Business Internet broadband services generally fall into two categories. They are shared and dedicated connections. Shared connections are similar in design to residential broadband services. The fact that the bandwidth is divvied up among many users lowers the cost for all. Dedicated services allocate a certain bandwidth to your connection and it does not vary regardless of what other users are doing. These services also tend to come with SLAs or Service Level Agreements that spell out technical parameters and availability commitments.
Shared bandwidth services include Cable Broadband, DSL, 3G and 4G Wireless, and two-way Satellite Internet. What they all have in common is that the actual bandwidth you’ll see varies with the number of other users and what they are doing. These services are sold as speeds “up to” a certain number of Mbps. That means what it says. You may get the full speed the connection is capable of or you may get a tenth of that at any given time.
These variations may or may not bother you. If you are running enterprise VoIP or bandwidth sensitive business processes, your variable connection may not support the performance you have in mind. On the other hand, if you use the Internet at work the same way you use it at home for email, Web browsing, or accessing pre-recorded audio and video, you may be quite satisfied with the service and delighted with the cost savings. Some services, like 3G wireless and Satellite are often used to support electronic credit card machines in lieu of using a phone line.
Dedicated Internet access connections, such as T1 lines and Ethernet over Copper, have rock solid bandwidth and generally excellent latency, jitter and packet loss characteristics. These are the same lines that you would use to interconnect business connections on a private line service. As Internet connections, they have one termination at your location and the other at your Internet service providers location.
Dedicated Internet access supports Web and email servers. The also support multiple users accessing the Internet and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). If you are going to stream content to Internet users, you’ll want a DIA (Dedicated Internet Access) connection from the server to the Internet.
Ethernet over Copper (EoC) has become very popular as both a private line and DIA connection. You can often get twice the bandwidth you could with a T1 line costing the same price. Like T1, EoC is provisioned over twisted pair copper telco wiring to keep construction costs down.
Larger companies and those with demanding applications such as video transport move up to fiber optic services, such as OC3 to OC768 SONET and Ethernet over Fiber (EoF) 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet, 1 Gbps GigE and 10 Gbps 10GigE bandwidth services. All of these are dedicated services with service level agreements.
How do you decide which broadband service is right for your business? Perhaps the best way is to compare prices, availability and features for the range of Broadband Business Internet Service options available for your location. Most business grade broadband services are available only for business locations and not residences, despite similarities with consumer Internet services.