Private vs Public. This is a big dividing line between business connectivity services. Let’s take a closer look at what the differences are and how you go about picking the right solution.
Private lines have been a staple of business operations since they were first offered by the telephone companies. They are renowned for their high reliability, excellent consistent performance, desirable specs… and high prices.
The Internet is the new kid on the block, relatively speaking. Remember the dial-up days? Long gone. Now just about everyone who wants a broadband connection and can pony up $40 to $60 a month can hook into a universal worldwide network from just about anywhere. In fact, if you have a business and want to connect with consumers you WILL be on the Internet.
That suggests an interesting approach. If you have to be connected to the Internet to do business with your customers and, often, suppliers, why not use the Internet for everything? If it would work, you could save a bundle of money and only have to worry about your last-mile access connection instead of an entire wide area network. Somebody else will take care of making sure the Internet core will be available 24/7.
The actual Internet core network is highly reliable. The issues that business users have generally break down into performance, security and reliability of that last mile connection.
Let’s take the last mile first. You know that you can connect to the Internet using a business version of the same DSL, cable and wireless broadband services that are popular with consumers. The price is right, but you will be dealing with variable performance due to the bandwidth being shared among many users, asymmetrical (much higher download than upload speeds), and no service level agreements to give you the priority you need when things occasionally go wrong.
The solution to these limitations is DIA or Dedicated Internet Access. This is a last mile connection using a T1 line, DS3, Ethernet over Copper or Fiber or SONET fiber optic service. Now your last mile is every bit the quality of a private line. So, does that also make the Internet the ideal business network?
Not necessarily. The Internet is designed for universal access and is self-healing to maintain connectivity even if one path is cut or routing equipment fails. That’s good, right? It sure is if you want to make sure your packets get from one place to another. Not so good if you need consistency in bandwidth, latency, jitter and packet loss. Remember, you are sharing the Internet with millions of other eager users. That can result in things backing up, like the congestion you get on a public highway. Nobody guarantees performance, so you get what you get. For nearly all consumers and many businesses it’s a good tradeoff.
Security is another matter. There is no security on the Internet. It’s open to anyone and everyone. However, you can create your own security by using data encryption to build a private tunnel through the public network. SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption is the standard for ecommerce and can be used for private business communications, too.
It the Internet won’t cut it for your critical internal operations, you can construct your own private IP network using point to point dedicated lines and your own switches and routers. The PTP lines simply extend your network around town, cross country or internationally. This is the ultimate in performance and security, but it costs a pretty penny. Is there anything else that will work?
MPLS networks are becoming the new gold standard for private business communications. This means connections between multiple business locations, remote data centers or cloud services. Only paying customers get on this network and the Multi-Protocol Label Switching technology is proprietary to the network. This is why they’ll often be referred to as MPLS VPN or virtual private networks. The network operator ensures that each user has the connectivity they need with committed bandwidth and guaranteed levels of low latency, jitter and packet loss. From your perspective, you are the only one on the network. In actuality, there are likely thousands of other customers using the same core network. There is no interaction between them.
MPLS networks are considerably less expensive than building your own private network but more expensive than using the Internet. So, how do you decide? In many cases, the answer is to use both. The Internet is perfect for connecting prospects and customers to your public-facing servers. The private network connections are perfect for sensitive internal communications, VoIP telephony, video conferencing, and efficient cloud connections.
Does your business need solutions for internal connections, public communications or both? Check out the different options for Internet and private IP connections available for your business locations.