Which Internet Connection is Right for My Business?
The question I get asked most from Small Businesses is "What Internet connection and speed do I need?" In the majority of the cases, the local phone company up-sold them the highest business speed they offered without knowing what the business was really going to use the connection for. What is Bandwidth? Bandwidth is a measure of how much data can be put down a circuit or pipe at any given second. The standard measure for bandwidth is bits but every file size on a PC is listed in bytes. So how do you convert. 1 bit = 8bytes. Think of a 56kbps dial-up modem as water going through a straw, then 1.5Mbps T-1 as a garden hose and now a 100Mbps connection as a fire hose. What are the most common connection types, speeds and definitions? Pricing varies between area and depends on what other carriers are in the area. The more competition, the lower the price.
DSL - Digital Subscriber Line provides dedicated bandwidth per customer and speed range between 128kbps to 6Mbps over a Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS). The cost is reasonable and easy for small businesses to absorb. DSL is reliable and has the ability to troubleshoot issues better than cable.
Cable - Cable Internet Access is becoming increasingly popular due to "Triple Play", the ability to provide voice, Cable TV and Internet over the same infrastructure. The bill for all 3 services comes from one vendor. The disadvantage to cable is the bandwidth is shared between all subscribers on the same cable node. The more subscribers the cable company puts on a node, the slower your Internet connection gets when all the neighborhood kids get home from school and jump on the Internet. Speeds average between 1.5Mbps to 20Mbps. Cable companies are starting to offer higher speeds to business services, but they also want to provide your network and security infrastructure. (That's like letting the fox into the hen house if you ask me.) Cost is reasonable and easy for small businesses to absorb but if there is an issue with the connection the standard message you may receive when calling for support is "We don't see an issue affecting your area."
Dedicated, Private Line, Frame, ATM, MPLS - Private Line service is the oldest and most reliable service. The Local Exchange Carrier (LEC) connects a line or circuit from their Carrier Office (CO) to your facility and Cross Connects it to their or your Internet Provider's network such as AT&T, Verizon Business, Global Crossing, Sprint, Level 3, etc. The Internet provider takes the access handed off from the LEC and connects you to the Internet over their network. Speeds range from 128k all the way into the Gigabit range.
Wireless CDMA / 3G - Wireless Internet cards are available from any wireless carrier that provides cellular phones. They are mainly for laptop access but can be used for backup services in the event your primary Internet goes down. Speeds vary between carrier, market and signal strength but are between 56k to 3Mbps.
This is all great to know, but what connection and speed do I need?
The answer is, It Depends. There is no golden rule for determine connection or bandwidth. There are many factors and variables to consider. How many employees do you have on the Internet at the same time and what are they doing?
Follow these general guidelines:
Determine your reliability requirements? Can you operate your business if the Internet is not accessible? If not, at minimum get dual connections from either the LEC, Cable and Private Line Provider.
If you are small office with less than 25 employees accessing the Internet at the same time accessing e-mail and web pages, 1.5Mbps should work fine. 25 - 50 look at 3Mbps and over 50 start at 3Mbps and if you find that the Internet is slow at certain peak times of the day upgrade to 6Mbps.
You can always increase Internet bandwidth if the lowest and least expensive option isn't cutting the mustard. Don't let the phone company talk you into upgrading just because it is only an extra $20 a month.
Private Line service is the most expensive but most reliable service available. It isn't suited for most small business unless alternative Internet connections are not available.
If you transfer a large volume of large files (1+MB Files), frequently, be prepared to upgrade to the next connection speed offered by your provider.
Summary Start small, increase as needed and contact your trusted network advisor when in doubt.
Aaron Magruder (816) 566-0017 NonStop Networks, LLC http://www.nonstopnetworks.net