Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Is 5G Bandwidth Slicing The New Private Network?

By: John Shepler

The Internet is a wonderful way to connect… except when it isn’t. Oh, it works great for much of what we need: universal connectivity, rock bottom cost, and support for most applications. It’s when we need higher than usual performance or extreme reliability that our broadband connections can fall short. Latency, packet loss, and congestion can degrade interactive applications or make them impossible to implement. What to do? Switch to private networks.

5G bandwidth slicing for private networks.What is a Private Network?
The Internet is what is known as a public network. It’s accessible by just about everyone, everywhere. All you need is an account at an ISP, cable company or cell phone provider and you’re connected with always-on broadband.

The beauty of this public network is that it has been built out over several decades so that it literally covers the world. Everyone has equal standing on the Internet. The average user’s traffic gets the same priority as a major corporation, research institute or any of the billions of “things” that are now connected online. This is what is known as network neutrality. The only preferences you can pay up for is a more direct connection to the backbone of the Internet and the amount of bandwidth you have access to.

All this equality sounds great, doesn’t it? Most of the time it serves everyone well. But, if you are trying to have a videoconference at the same time as everyone else is streaming a popular concert or engaged in an important phone call when the rest of the world is doing backups to the cloud, your connection may start to degrade. It’s much worse for high speed interactive gaming, remote surgery, high frequency stock and options trading, or control of an electric vehicle. These applications have a low tolerance for hiccups and delays.

The alternative to the public network is the private network. Your company LAN is a private network. It isn’t shared with every other company or consumers watching online TV. Chances are that it has all the low latency bandwidth you need all the time.

Now, extend that LAN across town or across the country. Can you do that? Yes, you can, but you won’t be building it yourself. Instead, you’ll contract with a network provider that offers private point to point connections. There will be other customers sharing their extensive facilities, but they won’t interfere with you. You will be guaranteed the bandwidth and other network characteristics, such as latency and packet loss, that you contract for.

Types of Private Networks
In the past, nailed-up twisted pair wires, T1 lines and SONET fiber were the way to go. Today, Ethernet over Fiber is the most popular along with MPLS networks.

Ethernet connections use the same protocol as your LAN, so they are easy to interface. You can also order direct point to point, point to multipoint, or mesh networks that connect multiple locations. Ethernet over Fiber offers bandwidths from 10 Mbps up to 10 Gbps, with 100 Gbps becoming more common.

Some popular uses for these Ethernet services include direct connections to cloud providers, interconnecting multiple business locations, and content delivery.

MPLS networks are a specialized technology that offers connectivity over wide areas, including the entire country or even Internationally. MPLS uses its own unique protocol, making it more secure than IP networks. These are multi-user networks, but are managed so that each customer has the bandwidth promised at all times. MPLS networks with Ethernet on-ramps can give you tremendous coverage at less cost than multiple private lines.

5G Slicing as the New Private Network
More and more applications are portable and mobile these days. That means a wired connection just won’t do. Instead, we settle for wireless Internet services, usually over the extensive cellular networks. This started becoming popular when 3G networks were implemented and really took off with 4G LTE. It’s only continued at a faster pace with 5G networks.

The limitation with even 5G is that you are still dealing with Internet broadband and its foibles. Bandwidth is more limited than with fiber and congestion can bring your applications to a crawl during busy times in crowded areas. A feature designed into 5G offers a way around this for an extra charge.

5G slicing technology allows carriers to partition or “slice” off a part of the available bandwidth for private use. Everybody is clogged up on the freeway, but you get to zip along on your own private road. Pretty nice, right?

5G slicing can give you a more direct connection to the Internet for better performance or can remain as a private network or connection to a private fiber network. It’s like your LAN, but with the freedom of being wireless over wide areas.

On their own campuses, some companies are implementing private 5G networks to gain the same advantages. 5G slicing takes this a step further to give you connectivity anywhere you go. That includes moving vehicles as well as smartphones, tablets and all those “things” the need connectivity but don’t perform well on the Internet.

Issues with 5G Slicing
The implementation of 5G slicing is just starting to roll out, so you may or may not be able to find this service yet. One concern is how much slicing can there be if everybody wants a private piece of the spectrum. While 5G bandwidth, especially on the new higher frequencies, is more plentiful, there are practical limits to how much traffic can be carried over the air. This is why there is still a mad scramble to make more frequencies available for 5G, including some spectrum currently assigned to the military.

Another potential bug-a-boo is the old network neutrality issue. How can a network be neutral when you can pay up for a private box seat? For now, regulators seem to be OK with 5G slicing as long as the main core of the network used for Internet is not prioritized, or that some services aren’t being throttled for competitive advantage. As more and more of the wireless spectrum goes private, it remains to be seen how much pushback there will be.

Would private networking be an advantage for your business? Find out what bandwidth services are available now for your business locations.

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

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Wednesday, March 20, 2024

How AI is Helping to Improve Call Centers

By: John Shepler

All of us have been frustrated when making calls to customer service… and it seems to be getting worse. High costs and labor shortages serve to dishearten the poor customer hanging on the phone for hours and, also, the companies who desperately need to provide a favorable experience to keep their customers and attract new ones. Tech correspondent David Pogue discusses this situation and possible solutions in this CBS News report:

Did you catch that the likely solution going forward is a combination of traditional call center agents and new artificial intelligence software. The example in the story is called Grace. Here’s a more detailed look at how Grace works as a stand-alone agent:

Of course, even the most advanced AI agents come to a screeching halt when confronted by unique or complex situations. That’s where the best solution is to transfer immediately to a trained human agent. Some of the best agents are located in countries outside the United States and English is not their first language. Many US customers are put off by interacting with an agent with a heavy foreign accent, even though this agent has excellent technical skills. A new AI tool that can help is from a company called Sanas. The software works to change the speaker’s accent without otherwise affecting the conversation. You can try it out online and compare how actual call center agents sound with and without the AI support.

Behind the Scenes
Not all AI tools directly interact with customers. More mundane, yet important, applications include optimizing networks to get the best performance. SD-WAN is a simple system that combines multiple Internet or direct line connections and continuously chooses what traffic to direct down what path. Highly sensitive functions like VoIP phone calls and teleconferences get highest priority on for the lowest latency paths. Less sensitive operations, like remote backups, get lower priority and lesser performing paths.

AI software is also valuable for intelligently routing calls to ensure that they go to the next available person that can properly handle them and to track down key players regardless of whether they are at their desks or on the move.

Do you have communications issues that might be helped with newer or better technical solutions? Things are changing rapidly. Get support and find out what telecom solutions can really benefit your company.

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

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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Colocation Hosting Offers Lower Costs and More

By: John Shepler

Traditionally, having your own data center has been the way to go for medium and larger businesses. It may still be the best answer for your needs. However, there are advantages to moving at least some of your equipment and data to a colocation hosting facility. Let’s have a look at why this might be a great idea.

Colocation Hosting offers advantages for your business. Just What is Colocation?
Colocation sounds like it means having two or more operations in one location. That’s pretty much it. Colocation facilities were originally called carrier hotels. Multiple service providers would locate equipment in the same building run by one of the carriers or a third party who provided common services such as HVAC, AC power, backup generator power, and connectivity as needed. It was a way for carriers to easily exchange traffic on neutral turf and not have to each pay for their own building.

Nowadays colocation facilities or “colos” serve businesses as well as carriers. They are still a great way to connect to the Internet with as much bandwidth as you need at the best prices and connect to various carriers who also happen to be in the facility. Compare that with trying to get 10 Gbps or 100 Gbps out in the boonies.

In addition to bandwidth, colocation centers offer rack space, cabinets, cages and the power, cooling and connections to go with them. You generally bring your own servers and storage and take responsibility for maintaining your equipment. Many colos also now offer expanded tech services to monitor and service equipment 24/7 and may even lease you servers and other equipment you would normally buy.

Why Pay Someone Else to Host My Servers?
It may seem logical to keep everything under one roof, but that doesn’t necessarily give you everything you need. For one thing, you have no redundancy in the event of a disaster. A tornado, hurricane, earthquake or flood can wipe out your data center and you’ll be out of business for awhile. If you keep all your backups in the same data center, that could take a long while and very expensive to recreate all the data you need.

By having at least some of your servers and storage offsite, you gain the advantage of redundant facilities. It works even better if your sites are geographically dispersed.

As mentioned previously, you’ll likely find much better connectivity at better prices in a colocation center. Carriers go where many potential customers are clustered so that they can quickly and easily provide service. It’s just a cable run in the colo.

Are you able to provide tech service 24/7? Most colocation facilities have their own tech staffs available round the clock to handle their equipment and often provide a suite of services to their customers.

Think about the cost of expansion. If you are running out of space now, you have a make or buy decision to face. Making means building or leasing a larger facility to accommodate your growing needs, including more backup power, tech support, and security. Buying means avoiding the capital investment in facilities and leasing from a colo, likely at much lower cost that doing it all yourself.

Another area where colos shine is being physically close to your customers to reduce transmission latency. That’s more important if you have latency sensitive real-time applications and if you are selling your service nationwide or worldwide. Some of the larger colos have multiple sites so that you can disperse your equipment as needed.

Is your business growing and creating a need for additional data center capacity or would you simply prefer to lease rather than buy the IT facilities you need? If so, consider the advantages of colocation hosting and get competitive quotes now.

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

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Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Advantages of Dedicated Point to Point Fiber

By: John Shepler

If you are running a business and your broadband connections are driving you crazy, you may want to take a look at an alternate solution called dedicated point to point lines. Let’s have a look at what they are and what they can do for you.

Connect you business locations with dedicated point to point fiber.What Does Dedicated Mean?
Dedicated means that the bandwidth you are paying for is dedicated to your operations only.

But isn’t all bandwidth dedicated if you pay for it?

This is where it gets a little tricky. If you look closely at what broadband providers offer, they say something like “bandwidth up to 300 Mbps” or a similar disclaimer. Yes, the service you bought is capable of running at 300 Mbps. When you run a speed test, you may well see it clock-in at 300 Mbps… but not necessarily every time you test.

Why is that? It is because the bandwidth you got for such a bargain price is shared, not dedicated. You and multiple other users, including other businesses and consumers, are all connected to the same access line. When demand is low, you get screaming speeds. When everybody wants to download or upload files at the same time, that available bandwidth will be divvied up fairly so that everybody gets a share but nobody gets the line all to themselves. You might be waiting a bit.

If you want the line all to yourself and your business, you need to order a dedicated service. With dedicated bandwidth there won’t be other users outside of your organization competing for your line bandwidth. Whatever you aren’t using at the moment simply sits there idle for the time being.

You can greatly improve the stability of your Internet service with what is called DIA or Dedicated Internet Access. That’s a dedicated line from your company to your Internet Service Provider, where it connects to the Internet itself.

Will that guarantee smooth performance? Not really. Remember that the Internet is a shared service by its nature. There will be congestion and failure points from time to time no matter how you connect. The next step up is dedicated point to point fiber service.

Dedicated Point to Point Fiber
Dedicated lines have been available for decades using copper pairs and legacy telecom fiber called SONET for Synchronous Optical NETwork. Nowadays the best value is Ethernet over Fiber or EOF.

Fiber optic Ethernet services, sometimes called Metro Ethernet Fiber, are directly compatible with your servers using standard Ethernet interfaces. Unlike the Internet, you specify what two locations you want connected. The provider installs ports at each location and you have an always-on dedicated point to point fiber connection between them. You can order service starting at 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps and go up to 10 Gbps easily. In metro areas 100 Gbps bandwidth is available if you need it.

Advantages of dedicated point to point or P2P lines include solid bandwidth that is not affected by what other customers are doing. The link is inherently more secure than the Internet because there is no public access. Your bandwidth is usually symmetrical, meaning that it is the same for upload and download. That’s important if you are accessing remote servers to upload and download large files. Most shared bandwidth services are asymmetrical with download speeds typically 10x what you get for upload.

What are good uses for dedicated P2P fiber? The traditional application is linking multiple business locations. You may want to connect your headquarters and branch offices on the same private network so that someone across the country seems like they are just down the hall. Remote servers in colocation facilities or your own remote data center can also benefit from “extending the LAN” using dedicated P2P. Today that’s extended to the cloud, be it public, private or hybrid cloud services.

Do you need the stability and performance that dedicated point to point fiber line services can provide? If so, find out what fiber optic services are available for your business locations.

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

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Monday, December 18, 2023

Cost Saving Shared Fiber, Wireless and Coax

By: John Shepler

You need connectivity but are feeling the pinch of inflation. Is there any way to get a business online and not break the bank? Sure there is. If they work for you, shared bandwidth wireless, cable coax and fiber optic connections are available at bargain prices. Let’s have a look at these.

Low cost shared bandwidth options for your business.What is Shared Bandwidth?
You are probably too young to remember telephone party lines, but how about roommates at school? That’s the sharing economy. It’s based on the idea that if something is expensive you can still have it as long as you join with others to foot the bill.

Internet connections can be had the same way. A fully dedicated high speed symmetrical fiber optic link can run into the big bucks every month. If that’s what you must have, then you’ll just have to come up with the lease fee. But, if your usage isn’t all that demanding, you can probably share the line with others, not limited to users within your company, to split the cost.

Now, this is where shared bandwidth services differ from the old party lines. Back in the day, a single analog phone line would serve multiple households in the same area. When you picked up the handset, you might hear a dial tone or you might hear someone else’s conversation already in progress.

The polite thing to do was hang up and wait awhile before you tried again. More often that not, curious individuals would simply cover the mouthpiece and eavesdrop on the call.

Shared bandwidth isn’t really like that… for the most part. You and another customer aren’t going to see each other’s traffic on your screen. The routing in the system keeps your data streams separate. However, all your bits are intermingled on the same line. A clever hacker can figure out how to monitor whatever traffic they can access.

The way around that limitation is encryption. Encrypt all your traffic and you’ve created a secure tunnel through the public Internet. That’s critical for using WiFi hotspots, but important for any shared access or easily tapped-into connection. Most websites and email services have gone to secure connections that are encrypted, but all your file transfers should also have this layer of security.

Shared Bandwidth Via Coax
Cable broadband is the originator of the coaxial copper connection. This standard was originally designed for analog cable TV and community antennas. Eventually a cable connector came standard on the back of TV sets. Later, Cable providers became Internet Service Providers by developing a modem that could connect to their coaxial line and share the bandwidth between TV and Internet.

The modem technology that does this is called DOCSIS for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification. The most common version is 3.1, which is capable of multiple Gigabits on the downline side. The newest is 4.0, which can support 10 Gbps downstream and 6 Gbps upstream.

Shared Bandwidth Via Wireless
Smartphones have had excellent Internet service starting with 3G and 4G LTE. The small screen requirements are easily supported and were quite useful even with the old 2G standard. The standards also serve tablet computers, laptops and in some cases desktop computers, especially when other ISPs are offline. The bandwidth is often enough from a shared smartphone connection. The one limitation for desktop usage is that you might run up against monthly data limits.

With 5G service, cellular providers have begun promoting the use of their Internet service at fixed locations. They even have a name for this: Fixed Wireless Access. Instead of sharing your phone with your desktop, you buy a 5G gateway that may offer an Ethernet port for your network or WiFi hotspot. It connects to the provider like a phone, but without the mobility or voice service. There is simply an incremental charge to your cellphone bill each month. If you have good signal strength, you may get bandwidth of a hundred or two hundred Mbps without a wired connection.

Shared Bandwidth Via Fiber
Fiber optic service used to be only for major corporations and priced accordingly. Now fiber is so widespread that you can get Ethernet over Fiber Dedicated Internet Access in most reasonably populated areas. Bandwidths are available from 10 Mbps up to 10 Gbps and even 100 Gbps in major metro locations.

Fiber Internet is highly desirable and prices have dropped dramatically over the years. Even so, you may still want a lower cost option. Did you know that you can still have fiber for a bargain price? The technology involved is called PON or Passive Optical Networking. The provider takes that high bandwidth dedicated fiber line and divvies it up among 32 users using a passive splitter. Each customer still gets a fiber line, but the bandwidth on that line is being shared among multiple users just like cable broadband. In fact, cable companies are pioneers in building out this technology. You get fiber bandwidths, but with pricing that is more similar to cable services.

Limitations of Shared Bandwidth
While you won’t be seeing your neighbors messages popping up on your screen, you will likely still feel the effects of sharing. During periods of heavy usage, the service slows down. You might even detect congestion that brings everything to a crawl and then, just like with traffic jams, magically disappears. VoIP phone calls can break up. Video conferences can stutter or freeze. Cloud applications can become sluggish.

Another characteristic of shared bandwidth connections is that they are usually asymmetrical. That means that the download speed is much higher than the upload speed. Typically, a factor of ten or so. For Internet browsing or email, this may make no difference. It could impact video conferences and large file transfers up to cloud storage.

You can improve on this with a dedicated Internet access or with a software defined wide area network or SD-WAN. This is a technique for combining multiple Internet connections. The SD-WAN controller assigns traffic to the most appropriate link, with sensitive applications like phone calls getting the highest priority on the fastest paths. SD-WAN can let you combine a fast shared and low cost line with a small dedicated line. The result can be a service that gives you all the performance you need at a lower cost than a high speed dedicated fiber line.

What bandwidth service is most appropriate for your business? Find out what shared and dedicated Internet and private line services are available at better prices for your particular location.

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

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