Feasibility Report: VPN Capable Router

Gizmobile Northwest, LLC:

Diagram of simple VPN setup IMAGE: http://seedboxgui.de/guides/what-is-a-vpn/

Diagram of simple VPN setup
IMAGE: http://seedboxgui.de/guides/what-is-a-vpn/

Feasibility Report – Hardware Purchase

Working for a software company presents some really interesting work flows.  Because of the cycle of development, testing, and release, the amount of work can go from tremendous, to non existent.  When the cycle of work is at its lowest it becomes less important, especially for programmers to actually come into the office.  However, even when working from home, they do need access to resources or programs only accessible within the office.  Luckily there is a safe, secure way to access network resources from a remote location.

We are looking to expand our network infrastructure and capabilities.  Mainly my supervisor wants a Router that has the capabilities of setting up a Virtual Private Network (VPN).  A VPN allows for a remote (out of office) user to create a “tunnel” into the office network and access anything that is part of said network, including but not limited to shared files, the office computer’s hard drive, and printers. My supervisor wants a router that at the minimum uses L2TP(layer 2 tunneling protocol) security, at least 100mb(1G preferred) connection ports, and is compatible with current network.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

Tech workers are always looking for chances to upgrade their gadgets, so  with the emerging need within the company to have remote secure access to the interoffice network, it is the perfect opportunity to research new hardware.  This need of secure remote access will be addressed by setting up a Virtual Private Network (VPN).  In order to do that, the company must have the hardware capability to set one up.  To that end, this feasibility report will offer three hardware solutions that will enable VPN use: Asus RT-AC56U, D-Link DIR-885L, Trendnet TEW-818DRU Dual Band Wireless Router.  This report, additionally, ranked  the alternative solutions, according to its security and benefits.  Router #3, the TEW-818DRU, is the first recommendation.  Router #1, the Asus RT-AC56U, is the second recommendation.  Router #2, the D-Link DIR-885L, is the third recommendation.

INTRODUCTION:

As remote access becomes more common in the workplace it is important to maintain security and network policies while implementing a VPN.  The best course is to implement security at the point of connection to the network, namely the router.  It is with that guideline in mind I investigated several VPN enabled routers and will be presenting the most viable three in this report.

BACKGROUND:

As the use of technology increases in business and personal use, so does the access to valuable information.  In the business world, especially for a software company, this can encompass proprietary source code, valuable financial information, and company personal information.  When working in an office setting the network used for communication and sharing of this data can, and is tightly controlled and kept secure.  Access to the internet, or the Wild as insiders call it, is regulated and monitored on both in and outbound channels.  However, when an employee is outside of the office, but needs access to office resources, a connection to the network has to be made somehow.

Without any security measures or policies in place for allowed access to the interoffice network, the data transmitted between the office and the remote employee is easy readable (un-encrypted) and easily accessible for people who are looking for that type of information to steal.  With the availability of free and easy to use tools that allow anyone to intercept and view transmitted data, it is incredibly important for businesses to make sure all data transmissions are secure.  One of the ways to keep remote access secure is a VPN.  A VPN allows for a prearranged, secure connection to be initiated between the remote employee and the office network anytime, anyplace.  VPN, however, is the method, a VPN capable router is the tool for the solution, and what this report will focus on.

OUTLINE OF PROJECT:

The goal of the analysis was to find a piece of hardware that would provide the software needed to establish the type of network the company wanted to utilize, namely a VPN.  The hardware had to be compatible with our current network, meet the security requirements of the already in place procedures, and provide the software we needed to expand our network.

Example of a expanded business network. IMAGE: http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-a-virtual-private-network-vpn-12741

Example of a expanded business network.
IMAGE: http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-a-virtual-private-network-vpn-12741

METHOD OF ANALYSIS:

The amount of routers available on the market can be overwhelming.   The first criteria I used to narrow it down was compatibility with our current network and attached hardware.  While 100mps was the minimum requirement, 1gps was preferred.  Taking price into account, since 1gps is more rare for lower end routers, I decided to aim for that and used 1gps requirement to eliminate quite a few selections.

I knew the third most constrictive requirement was the security measure used for the VPN, using that I was able to pair it down to a very few.  Using a max price of $300 I arrived at the three options I included in this report.

Since company resource security, and network speed are the largest concerns when utilizing remote access the rankings of the routers were based on the following criteria, in order of importance:

  • VPN capable
  • Port Speed and load balancing capabilities
  • Compatibility with current network infrastructure
  • Price
  • User Friendly interface

The user friendly interface will be based on screenshots and user reviews from the following sites: Amazon, Manufacture’s website, Newegg.com, and various forums.  These will be compiled into a user rating score for the purpose of comparison.

It should be noted that the criteria of having L2TP security, at least 100mb (1gig preferred) connection ports, and being compatible with our network are not only import but required as part of the hardware specifications.

OVERVIEW OF ALTERNATIVES:

Asus RT-56U

Asus RT-56U

The first Router I looked at was the Asus RT-AC56U, While the cheapest of the bunch, it also had the least amount of overall options.  It did rate high on a user rating scale, a 4 out of 5, based on forum reviews, but that was its strongest point, and the least important criteria.

It does offer two types of security protocols for the VPN, but one of them is the weakest offered, and probably wouldn’t be used.  It does however have the 1gps preferred port speed, two wireless channels, and is compatible with our current network.  It is for these reasons that I think it would make a viable second choice.

 

DLink

D-Link DIR-885L

 

The next router I looked at was the D-Link DIR-885L.  I knew right away, due to the price that it would be the least feasible of the options.  It also was the only one to offer only one option for the VPN protocol. While it is the required one, it is nice to have an alternative, especially since both of the routers under $200.00 offer multiple protocols.  It did have the highest user friendly rating score, but as a software company, user friendly is less important than actual network capabilities.  It does fit all of the required criteria however, but since it offers very little extra for a significant price increase, it would be the third, and last recommendation.

 

TEW-818DRU Source:https://www.trendnet.com/products/wifi/AC-routers/AC1900/TEW-818DRU

TEW-818DRU

 

The third router, and first recommendation is the TEW-818DRU.  For very little extra over the cheapest option (Router #1), it offers the most security protocols and highest port speed.  Two very important qualities for expanding a network.  Beyond that, it matches the other two options in wireless channel speed.  While it does have the lowest user friendly rating, the added benefits it does have makes that inconsequential.

 

Router Image Sources:

TEW-818DRU – Here
D-Link DIR-885L – Here
Asus RT-AC56U – Here

The two tables below help to visually represent the capabilities and flaws of all the options.  The first table, Figure 1, is a general comparison of all three choices.  Represented is all of major criteria each choice needed to meet in order to be considered.

Router General Comparison:
Table comparing routers, with key statistics highlighted. IMAGE: Excel 2016

Table comparing routers, with key statistics highlighted.
IMAGE: Excel 2016
Figure 1

The second table, Figure 2, focuses solely on the price point of the final three contenders.  Using Figure 1 as a general overview, Figure 2 is used to really easily highlight that the 2nd option, the D-Link DIR-885L, is significantly more expensive, for very little extra over the other two options.

Table of routers showing variable prices. IMAGE: Excel 2016

Table of routers showing variable prices.
IMAGE: Excel 2016
Figure 2

CONCLUSION:

I looked at several viable options that met the minimum requirement of 100mps, however looking at price comparisons I realized it wasn’t that much more expensive for the 1gps, which was the preferred port speed.  Once I narrowed my guideline I was able to found three very viable options.  They are, for the most part, incredibly similar and beyond price mostly interchangeable.

RECOMMENDATION:

I believe that Router #3, the TEW-818DRU is a very viable option to provide the optimal setup to enable and utilize a VPN.  It meets all of the required criteria, is mid-range price wise, compatible with our current network, and has the most available options.  However, all of the routers would provide the needed solution for the implementing remote access, but the other two provided less for a similar price, or more expensive.

 

Into the Woods We Go

For the reading pleasure of my fellow classmates, I, Caitlynn Hawks, would like to present to you some observations and opinions formed while creating this blog, and delving into the world (or maybe ocean is more accurate!?) of technical writing.

This Is the Foundation upon Which I Stand

As I had mentioned in my introduction, my current career is very heavily saturated with technical writing.  One of the major things that makes technology continue to move forward is collaboration.  While a lot of this will be done with people in your office, the beauty of the internet is that you can also engage with people all over the world.  In order for this long distance communication to be successful, the intent, actions, and philosophy of each party has to be laid out clearly.  Technical writing plays a huge role in facilitating that clear communication.

A key element to continued advancement in technology is collaboration. Source: http://comps.canstockphoto.com/can-stock-photo_csp9328253.jpg

A key element to continued advancement in technology is collaboration.
Source: http://comps.canstockphoto.com/can-stock-photo_csp9328253.jpg

Collaboration is also key in continuing to improve the quality of the technical writing used within the industry.  By having multiple contributors, it is easier to produce well rounded and accurate documents.

One of the most interesting, at least to me, examples of this, is a website called GitHub (https://github.com/).  GitHub was originally created as place for people to store large amounts of programming (mostly) code that could be accessed anywhere (think very early cloud storage).  However, as the site grew in population it became obvious that really what the community had was a place to advertise, show off, and discuss their current projects.  It is now not uncommon to find a GitHub profile listed on a portfolio under examples of work.  I myself am not a programmer, but I have an account anyway because the papers and forums have grown into an extremely valuable informational resource.

The Leader of the Pack

If you decide to get completely literal about it, since I work in the technology field, all writing done in my sector is technical writing.  I, however, like to operate outside of the literal sometimes, so instead I would like to draw your attention to one of the more interesting forms of technical writing used by my career sector.

Unique and interactive is the best way for me to absorb information.  One of the most versatile resources I’ve found, that fill both of those needs is Code Academy (codeacademy.com).  They offer several free courses on various programming languages and other technical tasks.  The lessons are taught using dynamic models, with instructions on one side, and an interactive, real time computer screen module on the other side to input “answers”.  The instruction panel is also in real time, and check marks appear next to successful tasks, giving you a visual high-five with every successful execution.  You also get achievements and stickers as your progress through lessons which keeps you engaged and excited about moving forward through all of the course.

A screenshot of a lesson on Consoles, showing a completed task. Source: CodeAcademy.com

A screenshot of a lesson on Consoles, showing a completed task.
Source: CodeAcademy.com

This site has a very engaging design.  The colors go well together, are easy on the eyes, and break the page up nicely.     It is very easy to navigate and the text is in a clean and easily readable font.  The large bodies of text are kept to a minimum, which makes each pages easily digestible in a small amount of time.

Does This Theme Make Me Look Readable?

color contrast provide for an easy reading surface. Source: https://www.viget.com/articles/color-contrast

Color contrast provides for an easy reading surface.
Source: https://www.viget.com/articles/color-contrast

My blog has gone through several revisions, and I can’t promise it won’t change again.  I finally settled on the theme that I did because it provided a clean surface for the reading area while providing me a background area to customize a bit.  I also liked how it created tabs for the pages, which I have yet to create, but will definitely utilize soon.  There was another theme that I actually preferred visually, but it didn’t have sidebars, which I really like.  Sidebars are important to me because they provide information at a quick glance and can be used to draw the reader to parts of the blog they may otherwise not visit.

If It’s Sink or Swim, I’m Going to Need a Life Jacket

Dealing with any new technology can be a bit of a patience tester, and I grew most befuddled setting up the class blog widget.  I was relieved to find that I was not the only one.  Going through the student-to-student forum was very helpful, and I learned that there was an approval waiting period before the widget showed up as an option.  Once the widget appeared I was able to place it on my blog with no problem, but it took me a while to figure out how to display the entire list of classmates. A few of the other things I learned by a bit of trial and error was how to set categories and how to navigate the dashboard.

Despite the fact that it took some time and going over the instructional documents, overall I found learning about the setup and utilizing of a blog rather enjoyable.  This tends to fall in line with the fact that I find most things relating to technology pleasurable and engaging.

Since I am surrounded by technology daily, I sometimes forget that it can be a bit baffling to other people.  What are some of the areas of technology that you find the most confusing?  Are there any that just seem like plain magic to you?

Gandalf the IT guy.
Source: http://weknowmemes.com/2013/04/the-wizard-will-now-install-your-software/

And Let There Be Light!

 

Phone Pics - 3.10.2016 155

These are the days of my life. Image(s): Caitlynn Hawks

From The Beginning…

I’ve been called a “tinkerer” my whole life.  I’ve always been fascinated by technology and how it can be manipulated to better optimize the human experience.  After working years at jobs that I would never consider a career in, I finally decided to see if I could turn this obsessive hobby of mine into a full-fledged career.  Even when I’m not doing homework you can usually find me engaging in some form of technology, be it my computer, music player, or Xbox.  Thankfully, being Oregon born and raised, I also developed a very healthy appetite for the outdoors and exploration.  My goal this year is to spend some more time east of the Cascades since most of my out of the valley experience has been on the coast line.

The Story So Far…

I currently work for a software company, and one of my duties within the company is to create and maintain user guides for our programs, internal procedures, and other general documentation.  The skills that I will learn, practice, and hone in this technical writing class will immediately and directly benefit my current work.  It will also deepen a skill set I already have, that is currently and will continue to be an incredibly desirable skill in all employment sectors, should I need to seek different employment in the future.