How to get the business Internet service you need from megabit copper to 10 Gbps fiber
By: John Shepler
The range of broadband Internet connectivity solutions available for your business location is greater than ever before. Let’s take a look at what’s available and appropriate for companies of all sizes.
Starting at the Top
We’ll start at the top, since Gigabit Internet is the gold standard that everyone would really like to have… if they could afford it. Chances are, you probably can if you have a medium or larger size company in most locations or smaller businesses in select areas.
Where You Are Counts
This is an important point for all connectivity services. What you get and what you pay for it depends a lot on your particular business location. That’s because not all areas are built out equally. Major metro downtowns have a wealth of services and are highly competitive on price. Large business and office parks are also well connected. In smaller towns or out in rural areas, pickings are slim, as they say. Even so, you can get some form of broadband Internet connection no matter where you are.
Options at 1 Gbps
The most popular form of Gigabit Ethernet or GigE service for business right now is Gigabit Ethernet over Fiber. It is a more modern technology than SONET and excels in both ease of connectivity and price. The ease of connectivity comes from the fact that Carrier Ethernet is really just an extension of the same switched Ethernet that runs on your company LAN. Features necessary to long distance operation and maintenance have been added to the Ethernet standard. Otherwise it’s the same packets you already know and love.
Gigabit Ethernet is priced at a fraction of what traditional SONET OC3, OC12, OC48 etc costs. These are still viable options and are embedded into many, many regional and national networks. Ethernet can run over SONET or be natively hosted on the fiber. Competitive providers have pushed prices lower and lower, to the point that if you really need this much bandwidth you can probably afford it.
Another advantage of Carrier Ethernet is that it is easily scalable. You can install fiber services with a Gigabit speed port today but only take 100 Mbps service if that is all you need. The price will be considerably less and you can upgrade to 200, 500, 750 or 1,000 Mbps whenever you like. No equipment changes will be needed.
Even Higher Speeds
The relentless migration of data centers to the cloud and higher performance hosted business applications have pushed demands on WAN networks to higher and higher speeds. While most companies are getting used to the idea of having Gigabit connectivity, some, like video producers and larger medical complexes, find that bandwidth a bit limiting. No problem. If you can get Ethernet over Fiber, you can likely get 10 Gbps as easily as 1 Gbps. In larger markets, 100 Gbps is readily available for business use.
Fractional Gigabit Options
If your needs are more modest, say in the range of 50 to 500 Mbps, you have multiple options for service. Certainly, rate limited GigE can work in this range. You can also opt for traditional DS3 service at 45 Mbps if still available in your area. This bandwidth, which once was a corporate standard, is provisioned on copper coaxial cables. Most of the delivery is done over fiber, however, running as a service on OC3 fiber to the curb.
How about business cable broadband? The price is certainly right and you can easily get bandwidths to 100 Mbps, and often 300 Mbps. In some areas Gigabit service over cable is available. Limitations of this service are that the bandwidth is shared, and thus varies during the day. It is also asymmetrical with download speed 10x that of upload speed. Finally, there are usually no service level agreements. Its a best effort service. Even so, if the cable runs by your location and the service will meet your needs, you’ll pay only a fraction of what equivalent fiber bandwidth costs.
The Low End
Small businesses may find 50 Mbps more than they need, especially if the Internet is used primarily for email, purchasing, web browsing and similar applications. In this case, cable broadband at 30 Mbps can be your lowest cost option. Ethernet over Copper will give you symmetrical bandwidth from 5 to 50 Mbps and is also very cost effective where available. Ethernet over fiber starts at 10 Mbps and is suprisingly competitive with other services.
Have you considered a T1 line? Yes, the bandwidth is only 1.5 Mbps, but it is rock solid and suitable for things like credit card verification and email. Not so much for video or other demanding applications. The beauty of T1 lines is that they have been around so long they have been installed just about everywhere you can get landline telephone service. That means out in rural areas where just about nothing else is available. The limitations are that copper services are starting to be discontinued in many areas and there is no way to scale these lines to much higher bandwidth.
Business satellite broadband is another option for just about any location where power is available and you have a clear view of the Southern sky. The downsides of satellite are that usage is limited to a fixed number of GB per month, just like cellular, and the latency from the satellite being so far up make applications slow to respond and telephone calls more like two-way radio conversations.
Don't forget about cellular based broadband. Those cell towers dot the landscape and nearly all are running 4G LTE or 5G. That means mid-level bandwidths and services far out into the countryside. This bandwidth is also portable, perfect for pop-up stores. Business solutions offer generous usage and equipment with better antennas to give you a solid signal.
How About SDN?
Software Defined Networks are taking the industry by storm. These are collections of similar or dissimilar broadband services that are managed by a special controller that makes instant decisions about which path each packet should take. The effect is that your WAN connection becomes more robust and even lower cost options can be integrated to create a high performing network.
Which business Internet option is right for your business? Get quote for multiple business Internet broadband services and see which fits best to your requirements.
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