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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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

You Need a Black Cloud Software Defined Perimeter

By: John Shepler

Secure your network with black cloud SoftwareAre you a trusting person? Too bad. That’s going to get you hacked. Respect and privacy are admirable things, but they are not guaranteed by today’s Internet. In addition to all the incredible employees, partners, suppliers and customers that you hold in high regard, there is a dark underbelly of professional criminals, hobbyist & mercenary hackers, mischief makers, psychotics, and nation states with agendas all trolling the same network. Some are looking for victims of opportunity. Others have you in mind as a target. Can your firewall and VPN fend them off?

The Virtual Hopefully Private Network Connection
The VPN or Virtual Private Network was designed to make the Internet act more like a private line or MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) network. Even if you have a T1, DS3, OC3 or Ethernet private line at the office, you have a big security hole when an employee out on a sales or repair call stops by the coffee shop and connects back using the free Wi-Fi provided by the store.

Free really means free and open. That guy in the corner staring at his laptop is watching your traffic. He either hacked the shop’s WiFi or created his own look-alike “free” WiFi network that you connected to instead of the real one. This is called “man in the middle” and it is what VPN was designed to protect against. The VPN creates an encrypted connection called a “tunnel” from your employee’s computer to your office server. That makes it pretty hard for someone to get in the middle of the conversation unless they have the private key… and they don’t.

VPN Weaknesses
Not all VPNs have a rugged 256 bit military-grade encryption. Some use protocols that are relatively easy to crack with available hacker tools. PPTP (Peer to Peer tunneling Protocol) is over 20 years old and is desirable because it is fast and easy to setup and use. It’s also more vulnerable than protocols with stronger encryption.

Not all VPN vendors are equally capable. Weak ones may have back doors in their servers or other weaknesses that make it easy to hack the VPN server in the cloud and get everybody’s data. You won’t know until you are hacked and can’t figure out how.

An overall weakness of VPN is that it just protects the tunnel into your company. If that is compromised one way or the other, your entire network and everything on it is wide open to explore and perhaps attack. it would be better if only a small part of the company assets were exposed instead of everything all at once.

The Software Defined Perimeter Black Cloud
The idea behind a Software Defined Perimeter (SDP) is that trust is minimized by allowing access to resources user by user on a need to know basis. The research was done by the U.S. Department Information Systems Agency (DISA) and has come to be known as a “Black Cloud.” The black designation means that the network infrastructure is hidden within the cloud. There are no visible DNS or IP addresses.

SDP authenticates each user and only gives them access to the resources you have approved for that particular user so they can do their jobs. The user or IoT device has no idea what else is on the network. They can’t see it. If they can’t see it, they can’t get access. Someone impersonating that user can’t either.

A system of SDP Hosts and Controllers communicate and verify the authorizations. The Controller has the job of connecting the Initiating and Accepting Host data channels through a Gateway, once authentication and authorization has been completed through the control channels.

The SDP is not only between clients and the data center. It is also deployed within the data center to partition the network to isolate high-value applications. Only a limited number of users with have access to the highly protected application or even know it exists.

Encryption and cloaking are key to SDP security. The usual network probing, such as port scanning, won’t work because nothing will show up in the scan. In a way, SDP is creating virtual networks on a user by user, session by session, basis. What goes on behind the curtain is a complete mystery.

The End of Networks As We Know Them?
The TCP/IP network that has served us so well for decades has to go underground to keep its relevance in today’s high threat environment. We can no longer do business without the Internet and there are just too many bad actors on the public Internet. Technology must evolve to provide the illusion of a simple open Internet but with none of the familiar network topology visible.

Has your company network been hacked or are you concerned about the business disruption this might cause? Right now would be a good time to see what advances have been made in network security, especially managed security solutions in the cloud.

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

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Friday, August 23, 2019

T1, T3 and Ethernet Bandwidth

By: John Shepler

Are you considering new or additional bandwidth for your business office, retail store, or other commercial location? Professional grade options include high performance T1 lines, T3 (DS3) lines, and Ethernet options over copper and fiber optic cables.

Find T1, T3, DS3 and Ethernet bandwidth options now.T1 Lines
T1 Lines have been the mainstay of many, many businesses for decades. They still are, although for more special situations. The big advantage of T1 lines is that they are provisioned over standard twisted pair copper telephone wiring. If you can get landline phone service installed, it’s likely you can also get T1 service. That includes rural areas where there isn’t much else to pick from.

T1 lines are highly reliable, get fast service if something goes wrong, and are dedicated to your use only. The bandwidth is symmetrical. That is, the upload and download speeds are identical. That’s important if you exchange large data files or back them up to the cloud.

T1 lines can be configured for dedicated Internet access or point to point connections. They support ISDN PRI telephone trunks for multi-line phone and PBX systems. Their one limitation is the bandwidth, which is fixed at 1.5 Mbps. That’s rather slow in broadband terms, but perfectly useful for small business point of sale terminals, email and casual web browsing. Additional T1 lines can be bonded to increase the bandwidth to 3, 4.5, 6 or even 10 Mbps.

Ethernet over Copper Lines
Ethernet over Copper (EoC) is a modern technical upgrade to legacy T1. It uses the same copper telephone lines, but can support higher speeds. Bandwidths of 10 or 20 Mbps are common within metro areas. Some support is also available for rural businesses, but not as ubiquitous as T1 service. Additionally, EoC is generally less expensive per Mbps than traditional T1 lines. You can often get twice or more bandwidth for the same monthly lease cost.

T3 Lines
T3 lines are in the same technology family as T1 lines. The bandwidth is much higher, 45 Mbps vs 1.5 Mbps. T3 refers to the actual lines, which are coaxial, waveguide or microwave relay. These days T3 is delivered as a service on SONET fiber optic lines and referred to as DS3. Like T1, T3 or DS3 service is highly reliable, dedicated and symmetrical.

Ethernet over Fiber Lines
Ethernet over Fiber (EoF) is the modern technical upgrade to SONET fiber optic service. As such, EoF replaces T3 and DS3 with the same bandwidth at a better price. Unlike T3 and DS3, Ethernet over Fiber offers a wide range of bandwidth choices instead of the fixed 45 Mbps service. You can typically get EoF service from 10 Mbps on the low end up to 10 Gbps or even 100 Gbps. You also have the option of changing your mind at any time to upgrade or downgrade your service. Usually, no hardware changes are required. You are billed for the bandwidth level you order rather than a fixed 45 Mbps.

Until recently, fiber optic service was limited to major metropolitan areas and rather expensive. The entrance of competitive service providers and the high demand to supply cell towers to support 4G and 5G broadband has vastly increased the amount of fiber optic services available. Most offices, business parks and retail locations now have the option for competitive fiber bandwidth pricing. Some lines are even available to rural locations.

You have a wide range of possibilities for your business bandwidth that include T1, T3 (DS3) and Ethernet over Copper and Fiber. Check pricing and availability now.

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

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