RM SMTP feed

I am hearing that schools who use RM to deliver their email are experiencing problems and my understanding is that RM’s servers have been blacklisted. Just to be clear, this isn’t anything to do with HICS but a communication may prove helpful. Schools will have to contact RM directly to discuss this and they can be contacted on 0845 404 0000.

There is a specific design for schools using RM’s SMTP service. Updata do not provide any SMTP feeds/relaying in the Hertfordshire network. There is a VPN tunnel between the Updata core and the RM SMTP servers, in which traffic between the two parties is passed. RM use the public IP range of 217.181.4.0/28 as a dedicated SMTP feed for the Hertfordshire schools, and Updata simply provide the routing of traffic between the school and RM. There is no firewalling being done by Updata on this VPN and this setup has been duplicated from the previous ISP (Virgin).

After speaking to some schools, I thought it might be an idea to clear something up. Schools do not have to use RM’s SMTP feed and they are welcome to use other providers if they wish. Microsoft offer a ‘free for schools’ service called Exchange Online Protection. Three Hertfordshire schools now use this service and as far as I am aware, they are all getting on well with this. A very helpful network manager from one of these schools has emailed me over his step by step instructions as to how he set this up – which I am happy to share with anyone if they are interested.  These instructions may need to be tailored slightly but it certainly is a very good starting point. Please get in touch if you wish to discuss any of this in more detail.

Thanks,

Kevin Crawley
kevin.crawley@hertsforlearning.co.uk

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Slow Internet?

We have had several reports of the internet running slow today. This has been logged with Updata and they are investigating..

Posted in Service | 2 Comments

YouTube

We are receiving reports this morning that a lot of YouTube videos aren’t playing. Users are receiving the following message: “The video is unavailable with Safety Mode enabled. To view this video, you will need to disable Safety Mode”.
Safety Mode however is forced on and it always has been. I believe that this is tied in with Google’s safety settings, so to disable one, we’d have to disable both. Historically we have received very few queries about YouTube videos being unable to play due to the Safety Mode. However today there has been several reports from different schools all of whom are experiencing over zealous filtering. It’s important to note that Updata/HICS do not choose what videos are deemed as safe or not. That’s what YouTube do. Clearly though something has changed so we have logged this with Updata for them to investigate. I’ll update this post in due course.

Thanks,

Kevin Crawley

Posted in Web Filtering, Websites | 2 Comments

Yahoo

It has recently come to light that due to changes made by Yahoo, safe searching is no longer working through their search engine as you are now diverted to their HTTPS site. This means users can now disable the safe search facility and search on any term they want. Web pages will obviously still be blocked by Netsweeper but searches will return inappropriate material and this is particularly concerning with image searches. With this in mind, and after speaking to ICT Partnership Working Group (ICT PWG) this morning, we unfortunately have very little option other than to apply restrictions to Yahoo and it is now available on WF1 only. WF1 is really geared towards trusted users such as staff, whereas WF2 and WF3 is for pupils – but these are decisions we leave down to the individual schools. If you are not happy with this decision, schools do have the option not to use our central WF1/2/3 polices and can set up their own filtering levels and this can be arranged by emailing the SITSS Service Desk. If you proceed with this option you will have a Netsweeper web interface log-in, where you can manage your own filtering policies and tailor them in line with your requirements. If you wanted, (and I personally wouldn’t recommend this) you could arrange Yahoo being available on all your web filtering policies.. It is fairly straight forward to manage and I am happy to talk you through step by step how this works. Alternatively, if you want to block Yahoo completely, even from WF1, you can also do this by managing your own filtering policies. However, if this sounds like too much hard work just to bar one specific website, you can simply add ‘yahoo.com’ into your proxy exceptions. This will send the request straight at the firewall and as there are no corresponding firewall rules to permit this traffic, users will just get a plain blank page – rather than the usual ‘access denied’ page.

Please be aware that Herts County Council and Herts for Learning are investigating a long term solution. I hope this makes sense but if you wish to get in touch, please feel free to do so. In the meantime, I will keep you up to date with any future related developments.

Thanks,

Kevin Crawley
kevin.crawley@hertsforlearning.co.uk

Posted in Websites | 1 Comment

Network Improvements

On Sunday we arranged Updata failing over all internet traffic to the LD5 data centre with the plan being to leave it like this throughout the Monday. We wanted to make sure that the network could cope in this failed over state during the working day. We proceeded with this and Updata failed back to the both data centres on Monday evening. We had previously failed over all traffic to LD4 in May and one routing issue aside, performance didn’t suffer. With this in mind, we decided to test the network with traffic all going through LD5. The previous test had proved that there should be no capacity issues, however we wanted to make sure that there were no network routing problems either. I am pleased to announce that all went well and neither myself of the Service Desk and received any reports of internet performance issues. As far as I can tell no one knew this change had happened so with this mind, we are once again very confident that the network is as resilient as ever. We remain optimistic the recent problems are now a thing of the past. If anyone wishes to discuss this please get in touch.

Thanks,

Kevin Crawley
(kevin.crawley@hertsforlearning.co.uk)

Posted in Internet access, Planned Maintenance, Service Improvements | Leave a comment