Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Government Superfast Broadband Connection Scheme

Further to a previous blog on this topic at the beginning of the year, we can advise you that the scheme has been extended until the 31st of March 2016 with a budget of 40 million pounds allocated.

The scheme is now active in 50 cities throughout the UK (previously 22) and Merlin are proud to say we are one of the 600 registered suppliers dealing with applications for each of these cities.

The vouchers are made on a first come, first served basis, so time is of the essence!

Business grade connections must offer a minimum of 20Mbit/s service and are capable of being configured /upgraded to support at least 30 Mbit/s services and deliver a broadband service of at least twice the speed compared to the current business grade connection.

Superfast broadband must be in your area and the eligibility criteria is set out below-

  • Installation of your new broadband connection will cost over £100
  • The connection is for your business premises. You can apply for a connection at home if this is your main work base, but this does not apply if you work from home occasionally
  • You are willing to sign up to a minimum 6 month contract with your broadband supplier
  • The broadband service you select delivers a speed or performance improvement on your current connection.
  • You have not received more than €200,000 in grants in the last 3 years
  • You are a SME, registered charity, social enterprise or sole trader
   To see if your postcode is eligible click on the link below:-

We have already helped many businesses with their applications and we'd love to help your business run faster, so if you want to know more, please do give us a call right now on 08008778810  

The Merlin Team 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

A guide to how your router works with the Internet (made simple)

The internet is a wonderful thing and we probably don't spend a lot of time even thinking about how it works, so we  thought it might be useful to produce a guide explaining just how routers work within your network and the role they play.

We rely so much on e-mail and the internet and by and large, take it for granted that when we search for something  or send an e-mail, we will get the information immediately and our e-mails will be received simultaneously.  It helps to understand how things can go wrong and what you can do to fix some issues. 

Every computer connected to the internet is part of a huge network.  At home, you probably use a modem that dials a number to your Internet Service Provider (ISP).  You then become part of their network.  They in turn, connect to a higher tier network and so on.

Most large communication companies have their own dedicated backbones which connect various areas.  In each area the company will have a Point of Presence (POP).  The POP is where users access the company's network either through a dedicated line or local telephone number. The different levels of networks connect to each other by Network Access Points (NAP's.) The diagram below shows that a business will have its own network called a local area network (LAN).

image courtesy

It helps to understand that there are literally masses of internet providers that connect at NAP's in various cities and trillions of bytes of data flows between the networks at these points. This is what allows every computer to talk to each other.

These networks rely on the backbones, NAP's and routers to talk to one another.  A router is a piece of kit, well actually, a small computer, which makes sure data received goes to the right destination and conversely that data does not go where it shouldn't.  A router controls the flow of information.

A router uses configuration tables to decide exactly where a packet of information has to go to.  This is a collection of information  which includes rules for handing routine and special cases of traffic, priorities for connections to be used and information on which connections lead to groups of addresses.  

An e-mail message or web page travels over a system known as a packet switching network (PSN)  This simply means that the data is broken up into smaller packets of about 1,500 bytes.  These packets are wrapped up with various bits of info to ensure they reach their destination.  These individual packets may go via different routes, in order that the network can balance the load of data across bits of equipment on a millisecond by millisecond basis.  If all the packets are not received together, the packets will be routed around until the whole message is received.

Sometimes, when routers do not behave, some of these data packets get "stuck" and do not find their way to their destination, so it may be necessary to "re-boot" the router to clear it out.  You simply unplug the power lead and leave this out for 3 - 4 minutes.  Obviously this will make your internet connection drop off completely when you do so.  

Needless to say, there are various types of  routers and it goes without saying that if you are running a business then to purchase a cheap basic router is foolhardy.  It will have a profound affect on the way your data packets are handled and will impact on your network security.  You really do get what you pay for!

A good business use router for both data and voice (VoIP) is the Draytek Vigor 2830.    Easy to set up, reliable and robust enough to handle all your business needs.

Vigor 2830 Series ADSL Router Firewall

For more information on this product go to DrayTek

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Facebook Inc Privacy Policies Questioned in Europe

This might make you feel a little uneasy. 

A report commissioned by Belgian Privacy Commission and prepared by Brendan Van Alsenoy, Valerie Derdoodt, Rob Heyman, Jef Ausloos, Ellen Wauters and Gunes, Acar really gets to the bottom of Facebook's revised policies and terms with regard to privacy and  how Facebook "combines" and "shares" data about it's users.

The conclusion was that Facebook tracks people when they are not logged in as well as tracking people who don't even have a facebook account

Facebook's new Data Use Policy and Terms of Service released on 30th of January 2015 authorises itself to :-
1.  Track it's users across websites and devices
2.  Use profile pictures for both commercial and non-commercial purposes and
3.  collect information about it's users whereabouts on a continuous basis.

The DUP seems to be rather "vague" in certain areas and of course, intrepretation of wording can be ambiguous.

The overall inference is that Facebook is acting in violation of European law.

It is estimated (statistics by Craig Smith - DMR publisher) that there are currently 1.393 billion monthly active users on Facebook, with 72% of adults visiting at least once a month and 890 million daily users. 

Facebook also collects data from every page that belongs to, so if you visit and click "like" your actions are tracked. With Facebook owning Whatsapp and Instagram and pooling all this information, Facebook has incredible deep and detailed information on the masses.

You may think you are safe from being tracked as to you whereabouts if you have turned off Facebook's access to location data, but think again.  Pictures taken with smartphones, for example, often contain location information as metadata. As a result, location data may be shared indirectly when uploading pictures to Facebook. Combined with features such as facial recognition, it is fairly easy to pinpoint the location of specific individuals to specific locations in time.

If you are seriously worried about your privacy and how your pictures and data may be used for advertising purposes, then it seems the only choice is "take it or leave it".  If you do not accept the terms and conditions you can no longer use Facebook.

Please read the full article including the report here:-

Please feel free to leave your comments!

The Merlin Team