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3 Steps for Preparing Your Network for IPv6

July 11, 2011 - 1 Comment

IPv6 is coming—are you ready to make the transition?

The next generation of Internet networking protocol—IPv6—is coming and companies of all sizes are preparing their networks for it now. IPv6 makes room for more people, more companies, and more devices on the Internet than the current Internet protocol, IPv4.  IPv6 provides better security, faster performance over virtual private networks (VPN), and makes local networks easier to manage. The new protocol also offers improved quality of service (QoS) for more reliable voice and video performance and ensures better coverage and throughput for mobile devices.

Eventually IPv6 will be the only Internet protocol in use. Since IPv6 is not compatible with IPv4, in order to ensure business continuity and future growth, all organizations need to carefully plan for coexistence between IPv4 and IPv6. Thus, every device that connects to the Internet must support the new standard or may require certain translation protocols to run IPv6 and IPv4 devices in parallel in the network. The transition to IPv6 can be smooth with the right preparation. And because the move to the new protocol won’t happen overnight, there’s plenty of time for small businesses to phase in IPv6.

Here are three steps you can take now to start preparing your network for IPv6 traffic:

Step 1: Preserve by auditing your existing systems for IPv6 compliance

You should check all the devices connected to your network for IPv6 compliance, including routers and switches as well as security appliances, firewalls, and intrusion prevention systems. Some of your networking devices may already support IPv6 if you bought them within the last two years. If your routers, switches, and security devices are five or more years old, however, chances are they don’t support IPv6 and will need to be upgraded. When you purchase new network components, make sure they’re designed with native support for IPv6. You can look for products that are certified IPv6 Ready like the Cisco RV110W Wireless-N VPN Firewall.

To check if your web-enabled devices support IPv6 connectivity, this readiness test will provide immediate information.

Step 2: Prepare by making a plan and starting a managed migration

The next step in preparing your network for IPv6 is to implement dual-stack. In a dual-stack network, devices like routers and switches run both IPv4 and IPv6 at the same time but will choose IPv6 as the preferred protocol if possible. By using dual-stack, you can phase in the new network protocol and gradually migrate your core networking components, such as routers and switches, to IPv6 and then all of your endpoints, such as PCs and applications, including operating systems.

Software can be dual-stacked, too. Check with your software vendors to determine whether your applications are compatible with IPv6. For most smaller companies, dual-stack software will be the later phase of your IPv6 migration.

Step 3: Ensure external facing systems support IPv6

Finally, make sure the servers and software that connect your business to the Internet are IPv6 ready. For small companies, this is probably the easiest step if your web and email servers are hosted. Check with your Internet service provider (ISP) to make sure your hosted email, web, and Domain Name System (DNS) servers are compatible with the new protocol. Also ask if your ISP currently provides IPv6 connectivity and when your company’s website will be available as an IPv6 site.

Prosper by expanding innovation and productivity

The paybacks of IPv6 transition can be huge—especially related to improved support for mobility, better security, innovative platforms, applications and services and productivity gains resulting from simplified network administration.

Find additional tips on how to plan your small business’s transition to IPv6 here. If the migration to IPv6 sounds like more than your company can—or wants to—handle, Cisco offers a range of services and resources on how to make the transition to IPv6. For more information on IPv6, please visit the Cisco Support Community on IPv6 or the Cisco Small Business Support Community.

Has your company started the transition to IPv6? Tell us!

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  1. Good advice for someone first starting to research IPv6.