Home > Services of the ASN
ASN provides a number of services to member schools.
ASN's primary mission is to provide world class, cost-effective Internet access for the purposes of education. In this regard, we are fortunate to have access to high speed connectivity through South Africa's NREN, TENET via the SANReN infrastructure. We do not believe that any single member school would be able to procure similarly effective bandwidth and services at a comparable price elsewhere, and we are delighted to be offering our learners a "First World" Internet experience.
ASN's bandwidth purchases are of uncontended bandwidth (i.e. when we purchase X Mb/s, we get X, and do not share it with other customers of our ISP). Most commercial ISPs have 20-50:1 contention ratios, depending on the product.
We have redundant international internet connectivity via both the WACS and SEACOM cables, and our ISP is extensively peered throughout South Africa at all major internet exchange points. Nationally, the local PoP connects to the national networks over links via Port Elizabeth and, through Bhisho, to East London, giving us "east" and "west" links. A schematic of this excellent interconnectivity can be found on the SANReN site.
We at the time of writing (November 2018) have two 1Gb/s internet connections to the SANReN PoP (i.e. a redundant 1Gb/s connection), and purchase around 130 Mb/s of International bandwidth (which is unsaturated). We regularly peak at over 600Mb/s of Internet traffic - and still have room to grow.
We regularly examine our traffic patterns, and upgrade connectivity as and when links saturate, funds allowing.
Our network core is hosted in a high quality datacenter, with redundant power supplies, cooling and a generator. The network core at ASN is furthermore N+1 redundant, so schools with two connections to ASN could have half of the equipment fail without noticing. We believe such "enterprise" level network architecture is not negotiable now that teaching and learning are so often dependent on Internet access - and that administrative functions often grind to a halt without it! Schools typically connect with fibre, over one or more 1Gb/s links.
Our provider edge switches can accommodate up to 10Gb/s, which is particularly useful to schools looking at colocation.
Fixed IP addresses
Member schools are apportioned a number of fixed IPv4 addresses, depending on their membership class and availability of numbering space. We will be delighted to provide IPv6 routing as soon as any member school wishes to use it.
ASN is privileged to have considerable space in a world class datacenter. We are therefore able to offer a reasonable amount of rack space to each school. Note that other than "remote hands", such a server would not be managed by ASN we'll give it power and a network connection, the rest is up to you! Please note that (in line with industry trends towards thermal efficiency and "greener" power usage) the design temperature of this datacenter is 27 degrees in the cool aisle. Typically, such a facility is useful as an "off-site" store for school data. Most schools prefer to host their own general servers in house, as they then have easy physical access to them.
Schools are provided with a domain, typically in the form of <school>.ecape.school.za. ASN will maintain DNS records for such a domain, and on request, can provide authoritative DNS (primary and/or secondary) for any other domain legitimately held by the school.
Of course, without recursive DNS servers, the Internet doesn't work terribly well; schools are welcome to make use of our recursive DNS servers, or run their own.
Accurate time is important. Schools should make use of ASN's NTP services to keep their ICT systems accurate. Due to a number of NTP-related internet "attacks", we do not typically permit members to use NTP servers on the Internet. We try to ensure ours are slaved to the NMISA master clock, which is "official" South African time.
Membership of a "community of practice"
The members of ASN increasingly has access to a pool of professional ICT colleagues with good understanding of the Internet and the particular challenges this can bring to schools. One of the useful effects of the ASN is that we have a "community of practice" within the Grahamstown / Makhanda / iRhini / Makana municipal area that can serve to advise and assist members with meeting ICT needs at schools. Technical staff (or technically inclined teachers) should certainly make use of opportunities to network with other similarly minded people who are at ASN.
Another positive aspect of common goals and a friendly spirit of cooperation is that schools may assist each other in carrying data across their premises or networks to reach the ASN PoP, leveraging "geographic advantages" for the good of (one day!) all learners in the area we serve.
What we don't do
Ultimately, ASN's services now come down to "commodity" internet access and basic DNS and NTP (if desired). There are a few things we don't do.
With the growth in suitable cloud services offered at very low cost (free), ASN no longer offers email services to its members, but is happy to advise schools on suitable alternatives.
Likewise, whilst we are happy to physically host a server or other rack mountable networked gear for a school (and provide "remote hands" when reasonably required), we no longer maintain web servers or similar "managed" infrastructure for our members. It is now relatively easy to run your own webservers, and there are many commercial offerings that will do so very well at a lower cost than we could provide.
In common with most ISPs, we don't filter content. Beyond very basic service provider edge firewalling (i.e. blocking certain "hacks"), we don't filter the Internet at all. Each school must run a firewall of some sort to protect their own networks, and consider how they might filter objectionable content, as per their individual requirements, and whatever the Government may choose to impose in this regard. Maintaining content filters is difficult, and there is no "one size fits all" solution. ASN members have experience with a number of products, and would be happy to give advice on possible solutions.
We don't believe that ASN should do Network Address Translation (NAT). We provide our member schools with some "publicly routable" IPv4 addresses. We will be happy to provide IPv6 routing as soon as any member school wishes to use it. We recognise that schools will typically need to NAT to allow their users online. Should schools require more IPv4 addresses than ASN can provide, they should work with AFRINIC to obtain a suitable allocation at their cost; ASN will be happy to route such address space to the member school.