Product Illustration
BackNovember 17, 2022
Author: Tom Daly

Enable Sonos or Roku Remote Access with a Layer 2 Network

Enable Sonos or Roku Remote Access with a Layer 2 Network

A/V Integrators: Never port forward or set up DHCP reservations again.

The scope of an A/V Integrator’s work is expanding to include the world of networking and IT. Every device in a home is being networked; including audio and video streaming devices, audio and video routers, mixers, lighting controls, and even HVAC controls. The world of cloud computing is moving into the world of these devices, so many of them offer cloud-managed remote access options. However, many platforms do not, nor do they offer neutered versions of their capabilities remotely.

There are other devices, like certain HVAC controllers, that don’t require local network access. As such, the common approach is to: a) Setup Dynamic DNS to the home’s WAN router; b) Create a Port Forward; c) Assign the HVAC controller a Static IP address or set up a Static DHCP reservation. The A/V Integrator is forced to manage and remember the complexity of the router’s port forwarding configuration and which port was forwarded (e.g. was it https://myhome.dyndns.org:8080 or https://myhome.dyndns.org:8088???)

As we’ve blogged about in the past, a new device is exposed to the general maliciousness of the Internet at large, creating a vector for infiltration and infection into a customer site. Ask any IT Director about his or her fear of “lateral movement” attacks due to IoT devices, and they will most certainly have a story to share.

The Problem

Though we live in a highly networked society, A/V Integrators are continuously forced to roll their trucks for service calls just to obtain local network access to configure, debug, and troubleshoot devices. With an eye on the environment, fuel costs, and the rising cost of staff, A/V Integrators are seeking new and novel ways to remotely diagnose and solve customer’s challenges without rolling a truck and technician to the customer site. The reputation of a high end A/V integrator is often equated to the speed of response to a customer stating “my Sonos needs troubleshooting” or “my Roku remote online isn’t working…”

Partial Solutions

Fortunately, Big Network has a few early adopters who are willing to share their experiences with us. From these experiences, two particular use cases came to our attention: the popular Sonos music streaming system and Roku’s video streaming boxes.

Both of these devices have some element of Cloud capabilities (for example, streaming Spotify on Sonos requires a cloud service in the middle), but they are not 100% remotely manageable via the Cloud. They require an on-premise presence to fully install, debug, or troubleshoot. At a technical level, they require native Layer 2 network access for device discovery.

We have heard some stories about work-arounds to the challenges:

  • Set up Dynamic DNS, create Port Forwards, and set Static IPs as described above. This exposes inherently insecure devices to the maliciousness of the day-to-day Internet that they aren’t designed to withstand.
  • Install a Windows desktop machine running any of TeamViewer, Go To My PC, or Remote Desktop Connection, as a dedicated host for A/V systems management. Often this machine will go unpatched and unmonitored for long periods of time.
  • Set up some type of Remote Access VPN, noting that most VPN solutions rely on Layer 3 routing, thereby breaking common Layer 2 device discovery.
  • Do some mix of the above, introduce complexity and fragility to the system, and end up rolling a truck anyways.

Our Solution: Big Network for the A/V Integrator

Roku Sonos 2

What it is:

Big Network has designed a unique solution: Layer 2 Remote Access, configured and managed from the Cloud to the on-premise network, that is securely encrypted and transported over the Internet. This means that A/V Integrators can extend NATIVELY the Layer 2 network with their devices back to their workplaces as though they are ON-SITE.

How to deploy:

Edge Lite acts as the gateway to the Client Site. You should deploy this device to the Client site, on-board it, and create its own Layer 2 Cloud Network.

Now, use a second Edge Lite as a Layer 2 gateway at your workplace. Plug an Ethernet cable between your 2nd Edge Lite to your PC or Tablet (Lighting to Ethernet and USB-C to Ethernet adapters help with this) and you will be on-network with your Client site - DHCP even works!

Read our configuration guide on Point to Point L2 networks in our Knowledge Base.

Use Cases: Sonos, Roku, and Presonus

Roku Sonos 1

We tested this case with a few different devices over the last couple cases: the Sonos music streaming platform, the Roku video streaming system, and Presonus’ audio mixers. Each of these devices connect to local networks, but have none or very limited remote management capabilities. Here is what we learned:

Sonos System: Sonos Music Streaming

In our test, we used a Sonos system with a mix of original Play:5 and Play:3 Speakers and the S1 Controller App. The “client site” was deployed with an Edge Lite and Layer 2 Cloud Network on standard Comcast Cable Modem service. The “technician site” was connected via an Edge Lite and Consolidated DSL service. Plenty of Internet in the way to prevent this from working!

Joyfully, once we plugged the technician site Edge Lite into an iPad (via a USB-C to Ethernet adapter), the Sonos system came to life and all functions became available as though we were in the same building. This provided full remote access to all Sonos functions, allowing for flexibility for remote Sonos troubleshooting!

Roku Video Streaming

For our next test, we changed up the configuration to target the Roku Video Streamer using the Roku App on iOS. This time, our “client site” was about 60 miles north and connected via Breezeline Cable Modem service. With our “technician site” connected via Consolidated DSL 60 miles south, we established a secure Layer 2 LAN extension, popped open the Roku app, and our devices appeared!

Presonus Audio Mixer

The last test: similar to the Roku, except with a Presonus Networked Audio Mixer. The same experience - plugged in the “technician site” Edge Lite, configured the Cloud Network, plugged in the iPad, got a DHCP lease, launched the Presonus UC Surface app, and our network of devices was found!

Conclusion: Layer 2 Networking Solves Problems

We were delighted to work with some early adopters of Big Network to find some of these real world applications for Layer 2 network extensions. Our offering is differentiated from many solutions because we operate our tunnels at Layer 2, while most Remote Access VPN or SD-WAN solutions are based upon Layer 3 routed connections.Those Layer 3 routed connections are often appropriate for the enterprise but not for consumer or prosumer applications.

Moreover, we’re delighted to show our customers and prospects that there are MUCH better ways to securely enable remote access to client sites that don’t involve the security hazards of Port Forwarding or unpatched remote access PCs. We can all derive great value from having these devices online, but they simply don’t need access to the wide open Internet.

If you’re an A/V Integrator and you want to seamlessly manage your client’s on-site devices without rolling a truck, we invite you to give Big Network a try. Sign up through the Big Network Portal to get started!