Designing home and SME networks 11 – Getting inside

There are two main ways to get data from your network to the Internet:

  1. Allow your network users to send data.

  2. Make your data available to Internet users themselves.

1: Allow your users to send data.

This is the standard operation that most internet users do on a daily basis, such as sending emails, sending messages, tweeting, instant messaging and sending to blogs and other data services. If you allow it from your network, it can be difficult and expensive to manage. Most small businesses rely on user discretion.

2: Allow Internet users to access data.

Especially for businesses, it may be important to make the content you create or store on your network available on the Internet. There are two basic mechanisms for this:

  • Export from your network to another web host

  • Save it to a server on your network

2.1: Internet hosting: Why would you let your data be on someone else’s servers?

There are several good reasons to put your data on an Internet hosting server and allow others to access it:

  1. What you save on the Internet is only a copy of the original, so if it is damaged or deleted, you can reload it;

  2. You do not need to allow anonymous Internet users to access your network;

  3. User browser traffic does not use your internet connection bandwidth;

  4. You do not have to disclose your IP address to Internet users;

  5. You can use a dynamic IP address to connect to the Internet (unless your host server requires access to your network).

  6. Like many large organizations, if you choose to host your network services in a Data Center, then you can offer your hosting from that data center to an Internet presence. However, this makes you dependent on some of the issues mentioned below for hosting your internet presence.

Internet Hosting also has several disadvantages:

  1. It’s hard to keep your data up to date, even if it’s generally suitable for static content.

  2. If you have dynamic content, you need to provide a channel to proactively update your Internet server data or to allow Internet servers to access data on your network in real time.

  3. Significant amounts of money can be costly, although many resources for hosting Internet (‘Cloud’) files are free: up to a point.

Your contract with the hospitality industry will determine who is responsible, but in general:

  • You are responsible for:

    • Upload content and keep it up to date;

    • defining or implementing access controls;

    • allow hosting servers to access your network data (if needed).

The host is responsible for:

  • Ensure that the service remains available and undamaged. They will provide replacement servers if one breaks down;

  • Provide a level of access control and data security to prevent your content from being hacked;

  • Maintain access records and generally manage user access to your data.

Other services are negotiable, depending on the host:

  • Backup / restore

2.2: Remote access by Internet users to your network data

There you host your internet presence using your network devices. Overall, this is considered a bad idea for small businesses. However, there are some advantages to doing this:

  1. You have complete control over your data, and are not subject to the variations of a hosting company.

  2. You get the most money for your data because there is no Internet lag between Internet-facing devices and databases that contain your dynamic content.

There are disadvantages to this:

  1. You need to spend a significant amount of money to secure your network by providing:

    • Separate servers for services available on the Internet

    • Multi-layer firewall and DMZ to isolate Internet traffic from internal network traffic and prevent Internet users from accessing your network

    • Proxy services ensure that all data served from your network to Internet-facing servers is completely secure.

  2. All traffic between Internet and Internet-facing servers crosses the link to your Internet access. This may affect the level of service available to your internal network users. You will almost certainly need smart traffic management to prevent any of your Internet users’ peak traffic (or denial or service attacks) from completely isolating your network from the Internet.

  3. You must make the IP address of your internet connection public, and it must be static.

  4. Internet-enabled servers and other devices must be on at all times.

Overall, these disadvantages make self-hosting your Internet presence a poor choice for most people and small businesses.