Monday, October 07, 2013

Many Flavors of Business Internet

By: John Shepler

You need to connect your business to the Internet. In fact, it’s almost impossible to do business now without a broadband Internet connection. Your customers, your cloud services, your emergency backup, your suppliers and perhaps the connection to your home office, remote sites or franchisees are all via the Internet. The only question is how to best achieve that connectivity.

Prices and options for business Internet bandwidth available instantly online!Most businesses don’t have a lack of options for getting Internet service. What they have is a confusing situation with may different services offering different characteristics at different price points. Choosing the lowest price option may result in frustration when the connection can’t support your particular business activities. Automatically picking the highest priced option can increase your internet costs significantly and may also not provide the connectivity you need. Let’s see if we add some clarity to this decidedly unclear situation.

Business Internet options generally fall within two categories. The first are telecom services, usually regulated and tariffed. These were the first connections invented and adopted by business as well as the carriers themselves. The other category includes information services that are were primarily designed to serve the consumer market but now available for businesses too.

Telecom services include familiar names such as T1 lines, DS3, SONET fiber optic services and the newer Ethernet over Copper and Ethernet over Fiber connections. These are almost always intended for commercial and large organizational use. Most carriers won’t even provision these services to residences. That’s seldom a problem, because these telecom services range from several times to an order of magnitude higher in price than what residential users are used to spending.

What do you get for your telecom dollar? These services almost always offer symmetrical, dedicated bandwidth with a service level agreement (SLA). The service level agreement specifies the technical characteristics of your line service, the expected availability and how fast problems get attention and repaired. It’s a type of guarantee that you’ll get top rate performance.

Dedicated bandwidth means that you have exclusive use of the bandwidth you are paying for. You have access to a certain number of Mbps or Gbps on a 24/7 basis. You can run traffic occasionally or load up the line to full capacity continuously. The price is the same. It’s your bandwidth and nobody else gets access.

Symmetrical means that you get the same bandwidth in both the upload (transmit) and download (receive) directions. This isn’t important if you are just browsing websites, but it can be critical if you are running a server, backing up files to a remote data center, using cloud computing services, video conferencing or VoIP telephone.

Consumer oriented services are also referred to as “information services.” This is intended to imply that they are not a guaranteed telecom service and offered on a more casual basis. That basis means “best effort” delivery. The providers will make a good faith effort to ensure that you have reliable bandwidth service, but there are no guarantees of performance.

Typical services that fall into this category are DSL, Cable broadband, WiFi hot spots, 3G and 4G wireless and consumer oriented satellite service. Beyond the best effort delivery, what helps to hold the cost down is the use of shared asymmetrical bandwidth.

Shared means just that. There is a pool of bandwidth to connect to the Internet that is shared among dozens or hundreds of simultaneous users. How much you get at any given moment is determined by how many other users are online to divide up that bandwidth pool.

Asymmetrical means that your download and upload speeds are different. Typically, you get several to a order of magnitude (10x) faster speed on download that upload. Why? It’s because most Internet users are accessing web pages or streaming video. These are primarily one way activities. You need the extra bandwidth for those large file transfers from the server on the Internet to your PC.

There are some factors that muddy the waters. The consumer oriented services have business equivalents that are basically the same service but installed at commercial than residential addresses. They are often 2x to 3x the cost for business users. You do get better customer service and, often, the option for static IP addresses if you need them to run a server. Most consumer services prohibit running servers or sharing the bandwidth, such as offering a free WiFi hotspot.

So are these lower cost services something to avoid? Not at all, if they meet your needs. Even home broadband can be highly reliable and quickly repaired if the line is cut or equipment fails. It’s not unusual to get higher bandwidths, as high as 50 or 100 Mbps download and 5 to 10 Mbps upload, for roughly the same cost as a 1.5 Mbps T1 or 3 Mbps EoC line. If most of what your employees do is use email and web browsers or view video clips, you’ll likely get faster speeds for everyone with cable broadband than even bonded T1 lines. Sometimes wireless is all that will work at your location. In that case, a 3G or 4G cellular broadband can save the day when there are no wireline services available.

On the other hand, if you are running enterprise applications, especially in the cloud, or have converted your entire telephone system to VoIP, you’re not going to be very happy with the lower end services. The variability in bandwidth, latency and jitter will drive you crazy and drive your customers crazy as well. You’ll be much better off with dedicated symmetrical bandwidth. In fact, you may well want a direct connection to your cloud service provider or between business locations rather than deal with the vagaries and security issues of the Internet. Many companies need both: dedicated private line service for internal operations and an Internet connection to reach customers and access data.

How do you sort through the myriad of options for business Internet and private line option? Get help from a bandwidth brokerage service that can give you a range of options and the consulting support to make the most effective choices for your business. Find business bandwidth options and prices instantly online now.

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

Follow Telexplainer on Twitter