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DLNA and UPnP AV in the business

Originally posted: 5 January 2009, Updated 6 July 2009

Very often, DLNA and UPnP AV are typically marketed as being for use in the home due to the reduced amount of configuration needed for devices that comply to these standards. But devices based on these standards can appeal to business use, especially to small “mum and dad” shops, community / religious organisations and other similar businesses who don’t have regular access to “big business” IT resources.

The functionality is typically available as low-cost or free software or, in some cases like Windows XP and Vista, available as part of the operating system. There are some “business-grade” network-attached storage boxes that have the functionality for business continuity as well as the ability to work as DLNA-compliant media servers.

The main issue that one will have with this kind of setup will be that the network that you intend to connect the equipment on must be on the same subnet or logical network, served by the same DHCP server. This will be fine for most small-business, and SOHO networks, including the “private” segment of networks that provide Internet access to the public such as wireless hotspots and Internet cafes.

If you are concerned about security of business data or the integrity of business systems, you could run a separate server for the DLNA-presented media data rather than use the main server for this purpose. Then you can lock down the main server as tightly as it should be for the data.

Visual Merchandising

DLNA-based setups can come in to their own when it comes to all sorts of visual merchandising applications. This is more so for small businesses who cannot afford to buy business-grade "digital signage" or find the "digital signage" difficult to manage due to complex setup requirements.

You can have images or videos of products that are always kept fresh and up-to-date and can intermingle these images and videos with up-to-date “electronic signage” that you create with programs like Microsoft PowerPoint. The best example of this being used would be the real-estate agent who uses the setup to show pictures of the houses he has currently for sale or a beauty salon showing examples of the most fashionable hairstyles they have done lately.

A DLNA-compliant network electronic picture frame like the Kodak EX1011 or the D-Link DSM-210 can work wonders here as can any DLNA-compliant network media receiver (or games console) hooked up to a large flat-screen TV or monitor. Similarly, a DLNA-compliant flat-screen TV like one of Sony’s recent LCD TVs can fulfil the same needs here, especially now that the cost of these sets in in affordable territory and the sets are available from most electrical retailers.

The media server can be part of the file server’s functions or can be hosted on a separate box such as a network-attached storage unit. You just need to add the media to this server by using a standard network file-transfer protocol like SMB or FTP.

You will need to make sure that the media server presents the files either by keywords (tags) and / or folders of the file system so that you can file the pictures how you want to file them. Windows Media Player and TwonkyMedia do support working by keywords and folders.

If you use a presentation program like Microsoft PowerPoint to create “electronic signage”, you just need to export all of the slides in your presentation as JPEG files in to a folder available to the media server. This is done in PowerPoint by opening the presentation and selecting “File” – “Save As” and selecting “JPEG” as the file type. You then have the option of exporting the current slide as a JPEG or exporting all the slides in the presentation as JPEG files in a folder named after the title of the presentation.

Background Music

If you are sick and tired of the radio or those business-to-business music services, you can use a computer as a music server, with the music playing out through a DLNA-compliant network media player such as one of those Internet radios.

As I have mentioned in my previous DLNA feature articles, it is very easy to do whether you decide to use a computer or a network-attached storage box as a media server. Most of the network-enabled music players support shuffle-play which can be very useful for this application and a lot of them have a line-out connection so you can connect them to a public-address amplifier or music-on-hold interface.

Education – The media library

A DLNA-based media system can work well when it comes to education. It doesn’t matter whether the idea is to show a video to a class or whether a student is viewing a video they saw in class “once more” in the library.

A capable DLNA media server with a properly-indexed media collection can work wonders here, with the users selecting the AV material through the DLNA media player’s user interface. Most such players can connect to existing AV equipment or the DLNA functionality can be part of the equipment’s functionality.

Similarly, if the media server provides it, you could allow Web-based access via any computer connected to the facility’s network. This can allow wireless-linked computers to be used to “pull up” the learning resources.

Other business-based DLNA applications

DLNA is eventually heading in the direction of a common IP-hosted data system for transferring media between portable and fixed devices. A typical application may include uploading images and movies from a digital camera or camcorder to a “base” computer for editing and viewing. Similarly, there may be the application of downloading AV material from a computer to a smartphone so it can be viewed on that phone’s display.

Conclusion

What needs to happen is that DLNA needs to be viewed as not just being for the home but being for business and educational life as well.

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6 July 2009 Posted by | SOHO / Small business computer setups, UPnP AV / DLNA | , , | 5 Comments

Teleworking Best Practices

Pandemic Preparedness: Teleworking Best Practices | Wi-Fi Planet

My comments on this topic

In the article referenced from this post, the last few paragraphs talked about being prepared for teleworking whatever the “raison du jour” was. This was because whenever there was a national security incident, a natural disaster or a plague, the concept of telecommuting would be raised through business discussions. But whenever these risks subside, telecommuting falls off the agenda.

I personally consider the concept of teleworking as something to be factored in to everyday office life no matter the national or global situation. One application I think of very heavily would be for workers who end up doing double-duty as family carers, such as for ill or convalescing children; or elderly parents.

As well, it may appeal to people who are approaching the end of their tenure at the business to be able to increase being used to staying home rather than at the office. This is more so with family-run businesses where there is an increased risk of “living in the office” even as their active tenure comes to a close.

Similarly, it could also allow larger office-based employers to reach talent pools that exist in rural communities for some of their office jobs. The employers can be able to then work from home for most of their working month, but come in to the office for meetings and similar activities.

The way to technically prepare for teleworking would be to ensure that there is a good-quality secure Internet link to the office, such as a VPN, and consider the use of a VoIP or other “virtual extension” setup for the telephone. A webcam can be handy if you intend to do some video-conferencing with the office.

As far as the printer is concerned, make sure that you can print out any workplace documents with it. This may involve making sure that any “remote-desktop” programs can work with your local printer.

Small businesses can look towards using LogMeIn or GoToMyPC as a quick-setup remote-desktop tool, especially if you use “home” versions of Windows operating systems in the office or you don’t have much computing knowledge. If you use a “pro” or “business” version of Windows and have a fair bit of computing knowledge, it may be worth knowing how to user the Remote Desktop functionality.

As far as your VoIP or “virtual extension” setup is concerned, it may be worth making sure that your system can be capable of allowing the same extension number to be easily switched between two or more physical terminals, like a softphone program, VoIP handset or classic fixed or mobile telephone. This can permit the phone system to work with your work-home life.

Once you have a setup that allows you to do your work at home, you can be ready to work from home at a moment’s notice.

25 May 2009 Posted by | Network Activities, SOHO / Small business computer setups | , , | 1 Comment