Reliable, high-bandwidth Internet connectivity used to be a “nice to have”, but this is quickly changing. Traditionally, office-based computer users accessed shared computing resources via a local area network (LAN). Internet outages and slowdowns would disrupt web browsing and e-mail but work could continue because a LAN-centric computer network didn’t require an Internet connection to provide users access to resources such as file sharing, print sharing, and database access. The only people that were completely shut down by a disruption were remote workers.
Over time, businesses have come to rely more and more on their connection to the Internet. That reliance is accelerating with the advent of cloud computing. Broadly, cloud computing is using the Internet to deliver computing services such as e-mail and CRM.
Over the next few years, it’s expected that businesses will migrate their LAN centric computer networks to a cloud-based computing environment. In a cloud-based computing environment, every worker is a remote worker that’s completely dependent upon the organization’s Internet connection for access to corporate computing resources. This dependence really elevates the importance of the quality of the Internet connection. In addition to being reliable and fast, the connection really should have some redundancy built into the design.
At Endsight, we’ve been working with our clients to help them plan for this transition as part of our “all-inclusive” outsourced IT support program. Typically, we employ a design that includes hardware from SonicWALL and two Internet connections from competing Internet service providers (ISP)’s.
Hardware design and integration are fairly straightforward but selecting the right mix of ISPs isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are a lot of options each with its own cost/performance trade-offs, below is a summary of the available options:
- Telecom options include DSL, T-1, & MPLS connections. Basically, these options leverage the phone company’s (mostly AT&T) telephone infrastructure. These solutions are tried and true and include service level assurances. You can purchase these options from a variety of providers and resellers. If this option makes sense, it’s important to work with a provider that will offer more support than simply providing a 1-800 number.
- WiMax or fixed wireless broadband internet is becoming more and more popular. Instead of providing a connection using wires, this option uses fixed wireless antennas that are installed on the roof of a building. These antennas point to other antennas that terminate a connection into the public internet. This option offers high speeds at an economical cost. Its key limitation is that to work the antenna must have a line of sight to the terminating point. This can sometimes be a real challenge.
- Cable internet access uses the same infrastructure that is used to deliver cable television. It also offers high speed/high throughput internet access for an economical cost. As with fiber-optic communication, cable is dependent upon availability. In addition, cable is less reliable than some of the other options out there. This is less of an issue if there is a redundant connection from a Telecom or one of the other providers.
Again, this is only a summary of some of the options. There is a lot more to this; if you feel like a deeper dive into your options might be helpful, please feel free to connect with us. We include IT strategy and part of our fixed fee outsourced IT service.