Monday, April 21, 2014

Fiber Makes the Upgrades Easy

By: John Shepler

Fiber optic bandwidth has long been a standard of business connectivity, especially for applications requiring extreme line speeds. The good news now is that fiber service is becoming available to more and more business locations. IT managers and other executives are increasingly faced with the choice of whether to continue embracing their legacy copper wireline services or make the upgrade to fiber optic service. Let’s see what helps tilt the balance in favor of fiber.


First of all, Fiber is the Future
You can easily read the signs that point in this direction. Fiber optic bandwidth has gone from being an extremely expensive option to being price competitive with copper on a per Mbps basis. Bonded T1 and Ethernet over Copper will only take you so far in satisfying an accelerating need for MAN and WAN bandwidth. When copper runs out of capability, fiber is often the only solution.

Copper Asset Retirement
You’ll also notice the media stories of how carriers are either phasing out their copper assets or planning to do so. The change has been slow in coming because all that buried and overhead copper is already paid for. However, maintenance is not free. Corroding copper wires result in frequent truck rolls. Some of the justification for holding onto the copper plant is the preponderance of legacy analog phone lines plus T1 and ISDN trunks that use the same twisted pair lines. As carriers transition from circuit switched to packet switched architectures, those analog and TDM circuits start to fade away.

Ethernet over Fiber
The new juggernaut is Ethernet over Fiber. It’s a combination that meets a lot of needs. Fiber provides the bandwidth capacity. Ethernet offers its inherent support for IP networking. Ethernet also has some new standardized services available. E-LAN or Ethernet LAN service is becoming the easiest and most cost effective way to link multiple business locations in a meshed any-to-any communications architecture. The designed-in ease of scalability with Ethernet over Fiber is a huge boon for companies that want to minimize their costs in an uncertain business climate.

SONET, the Legacy Fiber
The legacy competing fiber service is SONET, a technology designed by and for the phone companies. SONET has predetermined bandwidth levels that include OC-3 at 155 Mbps, OC-12 at 622 Mbps and OC-48 at 2.4 Gbps. The terminal equipment is specific to these levels, so changes require truck rolls for the carriers to swap out customer premises equipment and perhaps make engineering changes to the network. Delays of weeks and months for system changes are not unusual.

Ethernet Scalability
Ethernet over Fiber doesn’t operate at fixed bandwidth levels. Instead, there is a maximum bandwidth capability determined by the installed port speed. Popular port options include 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet, 1 Gbps Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gbps 10 GigE. The beauty of this arrangement is that you can install a Gigabit Ethernet port, but only order a couple hundred Mbps of initial bandwidth. When your line starts to reach its capacity, a simple phone call to your provider can double or quadruple bandwidth in a matter of hours or days. No hardware changes are needed.

Ethernet Cost Advantage
You should also be aware that Ethernet over Fiber usually has a cost advantage over SONET. Competitive carriers with their own IP core networks can completely bypass the incumbent telephone companies and give you point to point or dedicated Internet connections. You may well find that you can get twice the bandwidth for the same money that you pay now or cut your monthly telecom bill in half.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Do You Need Bandwidth on Demand?

By: John Shepler

When you order a bandwidth service, you are expected to know the bandwidth your network requires and select the best option to deliver it. But, what if your requirements are somewhat fuzzy or subject to change? What if you are moving from an in-house IT data center to cloud computing or cloud communication services? What happens if you get it wrong?

Gain flexibility with  network bursting options and bandwidth on demand.The Limitation of Standard BW Services
Traditional line contracts are for a fixed amount of bandwidth for a set number of years. A DS3 bandwidth connection gives you 45 Mbps bi-directionally at all times. You have the security of knowing that the line speed will be there when you need it. You are also paying for the line to sit there doing nothing when you don’t.

Overprovisioning
This can lead to overprovisioning to ensure that you’ll never run out of capacity. You might only need half the capacity most of the year. Then the holiday rush hits and the network becomes congested at times. The worst situation is when you experience a sudden unexpected wealth of new business and you can’t serve the customers… because you don’t have the capacity.

Making Changes is Slow
When things start to pick up, you can order more bandwidth and keep your fingers crossed that it will be in place before your current line starts to sputter. That’s a problem with traditional telecom services because they are so specific. A T1 line is 1.5 Mbps, a DS3 connection is 45 Mbps, an OC-3 fiber service is 155 Mbps. There is a big gap between service levels and it takes equipment changes to move from one service type to another. That can translate into weeks and even months to make a change.

The Ethernet Advantage
Carrier Ethernet offers a lot more flexibility. If you have a Gigabit Ethernet port installed, you can order 100 Mbps, 200 Mbps, 400 Mbps or some other bandwidth and know that you can upgrade quickly when needed. A GigE port will run at any speed up to 1000 Mbps. You have the option to both upgrade and downgrade your service with just a phone call to your provider. How long does this take? Since there are no equipment changes needed, you may be looking at anywhere between a few hours and a few days max.

Consider Your Port
Of course, you’ll need to think ahead just a bit to know what size port to install. They are typically one of the standard Ethernet speeds of 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, 1000 Mbps and 10 Gbps. It’s also possible to get a 100 Gbps port installed in certain locations if you really need this much capacity. Most business users need a 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet port or a 1,000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet port.

Bandwidth Bursting is Better
Additional flexibility is provided by a feature called “bandwidth bursting.” Bursting means that you have some ability to get extra capacity automatically on a short term basis. Not all line services offer this ability. It’s more typical on MPLS IP VPN networks. The capacity is already available on the network. You are simply paying for a committed information rate (CIR). It you need more, you get more and simply pay for the excess used during the month.

Bandwidth on Demand For The Most Flexibility
Bandwidth-on-Demand takes this idea a step further. This is a dynamic network design that can give you more capacity on the fly. You don’t have to plan ahead or settle for a “best effort” by the provider. Bandwidth-on-Demand gives you extra capacity on the fly at the quality of service (QoS) level you’ve pre-selected. XO Communications, a worldwide leader in WAN bandwidth solutions, is offering this service for organizations that need to accommodate unanticipated capacity needs. They are promoting it especially for cloud and multi-cloud service environments.

What Do You Need Now?
Could your operation benefit from Bandwidth-on-Demand, burstable bandwidth or easily scalable Ethernet bandwidth? Get quick quotes and recommendation on flexible bandwidth solutions now.

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Note: Image of Gamma Ray burst courtesy of NASA on WIkimedia Commons.



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Monday, April 07, 2014

Why Such a Stampede to The Cloud?

You can hardly turn around these days without hearing something about “the cloud.” Is it true that there is a mass migration under way from local data centers to cloud service companies? For those who make the move, why are they doing it and what do they hope to achieve? Let’s take a quick look, thanks to this enlightening infographic from Integra Telecom:

Get Your Head Into the Cloud

Get Your Head into the Cloud – Cloud Computing Infographic from Integra, Data Networking & Voice Service Provider

The Cloud You Don’t Know
Cloud storage is the big app that’s getting all the press, but unlimited server capacity is also a strong draw. One application that you may not be thinking of is Hosted PBX or Hosted VoIP. This is a replacement for your in-house telephone system. Yes, you still have phones, but they plug into your data network rather than their own telephone wiring. There is no switching system in-house. That’s in the cloud.

Why Hosted PBX?
You get rid of all the headaches associated with buying and maintaining the in-house system, including all of those moves, adds and changes. Plus, you pay only for what you need. Add phones as you need them and pay by the month for each one in service. Don’t need them anymore due to downsizing or change of business direction? Get rid of ‘em. Some providers will even give you the phones so you don’t have to buy them yourself. It’s a pretty sweet deal.

How can the cloud help your business?
Get the latest on competitive cloud services available for your business operations.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Telephone Trunks for Call Centers

By: John Shepler

All businesses need telephone lines of some sort. Independent professionals may rely on a smartphone for wireless communication, but businesses with offices or stores open to the public or with two or more employees almost always have some sort of landline installed. Let’s take a look at the analog and digital options available and the advantage of installing telephone trunk lines to increase capacity and reduce cost.


Plain Old Analog
Analog phone lines are the legacy technology of the phone companies going back over a century. You’ll hear them described as POTS or Plain Old Telephone Service. POTS lines are well established, highly reliable and engineered for high voice quality on both local and toll calls. Standard phones, including desk sets and cordless phones with multiple handsets, are analog phones and plug directly into analog business phone lines.

Broadband Phone
The digital solution for a single phone line is a broadband Internet connection shared with the computers. This option is usually chosen for its low cost, but voice quality can degrade and certain applications, like FAX machines and alarm systems, may not function correctly.

Adding More Lines
What about the vast majority of businesses with more than one phone line, especially those with an in-house contact center or specializing as a call center? Small operations sill rely on analog phone lines. You can add analog lines one at a time and plug them into your key telephone system or PBX switching system. Each outside line has its own phone number.

How Costs Add Up
Adding analog phone lines incrementally as you need them works well until you get more than half a dozen to a dozen separate lines. There are no technical issues, but costs mount up. Two lines cost twice as much as one line. Six lines cost six times as much. There is no economy of scale as these are independent lines.

How Trunking Saves
The strategy for reducing costs while maintaining voice quality and reliability is called trunking. Trunking simply means combining multiple lines to create a single trunk line with the same capacity. Trunking was invented by the telephone industry to transport dozens or even thousands of phone conversations efficiently from switching office to switching office. Originally, this was done with analog technology called carrier telephony. In recent decades, it’s all gone digital from office to office, leaving analog POTS lines only for that last mile connection between the telco office and the customer’s premises.

T1 Telephone Trunks
The first digital trunk line that was introduced by the phone industry for business users was the T1 telephone line. Yes, this is the same T1 technology that you may be using for point to point or dedicated Internet access. The difference is that the T1 line is divided or “channelized” into 24 separate segments or time slots. Each channel can transport one two-way telephone conversation and is the equivalent of an analog POTS line. You can use an appliance called a channel bank to convert between analog phone and the T1 line. Most in-house PBX phone systems have the necessary interface to do this or it can be added easily with a plug-in card.

Cost Advantage of T1
The big advantage of T1 trunks is that they become cost competitive with multiple POTS lines when you get over 6 to 10 outside lines. If you need more than a dozen phone lines for your desks or a call center operation, T1 is the lower cost option. Multiple T1 lines can be added to provide blocks of 24 outside lines incrementally.

ISDN PRI Improves on T1
A newer version of the T1 line is called ISDN PRI or Primary Rate interface. It uses the same T1 line but reserves one channel for signaling and switching. The other 23 channels are available as separate phone lines. ISDN PRI is popular with call centers because it provides faster call setup and teardown than the older T1 telephone lines. It also offers digital data ,such as Caller ID, that is not generally available on just T1 trunks. Like T1, though, multiple ISDN PRI trunks can be installed to provide as many outside lines as needed. Cost is competitive with T1 and most PBX systems come with the PRI interface already installed.

SIP Trunking, The Emerging Standard
While ISDN PRI is now the standard in commercial telephone trunking technology, an even newer technology is available to better support enterprise VoIP telephone systems. This is called SIP trunking. SIP is the switching protocol used by IP telephones and VoIP phone systems.

SIP vs T1
SIP trunks are also digital, but differ from T1 lines in that they are based on packet switching rather than time division channelization. Packet switching is the heart of all Ethernet networks that support computing. What companies are doing is replacing their old analog telephones with IP phones that connect to the same network as the computers. SIP trunks extend this connection out to the service provider for multiple telephone lines or a combination of voice and data.

Private Lines vs The Internet
Note that high performance SIP trunks are private lines between the user and the carrier and do not suffer from the vagaries of Internet broadband phone. SIP trunks often have the ability to also supply Internet service, but the telephone packets have priority to maintain high voice quality. SIP trunking is becoming popular for call center operations as companies replace their old PBX systems with newer IP PBX systems or choose to outsource the switching function to the cloud.

How to Choose
Which type of telephone trunking arrangement is optimum for your organization? Get some expert advice on the tradeoffs and competitive pricing from multiple carriers serving your location. Call now toll free (888) 848-8749 or enter your inquiry at Telexplainer.net

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Monday, March 24, 2014

What’s to Become of Data Centers?

Both large scale colocation centers and traditional in-house company data centers are being challenged by cost and technology. Here’s a quick graphical look at what’s going on right now in this infographic courtesy of David Vellante on Wikibon:

The Future of the Data Center

Your Data Center Options
Are you thinking that it may not make sense to invest in a new data center or continue running the one you have now? There are a wide range of options available from colocation at a major commercial data center to cloud hosted services to choose from. Call now toll free at (888) 848-8749 to speak with a product specialist who can recommend everything from WAN connectivity up to complete IT outsourcing or describe your data center needs for quick quotes on appropriate services.

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