Thursday, November 30, 2017

Net Neutrality: It’s Much More Important Than It Should Be

By: John Shepler

The Internet has been my life for the last 20 years or so. Oh, it’s been around longer than that. I only got on when they released it to the public commercially in the mid-90’s. Back then it was all dial-up modems and make-your-own websites. One ad that ran at the time sticks vividly in my mind. It said something like “What’s different on the Internet about IBM and a kid with a science fair site about ducks?” The answer: “Nothing.”

On the Internet, the World is Flat
What didn’t soak in to many of us when we started communicating over computer networks was the inherent democracy, the equality of it all. Distance disappears. At the speed of light, the printer in the next room and the one on the other side of the world are equally close. You can locate team members anywhere and they forget they aren’t all in one big building… co-located, but just too far to walk over for a visit. Video conferencing takes care of that need for face-to-face.

The Internet is based on this idea of one big network that anyone can join anywhere in the world and be electronically in the same room as anyone else. I’ve gotten comfortable on Facebook with a circle of friends who collaborate on projects, but also share our personal lives. It wouldn’t be much different if we all worked in the same building or hung out at the same coffee shop. We share our joys and sorrows as if we were neighbors.

Bless the Level Playing Field
I got my feet wet online with Prodigy, then AOL, then Netscape over a local ISP. I built my first website using Adobe Pagemill and a floppy disk with some graphics that I bought at an office supply store. I wanted a place to showcase magazine-type articles that I was writing so I could also display affiliate banners to generate income to pay for the Internet connection. It had a tilde in the URL that looked a little weird on a business card, but getting a real domain name was pricey back then.

Yeah, I had a duck site. My wife and I still call amateur looking websites “duck sites”, after that commercial I mentioned earlier. The honest truth was and still is, as of this writing, that getting to my duck site was just as easy as getting to the IBM corporate site or Amazon, or the White House or anyplace else on the Web. The Internet is flat. It is level. It is democratic. It is egalitarian. The DOD that funded the genesis of the Internet, called ARPANET, built it with the best of American principles… they designed it to be free. That freedom is called neutrality: Net Neutrality.

Power to the People
Let me just say this first. I am a capitalist and proud of it. Capitalism has been very, very good to me. Better for some than others, I understand. But for most of us in what’s called the American Middle Class, we’ve grown up and aged with the opportunity to make something of ourselves by selling our skills to employers and building our own businesses. The Internet has added a whole whole new dimension of virtual business opportunities that cost little or nothing to enter, with rewards based more on sweat equity than the need for heavy debt to get started. The capitalistic opportunity of the Web has been more of a job creator, in the sense of people creating their own jobs, than any of the actual “jobs” programs that are being touted.

Having said that, I must admit that I’m horrified by what’s being promoted as capitalism these days. There seems to be a strong move afoot to return to the “Gilded Age” of the post Civil War era when the famed “robber barons” of industry and the railroad trusts lived like kings and most people lived like paupers. The game of Monopoly was actually invented as a cautionary tale to demonstrate what happens when there are no checks and balances in society. Players may start out on an equal footing, but in a few or more than a few hours, one person has everything and everyone else is flat broke. In real life, we don’t even start out equally advantaged.

Does It Have To Be All or Nothing?
This brings us back to net neutrality. For years, I was on the fence about whether to maintain all Internet traffic perfectly equal or allow some prioritization. A lot of VoIP phone calls on the internet sound like crap. It’s because real time packets of audio signals are highly sensitive to latency, jitter and packet loss. The least bit of congestion in the network turns a clear call into a distorted mess. There are ways to improve this, such as running your own voice network or having a dedicated access line to the core of the Internet. Not as good or easy, though, as if there were protected channels just for voice over the net.

Forget it. We don’t live in a world run by volunteer Internet engineers whose morals are driven by ensuring excellence and justice for all users. What we’re faced with now is dominance by large corporate entities that, despite expression of high minded intentions, will be driven by ruthless competition and demanding shareholders to maximize returns, if not immediately, then a quarter or two down the road.

Without any constraints at all, the era of duck sites will be over and only those with the big bucks will have unfettered worldwide visibility. It could be like a scene from those depression era films: “Nice web site you got there. Be a shame if nobody could get to it.”

Protect Your Freedom or Lose It
I’m not normally given to scare mongering, but I’m very much concerned that we’re looking at the end of the bootstrapping entrepreneur and even the end of unfettered freedom to explore and utilize the wealth of diverse resources available around the world. The farmers market, the arts and crafts festival, the country roads, the public bulletin board in the hardware store and the political stump in the town square are all about to be replaced by the toll bridge and the parking meter. Is that what we want?

Here’s what you need to do before it is too late. Voice your opposition to losing net neutrality and with it your personal freedom to post anything you want and go anywhere you want to go without having to pay extra fees or switch service providers. Use the resources you have now to Google your senators and representatives. Send messages through their websites. Get their office phone numbers online or call the US Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You don’t need to make a speech. Just say you are opposed to destroying net neutrality and want them to intervene.

Most of all, call the FCC who actually makes the rules. Here’s the number: (202) 418-1000 Take 10 seconds and leave them a voice mail. While one voice may not make a difference, thousands or millions of one voice each certainly will. Will you join me before it’s too late?


Note: Net Neutrality logo courtesy of Camilo Sanchez on Wikimedia Commons.



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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Encrypted Wavelengths Offer High Bandwidth and High Security

By: John Shepler

With data security becoming more and more of an issue, every weak link in the IT infrastructure needs to be identified and hardened. If your network extends beyond your premises, like most every one does, those MAN and WAN connections represent a vulnerability that has to be addressed. A relatively new service does that now for very high bandwidth users. It’s called Wavelength Encryption or Encrypted Waves.

Encrypted Wavelengths offer high bandwidth and high securitySecurity of Dedicated Lines
The vulnerability of your connection can vary dramatically, depending on how your packets are getting from point A to point B. Back when the connectivity standard was a point to point T1 line, you had pretty decent security. A single line consisting of 2 twisted pair was dedicated to your use only. It was “nailed up”, as they say, meaning it was as close to a hard wire between two points that you could get. Only when you discontinued service was the connection “torn down” and the resources assigned to someone else.

Fiber Optic WAN and Multi-Tenant Networks
That’s not the way it is today. Unless you own a complete dark fiber run and light it yourself, you are sharing facilities with some and probably many other users. Note that you aren’t sharing bandwidth itself if you order a dedicated line. It’s just that high bandwidth fiber, be it SONET or Carrier Ethernet, is multiplexed to transport multiple streams of data and yours is simply stripped off the stream when it is delivered to your door.

It gets even more complicated in MPLS networks. These networks are multi-tenant by nature. The operator routes your data and that of other customers on the same core network and hands yours and only yours to you at the network edge.

Then, there's the Internet...
The security issues of the Internet need hardly be mentioned. You would have a hard time building a network that is less secure. But you don’t use the Internet for anything critical, right? If you have SDN connections over Cable Broadband or 4G Cellular, you probably are using the Internet for transport without realizing it.

Making the Insecure Secure
The answer to security jitters is encryption. On public networks, these encrypted data streams are said to be going through a “tunnel”. You can do the encryption and decryption yourself, or you can have your managed service provider take care of it.

Who Needs Encrypted Waves?
When it comes to high demand, high stakes uses, like medical data within hospital groups, there is a need for very high bandwidth channels that also have high security built-in. Level 3 Communications is at the frontier of a relatively new high performance connection called encrypted waves. These are based on the same wavelengths that are generated by coarse (CWDM) or dense (DWDM) wavelength division multiplexing. Each wavelength or set of wavelengths can deliver 10 to 100 Gbps of dedicated bandwidth. The multiplexing refers to multiple wavelengths, called colors or Lambdas, traveling over the same fiber strand. While leasing an entire wavelength does improve your security, encrypting that wavelength really adds security.

It’s simple in concept. The new wrinkle is that Level 3 is providing you with the wavelength already encrypted and protocol agnostic. Send whatever you want down the channel without having to worry about the nuts and bolts of securing that data stream.

Encrypted Wave Services Available Now
Here’s what Level 3’s Encrypted Wavelength service offers. The encryption is AES-256, the gold standard. You handle key management through your separate MyLevel3 portal that has two form factor authentication access. Ethernet speeds are supported at 10, 40 and 100 Gbps. SONET / SDH 10 Gbps is supported, as is OTU 2, 2e, 3 and 4. FICON and Fiber Channel (metro only) is supported at 8, 10 and 16 Gbps SAN. Low latency routes are optionally available for the highest performance.

Do you have high bandwidth needs that also require high security? You should take a closer look at what encrypted wavelength services have to offer. You may also be interested in dark fiber solutions. See what bandwidth options are available for your business locations now.

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



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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Replacements for GigaMAN and Other Discontinued Line Services

By: John Shepler

AT&T announced that it is going to discontinue some of its line services because the demand just isn’t there anymore. “Ho, Hum,” you say, “Who needs telegraph lines anymore anyway?”

Are your line connections about to disappear due to obsolescence? See what else is available here.Not So Old-Timey
Well, it turns out that the services in question are not corroding copper lines in the middle of nowhere. They are cutting edge technology from not so long ago. I’m talking about GigaMAN Gigabit Ethernet point to point service and DecaMAN 10 Gigabit Ethernet service that interconnects geographically separate LANs.

The affected customers include those in 11 states: Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.

Take a second and pick your jaw up off the floor. How is it possible that high speed fiber optic Ethernet service could be on the discontinue list so soon? Even more important, what replacement options are available?

Replacement Technology
It turns out that technology really is moving this fast. GigaMAN and DecaMAN serve very useful purposes for companies that need dedicated high bandwidth, low latency connections they can count on. AT&T has come up with an even better technical solution called ADE or AT&T Dedicated Ethernet that goes beyond the GigaMAN and DecaMAN solutions. ADE offers speeds ranging from 1 Gbps up to 100 Gbps.

The new AT&T technology supports not only Ethernet formats, but other protocols as well. Their system embeds data signals within an Optical Transport Network (OTN). That network offers a standardized way to “wrap” various protocols in containers that can all be carried on the same industry standard format fiber optic wavelengths.

Where is This All Going
The two digital transport technologies that are growing rapidly are fiber and wireless. Fiber demand is being pushed by ever increasing amounts of video content being generated and exchanged. It is being pushed even more by the move from local data centers to remote cloud services. High connection speeds with low latency are essential if you want the same or better productivity from your applications when they are cloud hosted as when they are in the server room down the hall.

Ironically, perhaps, another huge demand for fiber optic transport capacity is the move to higher speed wireless services. Older generation cell towers could be served well by copper-based T1 lines that were almost universally available and provisioned over the same twisted pair cables that provide landline telephone service. LTE 4G and the coming 5G bandwidths far exceed the capacity of even multiple bonded T1 lines. Only point to point wireless and fiber optic lines have the necessary bandwidth to support 4G, 5G and beyond.

Is Copper a Goner?
Twisted pair copper connections have served the telecommunications industry well for over a century. Even T1 digital has been widely deployed for half a century. Will it still be with us half a century from now? I seriously doubt it.

Cellular phones are now so ubiquitous that the majority of consumers see no need for the old wired landline anymore. Businesses are dropping POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) for VoIP telephony and Unified Communications. Both of these newer protocols run on computer networks, not traditional telephone wiring. Smaller companies may opt to connect to their service providers via cable broadband, but medium and larger companies connect directly with fiber optic lines.

It has gotten so bad that telephone companies are petitioning the FCC to let them abandon their old copper lines in the ground rather than having to deal with ever corroding connections for fewer and fewer paying customers. It will no doubt begin as a refusal to connect new locations, but how long before even existing customers are told that they’ll no longer have dial tone? Months? A few years?

That leaves the interesting situation of businesses who still have analog POTS phone service, ISDN PRI multiple phone lines, T1 dedicated data lines and Ethernet over Copper point to point and dedicated Internet service. These connections may still be widely available while demand is high. You know, though, as more and more buildings are lit for fiber, business will quickly jump on the fiber links that offer higher bandwidth options and lower costs per Mbps. It’s likely that line of sight and 5G cellular wireless will fill the gaps where fiber construction costs are just too high for some locations.

How To Ensure Continuing Service
The best way to ensure that your business will have the voice, data and video transport services that you need is to make sure you have options. That’s easier today than ever before. A generation ago, the incumbent local telephone companies ruled the roost and you took whatever they had available and paid whatever the bill said. No more.

Deregulation has spawned a wealth of competition. Initially that meant new companies renting those same telephone company lines to deliver alternative service, often at a better price. Fiber optics has changed that landscape. Now there are many fiber optic network companies that own the fiber in the ground and will connect you directly to their networks, avoiding the phone company facilities completely. The result is price competition that is reducing the cost of bandwidth by an order of magnitude or more. Get 10 Mbps Ethernet for what you used to pay for a 1.5 Mbps T1 line. Get 100 Mbps for a few times that price. Gigabit Ethernet is now affordable for many if not most businesses. Even 10 Gbps and 100 Gbps are within reason if you need that much capacity.

Are you concerned about upcoming loss of your voice, video or data connections or what might be in the planning stages? How would you like to get more bandwidth for less cost that you pay now? If that sounds interesting, see just how many competitive bandwidth options are available right now for your business locations.

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



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Thursday, August 17, 2017

How SD-WAN Hands-Off Seamlessly

By: John Shepler

It would be nice if WAN network connections were uninterruptible. Of course, they aren’t. Even the best copper, fiber or wireless Internet or point to point dedicated lines goes down eventually. With it goes your phone calls and other work in progress. You lose productivity and perhaps even sales. But, what if you had a magic box that made sure your connections never experienced more than a glitch for a fraction of a second no matter what the problem?

The magic box has a name. It is called SD-WAN or Software Defined Wide Area Networking. The box itself controls multiple redundant broadband links and has the intelligence to analyze the quality of each link and assign or remove traffic instantly.

Think this fiction? Have a look at a real time demonstration from Telarus, a leader in deploying this networking technology:


Did you notice that each link was different? Once was cable broadband, one was high speed fiber, and one was LTE wireless. An SD-WAN system will work with whatever links you have available, ranging from DSL to T1, DS3, Satellite, line of sight wireless and so on.

There’s an advantage in not having all your links the exact same type. All it takes is one backhoe to chop through a copper or fiber bundle and you can be out of business for hours, days or even weeks before they can patch it all back together.

If your business needs both speed and reliability in its digital connections to maximize productivity and profit, you should take a closer look at what SD-WAN from Telarus can do for you at a very reasonable cost. Find out what SD-WAN systems and connections are available for your business location now.

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



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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

WANs That Act Like LANs

We take our Local Area Networks (LANs) for granted. Every business has them, but they are seldom seen except for that network connector on the wall. You plug-in your computer, printer, phone, etc. and it just works.

Find better Wide Area Network Connections now!Networks vs Utilities
In a way, LANs are now the data equivalent of AC power. You don’t think about it. You just use it. Connections and operations were long ago standardized. You don’t worry about different flavors of Ethernet any more than you stop and think what voltage is coming out of that wall socket.

Now, how about those Wide Area Networks (WANs)? It’s the WAN that gets you out of the building and connected to your other business locations, your cloud services and everyone else in the world. We don’t think about the fact that electrical power is transformed to higher voltages and that there are switching centers between your location and the power generation. It’s just as invisible as the wires running through the walls. If only Wide Area Networks worked the same way (sigh!)

The Difference Between LANs and WANs
The big difference between local and metro or wide area networks is that the local nets tend to be invisible and the longer haul connections may not be. You probably don’t have to be concerned about bandwidth, jitter, latency or packet loss on an in-house network. Wired LANs, especially, do a good job of keeping these issues out of your way. As you leave the premises, those characteristics degrade. Ideally it is not enough to get in your way, but sometimes it’s a major stumbling block.

Where WANs Go Bad
Take the most common WAN we use: The Internet. The Internet is an amazing infrastructure that connects nearly everyone to everyone else. It was designed from the beginning to be extremely robust, so that line cuts and equipment outages are automatically worked around. Its design philosophy and popularity are its limitations. The speed and quality of your connection can vary from minute to minute depending on traffic levels. The least costly connections, like cable and cellular, are shared, increasing the variability even more.

Invisible WANs
If you want the same performance over long distances that you have in-house, you need to order dedicated symmetrical wired, wireless and fiber point-to-point or multipoint services. Yes, a dedicated connection will help Internet performance greatly because most of the issues are in the “last mile” connection to your facility. Dedicated direct lines may make a huge difference in how business critical systems like VoIP telephone and software as a service in the cloud perform. MPLS networks provide similar high performance among multiple business locations, including remote data centers and cloud service providers.

The Almost Invisible WAN
The one sore point with dedicated lines is that can be a bit pricey, especially if you need a lot of bandwidth over very long distances. It’s a cost/benefit tradeoff. Dedicated wins for most medium and larger size businesses, where productivity losses and poor quality voice services are intolerable.

For smaller businesses and less critical applications, however, there is a fairly new alternative that makes the Internet perform more like a direct connection. This is called SDN or Software Defined Network, sometimes also referred to as a SD-WAN or Software Defined Wide Area Network. What the software does is combine multiple lower performing connections to produce a composite service that works much better. The SD-WAN monitors each WAN connection packet-by-packet and routes the most critical packets over the best performing links at that instant. It goes a long way toward making very noticeable Internet services more like invisible direct connections.

Are you frustrated by unacceptably poor Internet or other WAN services or have just hit the limit of your current bandwidth? Discover the range of competitive Wide Are Network connections that are now available for your business locations.

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



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