Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Connectivity for Telemedicine and Remote Work

By: John Shepler

The sudden onset of the Coronavirus pandemic is accelerating a couple of trends that were already in progress. One is telemedicine. The other is remote work. Both have a common critical path, which is broadband Internet bandwidth. Let’s look at what’s available to get connected.

Network Service OptionsConnecting the User
Most remote workers and patients accessing telemedicine will be connecting at home, perhaps using a desktop PC or Mac, or on the move through their smartphones, laptops and tablets. The most popular option at home is cable broadband, with bandwidths of 30 to 100 Mbps. Remotely, the most popular options are public WiFi and 4G & 5G cellular broadband.

The individual user who is an employee or patient seldom has the budget for business grade connections such as private lines, fiber optic bandwidth or point to point microwave. Their connection is to the Internet through whatever last mile connection they can afford. That’s almost always a cable or cellular connection which is shared bandwidth and asymmetric, with download speed perhaps 10x upload speed.

These connections generally work fine for remote log-in, video chat and website access. They’re pretty reliable and budget friendly.

Special Cases
Certain medical equipment doesn’t work well over home Internet. The patient may need a classic analog landline (yes, even today) or built-in proprietary wireless access.

A business needing higher performance than consumer broadband offers may have to pay the cost of a dedicated leased line. This might be a T1 line, Ethernet over Copper, or Fiber to the Premises, if available. Dedicated Internet Access generally offers a performance improvement over shared consumer broadband first-mile connections. You also have the option of setting up a dedicated private line, although higher bandwidths are often not available to consumers.

If broadcast quality live video is required, you may need to set up a small remote studio near your talent. A Metro Ethernet private line will support the quality you need to avoid the distorted audio and video glitches common with consumer Internet video chat services.

Business Bandwidth Options

If you are the provider rather than the user, your connectivity needs are likely more demanding. As the company or medical organization you will probably be supporting more than one simultaneous employee or patient. That could be dozens, hundreds or even thousands of users connecting into your central system, which might be cloud-based.

There are two types of connectivity you’ll want to consider. First is connection to those outside users, mostly likely through Internet broadband. Second is connections within your own organization. Your internal connectivity will be by Local Area Network and either Metropolitan or Wide Area Networking to include more than one business location. You may also want a dedicated high bandwidth cloud connection to make your cloud applications perform as if they were hosted in a local data center.

You’ll need enough Internet bandwidth to support the maximum number of simultaneous users that will commonly be connected, plus some surge ability to support additional users when things get busy. A dedicated broadband Internet connection using scalable Ethernet over Fiber bandwidth can handle heavy demands. Gigabit and 10 Gig E services are readily available.

Within the organization, you may wish to stay off the Internet both for higher performance and better security. Point to Point dedicated private lines can be nearly transparent to your network. If multiple locations are involved scattered over a wide geographical area, an MPLS network can save cost while still preserving high performance and excellent security.

The performance of the last-mile Internet connection can also be improved by using an SD-WAN connection. SD-WAN or Software Defined Wide Area Network combines several types of Internet connections, including wired, fiber optic and wireless. The SD-WAN software constantly monitors the various connections and chooses the most appropriate for each packet. This helps ensure that more demanding applications have priority over activities that can be run in the background.

Is your company planning or already engaged in remote work or telemedicine? If so, we can help you find the right type of connectivity at the best price.

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

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Gigabit Internet Near Your Business

By: John Shepler

No doubt about it, you need more broadband speed to conduct business than you ever have. Most businesses have an online presence now. The few that don’t still need the Internet for business processes and to offer WiFi hotspots for their customers. If yesterday’s connection solutions seem to have slowed to a crawl, you clearly need an upgrade. Gigabit Internet broadband could be exactly what you need now and for the foreseeable future.

Gigabit Internet broadband service near you. Find it now!Is Gigabit Internet Really Right for Me?
What you really need is invisible connectivity. No matter what you are doing, the speed of the line shouldn’t be getting in your way. In fact, you should completely forget about how you get to the Internet. It should just be there.

You probably need more speed than you think. Over the last 20 years, the “Internet” has evolved from email and some very simple HTML brochure-type websites to fully functional online operations. Many of your customers never set foot in your place of business anymore. They do everything online. It’s second nature. Their phone is really a web browser that is always in their pocket. Their desktop computer has relatively little boxed software anymore. Most everything is done online and in real time. Your phone system? Probably VoIP technology these days and more likely, integrated with a video conferencing system for unified communications.

How about your business processes? Do you keep manual books? How about customer or patient records? Your customer relationship management systems are all software based and most likely cloud based. In fact, fewer and fewer companies host their own data centers anymore. It’s all about the cloud and what isn’t cloud related is all about connecting to the outside world, especially customers and suppliers.

Making your connection invisible to you and your employees involves certain technical characteristics. The line must run fast enough. That’s speed or bandwidth. It also must respond quickly. That’s latency as much as speed. Long latency in the system means sluggish response. It must also be accurate and efficient in the sense that it doesn’t lose bits. That integrity is essential in the case of voice and video streams. Dropped bits garble conversations and make video distorted and even jerky. A high quality Gigabit Internet connection can go a long way to making all of this fairly easy to accomplish.

Your Gigabit Internet Connection
Is Gigabit Internet near you? Most likely, yes. Perhaps you checked around a few years ago and found nothing available. It’s highly likely that situation has changed. The demand for higher and higher speeds, especially 4G and 5G wireless broadband speeds, has resulted in a building boom for fiber optic and microwave circuits. In addition, new technology modems have enabled cable broadband systems to be able to deliver Gigabit speeds over their existing fiber and coaxial copper infrastructure.

Even if you don’t think you really need Gigabit speeds right now, you should seriously consider having that capability. You’ll need them sooner than you think. What you want is a DOCSIS 3.1 modem or a Gigabit Ethernet port to deliver your Internet connection. That way you can start out with, say 100 Mbps business broadband, and upgrade to as much as 1,000 Mbps, a Gigabit, later.

Know Your Broadband Types
You should know that there are two basic types of Internet broadband services. They are called dedicated and shared. Dedicated Internet Access has the highest prices, but is the most solid, reliable connection you can get. The "dedicated" name means the bandwidth is 100% dedicated to your use only. Whatever you don't use remains available when you need it. A dedicated connection also tends to be symmetrical, with upload and download speeds identical.

Shared connections, like what you get with cable broadband and 4G and 5G wireless, are far less costly, but are shared among multiple users. You many notice this as fluctuating line speed throughout the day. Shared connections also tend to be asymmetrical with download speeds about ten times upload speeds. Whether either of these characteristics matter depend on how you are using the service.

What Internet connection is best for your business? Find out now what Gigabit Internet broadband services are available near you.

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

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Escape the High Cost of Bonded T1 Lines

By: John Shepler

The T1 line was the first professional-grade digital communications pipe. Over a half-century later, it is still widely used for point to point private lines and for PRI telephone trunking. It also makes an excellent first mile link for dedicated Internet access for small business. While the price of T1 lines have dropped dramatically over the years, it can still be a pricey solution, especially if you need to bond several together to get enough bandwidth. Are there any good alternatives?

Best the high cost of bonded T1 lines.The Good and the Bad of T1 Lines
At first, T1 lines were the only game in town. Once fiber became available with much higher bandwidth, T1 still had a cost advantage in the days before broadband everything. Would you believe that 1.5 Mbps was pretty impressive back in the day? It’s a symmetrical 1.5 Mbps. That’s the same speed in both directions. It’s also full duplex or both directions at the same time. T1 is a dedicated line. You have all the bandwidth and if you don’t use it, it just sits there idle until you do.

Bonded T1 Lines Increase Speed
Bonding is a process of making big lines out of little ones. If you bond two T1 lines, you get 3 Mbps. Four lines gets you 6 Mbps. Six lines and you have a respectable 9 Mbps. I understand that in the wilds of Alaska they’ll bond 8 or 10 lines together. That’s about the limit.

Now, the downside. Those 2, 4 or 6 bonded lines cost 2, 4 or 6 times as much as one T1 line. There’s no economy of scale. At, say, several hundred dollars a month each, that’s gets pretty pricey pretty fast. For that much money, why not just get a fiber optic connection?

Fiber Instead of Copper
Fiber, indeed. A nice side effect of the big telecom move to 4G LTE and 5G wireless is that the T1 lines they used to run to cell towers can’t possibly deliver the bandwidth. So, there has been a big buildout of fiber to the tower along with wireless fiber, also known as microwave transmission. That means that fiber service is far more available than it used to be. It’s also a lot less expensive due to increased competition from new providers and a technology switch from SONET to Carrier Ethernet. If you haven’t checked out fiber pricing and availability in awhile, you may be surprised at what has popped up while you weren’t looking.

Keep the Copper, But Use Ethernet
All that twisted pair copper in the ground can still be used to deliver decent bandwidths by bonding it for Ethernet over Copper instead of T1. EoC is a different technology and can deliver 10 or 20 Mbps easily. The downside is that bandwidth falls off rapidly with distance. This approach works best in populated areas where a telco office isn’t far away. If you can get it, Ethernet over Copper is very affordable and gives you the performance of bonded T1 at a fraction of the cost per Mbps.

How About Cable?
I’m amazed how many times prospective customers ask for gigabit fiber or dark fiber but wind up buying cable broadband. Why? Cable has a tremendous cost advantage. You can often get fiber bandwidths at T1 prices and most service levels are easily afforded by any business. The bandwidth is shared, not dedicated. It’s also asymmetrical, meaning that the download speed can be ten times the upload speed or more. These may or may not be issues, depending on how you use the service. Some applications just won’t tolerate anything but a private line. Most everything we do everyday isn’t that demanding. Many cable services have consistently high bandwidth and low latency. What hiccups there are tend to be transitory and long term outages have become rare on the major service providers.

Mix and Match
To get the right combination of performance and cost, you might want to consider a combination of services. For VoIP telephony and maybe business processes in the cloud, get a dedicated T1 or fiber connection. For general Internet use or customer WiFi, business cable broadband gives you a lot of performance for the price. Run the networks separately or use an SD-WAN system to intelligently direct traffic.

What bandwidth options are best for your business? Get pricing and availability on a wide variety of bandwidth services now so you can make the best decision and perhaps save considerable cost as well.

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

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Monday, December 09, 2019

How to Get Stable Upload and Download Speeds

By: John Shepler

A solid connection is a wonderful thing to have. Have you been scratching your head, wondering why your upload and download speeds vary all over the place? It’s likely the nature of the bandwidth connection you’ve chosen.

Avoid the congestion with dedicated bandwidthWhy Can’t It Be Like a LAN?
Most of us are spoiled when it comes to local area network connections. Our computing equipment comes with Gigabit or at least Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) network interfaces right out of the box. Cat5E and Cat6 cables are common now, as are gigabit routers and switches. Even WiFi runs fast, especially on the 5 GHz band. Unless your network is overloaded, it’s transparent to you.

So why is communications so sluggish and unreliable on Internet broadband or other long distance connections?

We forget. In the early days of setting up local computer networks, they were sluggish too. Even then, it didn’t seem too bad compared to dial-up modems or X.25 links at 64 Kbps. What’s happened is that LAN networking technology has sped up by leaps and bounds and equipment prices have plunged dramatically. You have to make a real effort just to buy the slow stuff anymore.

The same technological advancements have also applied to Internet and private line connections. The cost savings haven’t been quite as dramatic and there still is a wide range of connectivity in use.

What Makes Line Speeds Vary
General sluggishness is usually due to congestion caused by low bandwidth or a shared link that is over-subscribed. Speeds that vary all over the place are usually due to shared bandwidth with periods of heavy usage that come and go. You might run a speed test and get 100 Mbps. A few minutes later you run the same test and get 10 Mbps for worse. That congestion will eventually let up, but you have no idea how soon.

Any system with multiple users that can’t support full speed simultaneous connections is going to have variations. Those cable broadband options that have such great pricing are subscribed to the point that they keep most users happy most of the time. But they are a shared resource and you can’t be sure how many of your fellow users are on at the same time or what they’ll be doing.

The same is true of 4G LTE wireless and will be true of 5G once there are enough devices deployed to sop up the bandwidth. Radio frequencies used in cellular and satellite have limited capacity, which is why they have data caps and also why too many users will drag the speed down.

In general, any bandwidth service with pricing attractive to consumers is going to be a shared service and also likely to be asymmetrical. In other words, the download speed will be much faster than the upload speed.

Dedicated Connections for Solid Bandwidth

You’ll get far more consistent performance from dedicated bandwidth. Do you remember T1 lines? Perhaps you still have one. The 1.5 Mbps speed is no longer accepted as broadband, but the performance is rock solid. That’s because you are the only user on the line. Whatever bandwidth you aren’t consuming just idles.

For point to point phone and data connections or interconnecting LAN networks at two different locations, dedicated private line bandwidth can’t be beat. Yes, it will cost a bit more than the commodity shared bandwidth services, but the performance will be rock solid. You’ll also see an improvement on the Internet with dedicated Internet access, but once you’re into the actual Internet, you can still get variability and latency issues.

This means your best connection to your cloud service provider is to bypass the Internet completely and install a dedicated private line from your location to the cloud center. Once you have that with enough bandwidth to support your peak activities, the cloud will seem like it is right next door.

Those T1 lines? Probably not going to cut it anymore, unless you are doing such simple tasks as email, casual web browsing and point of sale credit card verification. You’ll want to upgrade to at least Ethernet over Copper at 10 or 20 Mbps. A even better option is Fiber Optic Ethernet at 10 Mbps up to 10 Gbps and any speed in-between. Fiber bandwidth prices have dropped significantly in the last few years and availability has dramatically increased. You can thank 4G LTE and 5G cell towers for that, as well as competitive fiber optic service providers.

Are you frustrated by slow and highly varying bandwidth? How about VoIP phone service that is good one call and garbled the next? You should really look into dedicated bandwidth solutions including private lines and dedicated Internet access to improve your metropolitan and wide area network performance.

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

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Is Connection Latency Important to Your Business?

By: John Shepler

We may be inclined to think that connection speed is the most important consideration for private lines and Internet access. If web pages are loading slowly and files take forever to move, then clearly the network is starved for bandwidth. Just order more Mbps or even Gbps and everything will straighten out, right? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes no. There is another network consideration that can affect your business big time. That is latency.

Improve your line latency now.What Does Latency Mean?
Latency is a time lag. Nothing happens instantaneously, but if the time lag is short enough it will seem that way. You know the expression, “in the blink of an eye”? That’s low latency.

In computing, you experience latency as applications that just don’t keep up with what you are doing. If you press a key and it doesn’t appear on the screen for a split second, you’ve got latency. If you type a command and nothing happens for a second, that’s latency.

When operating on local area networks and in-house data centers, latency may not be all that noticeable. Programs are responsive. Video is nice and smooth. Files move quickly. If the system can keep up with you, latency just isn’t an issue.

When Latency is Noticeable
You often get your first taste of latency when you connect to the Internet or the cloud. Suddenly things seem to be a tad sluggish. It gets destructive when the system is so slow to respond that it interrupts your workflow. You almost feel like you’ve gone back to the days of batch processing where you submit a program and wait for the results to print out.

Worst case latency shows up in real-time processes. VoIP telephony gets a bad name when latency exceeds a hundred milliseconds or two. On a phone call, you expect to carry on a normal conversation. That includes both sides talking at once sometimes. If you ask a question and don’t get a response immediately, you might start taking agin. Right then, you hear the other person’s response just as you say something else. It quickly becomes intolerable. If you are stuck with the situation, you can work around it by consciously taking turns, like you would with a two-way radio.

Higher Bandwidth, Lower Latency
One cause of latency is network traffic jams or congestion. In any size WAN pipe, expressed by bandwidth in Mbps or Gbps, you can only send so many packets per second. If you try to send more, they pile up in a transmission buffer or, worse, get dropped. The fix for this type of latency problem is to simply add more capacity. If your T1 line is full, a 10 Mbps Ethernet line may be way more than enough. Likewise you may really need 100 Mbps or a full Gigabit per second for the connection to appear transparent.

Another way to relieve latency-induced madness is to prioritize traffic. Real time processes like VoIP telephony and teleconferencing take highest priority and can work great on even limited capacity lines. As long as there is still some bandwidth left, you should prioritize business applications in the cloud next and file transfers and backups last. If you run out of bandwidth so that the lowest level processes never finish or take forever, you need to add more bandwidth, pure and simple.

Higher Bandwidth, Same Latency
What happens if you increase your bandwidth by 10x or 100x and nothing improves? “Hello, is this line working?”

With congestion relieved, something else must be slowing things down. Remember that latency is simply a time delay between transmission and reception and that nothing happens instantly. Signals can move only as fast as the speed of light, which even at 186,000 miles per second turns out to be 186 miles per millisecond. If both ends of the connection are 1,860 miles apart, you’ve got a built-in transmission time of 10 mSec each way or 20 msec total. If you need lower latency than this you’ll just have to move closer.

Know that light through fiber optic cable and transmission equipment may impose an additional penalty over a third more than ideal latency. Still not a big problem, as latencies in the tens of millisecond range are not bothersome for nearly all processes. But, what if that connection goes to a geosynchronous satellite? Now you are talking maybe 500 msec round trip. That’s most definitely noticeable and probably a show-stopper for most phone calls and some cloud services. This is why the new Low Earth Orbit satellite constellations are so eagerly anticipated. At distances of a few hundred miles up instead of thousands, latency can be back to nearly fiber optic line performance.

Other latency issues can be traced to network equipment that isn’t working correctly or the inherent nature of the good old Internet. Remember that the Internet was designed by the defense department to be robust and not particularly efficient. Packet routing can take long and convoluted paths and suffer various levels of congestion within the Internet. If you are using a shared bandwidth service, such as cable broadband, DSL, satellite or cellular broadband, other users can clog the link and up goes your latency. Even more maddening, performance can vary from minute to minute so you have no consistency. Dedicated direct connections to your cloud provider can dramatically improve performance if this is your problem.

Are you having network performance issues, especially if you’ve recently moved from an in-house data center to the cloud? Your cloud service can be working perfectly well even though it seems to drag. You might be surprised by ping testing your line and discovering that it is the weak link in the system. Find out now what low latency bandwidth options are available and what it costs to upgrade and relieve your performance issues.

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

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