Sunday, December 18, 2016

Data Caps: What They Are and How to Avoid Them

By: John Shepler

If you are a moderate or heavy online user, you have probably bumped up against data caps at some point. Just what's the story behind these seemingly arbitrary usage limits and how do you work around them?

Get a real data cap you can wear from Zazzle!OK, What IS a Data Cap?
A data cap is nothing more than a limit to the amount of data you can transfer through a communications channel over some period of time. While providers could set limits per hour or day, data caps are almost always defined now as so many MB or GB of usage per month. Your allocation is reset at the beginning of each month or 30 day period. You draw down your allocation over the time period as you surf the web, transfer photos, videos or data files, or backup your computer to the cloud. If you run out of data before you run out of month, there are consequences.

Why Caps Are Imposed
Data caps, especially tight ones, tend to be imposed on channels where capacity is limited. There are so many users and they each would like to have the link to themselves. If there isn't enough bandwidth to go around, the capacity that is available has to be rationed among the pool of users. This can be done by apportioning the bandwidth in Mbps among the pool of users. The other option is to let each user have the max bandwidth they are paying for but limit how much they can use the channel. That keeps heavy users from "hogging" the resources 24/7 so that lighter users never get much in the way of access.

Where do you find these data caps? Wireless services have had them from the get-go. Satellite is really another form of wireless and has similar usage limits. Wireline and fiber optic services have much more capacity than wireless channels, so the data caps are set much higher. While you might be limited to 20 GB per month on a LTE cellular wireless plan, that limit is more like 500 GB on a cable broadband plan. Only the heaviest Internet users will likely hit the cable usage limit so most people think there really is no limit.

It's important to note that data caps are really there to police fair usage of a limited resource that is shared among many users. All consumer broadband services and their equivalents sold to businesses are shared bandwidth services. The service provider buys an unlimited usage telecommunications line and then divvies it up to serve its paying customers. Each customer is assigned a bandwidth limit of "up to" so many Mbps and a usage limit of so many MB or GB per month. This arrangement keeps the most customers happy most of the time.

What Happens If You Go Over the Limit?
There are various ways of enforcing fair use of an Internet channel. Cellular plans started out setting a fixed usage limit and then automatically charging for every MB or GB you went over the limit. The danger of a plan like this is that you may not know how much you've exceeded your allocation until you get an astronomical bill. Most providers will give you the courtesy of a notification when you approach or exceed your limit to avoid the sticker shock.

A more draconian method of dealing with overages is to simply cut off service once the limit is reached. At that point you have to manually contact the provider and buy some extra capacity to get through the month or cease usage.

Neither of these usage limit methods goes over well with broadband customers. A kinder, gentler arrangement is to forget about cutting off service, but limit your access speed once you hit the limit. You might get throttled back to 10 percent or so of normal service bandwidth until your account resets at the start of the next billing period. This is unpleasant, but at least you can always get online to some extent.

What About Unlimited Usage Plans?
Check the fine print on your contract. You're likely to find something that specifies a "fair usage" limitation. Sometime they don't specify a hard limit but say that the provider has the right to impose fair usage restrictions. In fact, you may have all the capacity you want... at least for awhile. The fair usage clause tends to be imposed if you are someone who is using the service far and beyond what the bulk of other users are doing, or if the provider lands a lot of customers and doesn't have the ability anymore to give them all they want.

Services like satellite and cellular wireless have definite limitations due to the number of radio channels they are licensed to use and the carrying capacity of the particular technology they are using. Higher speed doesn't automatically get you higher data caps. If you aren't careful, that higher bandwidth will simply allow you to use up your allocation quicker.

Is There Any Way Around Data Caps?
You might not know this, but there are dedicated private lines and Internet connections that don't have any data limitations at all. These are the professional grade copper and fiber lines that the service providers themselves order and partition to sell to you and a hundred or a thousand other customers. Businesses, but not residential customers usually, can also order these telecom services and have all the capacity to themselves.

Typical line services are T1 at 1.5 Mbps, the classic standard, T3 or DS3 at 45 Mbps, OC3 SONET at 155 Mbps, Ethernet over Copper at 10 to 50 Mbps, and Ethernet over Fiber at 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps. These are called "dedicated" line services because all of the resources are dedicated to YOUR business. That means you get 100% of the line speed all the time. It also means that you get all of the line capacity. You can load up a 100 Mbps Ethernet line to full capacity for the entire month and not pay a penny extra. Your monthly lease cost is fixed.

How About Costs?
Well, that's the rub. You will pay more for a dedicated line service than you will for a shared bandwidth service, as you'd expect. Even so, there's little value is paying a low ball price for a service that doesn't give you the capacity you need. If you wind up paying overages every month, it might make a lot more sense to simply pay up for a line that doesn't have overages. You can then forget about having to watch your usage all the time or limit the activities of your employees.

When Does Dedicated Line Service Make Sense?
If your application naturally taxes the capacity of a communications line, such as a service or content provider or a company that has critical business applications in the cloud, you may be happier with dedicated line services beyond the unlimited usage. Dedicated lines have constant rather than varying bandwidth, plus low latency, jitter and packet loss.

What type of bandwidth service is best for your company and your applications? Check dedicated and shared bandwidth service options and get free consulting help now to help you sort through the options available for your business location.

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

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Friday, November 04, 2016


By John Shepler

SD-WAN has become a hot service recently. It is often touted as an alternative or replacement for MPLS networks. Just comparing costs makes a compelling argument that SD-WAN may do to MPLS what MPLS did to Frame Relay. Is this really the case? Let’s take a look.

Find SD-WAN services now.

What Problem Are We Trying to Solve?
The issue is networking, specifically computer networking. Most of us have some need for computers as part of our job. That could be a traditional desktop computer, a laptop in a hotel room or conference center, or perhaps a tablet or or cellphone while we move around. It could also be a point of sale terminal, an industrial process controller, a 3D printer or just a laser printer in the office. All of these things need to be hooked together, or networked, or they just plain won’t work.

It’s actually worse than that. Remember when you bought software in a box? Not much software is sold that way anymore. Now everything is apps and they are delivered and updated virtually. The really heavy lifting software doesn’t even reside on your device. It’s at a remote data site or vendor’s platform. Without a connection, you can’t even run the application.

Private Lines: The Old Gold Standard
If you want to stay in complete control of every aspect of your network, you build your own for your exclusive use. Most companies do that internally. It’s when you leave the building that you have a problem. You need to hand off your packets to a service provider, or carrier, to transport them to another location.

The closest thing to stringing the wires yourself is to order private point-to-point circuits. T1, DS3 & OCx SONET are the traditional PTP circuits. More modern replacements are Ethernet over Copper and Ethernet over Fiber. All of these are still extremely popular with high performance, high security and high reliability. Cost and provisioning time are really the only issues.

MPLS Networks Save Money and Go Worldwide
You can approach the quality and security of private point to point lines using MPLS networks. MPLS or Multi-Protocol Label Switching is a replacement for the old-timey Frame Relay networks that were popular when high speed was 64 Kbps. It’s a privately run wide area network that handles multiple customers at the same time without them being aware of each other. Since the core network is shared, the cost is lower than running private lines to every satellite office you want to connect. Plus they’re already built-out, so you only need to provision an access line for each location.

MPLS networks are very popular for connecting companies with multiple business locations in the US or worldwide. Once again, they offer high performance, high security and high reliability. Also once again, cost can be an issue.

Why Not The Internet?
The lure of the Internet is strong. It’s the lowest cost of any method to reach anyone, anywhere in the world. However, there are issues.

Security is an obvious one. Just read the headlines any day and you’ll feel insecure about being online. Encryption, especially IPsec and SSL, make the risk acceptable for e-commerce and banking. However, performance is variable and out of your control. Latency, Jitter and packet loss are not only variable, they’re unpredictable. Companies running high performance business-critical applications wince at the thought of trusting their livelihood to the public Internet. Even so, the cost is really, really attractive compared with other solutions.

The Hybrid Network Compromise
Fact is, most companies need a broadband Internet connection for communications with suppliers and customers and access to the nearly unlimited news and information available online. A popular compromise is to use the MPLS network for internal communications and the Internet to go outside in a hybrid network arrangement.

Another use of the Internet is as a backup in case your private network fails. That happens enough with line cuts that it has a name: backhoe fade. If the broadband connection is just there on standby, all that bandwidth goes to waste most of the time.

SD-WAN Makes the Internet Suitable
The Software Defined Network (SDN) was invented to reduce the time and labor required to run complex networks. It “virtualizes” the network so you don’t have to deal with all the complexity of so many diverse routers, switches and appliances spread throughout the physical network.

SD-WAN or Software Defined Wide Area Network does the same thing for outside networks to connect far flung locations. SD-WAN manages multiple connections according to rules that you set up through a control panel. Once running it automatically directs traffic and works around problems without you having to get involved.

For instance, the SD-WAN can make use of Cable broadband, DSL, T1 lines, MPLS networks, LTE wireless, Satellite links and whatever else you have. It will monitor the characteristics of each path, in both the upload and download directions, for bandwidth congestion, packet loss, jitter and latency. It decides what path to use for each packet based on the instantaneous characteristics of the paths available. These can vary all over the place and change in milliseconds. You couldn’t possible keep up with all of this manually, but the SD-WAN system can stay on top of it.

With SD-WAN, you don’t need to waste the perfectly good bandwidth of your backup connection when the main link is running. SD-WAN will combine the bandwidths and make sure that the more critical apps, like VoIP and UC voice and video run on the best paths available and less critical file transfers use the lower performance paths.

Companies are finding that even having two diverse Internet broadband connections can give excellent performance compared with a single broadband service as long as they are being managed by SD-WAN. Two broadband services can easily cost only a fraction of even one private line for the same or less bandwidth. The core of the Internet usually runs pretty well. It’s the access connections, like WiFi and cable or DSL, that generally get flakey. Using SD-WAN to watch and select the best path at any given instant can dramatically improve the performance of the “virtualized” WAN network.

Is SD-WAN right for your business? You’d be remiss if you didn’t at least take a closer look at what connections are available and at what price for your particular business locations. Remember that you don’t have to go 100% on the Internet. SD-WAN will manage private lines, MPLS networks, satellite and wireless connections as well.

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

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Ethernet Everywhere? We’re Almost There!

By John Shepler

It’s been brewing for a long time, now. The prediction is that all of those networking standards will finally settle on just one. No more T1, DS3, OCx and whatever. It’s all going to be just Ethernet one day. How close are we to that day? Why, we’re almost there!

Find Ethernet services for your businessNetwork Standards Have Already Embraced Ethernet
Telcos are doing something once thought heresy. They’re abandoning their proprietary standards in favor of Ethernet services.

Why? Because that’s what the market wants. Once upon a time, there were all sorts of Local Area Network standards. Can you remember when Token Ring was the coming thing? How about AppleTalk?

Today, virtually all network equipment has one connector and it is for Ethernet. There are really only two flavors: copper and fiber. Virtually all office equipment is either 10/100 or Gigabit Ethernet over twisted pair copper. Networking equipment may have fiber connections for GigE, 10 GigE or 100 GigE.

This standardization has make connectivity extremely easy. The standardization on switched Ethernet versus the original collision domains makes networking a fairly easy plug-and-play.

The same thing has happened to networking software. The Internet standard, TCP/IP has become the THE standard, further enhancing the ease of setting up and running networks.

Getting LANs to Talk Telco
When you own the network, you get to decide how it works. There’s nobody to tell you otherwise when you come up with a design that’s based on off-the-shelf massed produced switches, routers and cabling. The big problem comes when you try to connect to the outside world.

The Internet may have been based on TCP/IP, but the wide area networks that carried it were not. Telephone company standards evolved from the world of voice only channels for telephone calls. What T1, T3 (DS3) and OCx did was simply bundle the smallest channels, 64 Kbps PCM coded telephone calls.

Digital being digital, the solution was to perform a protocol conversion at each end so that Ethernet LAN would be converted to, say, T1 for transmission over some distance and then back to Ethernet at the other end. That process still works great and many T1 lines remain in use because they are sometimes all that is available in rural areas.

What’s Going Bye-Bye?
The major telecom companies have been quietly converting their networks to Ethernet for years. In many cases, this can be simply running Ethernet over some underlying fiber protocol like SONET. Competitive carriers have built out their facilities using Ethernet in the network core and never going through the TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) evolution.

What’s going on now is that telcos are asking the FCC for permission to sunset some of their older services, especially those that run on copper and don’t have many customers anymore. The standard POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) is an endangered species. Fewer and fewer residential users have the traditional “home phone.” They either get their phone service bundled with TV and Internet or simply depend on cellular for voice communications.

Businesses are following suit. Smaller companies may get voice and data bundles from cable companies or incumbent telcos that are acting like cable companies. Larger companies are moving rapidly to enterprise VoIP and Unified Communications. These don’t need traditional telephone wiring inside or outside the facility. Everything runs on the network. Outside connectivity is by SIP trunking, dedicated private line, MPLS networks or Dedicated Internet Access.

Is Copper a Goner?
Copper is still going, but who knows for how long. The telcos want to rid their plants of those thick copper bundles, especially the individual POTS lines.

T1 lines are still popular, but the 1.5 Mbps bandwidth is becoming more and more of a limitation. A newer standard, Ethernet over Copper, is highly competitive and offers an order of magnitude or more higher bandwidth at lower cost per Mbps.

Even so, fiber optic connections are reaching more and more business buildings as well as cellular towers. 4G and 5G wireless needs bandwidth beyond what is practical with twisted pair copper. It’s likely that all twisted pair copper may be abandoned to corrode in the ground or pulled out of conduits and sold for scrap. That’s not today in most areas, but it’s not that far away.

So, Where Can I Get Ethernet?
You can order Ethernet over Copper or Ethernet over Fiber in most populous areas right now. In rural locations, Ethernet over DS1 uses a T1 line to deliver Ethernet.

Don’t forget that Cable broadband is delivered to you as an Ethernet connection and FTTP (Fiber to the Premises) is also Ethernet at typically 1 Gbps.

Satellite and wireless Internet services are also delivered as Ethernet. That includes 3G and 4G cellular services designed for business use.

If you’ve been living with a legacy Internet or telecom connection and wondering if there is something better to choose from, there probably is now. Find out with a quick check of Ethernet services in your area and complementary consultation to help you choose the best solution for your business.

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

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Can Satellite Be The Answer to Your Business Broadband Needs?

By: John Shepler

You’re totally frustrated. Doing business today needs an Internet connection even if you only sell to local customers. You’ve checked out cable and DSL options. No way. Not where you are located. Hey, it’s not like you’ve left civilization. There must be SOME way to get high speed Internet… isn’t there?

In most cases, the answer is yes. You just have to forget about cables and fiber lines. If they aren’t already connected or very near by, it will cost a fortune to bring them in. Instead, look to the sky! Here’s a quick video that explains why:

Here are 10 key points to remember:

1. Satellite Internet for business can provide both primary and backup connectivity.

2. Available satellite broadband speeds have increased to surpass traditional T1 lines and DSL, even to rival fractional DS3 and cable carriers. Exede offers up to 15 Mbps download with 4 Mbps upload capability.

3. Since service is delivered via dish antenna, not even a traditional telephone line is needed, much less high speed telecom infrastructure. That makes it possible to have broadband connections to fishing camps, farms & ranches, rural agri-businesses, and any other enterprise that isn’t served by even 3G or 4G cellular. All you need is enough power to run the satellite receiver/modem, and that can come from power mains or a solar/battery & inverter off-grid system.

4. Primary 15/4 business Internet is available throughout the eastern half of the USA, plus the west coast and partial coverage in Arizona and Colorado. National coverage and higher speeds are coming with a new satellite in 2017. Lower speed 5/1 redundant services is available now in nearly all of the continental USA.

5. Installation can be completed in just 3-5 business days. No need to wait for massive construction projects.

6. Business data plans are available from 20 GB to 200 GB/month with the option to purchase additional data. For many smaller business operations, this is more than enough, although not suitable for frequently streaming HD movies and other video entertainment.

7. Latency is greater than you’d experience with land based fiber, wireless and optical services due to the 22,000 mile path up to the geosynchronous satellite. This may or may not be noticeable depending on how you use the Internet. VoIP telephone works over the satellite, but you need to allow a half second or so between speakers.

8. You’ll need a clear view of the southern sky about half way up from the horizon for the dish to “see” the bird.

9. Pricing is similar or even less than what you’d pay for a dedicated Internet line running 1.5 Mbps upload/download or many of the business cable broadband plans.

10. Don’t think that you are left out of the world of ecommerce or unable to interconnect your many branch offices or stores due to lack of telecom support. Satellite might be just the answer.

Learn more about VSAT satellite broadband Internet service and other available broadband options 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 12, 2016

Gigabit Metro Fiber Ethernet Means Business

By: John Shepler

More and more companies are running out of bandwidth as demanding applications eat up every Mbps of LAN, MAN and WAN bandwidth they can access. Are you doomed to fight a losing battle or is there a good technical solution available?

Look into Metro Ethernet bandwidth service for your business and beat the slow bandwidth blues!More Bandwidth to the Rescue
Don’t expect to roll back the clock and be able to do business today and tomorrow with the connections you ordered yesterday. X.25 is long gone. T1 lines have about had their last hurrah. Ethernet over Copper is a temporary solution, at best, to buy you time for what you really need to do. That is, connect to the world via fiber optic bandwidth

But What About Cable?
Cable broadband, also called D3 or DOCSIS 3 for the technical standard, is actually a good solution for some applications. Just don’t kid yourself. That cable connection doesn’t really go very far until it hooks up with the cable company’s metro fiber plant. The junction box may be a few blocks away or it might be handing on the utility pole you can see from your office.

The same is true for T3 or DS3 bandwidth, the longstanding upgrade path from T1 lines. The connection to your equipment may be a pair of coaxial cables, but they only go out to the street. At they point they join up with a SONET fiber optic system owned and maintained by the local telephone company.

What’s Special About MetroE Fiber?
Ethernet is the newer and future-proof technology for carrying digital traffic on fiber optic systems. It is based on the same Ethernet standards used for your local area networks. Certain standards have been added to fit with carrier operations, but otherwise it is switched Ethernet.

That means the interface between your LAN and the carrier’s MAN or WAN is trivially simple. Just plug in and go, like you would with any router or switch. No special interface cards are needed. Chances are that the carrier who is providing your service will install a managed router at your business to define the network edge.

Metro vs Internet
Metro Ethernet, strictly speaking, is a network that serves a particular city or city plus suburbs. The most common use has been to interconnect business locations that are geographically close. These may include headquarters, data centers, warehouses and branch offices. Some companies choose to include suppliers and important customers on their MetroE network for high connection speed and security.

Metro Ethernet is a point to point or multipoint service that directly connects particular locations. You can elect to order ELAN service that actually extends your local network to the other locations. It’s just like you ran your own cables across town, but without the prohibitive expense of doing so.

The Internet is another animal. It’s actually a massive worldwide network made up of national, regional and city-wide networks that all agree to a common standard. Metro Ethernet is not the Internet, but it can connect to it. MetroE networks can also connect to each other over longer distances, especially when ordered through the same carrier.

Why Order Metro Ethernet?
You can think of Carrier Ethernet or Metro Ethernet as the new gold standard in telecommunications. It gives you high bandwidth connections that are easily scalable and low in latency, jitter and packet loss. You have exclusive use of the bandwidth you’ve ordered. It’s also generally covered by a service level agreement to ensure that you get the highest level of availability.

That’s important because the tradeoff between Metro Ethernet and Cable Broadband is not so much in the connection method. Cable provides you with a shared bandwidth service that varies in speed depending on how heavy the usage is. Service is generally on a “best effort” basis rather than any particular guarantees of performance or availability. Thus, the lower price for a given bandwidth level. Some businesses, especially smaller ones, find this tradeoff well worth making. Others with large user bases and critical applications may find that only dedicated service is acceptable.

By the way, many Cable companies also offer Metro Ethernet service on their fiber backbones. It’s a different class of service with a different pricing structure than the coax connected business broadband offering.

Is Metro Ethernet For You?
If you are running out of bandwidth or already at the limit, or simply want a service that can easily be upgraded in the future, you should take a serious look at Metro Ethernet for your business. You may be able to get a break on construction costs or even have them waived if you sign a long term contract, have high enough bandwidth requirements or can join forces with other business customers in your building. There are likely multiple carriers serving your area. Find out what each can offer with a set of competitive quotes for Metro Ethernet service now.

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

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