Tuesday, August 29, 2023

How Managed SD-WAN Can Help Your Business

By: John Shepler

Digital transformation is a wonderful thing for business… until you run into snags trying to implement it. One of those unanticipated snags is the need for WAN bandwidth connections far beyond what you ever thought you’d need. You can slug it out trying to make everything work and not break the bank. Or, you can enlist the help of managed SD-WAN to make your connectivity something you don’t even think about anymore.

Get a quote on Managed SD-WAN for your business needs.How Did Connectivity Get to Be Such a Big Deal?
Chances are that when your business was primarily bricks and mortar, you installed a broadband connection for when you needed to access the Internet and that was plenty good enough. It works for point of sale. It works for online ordering. It’s even good enough for a brochure-style web site so that potential customers can easily find you.

Then the transformation began. First it was VoIP phone to replace the old analog landlines. Then came online ordering for both you and your customers, followed by automatic restocking, customer relationship management, financial and tax accounting in the cloud, lead generation, online advertising management, factory planning and on, and on and on. Under the weight of too many software packages to keep track of, eventually some these processes relocated to cloud servers, with some still in your local data center.

That good old broadband service that got you started with the Internet is no longer satisfactory. Even upping the speed as much as you can still doesn’t make it work right. Phone calls get garbled, but not all the time. Workflow slows to a crawl, but not all the time. This inconsistency is driving everybody crazy. You never know when things will zip along seamlessly or when it will all slow to a crawl for a few seconds or a few minutes or the entire afternoon. You need better and you can get it.

The Expensive Solution: Build Your Own WAN Network
You can avoid many of the vagaries of the Internet, especially on shared broadband connections, by building a private network for your operations. This means getting everything off the Internet that you can. All connections to branch offices, warehouses, factories, and any cloud providers can be made with dedicated private lines. As you might expect, each line costs plenty and you’ll need lots of them.

MPLS networks with guaranteed performance levels can reduce the cost when operations are spread over long distances. MPLS is a privately run Wide Area Network with a special protocol that makes it more secure than the Internet. The general public also has no access. It’s business subscribers only and they are only admitted if the network can handle the traffic. For multiple locations, MPLS is less expensive than private lines, but still pricey.

Managed SD-WAN Is More Cost Efficient
SD-WAN stands for Software Defined Wide Area Networking. The software defined aspect is where the savings come from. The managed aspect takes the burden of running all of it off your back. If done correctly, Managed SD-WAN makes your connectivity invisible. You don’t have to worry about it. It just works.

Here’s briefly how SD-WAN does its magic. The trick is to use the least cost connections that will get the job done, but make sure that quality doesn’t suffer. Take the Internet. The least costly connections are shared bandwidth, like cable broadband and wireless, but these are also the most likely to get congested and vary in performance. The most costly are dedicated private lines, but these may be wasted on low priority traffic that doesn’t need low latency and jitter and isn’t bothered by a bit of congestion. If you aren’t using a private line, it’s just idling and you are paying for it anyway.

SD-WAN needs at least two connections in order to make traffic decisions. These can be a mix of cable broadband, Ethernet fiber optic WAN, fixed wireless access, satellite broadband, LTE or 5G cellular, MPLS network and even older wireline services such as T1, PRI or DS3.

What SD-WAN does is continuously monitor each connection’s performance so that it knows the available bandwidth, latency, jitter, and packet loss on a moment by moment basis. When you have traffic in the form of packets, it notes the quality of service you require and then picks the best connection for those packets. Phone conversations and video conferences need very stable connections to work well, so they get a higher priority and QOS requirement. Backups to off-side storage aren’t so demanding and can live with a lower quality link. Other processes are assigned to the right connections for their needs.

Better Performance, Less Cost, Fewer Headaches
Managed SD-WAN is handled by your provider so that you don’t have to worry about day to day connectivity issues. You add locations or policies as you need to. The supplier figures out how to program the system to make everything work. It’s all transparent to you and the cost is considerably lower than trying to optimize a morass of connections yourself.

Are you frustrated with your current connections enough to want an easier and more reliable solution? If so, get a competitive quote for your needs by one or more SD-WAN providers and see if they can save you money and improve performance at the same time.

Friday, July 21, 2023

10 Gbps Dedicated Internet Access Availability

By: John Shepler

Once considered a massive bandwidth suitable only for carriers, 10 Gbps is rapidly becoming the in-demand connectivity for businesses, municipalities, medical centers, content providers, and e-commerce. But is this bandwidth level readily available at a reasonable price? Indeed, it is.

Find 10 Gbps and higher bandwidth connections now.Where is 10 Gbps Dedicated Internet Available?
Most municipalities have 10 Gig Ethernet readily available because of the rapid deployment of fiber optic infrastructure. Fiber is necessary to provide the bandwidth to support 4G LTE and 5G cell towers, replacing legacy T1 copper lines. Fiber is also at the heart of cable systems even though the connection to the cable modem is still coaxial copper. Cities are now installing fiber infrastructure as a utility to serve all homes and businesses.

Once you have fiber optic cables, getting Gigabit and 10 Gigabit broadband is a piece of cake. Each strand can transport 10 Gbps with only one channel. Those same strands can be set up to use multiple wavelengths to carry numerous Gigabit and 10 Gigabit services. A fiber cable can bundle a few to over a hundred fiber strands. Rest assured, there is plenty of 10 Gbps capacity to go around.

What 10 Gbps Options Are Available?
The universal service in demand is Dedicated Internet Access. Dedicated means that your connection to the Internet carries only your traffic. Any capacity that you aren’t using at the moment is idle and available. There is no competition with other companies sharing your line.

Dedicated Internet Access gives you the best consistency and lowest latency way to access the core of the Internet. This is important if your company has remote servers in the cloud or colocation hosting. It’s also key if you are doing business over the Internet and want your customers to have the best online experience.

There are also 10 Gbps private lines that connect point to point between your business locations or from your company to your cloud service provider. This is a step above using the Internet for access. Private lines give you the lowest latency and least congestion. Having a dedicated private line makes your servers seem like they are right down the hall even if they are on the other side of the country.

Cable broadband is now offering a shared bandwidth service that enables 10 Gbps in the download direction using DOCSIS 3.1 and will offer 10 Gbps symmetrical service with DOCSIS 4.0. By sharing Internet access with other users, you can save a significant amount of money, but with the vagaries of varying bandwidth and congestion.

How about wireless? In some metro areas, microwave wireless broadband can give you bandwidths as high as 10 Gbps with no wired connections. Service can be installed rapidly, sometimes within a matter of days or a week.

What About Pricing?
Fiber optic service prices used to be sky high, but that has changed in recent years due to intense competition among service providers and the economies of scale that come from having so many more customers using high bandwidths. If you haven’t checked 10 Gbps prices lately, you owe it to yourself to get a set of current quotes from multiple providers. Yes, there are likely several carriers that can meet your needs right now.

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

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Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Fiber - Dark, Lit and Wavelength

By: John Shepler

You’ve made up your mind that a fiber optic connection to your business is no longer a luxury. It is essential to productivity. Now the question is which type of fiber to order. What? There is more than one type of fiber?

Find lit, wavelength and dark fiber optic service.One Strand, Multiple Options
All fiber optic connections are based on the principle that modulated light waves carry information guided through a glass strand. The fiber cable coming into your building will look the same. What changes is how you terminate it.

Basically, there are three fiber options. You can order lit fiber service, dark fiber, and wavelength service. Which you pick depends on your bandwidth, security, and control requirements. Let’s see how the three compare.

Lit Fiber Bandwidth
Lit fiber bandwidth is what we normally think of when we’re talking about fiber optic service. You are leasing a service that provides a certain amount of bandwidth, usually with guarantees as to the latency, jitter, packet loss and availability.

How this is done is handled by the service provider. They will terminate a fiber strand into customer premises equipment at your location. You connect your network via fiber or copper connection, depending on the bandwidth level.

Early fiber optic implementations were based on the SONET optical carrier system and needed a specially designed interface for each service level. Today, most fiber service uses Carrier Ethernet and is good for any bandwidth up to the speed of the port that you have installed. Most companies opt for Gigabit or 10 Gigabit Ethernet, although you can often specify up to 100 Gbps in major metro areas.

You pay based on the speed of service you request. One nice feature of Carrier Ethernet or Ethernet over Fiber, as it is also called, is that the bandwidth is easily adjusted. You can install a Gigabit port and order and pay for 100 Mbps service if that’s all you need. When activity picks up, you can easily increase the bandwidth with a phone call or even online portal. Your service bandwidth will change, as will your monthly bill.

Wavelength Fiber Service
While in-house fiber optic networks might use a single laser beam to transmit data, outside carriers that run large networks use a combination of multiple strands of fiber within a single bundle and multiple wavelengths within each strand. This is a more efficient use of expensive fiber cabling and the only real way to accommodate all the traffic on the regional, national or international network.

The process of using multiple lasers, each tuned to a different frequency or wavelength is called multiplexing. All the beams exist at the same time but since they are different colors, they don’t interfere. You can imagine it something like a rainbow, although the frequencies tend to be in the infrared rather than visible band. Each separate wavelength, also called a lambda, can act like an independent fiber optic strand, although virtually. The physical strand carries them all.

There may be dozens or hundreds of different wavelengths on the same fiber strand depending on whether Coarse Wavelength Division Multiplexing (CWDM) or Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) is used. Each of these wavelengths can carry lit fiber optic service or it can be leased to one customer.

When you order a wavelength, you do so because you need high bandwidth such as 10 Gbps. You also want the ability to use whatever protocol you like or multiple protocols over the same wavelength using your own multiplexing. You’ll typically provide the termination equipment that determines all this, although you might be able to lease it from the service provider. Another advantage of wavelength service is that security is improved because only your traffic uses that particular wavelength and there is no sharing of traffic between wavelengths.

Dark Fiber Service
The ultimate in control comes from having your own fiber optic network or the next best thing, a private fiber strand on your service provider’s network. This private strand is called dark fiber.

Most every Wide Area Network contains unlit fiber strands that are intended for future service expansion as traffic levels increase. It is very expensive to install fiber in trenches or on poles over long distances. The incremental cost of have more strands in the fiber bundle is usually well worth the extra expense compared to having to add more fiber cable later. Some cables have 100 or more fiber strands.

Many fiber network carriers are quite willing to lease out some of these unlit strands as long as there is plenty of capacity left for them to expand. The advantage to you is that dark fiber gives you control of the amount of bandwidth you send down the fiber, the protocols you use, and the best security you can have over long distances unless you install your own fiber cable from point to point. Once again, you provide the termination equipment at each end of the fiber run. In some cases, you can lease this from the service provider.

So, which type of fiber optic service is right for your business? Most of the time regular lit fiber bandwidth will get the job done. In special cases, wavelength service or dark fiber may be the solution. Compare options and see how much bandwidth is readily available at affordable prices for your business location.

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

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Thursday, May 25, 2023

Bandwidth Without Usage Metering

By: John Shepler

Perhaps the most unpleasant experience of broadband is hitting your data cap. You may have forgotten it was even there. But, like the cop hiding behind the highway billboard, it pops out at the most inconvenient times and, boy, are you in trouble. Let’s have a look at what data limits are all about and what you can do to avoid hitting them.

Avoid data usage limits with dedicated Internet access and private lines.Where Did Usage Metering Come From?
The big problem is scarcity. Bandwidth is like electricity. If we had unlimited amounts at minimal costs, there would be no need to meter it or even limit your line speed. Such is not the case.

Take 5G cellular for instance. The demand for Internet broadband has always been way ahead of capacity buildout for the cellular networks. 2G was pitiful. 3G was still bandwidth starved. 4G LTE greatly improved on cellular capacity to the point that most people didn’t run out before the end of the month.

5G offers the promise of billions of “things” all communicating autonomously and people using fixed wireless from their cellular provider to replace services like DSL, cable and T1 lines.

Have you been watching what is happing with 5G? There is a mad scramble to build towers, feed them with fiber optic cables or microwave backhaul, and lobby the government to assign more and more of the limited radio spectrum to high speed Internet. It’s cellular vs satellite vs independent WISPs (Wireless Internet Service Providers) vs television vs government vs everybody else to grab as much bandwidth as possible.

Why? The amount of spectrum you can press into service determines the speed of your connection and the amount of data to divvy up among users. Thus the feeding frenzy among service providers.

Even wireline and fiber optic services have their limits. Twisted pair landlines are pretty pokey by today’s standards and fiber optic requires a huge capital investment. A fiber bundle has enormous capacity, but only where the fiber has been run. It doesn’t blanket an area like wireless does. Each location needs its own fiber connection.

How Carriers Allot Their Capacity
All bandwidth services have limited capacity. Wireless has the most constraints because the electromagnetic spectrum has only so much available in the popular frequencies that travel reasonable distances and penetrate walls. Fiber and HFC (Hybrid Fiber Cable) is less constrained but has high costs to build out.

Carriers divvy up their capacity and sell it to users by slicing and dicing what they have. The two limitations that they put on users are speed in Mbps or Gbps and usage in total Gigabytes. Speed determines how much of the total bandwidth you can use at any given moment. Total capacity limits keep a few high data users from uploading and downloading continuously so that other’s can’t get online.

You see, the price you pay for Internet access is much less if the carrier can assume that you aren’t sending or receiving all the time. Much of the time you may not even be accessing remote servers. When you do, you’ll send or receive a certain bundle of data and then pause before doing more. By allowing many customers to share one big line, providers can give everyone reliable access at greatly reduced cost. That’s the principle behind cable broadband, satellite services, and cellular broadband.

In practice, this works well for consumers and many smaller businesses. They just don’t need to be sending enormous files one right after the other. On cable, you may never hit your allotted limit or even know what it is. With cellular and satellite, you may have and “unlimited” plan, but just try continuously streaming video or doing massive data transfers and you’ll run into what the carriers call “fair use” provisions. Yes, there are limits to unlimited plans.

What happens if you consume more that your “fair share”? Your service provider may choose to simply issue a warning, or may slow your speed so you can’t hog so much of their capacity. Or they may charge you for extra GBs of usage. Worst case, they’ll simply cut off your service until the next month’s billing cycle begins.

How to Avoid Usage Metering
Medium and larger businesses and heavy Internet using companies with cloud services and remote backup storage may well exceed even the most generous fair use quotas. The best option then is to order services that aren’t metered at all. Those tend to be private lines and dedicated Internet access.

Dedicated lines without usage metering give you two advantages. First, you are not sharing with other companies or residential users. The capacity of the channel is yours and yours alone. If you order a Gigabit Dedicated Internet Access fiber service, you can feed it traffic continuously and nobody is going to complain. Plus the speed of your service won’t vary with competing traffic, because you have sole usage. This is particularly valuable with business critical applications and real-time services like video conferencing that run in the cloud.

A private line is like dedicated access except that the Internet is never involved. You connect point to point or in a private mesh network where others cannot interfere. Even the core Internet gets congested from time to time. Your private lines are like private superhighways. Your traffic, and yours alone, is what is carried. If you are using cloud services extensively, consider a direct line from your business to your cloud provider for the highest performance.

Have you been hitting the limits of your Internet service or being warned by your provider that they may heavily up-charge you or cut off access? Consider the advantages of ordering dedicated private lines and dedicated Internet access without usage limits to keep your business running smoothly.

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

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Tuesday, April 18, 2023

5G Fixed Wireless Fills the Copper Gap

By: John Shepler

For almost a century and a half, twisted pair copper wiring has been the way telecom services were delivered. This ranges from classic plain old telephone service, to T1 digital lines for Internet access and point to point private connections. Copper, however, is on the way out. If you haven’t run up against its bandwidth limitations yet, you may still have a problem if your local telephone company (who owns all the copper lines) decides to discontinue service. Then what?

Find 5G Fixed Wireless Access for your business broadband.What Replaces Copper Lines?
When it comes to bandwidth, fiber optic cables can’t be beat. You can order any bandwidth from 10 Mbps up to 10 Gbps, and even 100 Gbps in many locations. Hybrid Fiber Cable, commonly known as cable broadband, can now deliver multi-gigabit speeds through the classic coaxial cable.

Sounds great, but what if you are in an area that is not served by Cable and has no fiber infrastructure nearby? Are you simply stuck with no service at all?

5G Wireless To the Rescue
Fifth generation or 5G smartphones have pretty much taken over the market from the 4G LTE standard that served us for years. With 5G comes new bands that offer expanded bandwidth and low latency for smart autonomous devices that are called the Internet of Things.

There is another application that 5G is pursuing aggressively. That is fixed wireless access or FWA. The “fixed” part of FWA means situations that are not mobile. Think of your desktop PC, point of sale terminals, or even your entire Local Area Network.

Internet service providers called WISPs or Wireless Internet Service Providers have been around to serve homes and businesses that can’t get wired or fiber Internet. They tend to be very local and independent and use systems that are not affiliated with cellular providers. If you have a WISP nearby, they can often step in and give you the service you need to stay online.

How 5G is different than the usual WISP is that it is true cellular broadband and serves both fixed and mobile users. The same broadband that you use on your phone can also be delivered directly to an office, store or residence wherever there is a cell tower nearby.

4G LTE service actually started the push for applications to use cellular broadband rather than depend on DSL, cable or other wired services. When 4G LTE became widely available it offered bandwidths that rivaled typical broadband services and had enough capacity to serve multitudes of customers rather than just a few at a time.

4G LTE is still a good option for many applications. What 5G does is offer bandwidths that can rival fiber at low latencies for sensitive applications. Major cellular carriers are promoting 5G wireless as a competitor to cable broadband in fixed locations. For business users, 5G can often substitute for unavailable T1 lines or even DS3 bandwidth.

How Do You Get 5G FWA?
You may have already paired your phone with your desktop PC or tablet using Bluetooth and setting up the phone as a personal Internet Hotspot. FWA expands upon this idea. Instead of a phone, you install a 5G or combination 5G / 4G LTE Gateway. This can be a simple box that sits on your desk in on a shelf near a window. It may have a wired Ethernet port to connect to your router or may even contain a router and WiFI hotspot. Some of these devices have special antennas that are more efficient in capturing the cellular tower signal for reliable operation.

A good way to research the availability of 5G and 4G LTE options for your business is to work with a bandwidth broker that represents a multitude of companies offering this type of service. You’ll want a solid connection with enough bandwidth to serve the size of your business and sufficient or no data limits. You may be surprised at the variety of offerings available, even in rural or otherwise underserved areas.

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

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