Product Reviews

Take Control of Your Network

Lightspeed Total Traffic Control puts you back in charge.

Lightspeed Total Traffic Control is a network-management solution that provides a wide range of tools to help you maintain your network, including bandwidth alert, firewall protection, and a variety of reports that allow you to view performance information.

A nice aspect of the program is the ability to load the Lightspeed TCP/IP stack alongside, in front of, or instead of Microsoft’s TCP/IP stack. By replacing the Microsoft TCP/IP stack, you can have more finely tuned control of what passes to and from your servers. According to Lightspeed, the only reason you need Microsoft’s TCP/IP stack is to allow you to configure and manage the system from another computer on your network. With that in mind, it may be wise to load the Lightspeed TCP/IP stack on your more vulnerable servers, though you should remember that extra security does translate to increased processor usage for packet examination.

The first system I ran the program on was a dual-processor Compaq Proliant 3000 with 512MB RAM. This system seemed to handle the program just fine. A note about my first experience with it: You need to be careful, as this is a complex, powerful program. The first time I started the software on my test network, I configured the program incorrectly and effectively shut the network down. It goes back to good-old common sense—test a program and know what you’re doing before you go about throwing it on a production system.

The next system was a 750mhz PIII system with 384MB RAM. This system was running other programs at the time, which led to poor application performance and response time when Total Traffic Control was started up (this was expected). I wholly recommend that you install this program on a hardy system, with at least 512MB of memory and dual processors if you can swing it. You’ll also need access to a SQL Server 2000 or Desktop Edition. To get all the handy reports about your network, you’ll need to install IIS 5.0 on the same server as the program.

Now onto the fun part—setting up the systems for my test. I ran through a few different scenarios. The first one was to set up the system as a firewall. The main configuration is easy and straightforward—simply drag and drop the components you want and set it up the way the system routes the data from the interfaces through the components. Herein lies a pitfall for some: It looks so simple, you feel like jumping in and setting it up. The problem is if you do that, then start up the service, you’ll have a firewall that lets everything through. You’ll have to go back into the system and then set up the firewall rules. Note that, just like with anything, you need to know what you’re doing, otherwise you may end up breaking things. I set up the firewall with the rule to drop ICMP packets and started pinging the first interface, which worked fine. Then I pinged the second interface and started seeing the dropped packets, so the firewall works pretty well.

For the next test, I set up a few of the other features like the speedometer. This is a really useful tool. The gauge, when turned on, will tell you the speed of the traffic running though the interface—not the standard 10/100Mbps, but the actual speed of the data passing through the interface. This could be quite helpful in troubleshooting performance problems.

Overall, the Lightspeed product is a useful toolkit. Like any other grouping of products, the individual pieces aren’t the best in the world, but when you add up the sum of the parts, you’ll find it’s good to have around.

About the Author

Richard Harlan, MCSE, Network+, lives in the Kansas City area and is working as the Network Engineer for the John Deere Ag Marketing Center.

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