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---+ Net services

After moving 6 times in 5 years, I have learned the hard way that depending on an ISP such as a telephone company for your net.presence is bad: you move, and there's a gap in your access; or, worse, your email and domain addresses change.

I have a need for internet services that are NOT tied to the company that gives me access to the Internet from my house. I want to buy Internet access for my house from one compnay, and a whole slew of non-access based services from a different company that I will have a longer relationship with.

I started out calling this "non-geographic" internet services, but now I think a better name may be "non-access-oriented" internet services. Although even this isn't accurate: e.g. I want dialup telephone access even when I do not have a home address, landline telephone, DSL or cable modem. I'm not talking about cell dialup or internet - I mean dialup from whatever landline I happen to be near.

The diatribe is below. TWiki format, sorry. The page ComparingNonAccessInternetServices? contains notes as I shop.

---++ Geography - AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE

Some network services need to be geographical, tied to a physical cable.

   * Wired network access: broadband DSL, cable modem
   * Accessing your machines at home

Most network services do not need to be tied to geography: you can access them from anywhere on the net:

   * Mail (SMTP, POP, webmail)
   * Web servers
   * DNS servers

Some services are semi-geographical:

   * Dialup: e.g. you may have local access numbers or an 800 number
     in most of North America but not Europe
   * Wireless / cellphone: e.g. roaming plans
   * Satellite: depending on the width of the beam on which your
     downlink is loaded.

Unfortunately, many of these are bundled together.

---++ Reliable and Persistent Subset

It is desirable to have reliable and persistent network services. However, the home user in particular may not be willing to pay to have all of his network services reliable. E.g. the home user may provide many such services on his own home machines - and if you are like me, those are unreliable. E.g. when I moved recently my own home machines have been unavailable for several months.

It is desirable to identify a persistent subset, and to arrange (pay) for that. Such a subset might include:

   * Mail
      * A mail server that can store mail sent to you
        even though normally it gets sent on directly to
        your home machine
         * User level access to such mail, both pull (POP) 
           and store and forward / push (SMTP) 
           - the latter when your machines
           come back up
   * Web hosting
      * You may not want all of your web pages to be reliable
      * But you may want one or two, with critical info
        (such as "I'm moving - back in a month")
        on a reliable server.
   * DNS

This wiki page discusses my desire to locate providers for such a non-geographic persistent subset of services, my difficulties finding them in the marketplace, and notes to myself about technical solutions that efficiently support this model.

---+ From the GlewBlog? wiki page

---++ [Net Services, Geographical and Non-Geographical]?

Trying to find exactly what I want wrt net services:

   * Geographical
      * at 2 different houses
         * landline voice
         * landline broadband (DSL or cable or ...)
            * access to the internet
            * routable IPs (or dynamic IPs with nameservice)
            * access to minor servers at home
   * Semi-geographical
      * Wireless / cell-phone
         * good access at 2 home areas, across Oregon
         * good access at every place I travel to regularly
         * ...worldwide access...
         * data access...
   * Non-geographical and Persistent Net Services
      * A mail account that doesn't change when I move
         * mail forwarding to my "use" account
         * mail storage, for when the machines I normally
           read mail on are not available
            * POP3 to download on demand (pull)
            * Web access to email when I am really disconnected
            * SMTP to push email when my machines are up
      * DNS / Domain Name Service
         * Forward mydomain.org to my machines (when they are up)
         * Maintain my domains even when my machines are down
           (so my domains don't get marked "defunct")
         * route to dynamic / DHCP IP addresses
           (since static IPs are unfortunately expensive)
      * Web server
         * Normally I just want all requests sent to my own
           webservers on my own machines
         * But my own machines are not always up...
            * I'm too cheap to pay for reliability
            * Would be nice to have one single page, 
              e.g. www.mydomain.net, served 
              even if my machines are down, redirecting
              to www.mydomain.net/home,
              and redirecting www.mydomain.net/* to my machines,
              if my machines are up.
                * not sure how to do this without handling all 
                  web traffic.
      * Port morphing: SSH, etc.

Geographic ISPs (telco, broadband, DSL, cable) provide landline network access, but insist on providing all of these services (mail, webhosting) that I would rather not have tied to a geographic ISP.

NoIP?.com provides non-geographic DNS domain service and various mail services. But although it provides POP ot doesn't provide web mail. And while it points everyone to your webserver, it serves no pages of its own.

There are many free and pay web hosting services, but they seem to own the whole domain.

I guess what I am trying to say is that there is

   * raw net access
   * redirection to my own machines
   * a small subset of services that I want reliability 
     and persistence for, independent of geographic ISP
and there does not seem to be a standard business model or group of companies making this separation.

---+ Mail I sent to NOIP

I'm probbaly about to sign up for NoIP? plus or squared, but I am going to continue shopping to see if somebody else provides one stop shopping. I thought I might mention what I am looking for to you.

I know that you don't serve webpages, but, uh, it sure would be nice if you served one teensy weensy webpage per client...

Reason:

I'm a SOHO user, and my wife runs a small home business. We run our own servers... currently DHCP, hence our interest in NoIP?.

We're too cheap to invest enough to keep our home systems/servers up 24x7. They go down. And, again, we are too cheap to keep a system outside our home (plus I like playing with the hardware). Worse, we have moved several times, changing ISPs - again, hence our interest in NoIP?.

So, we are looking for various computer services that are

   (a) independent of a geographically tied ISP
       like a telco - one that lasts across moves
   (b) of which a subset are more reliable than
       our home systems.

NoIP? comes close. You provide:

   * DNS service and maintenance
      * redirecting to my dynamic IP addresses :-(
      * responding to lookups...
   * Persistent mail service
   - especially via POP3 service,
   so that mail can accumulate
   while my systems are down for a few
   days [*], but also SMTP.
   I love the port morphing, too.

Sure, I'll provide my own DNS - yours basically redirects, right? - but yours is up more reliably than main. Ditto email.

This is pretty much everything I want from "non-ISP, non-geographic" network services, except for:

   * Sure, I run my own web server, put it sure 
     would be nice if some reliable 24x7 service
     like NoIP? could provide a "fallback".

     E.g. you might serve www.mydomain.net,
     serving up a really small webpage 
     on which I provide my contact info
     or an explanation such as 
     "My website is down while I am moving".
     Maybe you redirect to www.mydomain.net/home
     if my servers are available.
     And you redirect all other pages 
     in www.mydomain.net/* to my servers.

     Better - but I don't know how to do this
     - it would be cool if you acted as a "fallback"
     for any errors when people try to link through
     to my website when my webserver is not available.
     You could do this if you redirected all pages
     and snarfed the error, but maybe that's messier
     than you would like.

I.e. I don't want you to run my full website. But I would like to have a fallback for when my webserver is not available.

DNS, Mail, Web... what else is there?

Well, maybe more port morphing: e.g. SSH.

Just wondering: I sure would like non-stop shopping for my "non-geographic, persistent" net services. NoIP? is almost everything I want, missing only this "minimal services" web stuff.

---+ How it could be done

In this discussion I say "noip server" when I mean a third party server, maintained reliably, that provides fallback services.

---++ Webserver redirection with a Persistent Subset

Let's consider how we might try to provide webserver redirection with a persistent subset.

E.g.

   * http://www.mydomain.net gets served reliably
      * somebody like noip.com serves it
         * redirects to my machines, e.g. www.mydomain.net/home 
           if they are up
         * serves a webpage I uploaded to noip.com
           when my machines are down
   * all other pages under http://www.mydomain.net get directed
     to my machines

Problem: all http requests would get sent to www.mydomain.net. They might get immediately forwarded, but it would still add traffic.

You can forward all http requests to my machines, but then you lose the reliable subset.

You could forward all requests to myrealwwwserver.mydomain.net, but this would be visible server level. You could hide that, so that each page still seemed to be at www.mydomain.net, but this would still create main server traffic. You could have the web page represent itself as being at www.mydomain.net, but still link to www.myrealwwwserver.net ... this works if the majority of traffic is click throughs, not links using the URL www.mydomain.net.

Thing is, what I _want_ is URL dependent nameservice:

   * http://www.mydomain.net --> noip reliable, persistent, 
     web server
   * http://www.mydomain.net/* --> my own webserver,
     which may not be reliable
   * anything else *.mydomain.net --> my own systems,
     which may not be reliable.

---++ Error Handling

Similarly, it would be nice if things could be arranged so that all requests when to my machines, but that the "noip" server supplied a link if my own servers are unavailable.

This could be done by sending all of the web traffic through the noip server, which then forwards the request to myrealwwwserver.mydomain.net, and then waits for and interprets the reply. I.e. if the reliable server is a man in the middle.

Trouble is, that requires all web traffic to go through the noip server. It also requires maintain connection knbowledge. That's a lot more painful than just providing name service.

---++ Possible Nameservice Hack

I'm not sure, but I think that the following could be done via nameservice:

Provide two DNS nameserver entries for www.mydomain.net:

   * First, highest priority, heavily weighted so it 
     will always be used if available, pointing
     to my unreliable home server.
   * Second, lowest priority, weighted so that it
     will only be used if my unreliable home servers
     are unavailable, pointing to the reliable
     webserver.
Q: can we arrange for "fallback": if the first fails, the second is used? Rather than failing immediately if the first fails?

If so, then the reliable server can point all http://www.mydomain.org/* requests to some default page, where you, hopefully, promise to be back soon and/or explain that you are down while moving.

This is something like backup MX records for mail. Q: Is there something like this for other services? A: yes, the SRV records - although it is not clear if wildcards are possible, providing two SRV/A record sets of different priority might provide the desired behavior.

---+ Network Access Services

By "network access services" I mean actually getting to the Internet. Once on the Internet, you can access your other services.

The most common network access service is probably wired broadband services such as DSL which is necessarily geographic. They change when you move. Unfortunately, such services are nearly always bundled with non-geographic services such as email and web page serving. This results in stuff like your email address changing when you move. (The reason why I am writing this diatribe.)

When travelling, if the place you are visiting has network access that you can use, done. E.g. at a university. Conferences and hotel rooms increasingly provide such access.

---++ Dialup not tied to Telephone Company

If not, dialup network access is desirable. It needs not be tied geographically: it should be in a package independent of your landline telephone company. It is semi-geographic because of issues such as local access numbers or 800 numbers. Similarly for wireless cell phone network access and roaming.

My recent experience moving showed the importance of having dialup service that is not tied to your phone company. Let's say you sell your old house, and live in temporary housing and/or travel around that does not have Internet access until you get a new house (and landline telephone). If your dialup service is tied to your telephone, you lose. Moreover, the fact that when you are between houses and jobs like this is a time that you frequently travel - when, in fact, you may especially want net.access for a job hunt - shows that you don't want just local dialup, but regional or nationwide.

In my case, we did not actually sell our old house; but we moved out of it into our vacation home. We were reluctant to sign up for dialup associated with our vacation home, because we expected to arrive in our new house soon (it took a month longer than expected due to the seller backing out). We expected to get broadband at our new home, which usually comes with dialup, and did not want to pay for two dialup services. We couldn't find "month at a time" dialup; most seemed to need year long contracts, or an association with a physical phone line.

The upshot was that we left our old house telephone connected for several months unnecessarily, in order to maintain our old dialup and email service. Eventually, both died.

In retrospect, dialup associated with the cell phone company might have made more sense, since so far I have kept my cel phone longer than I have lived at any house in the last 5 years. Of course, such dialup would want to be able to use landline whenever possible.

---++ Vacation Home, Satellite

I'm lucky enough to have a vacation home. This presents a quandary: should I pay to have broadband at my vacation home? Paying 50$/month at two different sites is expensive; it is especially annoying that both would come with non-geographic ISP services such as email and webhosting. This wiki page is partially inspired by the wish that, if netywork access were unbundled from the non-geographic services, cost would be reduced.

If wired, it is necessarily geographic. My vacation home, however, cannot get wired DSL or cable modem. The only broadband option is satellite down, telphone up. Satellite presents an interesting geographical situation. Few satellite beams are so precise that they only hit one house. Most use WDM, Wavelength Division Multiplexing; the receiver is tuned. This raises the possibility that several different receivers within the same beam could be tuned to the same downlink channel.

Currently, this seems to be against the satellite company's business model. One account, one receiver. Although you can pay extra for some satellite services, e.g. satellite phone, to be broadcast across the entire US.

Even if two different receivers are not allowed, one could imagine doing something like mounting the receiver on a car. If both main and vacation homes are in the same satellite beam, one satellite broadband bill might suffice. Interestingly, caller ID on the telephone uplink would allow the satellite company to defeat this strategy.

But, would the satellite company really want to defeat this strategy? Perhaps it would be a selling point, compared to the competitors of wired DSL and cable modem: "If you have two homes, satellite broadband is more cost effective."

More generally, the satellite company could be switching particular downlinks from beam to beam - perhaps nationwide, or perhaps in a much more restricted manner, e.g. between the beam for the first and second homes, a restriction that might simplify provisioning. Beam forming could adapt to temporal differences in workload; e.g. vacation home satellite bandwidth would be in more demand on weekends on during summer vacation, and it might be able to move beams from other targets.


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Last edited October 17, 2004 5:37 am by jffwpr04.jf.intel.com (diff)
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