The Non-techy guide to IPv6

29 February, 2012 (14:22) | Business, ISP's, WAN | By .

Did you know there’s a problem on the horizon? It concerns IP, not Intellectual Property, but Internet Protocol! The current IP addressing system that allows all computers and networked IT kit to communicate with each other is being updated with a bigger and better addressing system. Unfortunately the road from old to bigger and better may be painful for many businesses. The following post sheds some light on how IP addresses work and offer some hints that will help ease the migration from IPv4 to IPv6.

What is an IP Address?

When you browse the internet your computer is not just connecting to ‘The Internet’ it is in fact connecting to a range of other computers and servers. For computers to talk to each other they need some kind of unique identifier, the most obvious way to do this is to assign a address (a number) to every computer, server, mobile phone or device that needs to be connected. These numbers are called Internet Protocol numbers or (IP numbers).

In the 1970s when clever people in white coats started networking computers together a common technology or methodology was required and so IP was born, to this day it is still the de facto way that home user and business networking is done.

IP addresses do have an associated cost. ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) pay a membership fee to any of the four regional internet registries (In Europe we use: RIPE NCC). These registries will then allocate blocks of IP addresses to your ISP. ISP’s can resell IPv4 addresses (although it’s frowned upon). The re-selling of IPv6 addresses is strictly forbidden, which means their value is bundled into the fees from your ISP.

The difference between IPv4 and IPv6

An IPv4 address looks something like this: 172.16.254.1. IPv6 addresses are longer and look like this: 2001:db8:0:1234:0:567:8:1, note the combination of letters and numbers used here.
Just too quickly get technical; IPv4 addresses are 32 bits while IPv6 are 128 bits in length
With every connected device in the world requiring a unique IP we needed a lot. IPv4 gave us a total of 4,294,967,296 numbers but unsurprisingly this number has now run out.
Thankfully the clever people in white coats were able to recognise that one day IPv4 addresses would run dry and they looked for a better way to network the increasing number of devices in the world. The option they chose was not exactly earth shattering; in the end they just add more digits to the IP addresses thus creating a whole lot more for them to assign.
IPv6 addresses are longer, in fact they can have up to 32 digits and this means there are a lot more of them – how many? This many: 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456. It’s a big number (It’s pronounced: “340 sextillion” or “340 undecillion” if you live in the US.) With that many IP addresses available the clever people in white coats can rest assured that we will be able to go on networking computers, mobiles and anything else for the foreseeable future.

What happened to IPv5?

IPv5 was first developed in 1979 for transmitting video and audio. It fell out of popularity and was never seen again. IPv5 took the IPv5 name with it to the grave, s we are going from IPv4 and straight on to IPv6.

Problem Solved – Right? Wrong!

So IPv6 is the solution but it’s not the end of the story, now the real hard work begins because just about everybody on the planet is still using IPv4 addresses. If all the IPv4 addresses have been used up then how can we all still be running IPv4 based networks? There are still some IPv4 addresses in the hands of the ISPs, once these have been assigned we are going to need to start taking IPv6 seriously. At some point in the near future everybody will need to switch over to IPv6 or the internet is going to get very buggy. The global switch from IPv4 to IPv6 is going to be a gradual process that will pick up momentum as more of us make the move. Most modern networking equipment can run IPv4 and IPv6 in parallel, but this will still leave a lot of business networks running on IPv4 only equipment and at some point IPv4 networks will start to experience connectivity issues. So it’s not a problem right now but IPv4 networks will start to decline, devices connecting via old IPv4 networks will simply have a harder time connecting with the brave new IPv6 world!

Keep calm and get IPv6 ready!

Okay so you know you need to make your network ready for IPv6. It’s important not to panic and give your FD a heart attack by requesting lots of new IT hardware, the chances are a great deal of your existing kit will make the jump to IPv6.

Let’s do a quick rundown of the common IT kit in an office:

  • Your desktop PC / Laptop or Workstation is probably going to be fine. Most of the modern operating systems (Windows or Mac OS X) support IPv6
  • Mobile devices such as Smartphones and Tablets on Android or iOS operating systems all support IPv6 over WiFi. 3G support is down to your network provider so you can let them worry about IPv6 support.
  • If you are using IP telephony then you need to make sure your handsets and PBX (the box that runs your phone system) can handle IPv6. You don’t want your phone system to suffer due to complacency.
  • Because IPv6 assigns a unique IP number to every device on your network even kit like your old network printer may be affected and require an upgrade.
  • Networking hardware such as firewalls and routers will all need to be checked for IPv6 compliance, in fact it’s worth checking all the boxes and switches in your office comms cabinet as these are usually the key to your local and wide area network.

IPv6 has been around since 1998 so hardware manufacturers have had approx 14 years to build this technology into their kit. Some hardware will auto detect IPv6 addresses and cope with the transition easily. Other hardware may need to have a software (iOS if you are using Cisco Kit) upgrade for IPv6 support to be active, older kit may just need replacing. A word of warning, some manufacturers claim their kit is IPv6 compatible, yet on closer inspection the features available in “IPv6 Mode” are diminished meaning your firewall or router may not do everything it used to do in IPv4 mode.

Give your ISP a call

Most of us with broadband at home use the router that was supplied by our ISP, but this is not so common in a business environment. Your ISP should already be moving or in the planning stages of making the move to IPv6, if not then why not? Your ISP connects your business to the outside world and so it’s important that they can still do this during the move from IPv4 to IPv6.

Want to see if you are on an IPv6 network already? Go to http://test-ipv6.com it should run a test that gives feedback on the IPv6 compatibility of your ISP.

All ISP’s should be preparing their own networks for an eventual changeover to IPv6 as well as upgrading or converting their customer’s equipment (routers).

What’s in it for me?­­­

Making all the effort of moving to IPv6 might leave you asking “What’s in it for me?” Despite the obvious fact that you will need to make the move sooner or later there are some other benefits to going IPv6:

  • Networks will run faster over IPv6 as it is more efficient at transporting data.
  • Security is beefed up in IPv6 with encryption and authentication tools built into the protocol.
  • Connecting new equipment to your network can almost be described as “Plug and Play” because IPv6 has better end-to-end connectivity and administrative support.

What will happen if I ignore IPv6?

At first nothing is going to happen and your business network will not be affected. IPv6 is not a problem with any specific deadline like the Y2K issues that were predicted 12 years ago. Over time you may find that certain web pages will not be available to you (visit http://ipv6.google.com/ to see what it would be like) this will become more frequent rate as IPv4 sites move over to IPv6. Old hardware on your business network will become unavailable and eventually your will be forced to migrate to IPv6 as it will have such a negative impact on your business.

Your first steps to IPv6

IPv4 addresses have run out – so time is effectively running out to prepare for IPv6, better to start planning for the switch.

Here are the first steps in getting IPv6 ready:

  1. Make a plan – List the hardware on your network (make sure you consider every location on your estate). Highlight the critical parts of your business (email or EPOS for example) and think logically about how and when it’s best for your business to move to IPv6.
  2. Contact your connectivity provider (ISP, Telco or third party IT contractor), whoever provides your business with Internet access and network connectivity between sites. Your provider will have assigned you with IPv4 address’s to get you online but they should have a range of IPv6 addresses that they can assign to you now or in the near future.
  3. If your connectivity provider supplies your networking hardware (router) then ask them about IPv6 compliance. Your current hardware may be ready for IPv6 or require a software upgrade. At worst you will need to source a new router, your connectivity provider should be able to give you some recommendations.
  4. Test everything and then test it again. It’s very rare for everything to work first time after any network change, that’s why you need to test for any issues before they impact your business.
  5. Sit back and rest assured that your business network is IPv6 ready, you can now get back to business.

2011 Customer Survey Winner

8 February, 2012 (16:52) | Business, Powernet, Powernet News | Tony Tugulu

At long last we have finally got around to pulling a name out of the hat! I am happy to announce the winner of Powernet’s Customer Survey 2011 is Ian Morley from Keter UK (they make plastic goods).

Ian has been a Powernet customer for the past fifteen years and we are really happy that he was the winner of the Luxury Hamper. Here is a quote from the man himself: “I have used Powernet with various customers for about 15 years, and have been very happy with the levels of service and provision – Great job Many Thanks!” Ian Morley – Keter UK.

Despite our survey not being a customer satisfaction exercise we did give every entrant the opportunity to give us their point of view on Powernet. On the whole the comments were good but there is always room for improvement and we are looking at some of the points raised by the not so positive feedback.

Some of the good comments:

  • “Technical issues have been resolved by telephone within a very short time” – Peter Ager, Inform Marketing Limited
  • “We have been Powernet customers for 8+ years and have no plans to change” – Barry Hampson, FCA
  • “Generally very happy with service that has been provided. I have confidence that when we have had issues they are resolved effectively within reasonable time scales.” – Ian Garrick, Moneyplus2000 Ltd

Not everyone was so positive:

  • “Order processing could be improved” – Anonymous
  • “It would be great to have personal contact from someone to see if you can offer us any other services or improve what we have. Good stuff is that your service/support staff are great and it is brilliant to be able to speak to an engineer when you have a problem.” – Andy Whiteman, The Harris Arms, Okehampton

We have put steps in place to speed up the ordering process and I have made sure Andy Whiteman is contacted to see how Powernet might help him in the future.

This was out first foray into a customer survey and it did reveal some valuable insight into what our customers needs and expectation are. I look forward to seeing the results from next years survey.

Finally, I want to sign off with a quote from Peter Lloyd, a loyal Powernet customer who has always made good use of Powernet’s technical support team.

“I will never forget the patience & friendly attitude of Simon who has always been an invaluable asset to your company” – Peter George Lloyd, Home User

2011 – A Quick Review

21 December, 2011 (10:24) | Broadband, ISP's, Powernet | By .


Standby for a whistle stop tour of the news stories that affected the ISP and Telco industry in 2011.

2011 was the year that copper theft hit the headlines. Almost every month there were outages due to the unlawful removal of copper line or comms’ equipment from telephone exchanges and data centres. Can we expect more copper theft in 2012? The Met police seem to think so, they’ve setup the Waste and Metal Theft Task Force (WMTTF), with the aim of tackling the theft of copper lines and other metals.

Broadband based TV was meant to have gone primetime in 2011 and if you are a Virgin Media or BT customer you can currently experience true IPTV. An open IPTV service called YouView was gearing up for go live in 2011 but has since been pushed back to 2012. In the meantime we will have to make do with the Beeb’s excellent iPlayer.

ISPs were given an official slap on the wrists by Ofcom and the ASA for making false claims about the speeds and availability of their services. As a consequence new legislation will be rolled out in 2012, regulating how ISP’s advertise. Expect to see less “Up To” and more “Average Speed” on advertising in the new year.

Virgin Media and BT slugged it out with each other for the title of ‘ISP SpeedKing™’, by offering increasingly faster connection speeds to certain areas of the UK.

Everybody was talking about IPv6 in 2011. Expect a bit more action surrounding IPv6 as 2012 progresses, plus an influx of routers that can handle both IPv4 and IPv6.

Google had another crack at social. After failing with Wave and Buzz, Google+ seems to have had a slightly better reception (verdicts still out).

ISPs Sailing in Hot Water

Piracy was a topic that had not affected ISPs much in previous years, but in 2011 attention turned on the industry with pressure coming from the Digital Economy Act, Hollywood and the UK record industry. BT and TalkTalk both tried to overturn a DEA ruling but failed. Strangely BT along with Virgin Media then started to self regulates itself by blocking certain file sharing websites. Obviously piracy is a topic that never goes away, expect more in 2012 as the US congress starts debating their Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

Despite the economic doom and gloom the UK government managed to increase funding for its Superfast broadband rollout. It’s probably not going to be enough but something is better than nothing. Interestingly the original deadline had been 2012, it’s since been extended to 2015 and even that’s starting to look unrealistic, I hope BT and the Government can prove me wrong.

Rural broadband also made the headlines as we saw a number of initiatives and self funded projects designed to get broadband out in the sticks.

Bye Steve – Bye Dennis

You probably know that Steve Jobs passed away in 2011 but did you know that Dennis Ritchie also left us at around the same time. Despite being largely unknown, Ritchie played an important part in the creation of modern computing, he was a co-creator of UNIX and the creator of the C programming language.

Buzz term for 2011 was “Bring Your Own Device – (BYOD)”. Consumer smartphones and tablets started to lurk into the work place causing massive opportunities and security worries for businesses everywhere.

FTTC and FTTP started to happen and 2012 seems to be offering more of the same but with increased speeds – 100Mbps anyone?

And finally being acquired by Timico was the main event here at Powernet in 2011.

Intellectual Property laws started to look like a joke as everybody sued everybody else for Patent infringement. Only today BT have announced they a taking Google to court. I hope that this is not a trend that continues into 2012.

That’s it for my 2011 round-up. Let me know if I have left off anything or anyone.

QR Codes on Business Cards

16 December, 2011 (14:14) | Mobile, Powernet, Powernet News | By .

I wouldn’t usually write a blog post about new Powernet business cards but thanks to the introduction of a QR code on our cards I thought it was worth mentioning.

Powernet have been using QR codes for a while now, adding them to print advertising and marketing collateral. We have now added a unique QR code to the back of each staff members card, when the code is scanned it will download a VCard contact file and add it to a smartphone’s contact list. Unfortunately this technology only works on Android and Blackberry devices. If you scan the QR code with an iOS (iPhone and iPad) device then you will be re-directed to a mobile webpage with the relevant persons contact details (it’s not my fault – Apple do not allow the direct download of contact details).

VCards or VCR files are also the format used by MS Outlook so you can import contact details straight into the Outlook email client if needed.

If you want to give the codes a spin then you will need a phone with a camera and some QR scanning software (Google search for a free QR code scanner app) and then point the camera at the QR code you want to scan. If should work on the image I have posted but just in case that doesn’t work I have also included a clearer, black and white version as well.

PS. You can delete the contact from your contact list once it’s been downloaded.

Tips for speeding up a slow Broadband Connection

22 November, 2011 (17:14) | Broadband, ISP's, Notspots, Residential | By .

Slow Broadband? Are you sure you have everything setup right?

Recently I visited a relative whose broadband had been notoriously slow and intermittent for a while. I was there for an hour or so and had bought a couple of things in advance for the job. When I left their broadband was not only more stable, but the speed that they could achieve had increased by 33%!

How was this possible I hear you ask? Simply by setting up everything in the best possible way. When I say everything I mean their router, and phone connections. Speed is often something people choose to complain about, especially with the varying quality of the DSL technologies used to provide broadband services in the UK, however time and time again I have found that serious improvements can be made if you just have everything set-up correctly on your side before picking up the phone and complaining to your ISP.

A significant number of households have got things in a right mess and it’s ultimately the speed and stability of your own connection that suffers. I’m not going to pretend that you can work miracles and go from 2-20Mbit with a few tweaks, however just by following some simple steps you can ensure your setup is configured to maximise your speed and stability. I had to implement each of these steps below on my recent visit and as a result an extra 1000Kbit/sec throughput was achieved. If you can’t get FTTC yet, maybe you should take a look and see if any of these steps might help you.

Not all routers are created equal

Not all routers are the same, just because the box says ADSL2+ doesn’t means it’s going to work as well as the one on the shelf next to it that says the same. When ADSL2+ launched in the UK, one of the ISP’s published some public tests that compared the speeds of routers available on the market, there was a significant difference. Some were able to reach 11Mbit download where as others on the same line could get 16! Imagine using a slow router on a long line that can only achieve 512Kbit. You could potentially double your speed by fitting more compatible equipment! A lot of ‘power users’ like to fit their own router and bin the one that their ISP sent them. If your ISP sent you a router then USE IT! They will have spent hours and hours testing that router against their own equipment to make sure it was compatible. You may have just broken your own service by using that router you bought at your local supermarket.

If you’re a customer of BT or a BT reseller with ‘wires only’ and need to supply your own router then my advice is to use one with a Broadcom chipset (The actual electronic chips inside the router itself) to get the best results. (Netgear DG834Gv4, Thompson Speedtouch ST585v6, ST585v7 or the Billion 7800 are examples of these) As time passes each manufacturer are improving the compatibility of their products. If you have your own router already and don’t want to replace it, contact the manufacturer and see if a software update is available, this may really help.

Use the Master Socket

This is one of the most important factors! So often the router is connected to an extension and not the main socket. Secondary sockets in other rooms and home offices often hang off the master socket using cables that are not suited for DSL (Broadband). If you want the maximum speed and stability you must run your router directly off the master BT socket using the shortest cable you can. With wireless networking so easily available now this is becoming less and less of an inconvenience. Don’t run a long cable to the phone socket, move the router and utilise the wireless features of your router to connect to it from a more convenient location. (Need to identify the master socket on your line? It should look like the following image – with a split about half-way down.

The filter always goes first!

The first thing connected into every socket on your line that is in use should be the filter! So often I see socket doublers plugged in first with the filter hanging out of each of the sockets. This is wrong! If you need to double up on the sockets then plug the multiplier into the phone port on the filter. If you have a TV set top box that uses a pass-through type connector, this plugs into the filter! Simple rule, the filter always goes first!

This also counts for extensions sockets even if you’re not using them for broadband. If it’s connected to the same phone line it MUST be filtered.

Above and beyond

If you really want to go that extra mile to improving your home wiring then there is an additional device you can buy that can make a big difference. It’s something that BT now fit as standard on new lines, they fit them on fault visits and they fit them for FTTC customers. They do this because they know how much better it can make things. The best news is you can buy a 3rd party version and fit it yourself if you don’t have one already!

They are known to BT as service specific face plates (SSFP) and they fit directly onto your existing BT master socket. It has a built in filter and changes your socket so it has an additional dedicated broadband socket just like the standard filters that come with your router.

The real benefit comes however when you have an extension or two in other rooms. These generally act like giant antenna to introduce interference onto your phone line. By connecting these into the back of your new face plate and it filters those too! No longer do you need separate filters on your extensions! This has the effect of cutting out the interference caused by extensions right at the master socket which often also causes a boost in speed. If you have wired in extensions in your home and are handy with a screwdriver this is a must have.

So if your looking for improved speed and stability from your broadband without upgrading to FTTC, pick up an SSFP and see what you can do for yourself.

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