Monday, 23 May 2016

Myth-Busting: Why Water Can Be Used to Suppress Fires in Data Centres

The risk of an electrical fire in data centres is an ever-increasing concern for owners and operators. It has been an ongoing battle for when it comes time to decide what type of fire suppression system should be utilised in their facilities. The use of a water-based system could risk destruction to all electronics housed in the facility, resulting in thousands of dollars of damage. CO2 based systems release toxic gas that can be detrimental to the health of your employees and is considered a greenhouse pollutant. 

The myth that data centre owners have to choose between water and / or gas systems to protect their space no longer is the case. Unique hybrid fire extinguishing systems - that use a mix of water and nitrogen gas to extinguish the fires - have arrived in the fire protection / suppression market. This technology uses the best characteristics of both water mist and inert gas to extinguish a fire. Among the benefits of this type of system include: life safety, enclosure integrity, environment safety, cooling capacity and no costly clean up or equipment replacement.

Made entirely of non-toxic agents, all personnel are safe even during activation. The reduction of oxygen in the space is at levels within safe breathing tolerances. Hybrid systems are designed specifically for information technology spaces. Providing the best capabilities of both water mist and inert gas systems the technology is also 100% environmentally safe. There is no costly cleanup or equipment replacement after the system is activated. Immediately after a fire, the system rapidly recharges and is ready for use that same day, which is extremely important for information technology facilities such as data centres.
The success of a hybrid technology is its unique ability to extinguish fires via heat absorption and oxygen deprivation and with minimal water presence. This system works by combining nitrogen and water, a homogenous suspension of nitrogen and sub 10-micron water droplets penetrate through vented type enclosures to extinguish a fire without significant water residue. When the mixture enters the enclosure, both the nitrogen and the water attack the fire simultaneously. The water cools the space and the nitrogen reduces the oxygen content and generating steam.

By installing a hybrid fire extinguishing system you no longer will have to worry about damaged property, loss of money or the health and safety of your personnel.

This post was written by Cedric Verstrynge, Victaulic Sales Engineer Vortex, Victaulic Company or

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Faster Wi-Fi May Be On Its Way

If Ofcom has its way, you could be in store for faster wi-fi in your UK home or office within the next couple of years. The independent regulator and competitive authority recently unveiled plans to improve wi-fi speeds by opening up additional channels by which routers and wireless devices can communicate. Now it's up to the regulator to implement those goals in a sensible way.

Right now, most wi-fi routers in the UK use the 2.4 GHz band of radio frequencies for wireless communications. While this band has been reliable for more than a decade, it is becoming increasingly more congested due to the high demands of modern internet use. Between streaming, cloud computing, and other means of high-capacity networking, the 2.4 GHz band is having trouble keeping up. This means slower speeds between the router and wireless device.

The Ofcom plan calls for opening up the 5 GHz band with a few additional sub-bands that are significantly less congested and offer a wider frequency range. This band was chosen because Ofcom believes it can be utilised without interfering with other technologies, such as satellite television for example.

Faster Wi-Fi Means Better Broadband

Opening up additional wi-fi frequencies may not mean much to the average broadband user who has no idea how wi-fi routers work. That being the case, we believe it is appropriate to offer a brief explanation.

When data communications enter a property through a wi-fi router, that router must then pass signals to mobile devices using radio frequencies. Seldom do routers transmit data as quickly as it is received. Comparing this to how we access water in the home is very helpful.

The typical kitchen sink fixture does not dispense water nearly as quickly or powerfully as the municipal water supply feeding the home. Instead, pressure and volume are scaled down using a number of devices between municipal connections and homes. Wi-fi routers work in a similar fashion. That's why advertised data transfer rates rarely line up with reality. Wi-fi technology is just not fast enough to keep up with current broadband speeds.

If you were to do a data transfer test on your home network using a modern laptop, you would likely find that both download and upload speeds do not match the speeds advertised by your broadband provider. Some of the slowdown may actually occur as data is moving across networking channels to reach your property, but not all of it. Much of the slowdown has to do with the wi-fi connection between your router and your laptop.

As Ofcom works to implement its proposals for faster wi-fi networking, we can assume router manufacturers will be getting on board to help them figure out how to make the best use of the 5 GHz band and its sub-bands. By the time Ofcom is ready to implement its proposals officially, there should be an ample supply of equipment capable of performing up to standard.  Finally, it looks as though faster wi-fi might be on the way..

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Is It Time to Rethink Password Protocols?

For more than a decade, networking and security experts have recommended that people with access to online accounts use long and complicated passwords that make hacking difficult. In light of those recommendations, government organisations and businesses the world over have built into their password protection systems a requirement for users to change their passwords on a regular basis. Now there are questions from government security experts about whether forced password changes are a wise idea.

A recent publication released by the government's CESG group suggests that forced password expiration is outdated and counterproductive to security. The group is recommending against forcing account holders to change their passwords regularly, offering the following reasons for the new guidance:

·        New Password Selection – With the average consumer now having access to dozens of online accounts all requiring separate passwords, CESG experts say that forcing users to select new passwords too often will likely result in many choosing less complicated passwords so they do not forget them. Less complicated usually means more vulnerable.

·        Easy to Hack – Experts say that users are more likely to choose passwords similar to the ones they are replacing when forced by expiration to do so. They say that, in effect, this makes the new passwords no more secure than the old ones. If a hacker gets hold of an old password, it is relatively easy to figure out the new one.

·        Little Security Value – CESG also claims that there is little security value in changing passwords as long as users are making their original choices lengthy and with a random combination of letters, numbers and symbols. For the amount of benefit that exists, it is simply not worth forcing users to change passwords and hoping that those passwords will be remembered.

·        Help Desk Support – Lastly, forgetting passwords is one of the more common reasons for contacting help desk support. Help desk professionals have to spend time resetting passwords, knowing that those same users will be contacting them 30 days down the road for another reset. This is simply not a wise use of resources given the little benefit that forced password changes offer.

In the modern world of networking and security, CESG says there are other ways to accomplish what password expiry used to accomplish a decade ago. The group offers the example of using system monitoring tools that present users with past login information every time they access one of their accounts. This information may help a user when it comes to the possibility of a hacker previously trying to access the account.

CESG says it is time for us to rethink our password protocols. Is password management better left to the preferences of individual users, with administrators finding other ways to keep accounts secure, or do we need to stick with the way we have been doing things for so long? It will be interesting to see how security experts and system administrators respond to the new guidance.