Chances are that you’ve been using Fast Ethernet or FastE for years on your own network. Fast Ethernet is another name for 100 Mbps Ethernet. Standard Ethernet is 10 Mbps, Fast Ethernet is 100 Mbps and Gigabit Ethernet is 1,000 Mbps. Network Interface Cards (NICs) in every device with an Ethernet jack, also called a port, support one or more of these Ethernet speeds. For instance, a 10/100 port supports Ethernet communications at 10 Mbps and also 100 Mbps. A 10/100/1000 port includes 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps and 1000 Gbps.
Nearly every computer, switch, router, modem, firewall, printer, NAS (Network Attached Storage) Disk and other network device supports 10/100 Ethernet. The 10/100/1000 spec is becoming more and more prevalent. In both cases, these devices support Fast Ethernet at 100 Mbps.
So, what doesn’t support Fast Ethernet communication? Many MAN and WAN connections come nowhere close. Clearly computer technology has accelerated faster than communications technology. Actually, support for 100 Mbps communication over long distances has been available for a long time. It’s just that you needed special interfacing and the cost was beyond what most businesses were willing to pay.
High priced proprietary data communications are a legacy of the telephone industry. Nearly every company has ordered a DSL or T1 line to be able to communicate between business locations and connect to the public Internet. The cost of those lines has fallen dramatically in recent years. Even so, the limited bandwidth is starting to become an uncomfortable constraint on even smaller operations.
What’s changed the game recently is the introduction of Carrier Ethernet services. Carrier means that you lease these lines from a service provider, a carrier, rather than stringing the wires yourself. Any connection that goes beyond your property is handled by carriers. At one time the only carrier available was the local telephone company. Deregulation has allowed other service providers, called competitive carriers, to enter the marketplace and compete on technology and price.
Carrier Ethernet is one of those competitive services, although you’ll now find it offered by incumbent as well as competitive carriers. What’s allowed Carrier Ethernet to grow by leaps and bounds is standardization by an industry group called the MEF or Metro Ethernet Forum. Any provider that meets the MEF standards will be compatible with Carrier Ethernet equipment and interconnection with other provider networks.
Fast Ethernet is one of the Carrier Ethernet services you can order in both metropolitan and long haul connections. These are known as MAN or Metropolitan Area Networks and WAN or Wide Area Networks. The difference is really one of scale. The MAN serves a local geographical area that includes a city and surrounding suburbs. The WAN joins cities and may cross state and national borders. International WANs use undersea fiber to link far-flung destinations worldwide.
Metro networks based on Ethernet rather than the older SONET technology are sometimes referred to as MEN or Metro Ethernet Networks. You’ll hear them referred to as MetroE networks. These networks are almost always based on fiber optic rather than copper lines. Increasingly, so are the connections to the network. It’s fiber all the way for FastE and above.
What kind of connection can you make to a MetroE network. One of the most popular is the Fast Ethernet or FastE connection at 100 Mbps. Another popular service level is GigE at 1000 Mbps. What’s just emerging now as a business service level is 10 GigE at 10000 Mbps or 10 Gbps.
Going Ethernet all the way through your network, across the metro or wide area networks and to another LAN at the far end, has some real benefits. The interface is trivially easy. Your handoff from the carrier is a standard fiber or copper Ethernet jack. You’ll also be able to order both point to point connections called E-Line and meshed multi-location connections called E-LAN. Don’t think that you are stuck with only the standard Ethernet speeds either. You can generally get many increments between 10, 100, 1000 and 10000 Mbps.
The biggest advantage of all is cost savings. You’ll pay far less per Mbps for Ethernet than other services. The difference is sometimes half as much for Ethernet as SONET or other telecom services. This easily allows you to afford the bandwidth you really need for today’s communication-intensive applications such as cloud services.
Is your business bandwidth constrained? No need to be stuck at low copper technology speeds when fiber connections to high bandwidth metro and wide area networks are available and affordable. Check now for bandwidth services and prices available for your business location.