Thursday, January 16, 2020

Escape the High Cost of Bonded T1 Lines

By: John Shepler

The T1 line was the first professional-grade digital communications pipe. Over a half-century later, it is still widely used for point to point private lines and for PRI telephone trunking. It also makes an excellent first mile link for dedicated Internet access for small business. While the price of T1 lines have dropped dramatically over the years, it can still be a pricey solution, especially if you need to bond several together to get enough bandwidth. Are there any good alternatives?

Best the high cost of bonded T1 lines.The Good and the Bad of T1 Lines
At first, T1 lines were the only game in town. Once fiber became available with much higher bandwidth, T1 still had a cost advantage in the days before broadband everything. Would you believe that 1.5 Mbps was pretty impressive back in the day? It’s a symmetrical 1.5 Mbps. That’s the same speed in both directions. It’s also full duplex or both directions at the same time. T1 is a dedicated line. You have all the bandwidth and if you don’t use it, it just sits there idle until you do.

Bonded T1 Lines Increase Speed
Bonding is a process of making big lines out of little ones. If you bond two T1 lines, you get 3 Mbps. Four lines gets you 6 Mbps. Six lines and you have a respectable 9 Mbps. I understand that in the wilds of Alaska they’ll bond 8 or 10 lines together. That’s about the limit.

Now, the downside. Those 2, 4 or 6 bonded lines cost 2, 4 or 6 times as much as one T1 line. There’s no economy of scale. At, say, several hundred dollars a month each, that’s gets pretty pricey pretty fast. For that much money, why not just get a fiber optic connection?

Fiber Instead of Copper
Fiber, indeed. A nice side effect of the big telecom move to 4G LTE and 5G wireless is that the T1 lines they used to run to cell towers can’t possibly deliver the bandwidth. So, there has been a big buildout of fiber to the tower along with wireless fiber, also known as microwave transmission. That means that fiber service is far more available than it used to be. It’s also a lot less expensive due to increased competition from new providers and a technology switch from SONET to Carrier Ethernet. If you haven’t checked out fiber pricing and availability in awhile, you may be surprised at what has popped up while you weren’t looking.

Keep the Copper, But Use Ethernet
All that twisted pair copper in the ground can still be used to deliver decent bandwidths by bonding it for Ethernet over Copper instead of T1. EoC is a different technology and can deliver 10 or 20 Mbps easily. The downside is that bandwidth falls off rapidly with distance. This approach works best in populated areas where a telco office isn’t far away. If you can get it, Ethernet over Copper is very affordable and gives you the performance of bonded T1 at a fraction of the cost per Mbps.

How About Cable?
I’m amazed how many times prospective customers ask for gigabit fiber or dark fiber but wind up buying cable broadband. Why? Cable has a tremendous cost advantage. You can often get fiber bandwidths at T1 prices and most service levels are easily afforded by any business. The bandwidth is shared, not dedicated. It’s also asymmetrical, meaning that the download speed can be ten times the upload speed or more. These may or may not be issues, depending on how you use the service. Some applications just won’t tolerate anything but a private line. Most everything we do everyday isn’t that demanding. Many cable services have consistently high bandwidth and low latency. What hiccups there are tend to be transitory and long term outages have become rare on the major service providers.

Mix and Match
To get the right combination of performance and cost, you might want to consider a combination of services. For VoIP telephony and maybe business processes in the cloud, get a dedicated T1 or fiber connection. For general Internet use or customer WiFi, business cable broadband gives you a lot of performance for the price. Run the networks separately or use an SD-WAN system to intelligently direct traffic.

What bandwidth options are best for your business? Get pricing and availability on a wide variety of bandwidth services now so you can make the best decision and perhaps save considerable cost as well.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

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Monday, December 09, 2019

How to Get Stable Upload and Download Speeds

By: John Shepler

A solid connection is a wonderful thing to have. Have you been scratching your head, wondering why your upload and download speeds vary all over the place? It’s likely the nature of the bandwidth connection you’ve chosen.

Avoid the congestion with dedicated bandwidthWhy Can’t It Be Like a LAN?
Most of us are spoiled when it comes to local area network connections. Our computing equipment comes with Gigabit or at least Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) network interfaces right out of the box. Cat5E and Cat6 cables are common now, as are gigabit routers and switches. Even WiFi runs fast, especially on the 5 GHz band. Unless your network is overloaded, it’s transparent to you.

So why is communications so sluggish and unreliable on Internet broadband or other long distance connections?

We forget. In the early days of setting up local computer networks, they were sluggish too. Even then, it didn’t seem too bad compared to dial-up modems or X.25 links at 64 Kbps. What’s happened is that LAN networking technology has sped up by leaps and bounds and equipment prices have plunged dramatically. You have to make a real effort just to buy the slow stuff anymore.

The same technological advancements have also applied to Internet and private line connections. The cost savings haven’t been quite as dramatic and there still is a wide range of connectivity in use.

What Makes Line Speeds Vary
General sluggishness is usually due to congestion caused by low bandwidth or a shared link that is over-subscribed. Speeds that vary all over the place are usually due to shared bandwidth with periods of heavy usage that come and go. You might run a speed test and get 100 Mbps. A few minutes later you run the same test and get 10 Mbps for worse. That congestion will eventually let up, but you have no idea how soon.

Any system with multiple users that can’t support full speed simultaneous connections is going to have variations. Those cable broadband options that have such great pricing are subscribed to the point that they keep most users happy most of the time. But they are a shared resource and you can’t be sure how many of your fellow users are on at the same time or what they’ll be doing.

The same is true of 4G LTE wireless and will be true of 5G once there are enough devices deployed to sop up the bandwidth. Radio frequencies used in cellular and satellite have limited capacity, which is why they have data caps and also why too many users will drag the speed down.

In general, any bandwidth service with pricing attractive to consumers is going to be a shared service and also likely to be asymmetrical. In other words, the download speed will be much faster than the upload speed.

Dedicated Connections for Solid Bandwidth

You’ll get far more consistent performance from dedicated bandwidth. Do you remember T1 lines? Perhaps you still have one. The 1.5 Mbps speed is no longer accepted as broadband, but the performance is rock solid. That’s because you are the only user on the line. Whatever bandwidth you aren’t consuming just idles.

For point to point phone and data connections or interconnecting LAN networks at two different locations, dedicated private line bandwidth can’t be beat. Yes, it will cost a bit more than the commodity shared bandwidth services, but the performance will be rock solid. You’ll also see an improvement on the Internet with dedicated Internet access, but once you’re into the actual Internet, you can still get variability and latency issues.

This means your best connection to your cloud service provider is to bypass the Internet completely and install a dedicated private line from your location to the cloud center. Once you have that with enough bandwidth to support your peak activities, the cloud will seem like it is right next door.

Those T1 lines? Probably not going to cut it anymore, unless you are doing such simple tasks as email, casual web browsing and point of sale credit card verification. You’ll want to upgrade to at least Ethernet over Copper at 10 or 20 Mbps. A even better option is Fiber Optic Ethernet at 10 Mbps up to 10 Gbps and any speed in-between. Fiber bandwidth prices have dropped significantly in the last few years and availability has dramatically increased. You can thank 4G LTE and 5G cell towers for that, as well as competitive fiber optic service providers.

Are you frustrated by slow and highly varying bandwidth? How about VoIP phone service that is good one call and garbled the next? You should really look into dedicated bandwidth solutions including private lines and dedicated Internet access to improve your metropolitan and wide area network performance.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Is Connection Latency Important to Your Business?

By: John Shepler

We may be inclined to think that connection speed is the most important consideration for private lines and Internet access. If web pages are loading slowly and files take forever to move, then clearly the network is starved for bandwidth. Just order more Mbps or even Gbps and everything will straighten out, right? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes no. There is another network consideration that can affect your business big time. That is latency.

Improve your line latency now.What Does Latency Mean?
Latency is a time lag. Nothing happens instantaneously, but if the time lag is short enough it will seem that way. You know the expression, “in the blink of an eye”? That’s low latency.

In computing, you experience latency as applications that just don’t keep up with what you are doing. If you press a key and it doesn’t appear on the screen for a split second, you’ve got latency. If you type a command and nothing happens for a second, that’s latency.

When operating on local area networks and in-house data centers, latency may not be all that noticeable. Programs are responsive. Video is nice and smooth. Files move quickly. If the system can keep up with you, latency just isn’t an issue.

When Latency is Noticeable
You often get your first taste of latency when you connect to the Internet or the cloud. Suddenly things seem to be a tad sluggish. It gets destructive when the system is so slow to respond that it interrupts your workflow. You almost feel like you’ve gone back to the days of batch processing where you submit a program and wait for the results to print out.

Worst case latency shows up in real-time processes. VoIP telephony gets a bad name when latency exceeds a hundred milliseconds or two. On a phone call, you expect to carry on a normal conversation. That includes both sides talking at once sometimes. If you ask a question and don’t get a response immediately, you might start taking agin. Right then, you hear the other person’s response just as you say something else. It quickly becomes intolerable. If you are stuck with the situation, you can work around it by consciously taking turns, like you would with a two-way radio.

Higher Bandwidth, Lower Latency
One cause of latency is network traffic jams or congestion. In any size WAN pipe, expressed by bandwidth in Mbps or Gbps, you can only send so many packets per second. If you try to send more, they pile up in a transmission buffer or, worse, get dropped. The fix for this type of latency problem is to simply add more capacity. If your T1 line is full, a 10 Mbps Ethernet line may be way more than enough. Likewise you may really need 100 Mbps or a full Gigabit per second for the connection to appear transparent.

Another way to relieve latency-induced madness is to prioritize traffic. Real time processes like VoIP telephony and teleconferencing take highest priority and can work great on even limited capacity lines. As long as there is still some bandwidth left, you should prioritize business applications in the cloud next and file transfers and backups last. If you run out of bandwidth so that the lowest level processes never finish or take forever, you need to add more bandwidth, pure and simple.

Higher Bandwidth, Same Latency
What happens if you increase your bandwidth by 10x or 100x and nothing improves? “Hello, is this line working?”

With congestion relieved, something else must be slowing things down. Remember that latency is simply a time delay between transmission and reception and that nothing happens instantly. Signals can move only as fast as the speed of light, which even at 186,000 miles per second turns out to be 186 miles per millisecond. If both ends of the connection are 1,860 miles apart, you’ve got a built-in transmission time of 10 mSec each way or 20 msec total. If you need lower latency than this you’ll just have to move closer.

Know that light through fiber optic cable and transmission equipment may impose an additional penalty over a third more than ideal latency. Still not a big problem, as latencies in the tens of millisecond range are not bothersome for nearly all processes. But, what if that connection goes to a geosynchronous satellite? Now you are talking maybe 500 msec round trip. That’s most definitely noticeable and probably a show-stopper for most phone calls and some cloud services. This is why the new Low Earth Orbit satellite constellations are so eagerly anticipated. At distances of a few hundred miles up instead of thousands, latency can be back to nearly fiber optic line performance.

Other latency issues can be traced to network equipment that isn’t working correctly or the inherent nature of the good old Internet. Remember that the Internet was designed by the defense department to be robust and not particularly efficient. Packet routing can take long and convoluted paths and suffer various levels of congestion within the Internet. If you are using a shared bandwidth service, such as cable broadband, DSL, satellite or cellular broadband, other users can clog the link and up goes your latency. Even more maddening, performance can vary from minute to minute so you have no consistency. Dedicated direct connections to your cloud provider can dramatically improve performance if this is your problem.

Are you having network performance issues, especially if you’ve recently moved from an in-house data center to the cloud? Your cloud service can be working perfectly well even though it seems to drag. You might be surprised by ping testing your line and discovering that it is the weak link in the system. Find out now what low latency bandwidth options are available and what it costs to upgrade and relieve your performance issues.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Can Satellite Be Part of Your SD-WAN?

By: John Shepler

Software Defined Networks (SDN) or Software Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) are being implemented more and more to provide high quality business bandwidth at lower costs. In some cases, SD-WAN is the only way to get decent bandwidth levels in rural and remote areas. You might think of these software defined networks as a potpourri of different connection technologies, but it’s more than that. it’s an intelligent approach to making the most of every connection available, including satellite.

Consider satellite as part of your SD-WAN solutionWhy The Need For SD Networks
Say you want to connect to the Internet or to your cloud service provider. Traditionally, you’ve done that by ordering up a “last mile” connection from your business location to the Internet or a private point to point line between two locations, such as your office and your cloud provider.

That’s great as long as there are providers who can give you all the bandwidth you need and at a price that won’t choke your business. The problem is that you often overpay for premium bandwidth that goes unused or settle for what the budget can handle and regret the performance limitations every day.

In reality, different tasks have different connection requirements. Telephone lines for a call center or even ordinary office use don’t need tremendous amounts of bandwidth but are highly sensitive to latency, jitter and packet loss. Backing up files to a remote data center or storage in the cloud is fairly insensitive to the latency, jitter and packet loss characteristics but needs lots of bandwidth to get done in a reasonable time.

This is where SDN / SD-WAN work their magic. An intelligent processor acts as a traffic manager for each and every packet entering the network. Those voice packets get routed to a dedicated high performance but limited bandwidth circuit like like a T1 or ISDN PRI. File backups can go via cable broadband or as lower priority on the T1 or fiber optic line. Business applications in the cloud need reliability and quick response. They’ll go over a high performance connection.

How SD Networks Optimize Cost
The processing power within the SDN controller makes note of what each type of traffic needs. You’ve told it that. The processor is also constantly monitoring the status of each connection that you’ve provided it. It can truly be a potpourri of T1, DS3, cable broadband, 4G and 5G wireless, Point to Point Microwave, Ethernet over Copper, Ethernet over Fiber, SONET, MPLS networks, DSL, and two-way Satellite.

What’s key is that the controller knows at each instant how each connection is performing. Low cost connections aren’t always low performing. That DSL or cable link might be zooming along right now. The low cost usually comes from these being shared rather than dedicated connections. Other users, not in your company, can be hogging bandwidth and creating congestion to slow you down.

Satellite may well have excellent speed and low packet loss. The geosynchronous satellites now in service do have long latency times that can’t be avoided. That can be an issue with voice and video conversations, but makes little difference for file transfers or downloaded video.

Wireless connections in general have usage limits simply because wireless bandwidth is a scarce resource. SDN needs to be mindful of that in assigning the connections to avoid bandwidth slowdowns or additional charges.

The point is that you don’t need to buy the most expensive bandwidth solution in many cases. You won’t be able to load up that line 100% of the time with traffic that absolutely needs it. SDN / SD-WAN can ensure that your costly connections get used to the max but offload traffic that doesn’t need such high performance to a lower cost link. You also gain the advantage of automatic failover in case one of your links fails.

When Availability Is Most Important
There are many locations in rural America where you can stand outside and waive a fist full of money to buy connectivity and have no takers. This is where an SD network solution can really help. The newer high bandwidth satellites offer fast speeds and quality connections. You can include a dedicated SIP trunk based on a T1 line for your VoIP phone calls to get around the latency issue. it is likely that cellular broadband is also available in most areas. Combine these and you may well get all the bandwidth you need with the performance you also need without having to pay a fortune to bring in a fiber cable… if anyone will even do it.

Are you frustrated with either the cost of connectivity or its availability? This would be a good time to look into SDN / SD-WAN solutions that can give you the performance you need at a cost you can afford.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

Various Flavors of Business Internet Access

By: John Shepler

You might think that the Internet is the Internet, but how you connect to it makes a big difference in the performance you experience. What is your best bet? Is it Dedicated or Shared Internet Access?

Find Business Internet Connection Options now.What is Dedicated Internet Access?
There are actually two ways to connect to the Internet. One is Shared Internet Access, which is the basis of consumer and most wireless services. The other is Dedicated Internet Access or DIA.

Dedicated Access is similar to how you run your own in-house network. You have ownership and control of the bandwidth. No other company can come in and hog your bandwidth. If you allow vendors or customers to connect to the network, you control that access so you decide who can use what resources.

You don’t own the Internet. Nobody does. The core of the Internet is an extremely high bandwidth infrastructure provided and operated by Tier 1 telecom carriers. Smaller carriers and local Internet service providers pay to have their traffic carried through the core. What you want is performance closest to what is experienced in the core. That’s dedicated access.

How Does Dedicated Internet Access Work?
You contract with an incumbent or competitive telecom carrier for a line that connects through their network core to the core of the internet. All the traffic on that line is under your control. Once it enters a carrier’s network you depend on their expertise and abundance of resources to ensure that you’ll have adequate bandwidth without congestion, latency, jitter or packet loss.

Isn’t Shared Internet Access a Better Deal?
Shared Internet Access is a much lower cost option for one simple reason: It’s shared. Here’s how that works. An Internet Service Provider who sells directly to consumers and small businesses leases a Dedicated Internet Access line, usually a fairly high bandwidth fiber optic line. That provider then multiplexes or divides that bandwidth among many customers. The maximum bandwidth you can use is rate limited to the plan you purchase.

Of course, the actual bandwidth you experience depends on how many other customers are online at the same time and what they are doing. There can be lots of users browsing the Web and not slow each other down. If many users are downloading video or large files from their cloud providers, the total bandwidth will exceed the capacity of the provider’s line and each customer will only get a fair share of that line. Providers can’t provision enough capacity for worst-case traffic conditions and keep the price reasonable, so you can expect your bandwidth to vary.

So, you have a decision to make. If you don’t use cloud services or have a requirement for constant high performance to ensure employee productivity, you might well benefit from the cost savings of cable broadband, satellite, or cellular broadband.

When Even Higher Performance is Required
The Internet is the Internet and it was designed to be robust in maintaining connections and not focused on bandwidth, latency or security. Congestion can happen even in the core and performance can vary on a minute by minute basis. Even a dedicated access line can’t change the inherent nature of this public resource.

The way to improve long distance network performance is to stay off the Internet for everything that doesn’t need it. Have a direct connection to your cloud service provider for business processes and certainly for VoIP telephony or Unified Communications. Use private point to point lines to connect business sites outside your headquarters. A usually acceptable option is the MPLS network, which is a form of privately run Internet. There are multiple users on this network, but the net is run to ensure every customer has all the resources they need. MPLS networks do not connect to the general public, so you will still need the Internet to interact with most customers.

A newer technology that improves Internet performance is the SDN or Software Defined Network, also called a SD-WAN or Software Defined Wide Area Network. This is a system that integrates multiple Internet access lines and manages them to assign the highest performance paths to the most critical functions. You can plug-in a dedicated T1 or Ethernet line, a cable broadband line, a 4G or 5G wireless modem or a two-way satellite transceiver and let the SD-WAN box decide which packets go where. It gives you redundancy so that you almost always have Internet access and can cost less than a dedicated high speed line that might not be used to capacity all the time.

How do you need to connect to the Internet? Will Dedicated or Shared Internet Access work best? Find out what bandwidth options and pricing are available for your business locations.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

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