What is “Port Forwarding” ?

by | Sep 20, 2020 | Cyber Security, FAQ-Group

Port Forwarding is a router configuration that allows an external computer a way to enter the corporate network through the firewall from the outside. It is the only way other VEN manufacturers can achieve so call “Remote Accessibility” to their devices. This is in actuality an unrealistic claim as it would never be allowed by the IT Manager on any corporate network. See Letter to IT Manager

Before you consider using a VEN that requires “Port Forwarding” for remote monitoring and configuration, here are the ramifications should the IT Manager refuse to open a port and allow port forwarding.

1. All installation and configurations have to be done on site by a trained ADR & network technician. This includes setting up the Utility’s Server VTN account. End nodes often need to be installed before the network is set up and before the VTN account is established requiring a second site visit.

GRIDlink’s can be shipped with or without any configuration. They are installed in most cases by electricians with just a wiring diagram. Once power is supplied and a CAT5E cable with access to the Internet is provided, there are LED indicators which tell the installer the network is OK and the GRIDlink has connected to the VTN server.

GRIDlink then sends a request for any instructions to the GRIDview Cloud Server. All commands, configuration files, control programs and firmware upgrades are waiting. These files are pulled down, unpacked and processed. A confirmation with status of all points is pushed back up achieving full remote accessibility with only outbound network traffic originating from behind the firewall making the IT Manager very happy. 

2. The customer will then be required to manage, support and make sure the firmware updates are installed. This means someone on site has to be fully engaged and trained on all set up and configuration procedures.

GRIDlink is fully managed as part of the GRIDview support provided free for the first year and at a nominal cost for follow on years. The customer can opt out of the renewal which can be re-established at any time buy purchasing a support package.

3. Any customer question, perceived problem or the viability of the VEN to participate in the next event requires either a site visit or a protracted phone conversation with a 3rd party software connection into the device.

GRIDlink passes up it’s health status, connection to the VTN and quality of network connection to the GRIDview Cloud which are then logged with trend screens. Our tech support can immediately call up data and determine where the problem lies. It is most often found in the customer’s network. Generally we will know about a problem before the customer calls.

4. There will be no way of remotely knowing if the VEN is working until the Utility sends an email that the connection has been lost. It requires someone on site stay on top of operational status. Some manufacturers need to call their customers to check if their product is working at the beginning of the DR season.

GRIDlink has 100% remote connectivity with full email & SMS text for offline incidents and alarms. In addition it also logs important data which also includes logs of the VTN connections. There has been several occasions where the Utility sent an offline notification to a customer causing considerable concern. Within a few minutes we saw in the logs that it occurred over the weekend and that multiple GRIDlinks experienced the same problem at exactly the same time. We determined quickly that the VTN server was probably having some maintenance done and the Utility was unaware.