Monday, April 28, 2008

Point to Point With T1, VPN, MPLS, Ethernet

Let's say you have two business locations. It could be your headquarters and a branch office, an office and a factory or a warehouse. What's important is that you need to tie these facilities together so that they act as one. An important part of that coordination is your electronic communications. That's voice, data and perhaps video. So how do you do it?

A tried and true technology for linking facilities is the T1 digital trunk line. For telephone services, T1 lines are often used to connect PBX telephone systems at each location. A T1 line used in this way is often called a PBX tie line or tie trunk.

A more general term is point to point T1 service. Point to point is what it sounds like. It is a direct link from one location to another. Some mix of telephone company and competitive carrier facilities are used to get the signal from point to point. But what distinguishes this type of service is that it is private and exclusive for your use. You're not sharing a network or line with anyone. You've got full bandwidth 24/7 for your exclusive use.

Point to point T1 lines can be set up for voice or data. A point to point data T1 line gives you 1.5 Mbps of full time bandwidth in both directions. You can use this to connect the local area networks at both locations so that you can share files, email and so on. If your bandwidth needs increase beyond 1.5 Mbps, you can get bonded T1 lines that multiply this bandwidth 2x, 3x and so on. In addition to private exclusive use, the advantages of T1 lines are that they are highly reliable and can be installed just about anywhere you can get phone service.

A newer service that's very popular for LAN extensions is Metro Ethernet, also called Carrier Ethernet. What makes this service so popular is that it is switched Ethernet just like the protocol you run on your company network. It's also much less expensive than other bandwidth options when you want 10, 100 or 1000 Mbps of connectivity. E-Line service is the point to point version of Metro Ethernet. It's normally provisioned on fiber optic lines, but can also be transmitted using EoC or Ethernet over Copper if you are within a couple miles of a carrier's point of presence (POP).

What if you want to connect more than two locations in your network? E-LAN service for Carrier Ethernet is a multipoint to multipoint service that connects all of your locations so that any one can communicate with any other, just like users on a LAN. MPLS or Multi-Protocol Label Switching is a private network that will do the same thing. Generally, T1 lines are used to access the MPLS network from each location. MPLS is a modernized version of an older wide area network system called Frame Relay.

A very cost effective way to link locations is to use the Internet. Chances are that you need Internet access at each location anyway. T1 dedicated Internet access is very popular with small and medium businesses because it is readily available, very reliable, and more affordable than ever. But isn't security a problem with using the Internet to transmit company data? The way around that is to create secure "tunnels" using encryption software at each end. This turns a public network into a virtual private network or VPN.

Which flavor of connectivity is right for your business situation? Our digital line specialists are happy to discuss this with you at your convenience. Find the best point to point and multipoint network connections for your business now.

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