Monday, February 13, 2012

What’s Wrong With Bring Your Own Bandwidth?

When you go out to contract new IT services, you are often faced with a choice. You can start fresh with both services and connectivity from your new provider. Otherwise you can layer the new IT services on the network setup you have now. Seems that if your MAN and WAN connections are working to your satisfaction, it would be smart to leave well enough alone. But, what other considerations should play into this decision?

Evaluate your bandwidth choices for any new IT serviceNot every service provider deals in bandwidth. Many VoIP, cloud computing and other service providers specialize in the specific service they offer. They may make recommendations, but getting connected from your facility to theirs is your responsibility.

Other companies have a far larger array of services to offer. Some started off as competitive telecom carriers and later added other services such as colocation, cloud infrastructure, hosted PBX, Software as a Service and so on. Talk to these companies and they’ll express a definite preference for providing both the IT or telecom service plus the connectivity. Is this simply being offered as a convenience to the customer, a desire to get as much of the client’s business as possible, or are there other reasons? If so, what would they be?

A common industry term for using the network connections you have now is “bring your own bandwidth.” You’ll hear this term used most often by VoIP, hosted PBX and cloud computing providers. There’s a reason that this expression keeps coming up in provider literature and consulting discussions. It’s far more than just industry jargon.

What’s unique about cloud services of all sorts is that the performance of the cloud service is highly dependent on the performance of the connection between your facility and your provider's. Issues with customer provided bandwidth pop up so often that providers have become wary.

A common application is hosted VoIP. Unless you have an IP PBX switching system in-house, any VoIP service you are using is probably hosted VoIP. Hosted means that the service provider owns and operates the switching system and the trunk lines to the public telephone system. You only need to have IP phones and perhaps a gateway device in-house.

Hosted VoIP can best the best thing that ever happened to your company or an unmitigated nightmare. In fact, the very same service that works beautifully for one company can be a disaster for another. Why? It’s because voice services, particularly network voice services like VoIP, are highly sensitive to the characteristics of the long haul network connections to them.

Voice is a touchy application because it is real-time and easily corrupted. Any network congestion that holds up packets, drops them or brings them in at a variable rate will be reflected in the call quality. Many network anomalies show up as audio distortion that garbles conversations. Other problems are delays that chop off the beginning of sentences and intermittent outages that drop calls.

This is why major business providers with reputations to protect cringe at the thought of their clients bringing their own bandwidth when it is a shared bandwidth DSL or Cable Internet connection. Those low end services work just fine for e-mail and general website access. Add a third party broadband phone services and you are really taking your chances. Why? Your network may not be set up to give voice packets priority, the bandwidth on your broadband Internet service may vary all over the place, and even when those things are working well, the Internet itself has all sorts of vagaries.

Even the Cable companies themselves are aware of this situation and don't run their bundled telephone services over the Internet. What they sell you is a VoIP phone service that uses their Cable network to connect to their own VoIP switching center. Your telephone calls never touch the Internet itself. Call quality is just too dicey and hard to predict when you are dealing with a public network where no packet has an advantage, by design.

What major VoIP service providers really prefer is that you get a dedicated SIP trunk from them to provide your voice and Internet service. This way they can control the WAN connection and keep the voice and data packets from tripping all over each other. With the right bandwidth, latency, jitter and packet loss characteristics, you can have excellent voice quality and all the advantages of hosted PBX telephone services.

The same discussion applies to high bandwidth cloud connections. What some companies are finding is that the WAN connection to their new cloud provider isn’t nearly as capable as the LAN connection they had to their in-house data center. The big issues are bandwidth and latency. You need sufficient bandwidth so that users don’t have to queue up when they access the cloud. Latency introduces a delay that makes the cloud applications seem sluggish. In some instances this has become such a problem that Amazon has make arrangements with Level 3 Communications and AboveNet for special AWS Direct Connect service at 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps for its high performance cloud computing services.

Is bring your own bandwidth a good idea or a bad idea? It depends on how robust your current metro and long haul network connections are and what services you intend to add. A good approach is to discuss connectivity at the same time you are evaluating new IT services to make sure you have what you need to get optimum performance. You can get expert consultation and a wide variety of telephone, cloud and bandwidth services through our telecom broker, Telarus, Inc. A simple online inquiry will get the process started immediately.

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

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