Thursday, May 17, 2012

Symmetrical Internet Providers

Most people who use the Internet are consumers, not producers of content. The mix of content has migrated from largely text to largely images and streaming video over the last couple of decades. Even so, the connection arrangement for broadband Internet access has remained asymmetrical with bandwidth in the downward direction 5 to 10 times that provided in the upload direction.

Symmetrical or Assymetrical? That is the question...Why is that the setup? Think about how you access the Web on a PC, tablet or smartphone. It almost always involves selecting some content to read or view. The selection process is a matter of mouse clicks or keyboard entry. Those are pretty low bandwidth activities. The viewing of the results or the acquisition of a file is just the opposite. A server assembles those results and delivers fairly large pages consisting of text, graphics, photo images and perhaps video. All of that material comprises a lot of bytes and needs a considerable bandwidth to deliver in any reasonable time.

Since bandwidth is a scarce commodity, relatively speaking, there is a noticeable cost involved in providing the wireline or wireless channel for transport. There is no point in provisioning a fast upload link if it is only going to be lightly used. It’s download that customers value and demand as much as they can get for their broadband dollar.

Social media is changing the mix of upload and download requirements. When most of us were web page readers, the low bandwidth upload and high bandwidth download channels were the obvious setup. Today, many more users are creators as well as consumers of content. They post to blogs and Facebook. They upload photos and videos as well as download them. New applications like VoIP telephony and video conferencing consume equal amounts of bandwidth in both directions. The pressure on service providers is for more upload bandwidth as well as download bandwidth.

Businesses have had the symmetrical bandwidth requirement for a long time. It’s the businesses that run those servers that provide content to their customers. Large files going to the server need lots of bandwidth. There may be more email flowing out of a business than into it. Some businesses are providing streaming video content to the Internet and consume more bandwidth in the upload direction than the download direction. Cloud services have heavy traffic moving in both directions.

Right now, your choices in Internet bandwidth services can be divided into symmetrical and asymmetrical categories. Symmetrical means that upload and download speeds are the same. Asymmetrical means one direction is much faster than the other. That’s almost always the download stream.

Traditional telecom services are symmetrical. They were developed by the telephone industry and later adapted for transporting data. Telephone is inherently two-way with no difference in the amount of traffic flowing in one direction versus the other. If you order a T1 line, Ethernet over Copper, DS3 connection or OC-3 fiber optic service, you will get symmetrical bandwidth by default.

Symmetrical bandwidth services also tend to be dedicated Internet services, abbreviated DIA for Dedicated Internet Access. What does dedicated mean? It means that the bandwidth is assigned exclusively for your use. A 10 Mbps EoC Internet service gives you 10 Mbps in both directions, called 10 x 10 Mbps, anytime you want to use it. Any bandwidth you don’t need at the moment sits idle until you do.

Symmetrical bandwidth services are often covered by Service Level Agreements or SLAs. These agreements spell out the technical characteristics of the line, such as bandwidth, jitter, latency and packet loss. They also define such things as MTTR or Mean TIme To Repair for any outages that might occur. There are generally remedies available, like refunds on your bill, if the service provider can’t deliver to the terms of the SLA.

Asymmetrical bandwidth services are generally targeted toward consumers where price is far more important than performance. The bandwidth is shared among multiple users, not dedicated to you alone. That means that your download and upload speeds will vary depending on how many others are trying to use the service at the same time. Instead of SLAs, asymmetrical services are provided on a “best effort” basis that lacks any guarantees.

There’s quite a difference in price and performance between symmetrical and asymmetrical bandwidth services. Which is right for your business? Get prices and features from business broadband Internet providers to compare options and select the best match for your company needs.

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

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