Thursday, April 24, 2014

E-Rate Discounted Broadband Internet for Schools and Libraries

By: John Shepler

Schools and libraries are clamoring for high speed Internet access. In our connected world, broadband has become a utility that enables business, personal development and learning of all types. While many, if not most, public resources have Internet access of some kind, pressure is mounting to increase the access speed to enable more users and more sophisticated applications. What stands in the way of doing this? Cost.

Find E-Rate broadband Internet discount service for your school or library.Discounted Service is Available
Fortunately, there is a government program that makes it possible for most K-12 schools and libraries to upgrade their broadband Internet at discounted rates that vary from 20% to 90% of the service cost. Instead of poking along at a few Mbps, it’s now quite reasonable to make the leap to fiber optic service offering 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet or 1,000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet.

Better Pricing Plus Affordability Equals Higher Bandwidth
Part of the affordability for higher bandwidth comes from the rapid expansion of competitive fiber optic services for business users. Competitive carriers have driven down the price per Mbps of broadband so that even GigE bandwidth is within reason for most companies and other organizations. Schools and libraries have the extra benefit of support through the government E-Rate program that makes possible discounted telecommunications, Internet access and internal connectivity.

How E-Rate Works
E-Rate gets it funding from the Universal Service fee charged to telecommunication companies. Originally, the idea was to create a pool of resources to ensure that everyone had telephone service, even if they couldn’t afford it. The ability to make and receive telephone calls was considered a strategic necessity for the country. Time change and the traditional landline is fading into obscurity. What’s replacing it as a necessity is broadband and mobility. With that in mind, the Federal Communication Commission has broadened the Universal Service Fund to include Internet as well as telephony.

Who Qualifies for E-Rate Discounts
E-Rate is targeted at two specific entities: schools and libraries. Each school, school district and library that wants the discounts submits an application through the administrator of the program, USAC or the Universal Service Administrative Company. Each carrier or service provider who wants to offer E-Rate qualified services must also apply and be assigned a SPIN or Service Provider Identification Number. As you might expect, there are various official forms that need to be completed. More information can be found on the USAC website.

How the Discounts are Calculated
The size of the discount for each school or library is based on the level of poverty and the urban/rural status of the population served. That sounds like it might be a pretty difficult thing to figure out. The determination is made much easier by basing it on the percentage of students eligible for the national school lunch program. Better off areas might only qualify for 20% service discounts. Those with severe poverty might qualify for discounts as high as 90%.

The Size of E-Rate Funding
How much money are we talking about? The E-Rate program funding cap for FY2014 is over $2.4 billion. If your school or library isn’t getting your share of the discounts applied to Internet service, it’s likely well worth your while to get on board. Others who are already benefiting from E-Rate service discounts and feeling the need to upgrade service levels should know that many major service providers now offer E-Rate qualified services. One or more is likely to be able to provide the kind of bandwidth you need, ranging from 10 Mbps on up to 10 Gbps.

Bandwidth Upgrades are Needed Now
A recent report indicated that many libraries nationwide are feeling the need to move as quickly as possible to 100 Mbps broadband. School districts with heavy classroom and administrative use may need to have Gigabit bandwidth installed. With fiber based Ethernet service, bandwidth levels are very scalable and can usually be increased without equipment changes.

Finding E-Rate Services
Are you looking for new or upgraded Internet access for your eligible school district or library system? Find carriers offering E-Rate bandwidth services quickly and easily now.

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

Note: Photo of Duluth Central High School courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Fiber Makes the Upgrades Easy

By: John Shepler

Fiber optic bandwidth has long been a standard of business connectivity, especially for applications requiring extreme line speeds. The good news now is that fiber service is becoming available to more and more business locations. IT managers and other executives are increasingly faced with the choice of whether to continue embracing their legacy copper wireline services or make the upgrade to fiber optic service. Let’s see what helps tilt the balance in favor of fiber.

First of all, Fiber is the Future
You can easily read the signs that point in this direction. Fiber optic bandwidth has gone from being an extremely expensive option to being price competitive with copper on a per Mbps basis. Bonded T1 and Ethernet over Copper will only take you so far in satisfying an accelerating need for MAN and WAN bandwidth. When copper runs out of capability, fiber is often the only solution.

Copper Asset Retirement
You’ll also notice the media stories of how carriers are either phasing out their copper assets or planning to do so. The change has been slow in coming because all that buried and overhead copper is already paid for. However, maintenance is not free. Corroding copper wires result in frequent truck rolls. Some of the justification for holding onto the copper plant is the preponderance of legacy analog phone lines plus T1 and ISDN trunks that use the same twisted pair lines. As carriers transition from circuit switched to packet switched architectures, those analog and TDM circuits start to fade away.

Ethernet over Fiber
The new juggernaut is Ethernet over Fiber. It’s a combination that meets a lot of needs. Fiber provides the bandwidth capacity. Ethernet offers its inherent support for IP networking. Ethernet also has some new standardized services available. E-LAN or Ethernet LAN service is becoming the easiest and most cost effective way to link multiple business locations in a meshed any-to-any communications architecture. The designed-in ease of scalability with Ethernet over Fiber is a huge boon for companies that want to minimize their costs in an uncertain business climate.

SONET, the Legacy Fiber
The legacy competing fiber service is SONET, a technology designed by and for the phone companies. SONET has predetermined bandwidth levels that include OC-3 at 155 Mbps, OC-12 at 622 Mbps and OC-48 at 2.4 Gbps. The terminal equipment is specific to these levels, so changes require truck rolls for the carriers to swap out customer premises equipment and perhaps make engineering changes to the network. Delays of weeks and months for system changes are not unusual.

Ethernet Scalability
Ethernet over Fiber doesn’t operate at fixed bandwidth levels. Instead, there is a maximum bandwidth capability determined by the installed port speed. Popular port options include 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet, 1 Gbps Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gbps 10 GigE. The beauty of this arrangement is that you can install a Gigabit Ethernet port, but only order a couple hundred Mbps of initial bandwidth. When your line starts to reach its capacity, a simple phone call to your provider can double or quadruple bandwidth in a matter of hours or days. No hardware changes are needed.

Ethernet Cost Advantage
You should also be aware that Ethernet over Fiber usually has a cost advantage over SONET. Competitive carriers with their own IP core networks can completely bypass the incumbent telephone companies and give you point to point or dedicated Internet connections. You may well find that you can get twice the bandwidth for the same money that you pay now or cut your monthly telecom bill in half.

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

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Do You Need Bandwidth on Demand?

By: John Shepler

When you order a bandwidth service, you are expected to know the bandwidth your network requires and select the best option to deliver it. But, what if your requirements are somewhat fuzzy or subject to change? What if you are moving from an in-house IT data center to cloud computing or cloud communication services? What happens if you get it wrong?

Gain flexibility with  network bursting options and bandwidth on demand.The Limitation of Standard BW Services
Traditional line contracts are for a fixed amount of bandwidth for a set number of years. A DS3 bandwidth connection gives you 45 Mbps bi-directionally at all times. You have the security of knowing that the line speed will be there when you need it. You are also paying for the line to sit there doing nothing when you don’t.

This can lead to overprovisioning to ensure that you’ll never run out of capacity. You might only need half the capacity most of the year. Then the holiday rush hits and the network becomes congested at times. The worst situation is when you experience a sudden unexpected wealth of new business and you can’t serve the customers… because you don’t have the capacity.

Making Changes is Slow
When things start to pick up, you can order more bandwidth and keep your fingers crossed that it will be in place before your current line starts to sputter. That’s a problem with traditional telecom services because they are so specific. A T1 line is 1.5 Mbps, a DS3 connection is 45 Mbps, an OC-3 fiber service is 155 Mbps. There is a big gap between service levels and it takes equipment changes to move from one service type to another. That can translate into weeks and even months to make a change.

The Ethernet Advantage
Carrier Ethernet offers a lot more flexibility. If you have a Gigabit Ethernet port installed, you can order 100 Mbps, 200 Mbps, 400 Mbps or some other bandwidth and know that you can upgrade quickly when needed. A GigE port will run at any speed up to 1000 Mbps. You have the option to both upgrade and downgrade your service with just a phone call to your provider. How long does this take? Since there are no equipment changes needed, you may be looking at anywhere between a few hours and a few days max.

Consider Your Port
Of course, you’ll need to think ahead just a bit to know what size port to install. They are typically one of the standard Ethernet speeds of 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, 1000 Mbps and 10 Gbps. It’s also possible to get a 100 Gbps port installed in certain locations if you really need this much capacity. Most business users need a 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet port or a 1,000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet port.

Bandwidth Bursting is Better
Additional flexibility is provided by a feature called “bandwidth bursting.” Bursting means that you have some ability to get extra capacity automatically on a short term basis. Not all line services offer this ability. It’s more typical on MPLS IP VPN networks. The capacity is already available on the network. You are simply paying for a committed information rate (CIR). It you need more, you get more and simply pay for the excess used during the month.

Bandwidth on Demand For The Most Flexibility
Bandwidth-on-Demand takes this idea a step further. This is a dynamic network design that can give you more capacity on the fly. You don’t have to plan ahead or settle for a “best effort” by the provider. Bandwidth-on-Demand gives you extra capacity on the fly at the quality of service (QoS) level you’ve pre-selected. XO Communications, a worldwide leader in WAN bandwidth solutions, is offering this service for organizations that need to accommodate unanticipated capacity needs. They are promoting it especially for cloud and multi-cloud service environments.

What Do You Need Now?
Could your operation benefit from Bandwidth-on-Demand, burstable bandwidth or easily scalable Ethernet bandwidth? Get quick quotes and recommendation on flexible bandwidth solutions now.

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

Note: Image of Gamma Ray burst courtesy of NASA on WIkimedia Commons.

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Monday, April 07, 2014

Why Such a Stampede to The Cloud?

You can hardly turn around these days without hearing something about “the cloud.” Is it true that there is a mass migration under way from local data centers to cloud service companies? For those who make the move, why are they doing it and what do they hope to achieve? Let’s take a quick look, thanks to this enlightening infographic from Integra Telecom:

Get Your Head Into the Cloud

Get Your Head into the Cloud – Cloud Computing Infographic from Integra, Data Networking & Voice Service Provider

The Cloud You Don’t Know
Cloud storage is the big app that’s getting all the press, but unlimited server capacity is also a strong draw. One application that you may not be thinking of is Hosted PBX or Hosted VoIP. This is a replacement for your in-house telephone system. Yes, you still have phones, but they plug into your data network rather than their own telephone wiring. There is no switching system in-house. That’s in the cloud.

Why Hosted PBX?
You get rid of all the headaches associated with buying and maintaining the in-house system, including all of those moves, adds and changes. Plus, you pay only for what you need. Add phones as you need them and pay by the month for each one in service. Don’t need them anymore due to downsizing or change of business direction? Get rid of ‘em. Some providers will even give you the phones so you don’t have to buy them yourself. It’s a pretty sweet deal.

How can the cloud help your business?
Get the latest on competitive cloud services available for your business operations.

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

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Telephone Trunks for Call Centers

By: John Shepler

All businesses need telephone lines of some sort. Independent professionals may rely on a smartphone for wireless communication, but businesses with offices or stores open to the public or with two or more employees almost always have some sort of landline installed. Let’s take a look at the analog and digital options available and the advantage of installing telephone trunk lines to increase capacity and reduce cost.

Plain Old Analog
Analog phone lines are the legacy technology of the phone companies going back over a century. You’ll hear them described as POTS or Plain Old Telephone Service. POTS lines are well established, highly reliable and engineered for high voice quality on both local and toll calls. Standard phones, including desk sets and cordless phones with multiple handsets, are analog phones and plug directly into analog business phone lines.

Broadband Phone
The digital solution for a single phone line is a broadband Internet connection shared with the computers. This option is usually chosen for its low cost, but voice quality can degrade and certain applications, like FAX machines and alarm systems, may not function correctly.

Adding More Lines
What about the vast majority of businesses with more than one phone line, especially those with an in-house contact center or specializing as a call center? Small operations sill rely on analog phone lines. You can add analog lines one at a time and plug them into your key telephone system or PBX switching system. Each outside line has its own phone number.

How Costs Add Up
Adding analog phone lines incrementally as you need them works well until you get more than half a dozen to a dozen separate lines. There are no technical issues, but costs mount up. Two lines cost twice as much as one line. Six lines cost six times as much. There is no economy of scale as these are independent lines.

How Trunking Saves
The strategy for reducing costs while maintaining voice quality and reliability is called trunking. Trunking simply means combining multiple lines to create a single trunk line with the same capacity. Trunking was invented by the telephone industry to transport dozens or even thousands of phone conversations efficiently from switching office to switching office. Originally, this was done with analog technology called carrier telephony. In recent decades, it’s all gone digital from office to office, leaving analog POTS lines only for that last mile connection between the telco office and the customer’s premises.

T1 Telephone Trunks
The first digital trunk line that was introduced by the phone industry for business users was the T1 telephone line. Yes, this is the same T1 technology that you may be using for point to point or dedicated Internet access. The difference is that the T1 line is divided or “channelized” into 24 separate segments or time slots. Each channel can transport one two-way telephone conversation and is the equivalent of an analog POTS line. You can use an appliance called a channel bank to convert between analog phone and the T1 line. Most in-house PBX phone systems have the necessary interface to do this or it can be added easily with a plug-in card.

Cost Advantage of T1
The big advantage of T1 trunks is that they become cost competitive with multiple POTS lines when you get over 6 to 10 outside lines. If you need more than a dozen phone lines for your desks or a call center operation, T1 is the lower cost option. Multiple T1 lines can be added to provide blocks of 24 outside lines incrementally.

ISDN PRI Improves on T1
A newer version of the T1 line is called ISDN PRI or Primary Rate interface. It uses the same T1 line but reserves one channel for signaling and switching. The other 23 channels are available as separate phone lines. ISDN PRI is popular with call centers because it provides faster call setup and teardown than the older T1 telephone lines. It also offers digital data ,such as Caller ID, that is not generally available on just T1 trunks. Like T1, though, multiple ISDN PRI trunks can be installed to provide as many outside lines as needed. Cost is competitive with T1 and most PBX systems come with the PRI interface already installed.

SIP Trunking, The Emerging Standard
While ISDN PRI is now the standard in commercial telephone trunking technology, an even newer technology is available to better support enterprise VoIP telephone systems. This is called SIP trunking. SIP is the switching protocol used by IP telephones and VoIP phone systems.

SIP vs T1
SIP trunks are also digital, but differ from T1 lines in that they are based on packet switching rather than time division channelization. Packet switching is the heart of all Ethernet networks that support computing. What companies are doing is replacing their old analog telephones with IP phones that connect to the same network as the computers. SIP trunks extend this connection out to the service provider for multiple telephone lines or a combination of voice and data.

Private Lines vs The Internet
Note that high performance SIP trunks are private lines between the user and the carrier and do not suffer from the vagaries of Internet broadband phone. SIP trunks often have the ability to also supply Internet service, but the telephone packets have priority to maintain high voice quality. SIP trunking is becoming popular for call center operations as companies replace their old PBX systems with newer IP PBX systems or choose to outsource the switching function to the cloud.

How to Choose
Which type of telephone trunking arrangement is optimum for your organization? Get some expert advice on the tradeoffs and competitive pricing from multiple carriers serving your location. Call now toll free (888) 848-8749 or enter your inquiry at

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

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