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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