Thursday, February 21, 2008

Do You Need a Business Cloud?

In the era of switched circuit communications, you could rightly envision a pair of wires leaving your telephone and going through the central office down a long line of telephone poles and ending up in the phone of the party you were calling. Every circuit was point to point. Network resource sharing was limited to lines and channels that happened to be open and available for use.

Packet switched communications changed all that. Now the circuits are connected to all the locations all the time. It's the data packets that are switched and guided through the myriad of network links. The idea that all these links are interrelated somewhere out there gives rise to the concept of a communications "cloud." Wide area networks are often drawn that way. Everyone connects with a line going to the cloud. The magic within the cloud makes sure that your voice and data get where they are supposed to go and nowhere else.

The main benefit of using a cloud is the ease of many-to-many communications to replace the one-to-one relationship of the switched circuit system. One perfect business application is connecting multiple offices together. Ideally, anyone at any branch can communicate with anyone else at any other location. You can do that with dedicated point-to-point lines, but someone has to act as a traffic cop to make the connections as needed. For phone service, that's the telephone company. For data, it's probably headquarters IT.

One of the first cloud-based networks was Frame Relay. It is still popular today. The Frame Relay Network is a privately owned network that spans a region, the country or the world. Each business location connects to the network using a FRAD or Frame Relay Access Device. T1 lines are common data connections. Within the network, frames of data (packets) are routed according to PVC or Permanent Virtual Circuit instructions. A CIR or Committed Information Rate establishes how much bandwidth you have.

A more advanced private cloud network is called MPLS or Multi-Protocol Label Switching. Once again, a provider owns and operates the network. Each business location that wants to use the network connects via private line, such as a T1 connection. The interface attachment is called a tag router. Packets are tagged by this router to identify their destination and quality of service requirements. This makes MPLS networks suitable for transmitting real-time streams such as voice and video.

The Internet is the most ubiquitous and well known cloud network. The design of the Internet does away with the concept of circuits completely. Each packet has a source and destination address. The Internet's core routers can choose among available paths to pick the best one to carry the packet incrementally on its way. A major difference with using the Internet is that it is a public, not private resource. Thus, security can be an issue. This is handled using encryption software to create a "tunnel" that keeps your data private. Thus creating a Virtual Private Network using a public resource. Because there are so many routes installed worldwide with access from practically anywhere, the Internet cloud is attractive for business to business communications.

Do you need a business cloud to communicate with branch offices or with suppliers and customers? Or would a private line meet your needs better? Let our team of experts show you the range of alternatives available for your locations and explain which are the most cost effective.

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

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