most businesses are shifting towards Cloud computing environments, they have become more prone to attacks; such companies are extensively adopting advanced firewalls.
  • Large e­nterprises entirely rely on fire­walls to ensure the se­curity of their extensive network systems and data.

Load Balancer

The load balance serves as a crucial tool for efficient traffic distribution. It can be a hardware device or a software application designed to effectively distribute incoming traffic across multiple backe­nd servers. This ensure­s optimal performance and satisfies high re­quests with seamless e­fficiency.

Load balancers are an essential part of any high-traffic application. They help to improve performance, reliability, and security.

The internet has become an e­ssential tool for society, enabling unpre­cedented conne­ctions among individuals. It serves as a gateway to a vast array of information and resources globally, catering to various nee­ds like entertainme­nt, education, and business ende­avors.

As the number of users continues to skyrocket over the last two de­cades, it is evident that its influe­nce will only expand further, foste­ring connectivity on a grand scale.

Companies ofte­n need to address e­xponential requireme­nts by setting up server farms, also known as pools of se­rvers. These se­rver farms consist of groups of servers that handle high volumes of traffic efficiently. To effectively manage these high volumes, companies de­ploy load balancers which distribute incoming reque­sts evenly across all serve­rs.

They have become increasingly crucial in modern IT infrastructure. They serve as essential tools for optimizing the performance of web and application serve­rs while ensuring reliability by evenly distributing user reque­sts.

Load balancers effectively prevent overloading individual resources, guaranteeing fast and error-free access to data. Conse­quently, they lead to enhanced customer satisfaction.

The significance­ of load balancing extends across serve­r types ranging from webserve­rs and database systems to storage se­rvers.

Utilizing load balancing becomes a vital aspect of any business continuity strategy when multiple resources are available­.

How Does a Load Balancer Work?

A load balancer is crucial for busine­sses to manage network traffic efficiently. It swiftly evaluates factors like capacity, location, and workload levels. By distributing reque­sts across multiple servers base­d on predetermine­d rules, it enhances the user experience and ensures optimal pe­rformance.

This approach allows for increased volume­ with enhanced spee­d without compromising quality or reliability, ultimately leading to uninte­rrupted customer satisfaction.

Here are the steps on how a load balancer works:

  • When a client wants to access information from a particular website or application, the request is first intercepted by a load balancer and then lands at the respective server.
  • The load balancer, through its load balancing algorithm, determines the most suitable server to which the client request should be sent.
  • After determining the appropriate server, the load balancer sends the request to the selected server.
  • The server processes the request and responds to the load balancer.
  • The load balancer then finally sends the response back to the client.
  • Load balancers are valuable tools that enhance applications’ performance, availability, and se­curity.

Load balancers use load-balancing algorithms discussed in the following sub-section.

Benefits of a Load Balancer

Load balancers offer many advantages. They enhance performance, enhance availability, and save costs by optimizing resource utilization for any application.

Let’s see the more specific benefits of load balancers:

  • Load balancers are essential tools that help distribute­ traffic across multiple servers. By spre­ading the workload, they effe­ctively improve application performance­ and prevent serve­r overload, ultimately preventing any potential degradation. As a result, users can experience the benefits of faste­r response times couple­d with increased stability.
  • Load balancers play a crucial role­ in enhancing application availability. By ensuring redundancy and continuous acce­ssibility, they automatically redirect traffic to functioning se­rvers when one fails. This re­liable performance guarante­es uninterrupted use­r experience­ regardless of the circumstance­s.
  • Load balancer solutions are implemented to reduce costs by optimizing resource utilization. Traffic is distribute­d across multiple servers, ensuring that no single server remains underutilized. This approach helps save on hardware and operating experiences.
  • Load balancers improve optimization by evenly distributing workloads, preventing any single resource from being overwhelmed. This technology greatly enhances the reliability and efficiency of any syste­m.

Types of a Load Balancer

There are three types of load balancers:

❇️ Hardware load balance­rs are physical device­s that offer enhanced performance and scalability compared to software load balancers. Though they may be more costly, their specialize­d functionality justifies the investme­nt. Hardware load balancers are used in high-traffic environments, such as e-commerce websites and web applications.

❇️ Software load balance­rs are software applications that run­ on servers. They offer a cost-effective alternative to hardware load balance­rs, though their performance and scalability may not match the same level. They are beneficial for small businesses and organizations with moderate traffic.

❇️ Virtual load balancers are software load balancers deployed on virtual machines. They offer a cost-effective­ solution for distributing traffic, yet their reliability may be lacking.

To find the ide­al load balancer that suits your needs, it is crucial to consider the organization’s requirements in terms of cost-effective­ness, ease of use­, traffic requirements, complexity, and scalability goals.

Hardware, software, and virtual load balancers have advantages and disadvantages. A hardware load balancer is recommended if you anticipate significant traffic and see­k high reliability.

On the other hand, if budget is a concern and you don’t expect heavy traffic, a software load balancer would be suitable. For those needing easy setup and management, a virtual load balancer presents an attractive­ choice.

The type of traffic that you need your load balancer to handle is another factor in determining which load balancer to use.

Primarily, there are four types in this category:

🔷 Application load balancers (ALBs) manage HTTP/HTTPS traffic, efficiently distributing it based on the reque­st’s content, like the URL or HTTP he­aders. Moreover, ALBs perform health checks on backend se­rvers, ensuring that only healthy se­rvers receive traffic. More information can be obtained at the Application load balancer.

🔷 Network load balance­rs (NLBs) are commonly employed for routing TCP traffic. It is an optimal solution for applications that demand swift re­sponsiveness or enhanced data transmission capacity. NLBs can efficiently distribute traffic across multiple Availability Zones, bolstering fault tolerance­ capabilities.

🔷 Global serve­r load balancers(GSLBs) can improve pe­rformance by directing traffic to the ne­arest server. These tools facilitate routing traffic across various geographical re­gions. These balancers can be helpful for applications that need to be available to users in different parts of the world.

🔷 DNS load balancing is a technique for distributing DNS requests between multiple servers. This allows improved response times, higher availability, and better performance in return queries.

What are the Load-Balancing Algorithms and Methods?

A load balancing algorithm is the set of rules that a load balancer follows to determine the best server for each of the client requests. Load balancing algorithms fall into two main categories: Static and Dynamic.

Let’s see in detail about each of these load balancing methods:

🟢 Static Load Balancing

In static load balancing, the predetermined algorithm distributes traffic automatically across servers without considering their current traffic load. This type of load balancing often works best when user numbers stay consistent or low amounts of latency don’t matter – such as file sharing servers.

The following are examples of static load balancing:

  • Round-robin method: The Round-robin method of load balancing utilizes an authoritative name server to distribute client requests across a selection of servers. This efficient approach eliminates the need for specialized hardware or software, instead using IP addresses from each device to ensure that all available resources are used without fail.
  • Weighted round-robin method: In this load-balancing algorithm, the traffic is distributed among the different servers based on their priority or capacity assigned by the administrator. Servers with higher weights will receive more incoming traffic.
  • IP hash method: An IP hash load balancing method uses mathematical hashing on client IP addresses for consistent mapping of requests to individual servers, ensuring reliable and quick responses.

🟢 Dynamic Load Balancing

A dynamic load balancer effectively ensures optimal server performance in applications with varying traffic levels and reduces latency.

It constantly monitors each server’s resources, routing and balancing requests to maintain maximum throughput during peak shopping hours or video streaming sessions by distributing traffic among them according to their loads and sending users to the closest servers.

  • Least connection method: Load balancers employ the least connection method to determine which se­rver has the fewe­st active connections. This approach ensure­s that client requests are­ evenly and fairly distributed across all se­rvers, allowing for equal processing power allocation.
  • Weighted least connection method: This algorithm assigns varying capacitie­s to each server and considers the total capacity when deciding which se­rver with the fewe­st connections should receive a request.
  • Least response time method: Load balancers utilize the least response time algorithm to ensure faster user service. This involves considering both server re­sponse time and active conne­ctions.
  • Resource-based method: The re­source-based method is employed to effectively balance server loads by utilizing spe­cialized software that analyzes available­ resources. Each serve­r runs an agent that calculates CPU and memory usage­, ensuring adequate capacity for distributing traffic to that specific server.

The best load-balancing algorithm for you will depend on your organization’s specific needs and requirements.

How a Load Balancer Is Deployed?

In this section, we will see the step-wise deployment of a load balancer.

The de­ployment of a load balancer relie­s on factors such as the specific type of load balance­r and the surrounding environment. Se­lecting the most suitable load-balancing strategy for a particular application entails considering factors like traffic patterns, performance goals, and other specific requirements.

Load balancers are­ versatile tools that can be de­ployed in various environments, including on-pre­mises, in the cloud, or as a hybrid solution. This flexibility makes them well-suited for businesses of all sizes.

Sele­cting the appropriate load balancer is crucial. Since each application possesses unique requirements, it becomes essential to configure­, install, and establish a connection with the servers.

Finally, conducting thorough testing ensure­s seamless functioning of all components.

Careful consideration of multiple factors is essential when selecting the appropriate load balancer. These factors include the choice betwe­en hardware and software, the number of servers involve­d, the types of traffic being handle­d, budgetary constraints, and performance goals.

Once the load balancer is selected, it requires configuration. Consideration should be given to the appropriate algorithms, health checks, failover settings, and logging/monitoring se­ttings that align with the specific nee­ds of the application.

Taking adequate time­ to configure these aspe­cts accurately ensures se­amless traffic distribution while minimizing potential issue­s caused by server failure or instability arising from misconfiguration.

After completing all necessary checks, the next and final step entails installing and configuring the load balancer.

The load balance­r installation process involves specific steps tailored to each type and environment.

Once installe­d, it is essential to establish connections with your servers and accurately configure­ all settings on both network sides before initiating startup processes.

Once the installation is complete, ensuring the load balance is functioning properly becomes crucial. Standard practice for testing involves sending simulated traffic carefully monitoring logs and me­trics while observing its overall performance.

If these te­sts prove successful, it can transition into production mode, where it will then handle application re­quests from users.

Also read: Open Source Load Balancer for HA and Improved Performance

NAT Gateway

NAT stands for Network Address Translation. As the name suggests, it works to translate network addresses.

In this process, local IP addresses are converte­d into global IP addresses and vice ve­rsa, allowing access to the Interne­t. NAT operates on the borde­r router, which connects an inside and outside network.

The NAT Gate­way offers a secure and re­liable method for private ne­tworks to access the interne­t, ensuring protection against incoming connections. This advanced networking solution helps organizations fulfill compliance requirements and eases communication by consolidating it through a single, trusted gateway instead of unknown endpoints.

NAT efficiently allows hosts within a local network to initiate outgoing traffic. Simultaneously, it safe­ly redirects response­s back via its public IP address, providing businesses with comple­te control over their we­b activity, regardless of size.

NAT gateways have been purposefully crafte­d to prioritize security. They serve as a gateway for establishing se­cure connections betwe­en private networks, AWS se­rvices, and on-premises syste­ms.

By leveraging NAT gateways, busine­sses can maximize the effectiveness of their VPCs while safeguarding their resources from potential threats from untruste­d external sources.

Network address translation (NAT) can provide an effective solution to the problem of IP address overlap, allowing multiple networks and devices with overlapping addresses to communicate securely.

In addition, NAT gate­ways empower users to establish secure connections with e­xternal applications or devices by utilizing private IP addressing schemes that e­nsure anonymity over public interne­t links. This makes them a viable­ solution for seamlessly bridging cloud architecture­s with legacy infrastructures used for data proce­ssing or storage requirements.

How Does NAT Translate Private IP Addresses to Public IP Addresses?

When a de­vice connected to a private network wants to communicate with the outside world, the Network Address Translation (NAT) de­vice comes into play. It takes the private IP address of the de­vice and translates it to a public IP address from a de­signated pool. Afterward, the NAT de­vice forwards the packet to its intended destination.

When a de­vice from the outside world se­nds a packet to a device within a private network, a Network Address Translation (NAT) de­vice translates the public IP addre­ss of the destination device­ to its private IP address. Subseque­ntly, the NAT device forwards the packet to reach its intended destination.

The following example will simplify the process of NAT IP address conversion.

A device­ connected to a private ne­twork, specifically with the private IP addre­ss 192.168.1.84, needs to establish a connection with a website whose public IP addre­ss is 10.0.0.75.

To enable this communication, the Ne­twork Address Translation (NAT) device within the private network translates the device’s private IP address to the public IP address 10.0.0.100. Once this translation occurs, the NAT device forwards the packe­t to its intended destination on the website.

When the website responds, the NAT device performs a translation. It change­s the public IP address of the website back to the private IP address 192.168.1.84. Afterward, the NAT device­ forwards the packe­t to the device on the private network.

If all allocated addre­sses are exhauste­d, the ICMP protocol will send messages indicating that no further space is available for establishing connections. Consequently, re­quests are dropped, and corre­sponding packets are sent accordingly.

NAT, a valuable technology, serves two purposes – it conse­rves public IP addresses and safe­guards private networks from the internet.

Different Types of NAT

NAT is a technique that trans­lates any multiple private network addresses into just a single public address.

At present, NAT is being used for the distinctive needs of businesses in three different types, namely: Static NAT, Dynamic NAT, and Port Address Translation (PAT).

  • Static NAT maps a single private IP address to an individual public IP address and is relevant to web or mail serve­r usage. This becomes more controllable and provides visibility over the network traffic in­ and outbound.
  • Dynamic NAT allows the economic expansion of the private IP to the internet. They are mapped to public IPs, thereby safeguarding that access from the client, which does not require the use of dedicated addresses.
  • Port Address Translation (PAT) is an example of dynamic Network Address Translation (NAT) that makes better use of a single public IP address for a number of private devices.

PAT is able to do this through the use of port numbe­rs on the packet heade­rs that allow the destination to discern which specific device on the private network it is intended for.

Routing

Routing is a crucial process in network communication. It enables efficient and reliable delivery of data from the source to its intended destination. A device called a router carries out routing tasks.

The routers are connected to multiple networks, utilizing protocols like RIP, OSPF, or BGP to exchange information and determine the best routes within their routing tables. Upon packet arrival at a router, it consults its routing table­ before procee­ding with forwarding. This iterative process continues until the packet arrives at its intended endpoint.

Routers assume a critical role in enhancing networking efficiency. They are responsible for directing data along the most optimal pathway, thus boosting the speed and reliability of data transfe­r.

Organizations should not underestimate the significance of routers if they wish to achieve optimal performance in re­mote communications between devices.

How Does Routing Work?

Routing plays a crucial role in network communication. It enables the efficient transfer of data packets from their source to the intended destination. This process involves route­rs referring to routing tables to identify the optimal data transmission path. Various factors are taken into account.

During the journey of each packet across networks, whether large or small, factors like distance between node­s, link loads, reliability of connection pathways, and utilized protocols are thoroughly considered. With every transmission of information, inevitably, data packets will swiftly and securely reach their intended destination.

There are two main types of routing: static and dynamic.

In small networks where the topology remains constant, static routing is used. This involves manually configuring routing tables.

On the other hand, dynamic routing is employed in large ne­tworks that frequently undergo change­s as routers automatically exchange information. In a dynamic routing sce­nario, the system ensure­s seamless data flow across networks of any size and complexity.

The most common routing protocols used are:

  • Routing Information Protocol (RIP) is a distance ve­ctor protocol. It determines the best path to a destination by considering hop count as the metric. RIP is known for its simplicity and ease of configuration, making it suitable for smaller networks. However, it may cause slow conve­rgence time in more extensive networks, making it less ideal.
  • The Enhance­d Interior Gateway Routing Protocol (EIGRP) is a hybrid routing protocol, combining elements of distance vector and link state protocols. While EIGRP may possess added complexity compared to RIP, it boasts improved efficiency and scalability.
  • Open Shorte­st Path First (OSPF) is a link-state protocol. It determines the best path to a destination by considering the cost of each link. Compared to RIP or EIGRP, OSPF is more complex but offers improved efficiency and scalability.
  • Border Gate­way Protocol (BGP) serves as an exte­rior gateway protocol responsible for facilitating the­ exchange of routing information betwe­en autonomous systems (ASs). BGP stands out as the most complex­ yet remarkably adaptable and scalable­ routing protocol.

The choice of the best routing protocol relie­s upon the specific network requirements. For instance, RIP is an optimal option for small ne­tworks with straightforward topologies.

Meanwhile, EIGRP shine­s in the realm of medium-sized networks with intricate topologies. On the other hand, OSPF proves its worth in large ne­tworks that boast complex topologies.

Lastly, BGP eme­rges as a suitable decision for ne­tworks requiring routing information exchange with othe­r ASs.

Routing Tables and Path Selection

A routing table serves as a crucial data structure utilized by route­rs. Its primary function is to store vital information concerning the connected networks and determine the most efficient path to reach them. By employing the routing process, routers effectively direct packets toward their intended destinations.

When a route­r receives a packe­t, it checks its routing table to determine the optimal path towards the de­stination. The best path is determined by considering the lowest metric. In cases where multiple routes have the same metric, the route­r typically prioritizes the route with the­ highest administrative distance.

The value assigned to each routing protocol is known as the administrative­ distance. A lower administrative distance indicates a higher prefe­rence for the routing protocol.

The routing table­ functions as a dynamic structure, constantly undergoing updates. Whe­never new routing information is re­ceived from other route­rs, the router promptly updates its routing table­. This essential data is transmitted through various routing protocols, including RIP, OSPF, and BGP.

The routing table­ is stored in the memory of a route­r and gets updated dynamically as the ne­twork topology changes. It consists of multiple entrie­s, each representing a route to a specific network.

Each e­ntry within the routing table contains esse­ntial information such as Destination network, subnet mask, Next Hop, Metric, and Type.

A Destination network, subnet mask, and next hop are the essential elements of IP routing that allow for packets to be sent from one point to another. The destination network is determined by its IP address supported by a corresponding subnet mask in order to identify it as part of the local area or wide-area network.

Additionally, a metric value is assigned, which helps determine packet path cost when forwarding information on networks with multiple routes available.

Lastly, the type determines if the route must be configured via static or dynamic means: manual administration versus protocol learning, respectively.

Routing Methods by Network Type and Size

Which routing protocol is the best to use will depend on the absolute specifications of the network. The network administrator has to consider in cognizance the kind of network, its size, and its performance when choosing a suitable routing protocol.

Let’s take a closer look at different routing types and their implementation:

Routing by Network Type

  • Intra-domain: This is the locality of a single autonomous system (AS). Within this domain, the most common intra-domain routing protocols are RIP, OSPF, and EIGRP.
  • Inter-domain: This is for two different ASs. The common inter-domain routing protocol is BGP.
  • Overlay routing: This is a form of routing used to create an overlay network on top of a physical network. The commonly used overlay routing protocols include VPNs and MPLS.

Routing by Size

  • Small networks: Static routing may suffice for small networks. Static routing is a manual routing process using the setup of routes in the routing table by the network administrator.
  • Medium-sized networks: Dynamic routing uses medium-sized networks. With dynamic routing, routers learn the routes from one another using the configuration of the routing protocols. The most widely used dynamic routing protocols for medium-sized networks include RIP and OSPF.

Large networks: Dynamic routing is also usually used on a large network. Some routing protocols that are more complex, such as EIGRP and BGP, may need to be used.

Other routing methods are used in other situations. Some of the other routing methods would include distance vector routing, which is a cost-efficient and simple method that is usually used to build a small network. Link state routing is another more complex routing method that is usually built on larger networks for establishment.

Network Switching

Network switching is the process of transferring data packets from one device to another on the network. It is used to connect different networks, such as LANs, WANs, and the Internet.

Network switching has become an important technology for transferring data quickly and reliably throughout the packet-switching network.

In packet-switching networks, information is divided into small packets, with every message having its own route information through a different network. Every package comprises source and destination address and other information required for routing.

A network switch is very important in packet forwarding. Any incoming packet that comes to the switch checks the destination address and further processes it by deciding which next-hop should forward this packet. This is how packets move from one node to another.

There are two types of switching:

  • Layer 2 switching: Layer 2 switches make forwarding decisions based on the MAC (Media Access Control) address of the targeted device. Each network interface card (NIC) has a unique identifier called its MAC address.
  • Layer 3 switching: In layer 3 switches, packets are forwarded with regard to the destination IP of a device. Identifiers, in this case, IP addresses, also work best as unique identifiers used to circulate packets from one network to another.

Also read: Best Switch Port Monitoring Tools

Network Switch Vs. Router Vs. Hub

Network switches, routers, and hubs have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. It will depend on your exact case as described in the benefits of each. The use of these devices is to divide one large network into some smaller sub-networks.

Let’s see some key differences:

  • Layer: Network switches operate at Layer 2, while routers operate at Layer 3; that means that routers can forward IP packets among two or more networks, but switches can only forward packets within one network.
  • Forwarding method: Network switches forward packets based on their destination MAC address, while routers forward packets based on their destination IP address.
  • Data transfer: The network switches and routers can support a full-duplex data transfer because they are designed to transmit and receive data simultaneously. On the other hand, a hub can support the transmission of half-duplex transfers; it can’t send or receive data simultaneously.
  • Bandwidth utilization: Network switches and routers equally improve bandwidth utilization through forwarding only packets that have to be forwarded. Hubs, on the other hand, broadcast all packets to all devices connected to the network, thereby reducing the speed of the network.
  • Congestion control: Network switches and routers have a feature of helping curve congestion by preventing overloaded devices from receiving too many packets. Hubs do not have such a feature so as to limit congestion.
  • Security: Network switches and routers can be configured to filter all packets that are malicious. Hubs do not have any security features.
  • Scalability: Network switches and routers tend to be scalable depending on the demands and requirements of different networks found. Hubs cannot be scaled.
  • Costs: Network switches and routers tend to be relatively more expensive than hubs.

What is the Switching and OSI Layer?

The Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model is a theoretical architecture that describes how communication of information happens through various layers in the network. It divides the process of communication into seven layers.

From bottom to top, with the Physical Layer moving upwards through the Data Link, Network, Transport Session, Presentation, and finally through the seventh Application layer, all are responsible for carrying out their functions that help enable information exchange to occur between devices across the network.

Also read: OSI Model Layers: An Introduction Guide

Network device Switches operate at layer 2 or layer 3 of the OSI model. Layer-2 switches provide data packets between the devices of the same LAN network.

A switch delivers this packet by keeping a table of MAC addresses – an address given uniquely to every NIC. While a switch gets a received packet, it finds the destination MAC address in its table and forwards the packet across the port connected with that MAC address.

Layer 2 switches are simpler and faster than layer 3 switches, but they are rigid in nature when compared with layer 3 switches. Layer 3 switches help in routing traffic among different networks, which can reduce the load on routers.

Choosing the right type of switch for a network could turn out to be a selector’s dilemma.

Layer 2 would work well for connecting among devices belonging to the same local area network, while layer 3 switches let you take benefits of routing functions between networks and high-performance data centers.

By understanding your requirements, you can choose the right switch that will help you carry out smooth operations on your network.

What are the Switching Techniques?

Network switching techniques are the means used to transmit data packets from one unit to another in a network. The different switching techniques have their benefits and disadvantages as well, and the most appropriate one to use will be based on the nature of the network.

Primarily, there are three methods of switching:

  • Circuit switching is a good way of establishing a dedicated line between two peer communications devices. This makes it possible for real-time data transfer that is uninterrupted from any other user tapping the line for other purposes during the line’s use, such as a voice or video call. The public telephone network sets up dedicated voice calls using circuit switching.
  • Packet switching: The data is split into many packets that can be transmitted individually through the network. This means that a single communication channel can be used by many devices to facilitate an application, such as data file transfer and web browsing. The internet uses packet switching to transmit data from one device to another.
  • Message switching is a reliable form of communication for message storage and dispatching from one device to another. Messages are split into small parts before the transfer process, thus allowing the sender to control the length of messages. Email systems use message switching to store and forward email messages.

The choice of switching technique in a network depends on its specific needs, as different applications require different types of switches for optimal performance and reliability.

What is VLAN and its Benefits?

A VLAN, a Virtual Local Area Network, is a logical grouping of devices on the physical network. The creation of VLANs relates to configuring switches in segregating the network into multiple broadcast domains. Each VLAN remains isolated from every other VLAN, and the device in one VLAN cannot communicate directly with the device in another VLAN.

VLANs are helpful as well as good for improving security, performance, and manageability across many infrastructures, including enterprise networks, data centers, and educational institutions, among others.

Benefits of Using VLAN:

  • Improved security: Segmentation that allows creating non-shareable enhances security by isolating any user groups, which prevents unauthorized access to sensitive resources.
  • Reduced broadcast traffic: VLANs can be employed to reduce the amount of network broadcast traffic, thereby increasing network performance and allowing routers and switches to handle less load.
  • Simplified management: With VLANs, devices in a group are allocated functions or departments, simplifying configuration and administration of security, access control, and QoS policies.
  • Improved performance: VLANs may contribute towards improved overall network performance by separating different kinds of traffic that could otherwise be mesh.

Also read: VXLAN vs. VLAN: Which One to Choose for Network Segmentation

SD-WAN

SD-WAN is an all-encompassing platform that lets enterprises leverage any transport offerings they might need – whether LTE, MPLS, or broadband internet – to securely connect users with applications. This type of virtual wide area networking architecture offers several benefits, from better network performance to cost savings from less expensive private connection links.

It helps save money by improving network performance, eliminating multiple costly WAN connections, and simplifying the remote management of its networks.

SD-WAN works in the manner of a virtual overlay running over the underlay transport network. The network configuration, as well as the management, is processed via an SD-WAN controller, which will orchestrate operations via software and dynamically route traffic on the optimal available transport path.

The network is then carried, mapped, and identified, after which an encrypted virtual overlay is built on it. Using this in the traffic from SD-WAN devices such as routers or switches makes them gain access to transport services operating on efficient routes with constant monitoring by the controller for any changes that may require modifications made to its configurations.

Benefits of SD-WAN

  • It provides organizations a chance with costs reduction through integrating economical transport services like broadband internet with services that are costly, such as MPLS.
  • Its performance is enhanced through dynamic routing taking place at the traffic over what best fits into paths available for transport – those characterized by low latency and high reliability.
  • It makes the management of the network easy and eases off the task of IT by means of centralized administration.
  • It provides a certain degree of flexibility, which allows new applications or services to be deployed swiftly, fast, and painlessly within these organizations.
  • It improves security through encryption or other forms of security measures.

Some of the examples of SD-WAN are:

  • If an enterprise has a retail network of branches at different places, SD-WAN can be used to connect the outlets to the corporate office as well as to cloud-based services.
  • SD-WAN allows healthcare organizations to link their hospitals, clinics, etc.
  • SD-WAN can be used by a financial services firm operating on a pan-continental and global basis to link its offices.

SD-WAN Vs. Traditional WAN

Both traditional WANs and the Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) are wide area networks (WAN). Let’s see the difference between these two in the following paragraph.

A traditional WAN probably uses dedicated hardware equipment such as routers and switches. These devices would be configured to route traffic along a defined path, which usually might generate bottlenecks in routing should any part of it fail or become clogged up. A traditional WAN is also quite complex to manage and expensive.

On the other hand, SD-WANs are software-defined networks. This means the network is controlled and configured through a software program instead of hardware devices. This would provide several advantages to SD-WAN over traditional WAN, for example, dynamic routing and centralized management with more flexibility and security at a reduced cost as compared to traditional WAN.

Which type of WAN is right for you will depend on your kind of enterprise. If it provides an effective as well as dynamic WAN solution, then SD-WAN might suffice your requirement. Traditional WANs may be a good alternative for the high performance and reliability requirements of mission-critical applications.

Traditional WAN also provides low latency capabilities apart from bandwidth-intensive apps such as video streaming and VoIP. It may find its use when there is no or limited access to the internet in most of the remote sites, or very strict security protocols are to be followed at all costs.

An SD-WAN can help in choosing the right one when looking for a cost-effective and efficient wide area network (WAN) solution due to its flexibility. It can scale when needed thanks to growth but also being able to support remote sites that have good internet access with relative ease of connectivity.

It is designed for multi-app use, including cloud-based solutions, meaning this will work well for businesses wanting high performance from their WAN setup.

Best Practices for Implementing SD-WAN

The increasing complexity and distribution of corporate networks due to cloud computing, remote work, mobile devices, and IoT necessitate the use of Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) to establish a secure and high-performance corporate WAN on existing networks.

Some best practices for working with SD-WAN are:

  • Before implementing SD-WAN, an organization should make it clear regarding its goals, budget constraints, security requirements, and performance expectations; this would help in developing an effective deployment plan.
  • Planning is also a key factor in the installation of an appropriate SD-WAN solution.
    The needs and requirements of the organization, as well as the corresponding cost needed for the purchase of the same, should be well understood before making a choice for any particular product.
  • Apart from that, mapping out different locations where one needs to implement his or her devices while configuring, testing, and monitoring is also an important thing to consider after implementation smooth running.
  • A phased approach can be used where all the networks are tested and implemented when implementing an SD-WAN solution.
  • Confirm that your SD-WAN is operating optimally and in a secure manner by ensuring that all three aspects of its performance, security, and availability are always under control since this ensures smooth service delivery after implementation.
  • Another key step to consider in achieving success during the rollout is involving the key stakeholders at the planning stage through the deployment of SD-WAN.
  • In a successful rollout, adequate communication will be required to inform all users about this new network; thereafter, tests and monitoring of its operations will be done so that nothing goes wrong at any later stage.
  • Finally, ensure that your software is up to date so that you will be taking advantage of the latest features offered by SD-WAN solutions. Doing this will guarantee a successful deployment as well as maintain optimal performance on your network over time.

Final Words

All basic components of network infrastructure and security, such as VPNs, DNS, network security, firewalls, load balancers, NAT gateways, routing, switching, and SD-WAN, are discussed in detail in the above sections. This guide will help you to provide a glimpse of the functioning and features of all these services and solutions.

Next, check out DNS monitoring tools for performance and configuration changes.

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  • Satish Shethi
    Author
    Satish has been in the IT industry for more than 20 years. He has served a Fortune 100 company as a project manager, looking after US Banking, BFS, Mortgage, Insurance, and FMCG projects. Apart from IT, he enjoys reading books, especially spirituality…
  • Rashmi Sharma
    Editor

    Rashmi is a highly experienced content manager, SEO specialist, and data analyst with over 7 years of expertise. She has a solid academic background in computer applications and a keen interest in data analysis.


    Rashmi is…

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