Thursday, April 14, 2022

Ethernet WAN is the New SONET

By: John Shepler

High speed communications lines progressed from copper analog to copper digital to fiber optic digital over most of the last century. The technology that drives fiber has also evolved from time sliced synchronous multiplexing to packet based protocols, mirroring the transition to networked computing for nearly every business. While older SONET telco lines still provide effective connections, there are real advantages to be gained by upgrading to Ethernet WAN, the newer technology for fiber optic service.

Find Ehternet WAN services now.It Started With Really Fast Phone Lines
SONET, which stands for Synchronous Optical NETwork, is a phone company invention that was developed to bundle or multiplex thousands of individual phone calls onto an optical fiber for long distance transmission. To make operations easier, SONET was made backwards compatible with legacy T1 service that does exactly the same thing with 24 calls over two twisted copper pair… in other words, ordinary telephone line.

SONET allowed the phone companies to bundle T1 line into DS3 lines into OC3 fiber lines and demultiplex or unbundle them anywhere along the way. Everything was compatible down to the single telephone channel.

SONET to Link Computers
So, how did SONET come to support computer networking? The protocol had to be converted between SONET’s time division multiplexing and Ethernet’s packet switching. That was accomplished using protocol conversion on a plug-in module. To the user, It made no difference what was going on under the hood. Packets would go in one router and come out another miles or thousands of miles away.

SONET was developed for fiber and all of the early fiber optic links for computer networks were connected using one of the SONET levels. OC3 was the lowest speed at 155 Mbps. This was the first fiber service that most corporations ordered when they outgrew their T1 and T3 lines. Each increase in speed required swapping out an adaptor module for the particular SONET level.

In fact, the Internet was built on SONET. SONET rings, which offer redundant paths, formed the core of the Internet as it grew. Internet service providers would connect via SONET and then divvy up the bandwidth for multiple 64Kbps dial-up modems or, later, DSL or Cable broadband modems.

The Ethernet Revolution
Ethernet, developed by the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in the mid to late 1970’s, grew to become the dominant networking protocol, thanks in no small part to the proliferation of the personal computer at the same time. Most small and large users adopted Ethernet, as adaptor cards, cabling, hubs and routers became more and more affordable. Every PC soon came with an RJ-45 Ethernet jack as standard equipment and peripherals, such as printers, did the same for compatibility.

Once Ethernet became the de-facto networking standard and computer data traffic greatly exceeded voice traffic, it started to make sense to just adopt Ethernet for Wide Area Networks as well as Local Area Networks. When business phones became digitized and used VoIP to connect on the same network as the computers, the need for a separate voice network faded away.

Another factor that has moved WAN services from SONET to Ethernet is the rise of competitive network service providers independent of the telephone companies. Since these companies had no legacy analog phone service to support, they could simply focus on offering Ethernet connections to their customers in competition to the telcos.

By this time the original Ethernet protocol has been expanded to provide technical specifications for Carrier Ethernet, which is the same as LAN Ethernet but extended to support the MAN (Metropolitan Area Network) and WAN (Wide Area Network).

What Ethernet WAN Has to Offer
You remember that SONET has distinct service levels, each with it’s own bandwidth and specific adaptor requirements. Ethernet doesn’t have this limitation. Instead, you have an Ethernet port with a maximum bandwidth, say 1 Gbps. It will support any bandwidth up to the max limit of 1 Gbps. You can order 100 Mbps service today and easily upgrade to 500 Mbps or 1 Gbps later. Only if you want a service level above 1 Gbps, will you need to have a higher capacity port installed. This process is so seamless that many providers will let you change service levels at will by logging into your online account.

Ethernet services tend to be less expensive than SONET. Usually, much less expensive. You pay for the service level you want, be it 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, 1 Gbps, 10 Gbps, and so on. Remember you can change this easily after you have service installed and your bill will be adjusted to the new level you select.

Since there are many, many competing Ethernet MAN and WAN service providers, pricing per Mbps has dropped rapidly over the years and continues to do so. Some of the service providers are the traditional telephone companies, but with much improved pricing. Others are independent carriers serving regional, national, or international areas. They can also provide excellent customer service, high reliability, and very good deals on bandwidth.

There are usually two types of service you’ll be interested in. One is a dedicated connection to the Internet at a bandwidth you select. The other is a point to point dedicated private line that is just like having a very long Ethernet cable connecting two LANs separated by many miles. These are useful for interconnecting main offices and branch offices, warehouse, manufacturing centers and so on with maximum performance and privacy. Another popular application is a direct connection between your offices and your cloud service provider. This avoids the vagaries of Internet performance and makes the cloud seem like it is right down the hall.

Perhaps you still have legacy SONET service that was installed years ago. It’s been working fine so no one has paid much attention. This would be a good time to see if competing Ethernet WAN services can give you more bandwidth for the same budget or offer a considerable cost savings if you are happy with the bandwidth level you have now. It doesn’t cost anything to look, so why not see what’s available?

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

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Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Upgrade your ISP to GigE and 10GigE

By: John Shepler

Regardless of whether your business is strictly e-commerce or a traditional bricks and mortar operation, Internet access is essential to conducting business these days. One thing we never seem to have enough of is bandwidth. This is the right time to upgrade your broadband connection to handle the throughput you really need to efficiently get the job done. Surprisingly, it may be more affordable than you think.

Dramatically increase your broadband speed to 1 Gbps or 10 GbpsHow Much Do You Need?
Small businesses, including home offices, single person professional offices, small retail stores and the like, may find that 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet service is plenty. You might even get by with less than that… for now. For every other situation, you’ll want to look at bandwidth fast enough to be transparent. Transparent means you don’t even know it is there. There’s always enough that you won’t get slowed down no matter what you are doing. That’s the gigabit range. Consider Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) and 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GigE).

Why speeds so much higher than you’ve expected over the years? Today’s business is different. Much of what we call content is high consumption video versus email messaging. Images are much larger, if not in physical size then in Mbps. Databases are huge. They don’t call it “big data” for no reason. On top of all this, most processing has moved or is moving to the cloud. Those high speed Ethernet cables that connected you in-house have to be replicated between you and your cloud provider.

Really Fast Connections Readily Available
Fortunately, the networking industry is keeping pace. The incentives of greater business demand, 4G and 5G wireless, and consumer cord cutting has pushed providers to expand their networks and lower the cost per Mbps and Gbps. You likely have multiple options to get the bandwidth you need at a price you can afford.

You should know that Internet Server Provider (ISP) bandwidth comes in multiple flavors, each with its own characteristics and pricing. There’s a reason why they don’t all cost the same. The first reason is provider competition. The more options that are available in a particular area, the more competitive pricing will be, especially on the higher end business connections.

Another reason is whether you can live with shared bandwidth or need to have exclusive use. Your lower cost options, of which cable is the biggest provider by far, have the bandwidth multiplexed or shared among many users. You’ll notice that your bandwidth is “up to 1 Gbps” rather than guaranteed to be that speed at all times. The idea is that not everyone is using the line to full capacity at all times. In fact, that’s highly unlikely. So, while you are reading something online, somebody else is downloading a file… and vice versa.

If you are running a server or running business critical software in the cloud that needs to hesitate as little as possible, you’ll want Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) at a minimum. In fact, you may even need to upgrade to a direct connection between you and your cloud provider to get the performance you desire. That gets you off the Internet and its vagaries completely. Dedicated Internet Access keeps you on the Internet, but you don’t share your “last mile” bandwidth. That’s where most of the congestion occurs anyway.

Another consideration is whether you need symmetrical bandwidth or not. Most Internet services that offer shared bandwidth are also asymmetrical. That means the download speed is much higher, sometimes 10x higher, than the upload speed. It makes sense if you are mostly accessing web sites or downloading videos, like most consumers. However, if you run cloud processes where you upload as much as you download or do large backups to remote storage, you’ll want symmetrical bandwidth options.

Your ISP Bandwidth Options
So, what’s available? Cable broadband using DOCSIS 3.0 or 3.1 standards will get you 100 to 1000 Mbps shared bandwidth Internet access, usually asymmetrical. It’s quite reliable these days and you can’t beat the price.

If you are out in the boonies where there is no cable, you might get by with 4G or 5G wireless broadband. Yes, it’s the same broadband that runs your smartphone, but with a special modem that connects an office network. Another option is satellite business broadband. This will work just about anywhere and offers decent bandwidth. Latency can be an issue, especially for VoIP telephony and video conferencing, but otherwise may be just the ticket. Note that both of these wireless options have limited resources so that you may run into usage limits.

Fiber optic bandwidth is the gold standard these days. It’s more available than ever before and you can generally get as much bandwidth as you care to. This is where you find DIA and symmetrical options. You'll also find the services to directly connect you to your cloud provider or other business locations.

Fixed Wireless Access used to be very limited and only in major downtown metro areas. It’s expanded quite a bit recently and can often function as fiber optic without the fiber. That works to your advantage when fiber construction costs are high or you can’t wait long for service installation.

Should you upgrade your ISP to GigE or 10 GigE? Perhaps even 100 GigE? If your current Internet service is stifling your business you really can’t afford not to. Check high speed business Internet and direct connection prices and availability now to see what is available for your business locations.

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

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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Fiber WAN is Closer Than You Think

By: John Shepler

You know you really need fiber optic WAN service to give you the speed to make cloud-based business application responsive and keep everyone at peak productivity. The problem has been lack of availability. If fact, you may have given up after an extensive search a few years ago. It’s time to take another look.

Search for fiber optic service near you now.Why Should Fiber Be More Available Now?
Fiber optic connectivity used to be exotic. It was only available to the largest companies and was very expensive. The only way to get this service was to go through the telephone company and hope they had built out to near your location. Even then, the cost of getting hooked up could be significant.

Times have changed. Fiber is becoming the default telecommunications medium. Copper bundles, such as analog landlines, T1 lines and even ISDN PRI phone service are being abandoned as they corrode in the ground and are too expensive to replace with demand steadily dwindling.

A big onus for fiber is that the speed of business communications has multiplied. The apps we run today are far more sophisticated, use much more data and often include bandwidth demanding services such as video. Text based email and small file transfers may have worked fine with lower speeds decades ago. Today our tools and data sets slow to a crawl with anything less than fiber capacity.

Another driver in making fiber the default technology for any new construction is that at the data center is moving to the cloud. In-house, you can get Gigabit and even 10 Gigabit speeds with twisted pair copper Ethernet cable. Once you leave the building, that arrangement won’t work. Twisted pair speeds fall off rapidly with distance, which is why you don’t see it being installed in trenches or on utility poles.

To maintain the congestion free speeds you need to run entire offices via cloud based applications, you need a fiber optic WAN connection from your location to your cloud service provider. Fortunately, that’s easier to come by than ever before.

Finally, the fiber tipping point has really been reached with the deployment of 5G wireless to replace 3G and 4G on cell towers. Many of these towers are located far from business districts that were initial wired for fiber. They are in residential areas and even out in the countryside. Fiber runs now stretch further than anyone envisioned a decade ago.

Who Offers Fiber Connections and Where?
Yes, the big telco companies are also leaders in fiber optic services. However, there are many, many more competitive service providers that service both the telco footprints and far beyond. If you have looked and failed to find fiber service recently, you may just not have access to know newer providers who can hook up your location at little or no construction cost.

Telarus, a major technology solutions broker, has contractual arrangements with dozens upon dozens of tech providers, many who offer business grade fiber optic service. A quick inquiry will generate a comprehensive search of fiber optic service near you. There is no charge to see what is out there and how much it costs. So, why not get a complementary fiber list now?

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

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Fixed Wireless As Fiber Backup

By: John Shepler

You need large amounts of rock solid bandwidth to enable your business systems, including telephone, conferencing and business process software in the cloud. Normally, that says fiber optic connectivity. But what if that fiber gets cut (it happens) or just can’t be installed soon enough or the construction is just too expensive? Then what? If you happen to be located in the right areas, fixed wireless can be your best solution.

Take a look at fixed wireless microwave as a backup or substitute for fiber optic connectivity.What is Fixed Wireless?
Cell phones have brought mobility to all of us, including having both a phone and a small computer in our pockets. This is wireless mobility. Each device has a modem and radio that communicates with the nearest cell tower. As you move, the session keeps getting handed off to the next towers as you get closer to them. All of this is imperceptible to you, the user. The complexities of handling mobile signals is hidden in the cellular network.

Perhaps you’ve tethered your phone to your PC to keep working when your cable or landline Internet service was interrupted. That’s an example of fixed wireless. It’s the same as mobile wireless, but you’re not moving.

Cellular Fixed Wireless
Ideally, you’d like to tether your entire network to your phone during an outage rather than just one PC. Some phones allow this by acting as WiFI hotspots. In a small business, you may find this work-around to be just fine for short periods of time. Not being able to walk away with your phone can be a real inconvenience. Running out of minutes and getting cut off or big overage charges can be an even bigger inconvenience.

Fortunately, there are fixed cellular services designed for exactly this use. The box you receive looks something like a Wi-Fi router. It has better antennas than your phone, an Ethernet jack to feed your network, and, perhaps, built in WiFi routing. Some have provisions for mounting an antenna outside in weak signal areas.

Best of all, fixed cellular wireless services for business know that you can’t get by with a few Gigabytes a month. You can order 100 GB and more, even unlimited (within reason) usage. Services include 4G LTE and, now, 5G to give you the speed you need to run your business.

Microwave Fixed Wireless
The big brother to cellular is point to point microwave fixed wireless. This is a modern version of the old telco point to point microwave relay. You get a small dish or other microwave antenna that attaches to the side of your building or sits on the roof. It points directly at the provider’s antenna at their central location. This is a line of sight service and generally limited to metropolitan areas.

A major advantages of this type of service is that it is private and dedicated to business use. You won’t be competing with everybody else’s cell phones for bandwidth. The bandwidths can be as high as 1 Gbps or even 10 Gbps. They can also be symmetrical, unlike cellular. With many services your upload and download speeds are the same and your bandwidth is guaranteed. Usage limits? Not usually an issue.

You might even think of microwave fixed wireless as fiber optic without the fiber. Ditching the physical fiber means fewer construction headaches and delays. It is possible that you can have service installed in as little as a few days compared with weeks or months if your building isn’t already lit for fiber.

An unexpected benefit is that fixed wireless can have lower latencies than fiber services with the same bandwidth. That’s because the wireless signal is a direct beam from provider to you. Fiber systems tend to weave all over town with lots of switching gear in the path. Lower latency is critical to some businesses, especially in financial trading. It’s a boon for improving the quality of VoIP phone calls and video conferencing, and for interactive processes running in the cloud.

Cellular broadband uses the Internet and whatever latencies and congestion exist. Fixed Wireless can avoid the Internet and its limitations, or be connected to the Internet so that you can easily connect to customers and suppliers.

Why Not The Best of Both Fiber and Wireless?
Perhaps the best arrangement for your business is a combination of fiber optic service and fixed wireless service. Why both? One reason is to get service started fast with fixed wireless and then add fiber when you can get it installed.

Once you have both running, consider keeping your fixed wireless as a backup to the fiber. Fiber interruptions, often caused by the cable being cut during unrelated construction work, can take days to repair, leaving you high and dry. With automatic failover installed, your traffic will simply move to the wireless link without interruption. When the fiber comes back online, the system will switch back.

Note that fixed wireless offers a true diversity path to fiber. That means fiber and wireless are very unlikely to exhibit failures at the same time. Some businesses think they have this in place by ordering redundant fiber lines or even fiber services from two separate providers. What they don’t realize is that all the fiber serving their location runs in the same bundle or conduit and can all be taken out at the same time by one accident.

Do you need fast installation of high speed business connectivity and/or a robust backup to the fiber you already have? Consider microwave fixed wireless service for your bandwidth needs.

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

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Tuesday, December 14, 2021

From Megabit Copper to Gigabit Fiber

By: John Shepler

You know it’s time to upgrade your WAN bandwidth. There are two major forces at work to make this a necessity. First, the load on your network connections is steadily increasing. Second, legacy copper services that have worked so well for decades are being phased out by the carriers. It’s the right time to make a move to gigabit fiber.

Your path to gigabit Ethernet is here. See what is available now.What’s Driving The Need to Upgrade
Information technology is a different animal than it was in years past. If you’ve been working in technology for ages, you probably remember when computers, their peripherals, and software were all in-house. Connections to the outside were for communication between locations and to the Internet. When there weren’t that many resources to access outside, there wasn’t a need for very high bandwidth.

That’s all changed. The entire IT architecture has been turned on its head. Now, there is very little computing done in-house and a crying need for massive connectivity to the cloud where the computers, storage, and software reside. The Internet has evolved from a simple messaging system to an almost infinitely deep well of resources on all subjects. Communications via the Internet are much more demanding due to the heavy concentration of massive files and high resolution video.

Even small businesses need what used to be considered extremely high bandwidth. Medium and larger companies can’t live without the throughput of high speed fiber optic connections.

Why Copper Connections are Disappearing
Until just a few years ago, twisted pair copper cables connected to a telephone company central office were considered standard fare for both voice and data. That was before the migration away from POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) landlines. The replacement is VoIP telephony running on the same computer network that interconnects desktop computers, network storage, printers and servers. The in-house telephone switch, called the PBX, has suffered the same fate as most in-house servers. It has moved to the cloud.

The other use for these twisted pair cables was point to point and dedicated Internet connections at 1.5 Mbps. Those T1 lines have faded in popularity as speed demands exceeded their capacity long ago. The upgrade, DS3 delivered on coaxial copper cables, travelled most of the distance multiplexed on SONET fiber optic cable. Only the connection from the curb was copper.

Faced with a waning demand for copper-based telecom services that are ordered less often by businesses and are too slow to support 4G LTE and 5G cellular stations, the telephone companies that own the copper are either ripping it up for recycling or letting it corrode in the ground. It won’t be long and you’ll have to upgrade even if you don’t need the additional bandwidth.

The New Standard is Fiber Optic Ethernet WAN
The majority of telecom traffic now is Ethernet packets. Rather that convert the protocol to and from legacy telco services, Ethernet over Fiber is the new WAN standard.

Bandwidths are typically available from 10 Mbps at the low end to 10 Gbps at the high end, with 100 Gbps available in some major areas.

Like earlier copper telecom solutions, you have the option of setting up point to point private lines or dedicated Internet access. Both are supported by Ethernet over Fiber. Private lines offer dedicated bandwidth so you don’t have to compete with other companies for the capacity of the line. Dedicated Internet Access also gives you exclusive use of last mile connectivity. Of course, the Internet itself is a shared medium.

How about availability? Fiber optic lines are becoming almost ubiquitous these days. The exception is rural areas or remote business and industrial parks that aren’t served by fiber yet. Sometimes you can get near-fiber performance by cable broadband solutions that can reach 1 Gbps of shared bandwidth at bargain prices. If you are located remotely, you can often get 4G LTE and 5G wireless business solutions that many not offer the ultimate in bandwidth, but are often great solutions to replace obsolete copper lines.

Is your business running short on bandwidth or have you been notified that your copper bandwidth options are being discontinued? If so, now is the perfect time to check out prices and availability of gigabit fiber optic bandwidth for your business locations.

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

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