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Business Broadband Connections
Comparing shared vs dedicated Internet access solutions for cost and performance.

By: John Shepler

Nearly every business today is connected to the Internet or soon will be. Even those mom and pop operations that still use the mechanical credit card machines will soon use electronic card verification, email and at least a brochure website. Businesses that are already seasoned users of the Web are looking to upgrade their bandwidth to support a move to cloud services. Let’s compare and contrast the various options you have for a broadband Internet connection.

Shared vs Dedicated BW
Business Internet broadband services generally fall into two categories. They are shared and dedicated connections. Shared connections are similar in design to residential broadband services. The fact that the bandwidth is divvied up among many users lowers the cost for all. Dedicated services allocate a certain bandwidth to your connection and it does not vary regardless of what other users are doing. These services also tend to come with SLAs or Service Level Agreements that spell out technical parameters and availability commitments.

Variable Bandwidth
Shared bandwidth services include Cable Broadband, DSL, 3G and 4G Wireless, and two-way Satellite Internet. What they all have in common is that the actual bandwidth you’ll see varies with the number of other users and what they are doing. These services are sold as speeds “up to” a certain number of Mbps. That means what it says. You may get the full speed the connection is capable of or you may get a tenth of that at any given time.

Cost May Trump Stability
These variations may or may not bother you. If you are running enterprise VoIP or bandwidth sensitive business processes, your variable connection may not support the performance you have in mind. On the other hand, if you use the Internet at work the same way you use it at home for email, Web browsing, or accessing pre-recorded audio and video, you may be quite satisfied with the service and delighted with the cost savings. Some services, like 3G wireless and Satellite are often used to support electronic credit card machines in lieu of using a phone line.

Dedicated is Solid Bandwidth
Dedicated Internet access connections, such as T1 lines and Ethernet over Copper, have rock solid bandwidth and generally excellent latency, jitter and packet loss characteristics. These are the same lines that you would use to interconnect business connections on a private line service. As Internet connections, they have one termination at your location and the other at your Internet service providers location.

DIA For Servers and Content Delivery
Dedicated Internet access supports Web and email servers. The also support multiple users accessing the Internet and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). If you are going to stream content to Internet users, you’ll want a DIA (Dedicated Internet Access) connection from the server to the Internet.

EoC vs T1
Ethernet over Copper (EoC) has become very popular as both a private line and DIA connection. You can often get twice the bandwidth you could with a T1 line costing the same price. Like T1, EoC is provisioned over twisted pair copper telco wiring to keep construction costs down.

Higher Bandwidth Over Fiber
Larger companies and those with demanding applications such as video transport move up to fiber optic services, such as OC3 to OC768 SONET and Ethernet over Fiber (EoF) 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet, 1 Gbps GigE and 10 Gbps 10GigE bandwidth services. All of these are dedicated services with service level agreements.

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