solution for a client of Wireless Technology Company. They are a company that assists organizations and businesses when it comes to issues that involve networking, bandwidth, productivity and connectivity. The client in need of a solution right now is The Athlete’s Shack. They are a chain of sporting goods stores with about ten stores in the area. While the company has a technology framework in place, they are lacking a wireless element and they wish to add one. Beyond that, they wish to make use of iPads that can thus link to the wireless infrastructure in the stores. The Athlete’s Shack is unsure on how to initiate and start the process and that is why they are turning to the Wireless Technology Company.
The Athlete’s Shack is in need of a solution that allows for wireless connectivity along with the use of iPads as a mean to make the sales and operations process simpler. However, simply slapping a wireless router and some iPads into each store is not the solution if The Athlete’s Shack truly wants to do things the right way. To truly get the most out of technology, they should look at everything including the internet bandwidth they have at each location, the internal bandwidth they have at each location, how the stores are connected to each other or to the home office, whether sales and other important data is being backed up or not and in what manner(s) it is happening, the amount of control that The Athlete’s Shack is leveraging as it relates to wasteful or dangerous activities on the part of their employees (e.g. surfing porn sites on company computers, getting computer viruses, etc.) and so forth. Further, The Athlete’s Shack, if they have the money, should make a strong move to upgrade now and future-proof their setup as much as they can rather than making incremental updates as the years go on. Things move quickly when it comes to technology upgrades and it best to be ahead of the curve rather than barely with it. For example, 802.11n internet would be a good modern choice but the choice of the future would be the 802.11ac standard as it is the best thing out there right now and it is readily available for fairly low cost (Cisco, 2015).
In looking at the situation in play with The Athlete’s Shack, it is clear that there are several components that will be necessary or optimal for TAS to make use of. They are as follows:
Wireless routers at each store that allow for connectivity between the on-site network and the iPads in the hands of the employees. For security purposes, that wireless router will need to be equipped with the latest and greatest encryption. At this stage in the technology and wireless encryption game, the best solution would probably be WPA-2 256-bit encryption (Information Week, 2015). This encryption standard is available from commonly available routers made by companies like Linksys and Netgear, just to name two (Ngo, 2015).
Network speed is an issue as well. Wireless N (802.11n) is probably the most economic yet fast solution available but 802.11ac is faster and would provide the most significant amount of “future-proofing.” In other words, if The Athlete’s Shack were to implement a 802.11ac framework now, the chances they would “have” to upgrade in the near future are quite slim as 802.11ac provides speeds north of wired Gigabit in many applications and instances
Also important, and for reasons mentioned shortly, is the internet speed in place at The Athlete’s Shack locations. While a lot of the information flowing in the store’s network will remain internal to the network, there would also be communication with the internet at large (e.g. external websites, etc.) and there would also be communication between stores in the form of programs like points of sales, shared network drives and so forth.
To secure the store-to-store communications over the internet, this would require what is known as a virtual private network, or VPN for short. While many networks are self-contained and all exist at one single location, others networks are more virtual and abstract in nature in that they are linked like a local area network (LAN) but the computers in said network could literally be anywhere where an internet connection exists. This makes the use of virtual private networks very lucrative and attractive. However, while communication between disparate computers is possible without a VPN, it is highly unadvised. This is due to the fact that the communications are not generally encrypted as they go from place to place. Not only will the communications be encrypted on a VPN, but the communications will all be linked and pulled together via the VPN framework. This will ensure proper functionality and connectivity.
There is also the need for firewalls and anti-virus software frameworks at each store and on each device so that the machines involved do not get breached. Attacks that can be rendered and felt include computer viruses, worms (write once, read many), malware and so forth. A lot of these nasty programs are encountered and “caught” when surfing the wrong websites. As much as is possible, the use of the internet at The Athlete’s Shack locations should be limited to required business tasks and operations. Regardless of the restrictions in place, the sites and activity that is going on should be monitored at all times to ensure that nobody is engaging in activity that is endangering to the company and/or is counter to the required productivity needed from the employees. For example, a bored employee using an iPad to watch YouTube is going to suck up a lot of bandwidth that should be spent on real work rather than pointless misbehavior (Casey, 2015).
Also important to take into account are things like ergonomics and the accessories that comes with the gear that will be purchased. For example, all computer stations should have comfortable chairs and ergonomically-designed keyboards. Further, the iPads should come with mounts or carrying cases that make them easy to position and hold. At no point should an iPad be used and wielded outside of a protective case. Further, the protective case should require a tool to remove and there should be an alarm that sounds if the iPad is removed from the store.
The iPads themselves should have security on them. A simple passcode should be enough. However, employees must be trained to lock their iPads when not in use, not allow customers to watch their screen as they enter the passcode and so forth. Further, the internet router, modem and other similar equipment should be secured in a networking cabinet or something of that nature. The cabinet needs to breathe and have airflow but only authorized personnel should ever be touching the router or similar equipment. iPads that are not in use should be stored in a locked room or cabinet as they are attractive to thieves (which can include employees) and an iPad falling into the wrong hands could lead to corporate espionage from a competitor or other malfeasance from a hacker or hacker group.
As was easily learned by the TJX/TJ Maxx fiasco, transmitting information wirelessly can be very perilous (Ou, 2007). Even more recent events like the Target and Home Depot hacks prove that even the biggest firms can be made susceptible to sensitive information being stolen (Sidel, 2015). All information that can be transmitted via wired internetâ€¦should be. All point of sales transactions should be done on wired stations…just to be completely safe. TJX got caught using an encryption standard (WEP) that was known to be “cracked” and the same is not true of WPA or WPA2 at this time. However, even “reputable” standards and technologies have been compromised from time to time. The Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Heartbleed exploit is but one example (Trend Micro, 2015). As far as Target and Home Depot, the lesson to be learned from their screw-ups is to be very careful when granting access to information in the system. To be honest, The Athlete’s Shack is small enough that an integration of vendor/supplier logins into the TAS network is probably not worth the trouble or time it would take to do it right. Further, whatever information is needed by those external parties can probably be managed by administrators with TAS.
Lastly, we come to the last major prong of any good IT system and that is backup. Presuming that The Athlete’s Shack has a corporate office, all points of sales and internal reporting information should be kept within the VPN and thus should be backed up to the home office. Beyond that, there should be a backup that is offsite from any of the TAS locations including the corporate office. It is best to have a backup within the network and one that is outside of it. It is also good to have an onsite backup and an offsite backup. Presuming the VPN is functioning and presuming that the offsite backup is online, the VPN/third party combo would effectively get the job done. As with the other things mentioned, any movement of data from site to site needs to be encrypted. If data is moved via VPN, this would automatically be the case, obviously. When it comes to offsite backups, many to most offer a litany of encryption options like Blowfish and so forth when it comes to copying local data to an offsite backup site (Carbonite, 2015).
The author of this workup will now offer the technical equipment and software solutions that should be used as part of what was mentioned in the assessment noted above.
Above is the router that the author of this report would personally recommend for the ATS locations. It is the Netgear Nighthawk. As per the suggestions noted before, this is a 802.11 AC router and has a top speed of 3.2 gigabits per second. The router makes use of tri-band WiFi, has a 1 GHz dual-core processor and a total of six antenna. The price for each router is a little steep in that they cost about $275 a piece. However, this would only be $3,000 total for the entire group of TAS stores. The three bands come in speeds of 1300 mbps (two of them) and 600 mbps, thus the grand total of 3200 mbps (or 3.2 gigabits). The router has built-in VPN support. As such, setting up a VPN with these routers would be fairly easy to do. The router also has two USB ports onboard with one being a 2.0 port and the other being a 3.0 port. Of course, the Nighthawk and any other router in its class has WPA-2 encryption support built in (Netgear, 2015).
Virtual Private Network
The diagram above shows the basic gist of how a VPN works. As noted before, what makes a VPN “virtual” is that not all of the computers are in the same place yet they are linked together like a conventional local area network would be, at least in many respects. There can even be remote and roaming users that are out and about that can still be connected to the network and still access it all the same. However, any roaming users would need internet and would need credentials to get into VPN. This is actually a good thing because it would make a stolen iPad from TAS quite useless in terms of data private to TAS as much of that data (if not all of it) would actually be stored at the home office or one of the stores. In short, the reason a VPN should be used by TAS is because it allows them to be connected yet in an encrypted manner despite the disparate location of the computers and equipment involved (Geier, 2015).
(Verizon Wireless, 2015)
Pictured above are is the iPad Air 2. It is one of four iPad models that Apple is currently marketing and selling. The other three are iPad Air (1), the iPad Mini 2 and the iPad Mini 3. The reason that the Air 2 is chosen for this solution is because it is the only one of the four iPads that has wireless 802.11ac built in. Further, the iPad Air 2’s start at $499 for the 16 GB model (Apple, 2015).
Local Area Network
Above is a rough representation of what each location of TAS would look like in terms of network structure. There would be the local file server, the printer, the workstations (and/or iPads in the case of TAS) and the firewall. The firewall would be the starting point to go out to the internet and communicate with the other computers that are on the virtual private network. This would be the computers that are at other TAS store locations as well as the corporate offices. The red circle in the diagram above would be taken up by the Nighthawk router mentioned before (Inc., 2015).
The Nighthawk router or other small equipment should be in a locked room with restricted access to all but the most senior employees at least location. If the layout of the store does not make this practical, a cabinet like the one above can be used so that the router can be mounted where it needs to be but cannot be taken or damaged by someone with ill intentions.
The above is a more robust option as compared to the one on the prior page. This cabinet would be used to store battery backup, the servers themselves and the routerâ€¦among other things. The particular model above was selling on Amazon.com for $1,295 as of 8/23/2015.
The above is just one of many options when it comes to cases for the iPad Air 2. It would be important to focus on two things regardless of the cases bought. First, the case needs to offer a shield and bump protection for the iPad. Second, whatever case is selected should be easily held and manipulated as this will become obviously important for the people carrying the iPads.
To wrap things up succinctly, the bare minimum that TAS would need to do to get where they say they want to go is a good wireless router with strong encryption and the iPads for their sales associates. However, going for a fuller solution that includes the most up-to-date wireless speed, the most up-to-date iPad, a virtual private network and backup is the best solution so as to allow for future-proofing and most efficacy/productivity when completing daily tasks. The speed, functionality and disaster recover frameworks would all be there. However, it is up to TAS to decide how much they want to spend, how often they wish to upgrade and how seriously they are taking the technology part of their business.
Amazon. (2015). NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Router (R8000). Amazon.com.
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2015, from http://www.carbonite.com/online-backup/business/how-it-works
Casey, K. (2013). 9 Bandwidth Hogs: Reality Vs. Myth – Network Computing. Network Computing.
Retrieved 23 August 2015, from http://www.networkcomputing.com/networking/9-bandwidth-hogs-reality-vs.-myth/d/d-id/1108365?
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DOT. (2015). Chapter 2-Page 3 – Telecommunications Handbook for Transportation Professionals.
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Sidel, R. (2015). After Target and Home Depot Breaches, Small Lenders Object to Settlements. WSJ.
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