Thursday, January 22, 2015

Now VoIP is Spelled C-L-O-U-D

By: John Shepler

Thomas Edison first hears about VoIP telephone technology. Get this poster for yourself.When VoIP telephony first appeared on the scene, it looked distinctly like a different way to make a phone line. In fact, a lot of the motivation in switching technologies was based on trying to avoid long distance toll charges on the PSTN. We’ve come a long way from Analog Telephone Adaptors (ATA) to IP PBX. The next big migration is away from in-house VoIP systems and out to the cloud. It’s a migration that could easily turn into a stampede.

The Need For Speed
What’s driving the continuing innovation in VoIP technology? It’s all part of the business reorientation away from ownership. The “great recession” exacerbated a trend that was already underway. Business wants and needs to be nimble. Timelines that used to be measured in years are now months. This is especially true for seasonal businesses, but can affect everybody. Why do you want to be stuck with assets that are too much or too little for what you need right now? Why, indeed, when you have to option to match resources to needs on the fly?

Nimble is the Cloud
That’s the promise of the cloud. As one tenant among many at a datacenter with seemingly unlimited resources, you can quickly scale up and down as needed. It’s unlikely that your needs will tax the system or leave it sitting idle. If the providers are doing their jobs, there will be plenty of capacity for everyone and enough in reserve to handle unexpected requirements.

Contrast that with running your own data center in-house. Running out of capacity? You better get to work preparing the justification and requests for more capital. Then get the equipment and software ordered, installed and on-line… before external events bring your business to its knees. That’s weeks, months and sometimes years.

Much easier just to make a phone call or, better yet, log-in to your online control panel and activate or deactivate resources. An unexpected flood of orders is cause for celebration instead of panic when you can respond instantly. Business fall off a cliff? No need to be stuck paying for idle capital when you can be rid of it and its unjustified expense in a moment.

Why Do You Really Need a Phone System?
The obvious reason to have a business phone system is for critical communications among employees, customers and vendors. Actually, that’s the reason to have the phone function. You don’t really need to have the system yourself.

The telephony cloud solution is called Hosted VoIP or Hosted PBX. All that “big iron”, as these systems are lovingly referred to, go out the door. They are replaced by cloud services that take care of call switching and connections to the public telephone system. How that’s done is invisible to you. Your phones work the way they should and you don’t have to deal with having to maintain a morass of wiring and rack equipment.

You also don’t have to cough up the capital needed to purchase a premises telephone switching system or replace one that has reached its capacity limit or useful life. Adding or removing phone from a hosted system is almost trivial. You’ll always have exactly the right level of resources to meet today’s needs. You also have the peace of mind that comes from knowing if things change tomorrow, you can easily accommodate the new situation.

The Technology Advantage
Another promise of VoIP technology is that phone networks become more like computer networks. In fact, there is generally one network that serves both phones and computing equipment. Building phones with little computers inside expands the possible functions they can do and make it easy to integrate them with desktop computers for combined operations. That’s especially valuable for call center operations.

The cloud hosted phone system also may have the capability to integrate mobile phones as well as the hardwired variety. Few in-house PBX systems can do that. In the end, you want employees to be able to do their jobs whether they are at their desks, out in the field, in a hotel room or anywhere else. That’s something technology can accomplish today… but you can’t do it with yesterday’s gear.

Are You Missing Out?
The telephone cloud has developed so rapidly that many companies aren’t even aware of the capability that’s out there and how cost effective it can be. Could you benefit from a hosted VoIP phone solution ? You might be able to sooner than you think.

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

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fiber Optic Bandwidth is Closer Than You Think

By: John Shepler

If you’ve had your telecom line contracts for years, maybe decades, you may not be aware of all the connection options that have become available recently. Some have popped up only in the last few years. Don’t continue to assume that something like T1 lines are all that are available without taking another look. You may be surprised at what you find.

You Need More Bandwidth
Fiber optic bandwidth has been talked about for years at the wave of the future. When you look at the type of applications that are popular with both consumers and businesses, it becomes obvious quickly that nothing else will accommodate the bandwidths that are needed.

You’ve seen it coming. Static web pages have given way to embedded video clips. SD video has been supplanted by HD Video. Now that clamor is for 4K and, soon, 8K video streams.

How about software? Software used to come on tape reels, floppy disks and CD ROMs. Now software is downloaded. The old “packages” are on their way out, if not gone. They’re being replaced by apps that are acquired over the Internet. That takes a lot more than DSL or T1 bandwidth.

Downloadable apps may have a short lifespan, too. There is a mad dash for the “cloud” for both applications and storage. On-site data centers are emptying out. Massive cloud data centers are popping up as fast as they can be built. When you access everything through the cloud rather than over the LAN, your wide area network bandwidth requirements shoot up by orders of magnitude.

Why It’s Got to Be Fiber
The need for increasing levels of bandwidth have not been lost on service providers. In fact, any carrier that is still married to circuit switched architectures and copper connectivity is just marking time until it is no longer needed.

Ethernet over Copper has extended the life of the installed twisted pair copper plant by offering speeds of 10 Mbps to at least 50 Mbps and sometimes higher. DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1 are doing the same for coaxial cable. Premises connectivity is likely the last bastion of copper. It only needs to stretch to the curb, where it connects to… fiber.

What about wireless? It looks like the world is now standardizing on 4G LTE and looking forward to 5G, as everything we do at the desk also needs to be done while mobile. Even so, capacity limitations dictated by the amount of room in the electromagnetic spectrum will keep wireless primarily as a mobile connection. Perhaps meshed WiFi and pico cells will again multiply the capacity of wireless… but it’s never going to be fiber.

An Avalanche of Fiber Now
The beauty of fiber is that it offers unlimited bandwidth as far as we can tell. Each strand might only support 10 Gbps with todays lasers, but DWDM creates dozens or more of those 10 Gbps channels on a single fiber strand. Why install a single hair-thin fiber when you can bundle 100 or more in a cable about the size of the familiar twisted pair bundles?

Of course multiple strand cables are the only way to go. For awhile it looked like way too much capacity had been installed during at the tech boom of the 90’s. Now those dark fiber strands are being lit up en-masse and more capacity is being installed nationwide.

Google has it right. The future… the near future… is fiber and Gigabit bandwidth is something we won’t be salivating over for long. Soon it will be 10 Gbps and then 100 Gbps. There is no end in sight.

It’s not just Google in selected cities or Verizon’s FiOS. Every incumbent telecom company and all the new competitive service providers are in a race to get to fiber as their standard connectivity for both home and business.

Goodbye SONET, Hello Ethernet
The incumbent telcos and the long line providers built their fiber networks with the SONET protocol, as it was the logical upgrade from TDM copper such as T1 and E1. All the new networks are being built around Carrier Ethernet and the older ones are converting rapidly.

Sometimes the most sensible thing to do is install Ethernet over SONET as an upgrade. When starting from scratch, native Ethernet is the protocol of choice. It’s unlikely we’ll return to a circuit switched world. It’s packet switching as far forward as we can see.

The beauty of Ethernet is that it is directly compatible with the local networks in every home and business, and all of the equipment that connects to them. Carrier Ethernet is designed to be highly scalable, with many more increments in bandwidth than were offered by SONET and fractional SONET services. You can pretty much pick the bandwidth you want, although standard LAN speeds of 10, 100 and 1000 Mbps are popular, with 10 Gbps more in demand every day.

Moreover, Ethernet services are fast and easy to scale. You can generally call your provider and get bandwidth upgrades immediately or within a few days. As long as the installed port for your WAN service can handle it, you can keep upgrading as needed with no change in premises equipment.

How to FInd the Fiber Services Quickly
You can try looking the old fashioned way, by looking in the phone directory for telecom carriers in your area. Or just run an online search. You’ll find some of them for sure, but might miss out on others that are new or not widely publicized.

It makes more sense to use a search engine that is dedicated to finding fiber optic bandwidth and nothing else. That’s the GeoQoute (™) system. How difficult is it to use? Trivially easy, in fact. You simply start by entering some basic contact information and the type of service you want. In a few minutes, the automated system will give you a list of options with budgetary pricing. If you like what you see, a complementary discussion with a product specialist can help you narrow down the choices and find out about limited time special offers that might be an even better deal.

Sound good? Do a fast search for fiber optic network services now and see what you may have been missing for years.

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

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Monday, January 05, 2015

T1 is Your Rural Broadband Solution

By: John Shepler

While metro areas enjoy a plethora of broadband Internet services, those outside the city limits or living on farms or ranches have little to pick from. Often all that seems available is smartphone 4G and two-way satellite. But, wait! There’s another option you may not be aware of that could be perfect for your rural business, farmstead or work from home. It’s T1 dedicated Internet access.

T1 may be the perfect rural broadband option. Click to check availability.T1 is Everywhere
T1 line service is available just about anywhere you can get ordinary POTS analog phone service. That’s because T1 runs on standard telephone company twisted pair copper wiring. The same cable that brings in telephone service probably has a couple of unused pairs available for a T1 line.

T1 is a digital service designed by Bell Labs with regenerators to boost the signal. You can get service even if you are miles out in the countryside.

No Data Caps
The biggest limitation for wireless services, like 4G and satellite, is that the airwaves have only so much capacity to serve all their customers. This is why providers enforce data caps. Such caps used to be laughably low, but now are typically 5, 10 or 15 GB per month. That’s probably enough for a single user of email and web browsing. Your quota gets used up quickly with high def video, software downloads, cloud applications and data backups.

What happens when you hit the cap limit? It varies among providers. The cellular companies will charge you overages on a per GB basis. Satellite providers will either throttle down your bandwidth or cut you off until you buy more capacity.

T1 lines have no data caps. The line runs at a constant speed all the time. You can choose to load it up 24/7 and get as many bytes through the pipe per month as you can at 1.5 Mbps, or just use it as-needed during business hours. The full capacity is always there available for your use.

Dedicated, Not Shared
Another reason that some services have data caps is that the bandwidth is shared, not dedicated. T1 lines are also known as dedicated Internet access or DIA. The dedicated part means that the line is for your use exclusively. There are no other users.

That may sound obvious, but it’s not what you have with satellite, 3G & 4G wireless, or even cable and DSL. All of these are shared bandwidth services. They are typically priced lower than equivalent telecom wireline services because the bandwidth at any given time is divvied up among the users who are online. If you are the only one, you get the full capacity of the system. Usually, you are sharing the available capacity with dozens, hundreds or thousands of other users. This is why these services advertise their bandwidth as “up to” so many Mbps.

T1 lines are a fixed dedicated bandwidth. It’s not “up to 1.5 Mbps”. It’s 1.5 Mbps all the time.

Minimal Latency
Shared bandwidth services that get congested with too much traffic and all geosynchronous satellite channels have a particular issue called latency. Latency is a time delay between when a packet is sent and when it is received. If you are only dealing with 10 mSec or or so of line latency you’ll probably never notice it. However, when that latency rises to 100, 200, or even 500 mSec you’ll really notice it.

Satellite links have the highest latency simply because even light takes a millisecond to travel each 186 miles. That’s the familiar physics constant of 186,000 miles per second. When the signal has to travel 23,000 miles up to the satellite and another 23,000 back down you’ve lost about a quarter of a second. TCP/IP needs to be acknowledged, which doubles this latency. Add a little for ground and satellite equipment processing and you’re easily at 500 mSec or half a second best case.

Now you know why television reporters have to pause before the anchor can ask a question and vice-versa. You’ll have the same effect using VoIP telephony on a geosynchronous satellite link. Plan on treating your phone conversations like you were using a walkie-talkie or other two-way radio. Only one person at a time can talk or you’ll be talking over each other.

T1 lines have minimal latency. It’s pretty much determined by the length of the connection plus a little added for equipment processing. We’re talking tens and not hundreds of milliseconds. That works perfectly for VoIP or ISDN phone trunks, two-way video conferences, and just about anything you want to do on the Web, including working remotely or using cloud hosted applications.

Symmetrical Bandwidth
Shared bandwidth services are typically asymmetric. That means they have much higher download than upload speeds. Usually a factor of x10. That works fine for accessing websites or downloading files or video. It’s not so great for uploading files or backing up data to remote sites.

T1 lines are symmetric. They have 1.5 Mbps download and an equal 1.5 Mbps upload speed.

VPN Compatible
Some services, especially satellite broadband, don’t work well with the VPN or virtual private networks used by remote workers to connect to their employers. Satellite companies may even warn you that their service doesn’t play well with VPN because of the signal processing in their system. T1 has no such limitations. It’s a good match for VPN applications.

Highly Reliable
T1 lines were developed by the telephone companies for their own use in transporting bundles of phone calls. The technology is robust and well-proven. Outages are rare. If someone cuts the cable or a piece of network equipment fails, T1 lines get fast attention and quick repair. Often you can get a SLA or Service Level Agreement that spells out the mean time to repair as well as other characteristics such as latency, jitter and packet loss.

Broadband Options
While 1.5 Mbps may be as much as many users need for small business operations or working remotely, its not high bandwidth compared to many other services. One option is to bond two or more T1 lines together to get double, triple or even higher speed. Another option is to use a related technology called Ethernet over Copper (EoC). This service has similar characteristic to T1 but much higher bandwidth available. Unlike T1, EoC isn’t available everywhere and speed decreases with distance from the originating office.

Reasonable Costs
The final factor is cost. You can expect to pay more for dedicated T1 line service than you will for the consumer and other shared bandwidth services. There used to be a huge difference is price, but T1 costs have come down dramatically in recent years while other services have chosen to increase bandwidth and raise prices accordingly. If you have a serious need for connectivity and are frustrated by the lack of options or lack of performance in the options you do have, then you should give T1 a serious look. It might be a very good match with your needs.

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

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year From Telexplainer

Wishing you a safe and enjoyable New Year holiday and a very prosperous 2015...

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays

Merry Chritsmas and Happy Holidays from Telexplainer.

Hoping that your Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa holiday season is filled with joy

- John

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