Monday, May 23, 2016

Private Point to Point Connections

By: John Shepler

Sometimes you need to get your traffic from Point A to Point B with as much security and transparency as possible. Let’s look at popular options to do just that.

Point to point dedicated private linesWhat Are Dedicated Private Lines?
You can think of a dedicated private line as a connection between two locations that goes through a carrier. This is what you need if you can't just string the wires between buildings on your own campus. The private line acts like your own wiring, except that it is provided by another company. Private lines can go across town, between cities, or even around the world.

T1 Dedicated Lines
T1 lines are the digital equivalent of the old “dry loops” or “equalized loops” that phone companies leased to radio stations and burglar alarm companies. A dedicated T1 point to point line goes between two locations using telco twisted pair wiring. You need routers or other equipment with the T1 interface at each end.

T1 dedicated lines offer 1.5 Mbps in both directions with no usage limits. A popular application is audio transport such as studio to transmitter links (STL) for radio stations.

T1 dedicated lines are still used for cellular traffic backhaul. They were extremely popular prior to 4G LTE, which really needs more bandwidth than you get with T1. In some cases, multiple T1 lines can be bonded together to create a larger bandwidth solution. Where fiber is unavailable, it is possible to get 10 or 12 Mbps from bonded T1 lines.

DS3 Dedicated
The next step up in traditional TDM telecom circuits is the T3 or DS3 dedicated line. These offer 45 Mbps upload / download private links. DS3/T3 is considered a copper-based service. In actuality, most of the transmission distance is handled over OC3 or other SONET fiber optic circuits, with only the curb connection carried by dual coaxial copper cables.

Ethernet over Copper
Ethernet over Copper (EoC) is a technical improvement on T1, while using the same twisted pair infrastructure. EoC easily offers bandwidths in the 1 to 10 Mbps range, with some systems delivering up to 50 or even 100 Mbps over relatively short distances. If available, you may find that you can replace a bonded T1 solution or DS3 circuit with EoC for a considerable cost savings.

Fiber Optic Dedicated Lines
Higher bandwidths are more and more in demand. Fortunately, fiber optic private lines are more affordable than in years past. There are two technologies of interest, although it may not make much difference in performance which you choose. SONET is the legacy telco standard, with services such as OC3, OC12 and OC48 providing different bandwidth options. Ethernet over Fiber is the technical upgrade to SONET. It offers advantages of being easily scalable from 10 Mbps up to 10 Gbps or higher, and is usually the lower cost solution.

Virtual Private Lines
The Internet offers lower cost solutions to interconnect multiple locations, but it is far from dedicated or private. The attractive pricing comes from being a shared resource with universal connectivity available nearly everywhere in the world. You can’t do much about the fact that the bandwidth is shared and not dedicated to your own use, which might affect the performance of your applications. The lack of privacy can be addressed by encrypting your traffic which effectively creates a private “tunnel” or VPN through the Internet.

A more robust solution is provided by MPLS networks. These can be thought of as privately run versions of the Internet that connect only businesses and not the general public. Proprietary protocols are used for routing traffic on the network, which adds security to the transmissions. MPLS networks are often described as MPLS VPN. Network capacity and performance are actively managed by the network operator so that a shared core network can perform like a private line, Over long distances, MPLS offers considerable cost savings over a dedicated copper or fiber connection.

Do you need a high performance dedicated private line connection to support your critical application? If so, get pricing and tradeoffs available for a variety of private line solutions available to your business locations.

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

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Monday, March 28, 2016

VXSuite Takes the Scary Out of VoIP

By: John Shepler

You know that Unified Communications based on VoIP telephony is the future of business communications. You also know that it is likely a good UC solution can improve the productivity of your business. You’ve been hesitating, though, because ripping everything out and moving to the new technology is downright scary. The phones work fine on their old twisted pair wiring. Well, if by fine you mean you can make and receive calls on your desk phones. That’s pretty much the end of the road for analog and TDM technology. If you want more, you’ll have to make the leap to IP networking all the way around.

Not So Fast...
Oh, but you’ve heard horror stories about companies merging their phones onto the computer network. All of sudden, voices get distorted, calls get dropped. Who wants that? Perhaps it’s better just to stay old school and let somebody else take on the new technology.

Can You Afford Not To?
OK, but you are also letting them take the profits that come with the increased efficiency of having your business apps, desk phones, smartphones, video conferencing, and call center all on one integrated system. Wait long enough and your competitors responsiveness will improve so much that they’ll run circles around your company and start siphoning off customers, then employees.

Looking Under the Hood
What if there were tools that could take the guesswork out of implementing VoIP and UC on your network? Most of the issues you’ll encounter arise from the fact that a network set up for computers can work just fine for file transfers but be a disaster when it comes to handling real-time apps like voice and video. You need to protect those interactive streams from getting crushed by mountains of data moving around. To do that you need to look inside the network and see what is happening.

VXSuite network monitor. Click to request more informaiton.

VXSuite is a toolset ideally qualified to analyze your currenct legacy network and report if you have bandwidth, latency, jitter or congestion issues that will make a mess out of VoIP. You’ll need to implement class of service on your network so that each type of packet stream has the priority and other characteristics it needs to perform optimally.

Before the Move
First, use VXSuite to analyze your system before your make any changes. VXSuite will report on your current voice call volume and usage. It uses that data to calculated min, max and average bandwidth requirements that will support VoIP when you switch. Find and fix problems here and you’ll have a much smoother transition.

A Quality of Experience Assessment is an automated test that deploys software agents on your network to create VoIP test calls to see what bottlenecks arise. Each test call is analyzed for delay, jitter & packet loss and then assigned an MOS score that indicates the quality of the voice communications.

After the Move
Once you deploy your new VoIP and/or UC system, you are not left in the dark. VXSuite monitors call quality and network issues during the rollout phase that can include both VoIP and legacy PBX systems simultaneously. You’ll get reports on how things are working and alarms if there is trouble.

Continuing Support
As ongoing support, the VXSuite cloud-based analytics toolkit continues to monitor your network environment to ensure that voice quality is maintained and issues diagnosed and resolved. You can set threshold levels for delay, jitter, packet loss, MOS, CPU utilization, memory utilization and so on to enable your IT staff to know instantly when problems develop. No more worrying that trouble is sneaking up behind you.

The Toolset You Really Need
Have you been putting off making the technology changes you should because you are worried that things will get worse, not better, when you make the move to VoIP and Unified Communications? If so, now’s the time to get more information about how VXSuite tools and cloud based communications
can improve your productivity and likely reduce cost at the same time.

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

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Your Options For Business Internet Broadband

By: John Shepler

The range of broadband Internet connectivity solutions available for your business location is greater than ever before. Let’s take a look at what’s available and appropriate for companies of all sizes.

WAN Man gift are available now. Click to see the collection.Starting at the Top
We’ll start at the top, since Gigabit Internet is the gold standard that everyone would really like to have… if they could afford it. Chances are, you probably can if you have a medium or larger size company in most locations or smaller businesses in select areas.

Where You Are Counts
This is an important point for all connectivity services. What you get and what you pay for it depends a lot on your particular business location. That’s because not all areas are built out equally. Major metro downtowns have a wealth of services and are highly competitive on price. Large business and office parks are also well connected. In smaller towns or out in rural areas, pickings are slim, as they say. Even so, you can get some form of broadband Internet connection no matter where you are.

Options at 1 Gbps
The most popular form of Gigabit Ethernet or GigE service for business right now is Gigabit Ethernet over Fiber. It is a more modern technology than SONET and excels in both ease of connectivity and price. The ease of connectivity comes from the fact that Carrier Ethernet is really just an extension of the same switched Ethernet that runs on your company LAN. Features necessary to long distance operation and maintenance have been added to the Ethernet standard. Otherwise it’s the same packets you already know and love.

Gigabit Ethernet is priced at a fraction of what traditional SONET OC3, OC12, OC48 etc costs. These are still viable options and are embedded into many, many regional and national networks. Ethernet can run over SONET or be natively hosted on the fiber. Competitive providers have pushed prices lower and lower, to the point that if you really need this much bandwidth you can probably afford it.

Another advantage of Carrier Ethernet is that it is easily scalable. You can install fiber services with a Gigabit speed port today but only take 100 Mbps service if that is all you need. The price will be considerably less and you can upgrade to 200, 500, 750 or 1,000 Mbps whenever you like. No equipment changes will be needed.

Even Higher Speeds
The relentless migration of data centers to the cloud and higher performance hosted business applications have pushed demands on WAN networks to higher and higher speeds. While most companies are getting used to the idea of having Gigabit connectivity, some, like video producers and larger medical complexes, find that bandwidth a bit limiting. No problem. If you can get Ethernet over Fiber, you can likely get 10 Gbps as easily as 1 Gbps. In larger markets, 100 Gbps is readily available for business use.

Fractional Gigabit Options
If your needs are more modest, say in the range of 50 to 500 Mbps, you have multiple options for service. Certainly, rate limited GigE can work in this range. You can also opt for traditional DS3 service at 45 Mbps. This bandwidth, which once was a corporate standard, is provisioned on copper coaxial cables. Most of the delivery is done over fiber, however, running as a service on OC3 fiber to the curb.

How about business cable broadband? The price is certainly right and you can easily get bandwidths to 100 Mbps, and often 300 Mbps. In some areas Gigabit service over cable is available. Limitations of this service are that the bandwidth is shared, and thus varies during the day. It is also asymmetrical with download speed 10x that of upload speed. Finally, there are usually no service level agreements. Its a best effort service. Even so, if the cable runs by your location and the service will meet your needs, you’ll pay only a fraction of what equivalent fiber bandwidth costs.

The Low End
Small businesses may find 50 Mbps more than they need, especially if the Internet is used primarily for email, purchasing, web browsing and similar applications. In this case, cable broadband at 30 Mbps can be your lowest cost option. Ethernet over Copper will give you symmetrical bandwidth from 5 to 50 Mbps and is also very cost effective.

Have you considered a T1 line? Yes, the bandwidth is only 1.5 Mbps, but it is rock solid and suitable for things like credit card verification and email. Not so much for video or other demanding applications. The beauty of T1 lines is that they have been around so long they are available just about everywhere you can get landline telephone service. That means out in rural areas where just about nothing else is available.

Business satellite broadband is another option for just about any location where power is available and you have a clear view of the Southern sky. The downsides of satellite are that usage is limited to a fixed number of GB per month, just like cellular, and the latency from the satellite being so far up make applications slow to respond and telephone calls more like two-way radio conversations.

How About SDN?
Software Defined Networks are taking the industry by storm. These are collections of similar or dissimilar broadband services that are managed by a special controller that makes instant decisions about which path each packet should take. The effect is that your WAN connection becomes more robust and even lower cost options can be integrated to create a high performing network.

Which business Internet option is right for your business? Get quote for multiple business Internet broadband services and see which fits best to your requirements.

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

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Monday, March 07, 2016

ShoreTel Connect CLOUD Goes Way Beyond VoIP

By: John Shepler

VoIP phone systems are often seen as a one for one replacement for traditional analog business phones combined with Key Telephone and PBX systems. Reasons to make the switch to newer technology include removing the need for separate telephone and computer networks and the option to outsource the in-house switching system to the cloud. In fact, switching to IP phones opens the door to a much richer set of features, now commonly referred to as Unified Communications (UC).

ShorTel has been a leader in enterprise communications. ShorTel phones are common in companies large and small. ShorTel is also a leader in UC, with its ShorTel Connect CLOUD service. Here is a brief overview:

It’s important to emphasize that ShorTel Connect CLOUD is a fully hosted and managed communications solution that takes the monkey of telephone system management off your back, while adding new capabilities. These include Instant Messaging, video, desktop sharing, and conference calling.

In addition, you can integrate Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications such as Salesforce and NetSuite to improve employee productivity. Automation is a key ability that’s offered by Unified Communications and presents a strong argument for upgrading from traditional telephony-only analog and VoIP systems.

Cloud-based UC offers some other efficiency advantages. First, you trade capital expenditures for pay-as-you-go monthly billing on a per-seat basis. At first glance, this might seem like six of one / half dozen of another. That is, until the need to scale up or down appears. Add more employees? Just add more seats to your existing system. No need to go out and make a major capital investment in a new PBX mainframe. Business in a downturn? Just reduce the amount of resources to match your resized organization.

These are the same arguments used for cloud computing, and for a good reason. Conceptually, the cloud works the same regardless of what application is hosted. Is voice just another app on cloud? Yes, with the caveat that real time streams such as audio and video require special prioritization to ensure quality of service.

Reliability and security are other major concerns with cloud-based systems. ShorTel offers enterprise-grade performance backed by strong Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Easy access to customer service is also provided as a managed system.

Are you feeling limited by your business telephone system and concerned that you are missing out on the productivity enhancements and cost savings offered by cloud-hosted Unified Communications systems? Find out what ShoreTel Connected CLOUD can offer you.

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

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