07 Apr 2017

Proxy servers have long been used to provide a level of content caching to improve performance and protection for users accessing the internet. Typically specific details of the proxy server are entered into the settings of the user’s preferred web browser. More often now these settings may be automatically downloaded by the way of a proxy configuration script. As more and more content has moved to be encrypted via https and is more likely to be dynamically generated, the ‘success’ rate of proxy cache hits has dropped meaning they are no longer very effective in many cases.

A variant of the standard proxy is the Transparent Proxy (also known as an intercepting or inline proxy) which intercepts communications at the network layer without any special client configuration. These devices are sometimes used by network carriers such as mobile phone operators as it gives them control over content. The problem with transparent proxies is that they have to work without creating any impact on the communication between the client and the server which is a complex task. The result is that unusual problems may be seen with web pages not loading correctly or protocols being blocked because the transparent proxy does not support them.

Whenever using a mobile network (or any provider where the path to the internet is not explicitly known) for a critical event or launch it is important to test any applications or websites prior to the event to ensure they work correctly.

30 Mar 2017

On some public access Wi-Fi networks a user may only be allowed access to a limited number of websites unless they pay for premium access. This approach is known as a ‘walled garden’ with typically a number of websites ‘whitelisted’ which the provider wishes to promote or provide free access too.

30 Mar 2017

When you first connect an open Wi-Fi network such as a public one you are often greeted by a webpage which asks for some login information or sign-up details before you can proceed to use the internet. This is commonly called a splash page, hijack page or more correctly a ‘captive portal’ and is used to control access to the internet. These pages may be branded with logos and sponsor information and typically offer one of three types of access:

  • Open access with just a ‘click to accept terms and conditions’
  • Open access after entering some basic information such as an email address
  • Authenticated access using a code or username/password approach

Post login the user may be redirected to a ‘landing’ page (often a page the provider wants to promote) or directed onwards to the original requested page.

29 Mar 2017

It’s not unusual to be in the situation where you are waiting for a week or two for broadband to be installed in a new house or business premise which can be a real problem if there is not good 3G/4G coverage as an alternative. We are often asked whether we can provide a temporary solution and the answer is generally yes via solutions such as satellite, however, the cost of this is much higher than consumer broadband.

29 Mar 2017

Many people complain that their broadband or internet seems to slow down in the evening and often this is true. The issue is that most broadband providers ‘contend’ their services for capacity reasons which means if everyone uses it at the same time there will not be enough capacity. This is how internet access is made affordable for home users, the providers bet that everyone won’t need it at the same time (a bit like a motorway with everyone at rush hour)

Evenings are generally peak time for home broadband usage with more people at home. The problem has become worse as streaming has become more popular with services such as BBC iPlayer and all this simultaneous demand simply exceeds the capacity at the local exchange leading to a drop in performance for all users. More expensive broadband services use a lower contention ratio which mitigates this problem.