Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Everything You Need To Know About MPLS (Mult Protocol Label Switching)

Historically, tag switching ( now called LABEL) was first proposed as a way to move IP packets more quickly than was possible with conventional routing. But, soon after implementations, it became apparent that any increase in speed was very slight. What really allowed MPLS to grow as an infrastructure technology was that it could provide new IP based services such as VPN's, Traffic Engineering ( TE) etc.

The MPLS architecture separates the control information for packets required for packet transfer itself; that is, it separates the control and data planes. The data plane is used for the transport of packets (or label swapping algorithm), and the control plane is analogous to routing information (for example, the location to which to send the packet). This capability is programmed into hardware by the control plane. This separation permits applications to be developed and deployed in a scalable and flexible manner. Examples of applications that are facilitated by MPLS technology include the following......

MPLS QoS, BGP VPNs Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), Traffic engineering Traffic engineering ( enables one to control traffic routing via constraint-based routing), Multicast routing Protocol Independent Multicast (PIM), Pseudowires [These can be used to evolve legacy networks and services, such as Frame Relay, ATM, PPP, High-Level Data Link Control (HDLC), and Ethernet], Generalized MPLS (GMPLS) etc.

Services offered by Service Providers ( SP's) may include the following.....

* Layer 2 VPNs

* Layer 3 VPNs

* Remote Access and IPSec Integration with MPLS VPNs

* MPLS Security

* Traffic Engineering

* Quality of Service

* Multicast and NGNs ( Next Generation Networks)

* IPv6 over MPLS

MPLS models adopted by service providers (SP) of broadband services depend on the services offered and also on the models adopted according to customer demands. The services provided have changed significantly through the last few years as technology has progressed. For example, many wholesale providers who offered ATM as access links now have moved on to Gigabit Ethernet.

For example, two of the most common braodband SP's would be the following.....

* Retail Provider - Any provider thats sells services to an end-user which can be business or residential. Usually they would lease bandwidth from a wholesale provider.

* Wholesale Povider - Any operator that sells services to other network operators. In context of the current broadband world, the wholesaler is usually whoever owns the subscriber plant ( wires, cables etc.)

In between the subscriber and their "ISP" is the wholesale provider who owns actually owns and operates the access network, for e.g, DSL, Cable, Ethernet etc. Of course, for an IP network, these are just different types of access.

Several applications that are facilitated by the implementation of MPLS include....

* MPLS QoS - Quality of service mechanisms, for e.g, differentiated service, which enables the creation of LSPs with guaranteed bandwidth.

* Layer 3 VPN - Uses BGP in the service provider's network with IP routing protocols or static routing between the service provider and the customer. BGP is used to exchange the FEC-label binding.

* Traffic engineering - Uses extensions of IS-IS or OSPF to distribute attributes in the network. Traffic engineering enables you to control traffic routing and thus optimize network utilization.

* Multicast routing via PIM - The protocol used to create FEC tables; extensions of version 2 of the PIM protocol are used to exchange FEC label binding.

* Layer 2 VPN - Can be created via a Layer 2 circuit over MPLS. Layer 2 VPNs use Layer 2 transport as a building block.

Of course, features such as Security and Metro Ethernet are part of the MPLS architecture also.

Architectural Components and choices for SP's.......

* Scaling MPLS VPNs to Multi-AS, Multi-Provider, and Hierarchical Networks:

* Inter-AS VPNs: The 3 basic models discussed in RFC2547bis for Inter-AS connectivity are as follows:

- Back-to-back VPN connectivity between ASBRs

- VPNv4 exchange of routes and peering between ASBRs

- IPv4 exchange of routes and peering between ASBR's

All three above models focus on propagating VPN routes from one AS to the other AS. The first model is a simple one in which the ASBRs connect back to back via logical circuits or VLANs one per VRF. The back-to-back connections enable VPN connectivity and the exchange of routes between ASBRs on a per-VPN basis. For example, if ASBR1 and 2 need to exchange routes for 10 VPNs, 10 logical circuits exist between ASBR1 and ASBR2one for each VPN.

* Carrier Supporting Carrier.....

Another method of scaling MPLS VPNs is to create hierarchical VPNs. Consider a national or international carrier that is selling a VPN service to smaller stub carriers. The smaller stub carriers might in turn be selling another MPLS VPN service to end users (enterprises). By nesting stub carrier VPNs within the core or national carrier VPN, a hierarchical VPN can be built. With the CSC mode described in RFC 2547bis, the stub carrier VPNs and their routes do not show up in the core carrieronly the stub carrier IGP routes are part of the core carrier VPN. So, the core carrier does not need to learn or understand end user routes because the end user of the core carrier is the stub carrier. The core carrier needs only to provide VPN connectivity so that the core carrier's CEs (ironically, they are stub carrier PEs) are reachable. These CEs are called CSCCEs, whereas the PE that connects to the stub carrier and has MPLS enabled on the PE-CE link is called the CSCPE.

* Deployment Guideline considerations will involve the following summary guideline.....

Centralizing address translation makes keeping track of address assignment easier. Multiple NAT PEs might be required for load balancing. If this is the case, make sure public address pools do not overlap. One of the possible disadvantages to centralizing is the amount of redundancy that can be achieved by replication. For example, in a noncentralized environment, one gateway/server failure can result in an outage of only that VPN's service. However, in a centralized environment, a single gateway/shared PE failure can affect multiple VPNs. This drawback can be easily overcome by having multiple PEs that serve as shared gateways, which provide services to the same VPNs. So, you can provide redundancy with shared gateways.

If VPNs that use overlapping private address space need to access a shared services segment, make sure that private address space is translated somewhere in the path.

NAT impacts CPU utilization to a degree. Some protocols are more CPU-intensive than others. Therefore, the type of translation being performed could have significant performance impact. The impact is less for newer particle-based routers and more powerful routers.

As the number of translation entries increases, the throughput in terms of packets per second (PPS) decreases. The effect is negligible for less than 10,000 translation table entries.

The rate at which a router can add a new translation table entry decreases as the number of entries in the translation table increases.

As the number of translation entries in the translation table increases, the amount of memory used increases.

In addition to the above, there must be considerations regarding the following tools and policies.....

* Management, Provisioning, and Troubleshooting

* Equipment Scalability Versus Network Scalability

Finally, the basic arichitecture and mode of service will probably depend on customer demand and SP's commitment to deliver the same.

Here is a small list of some of the things that customers might want....

* More service selections
* Better quality
* Ease of migration
* Ease of deployment
* Ease of maintenance
* Lower cost
* Fewer hassles

Service providers want all of the above, plus......

* High-margin accounts
* Rapid recovery
* No loss of service
* 99.99999% reliability

Enterprises want.......

* A simpler, easier network to manage

Enterprise networks range in consistency from very stable to constantly changing. Companies on growth trends are building new facilities and acquiring other businesses. They want ease of intermigration and implementation. Changes must be ably employed within their limited maintenance windows. Their data centers must run flawlessly.

The above information ... if it hasn't made your eyes go crossed ... should give you everything you ver need to know about MPLS.

But if you need more ...... as in help to reduce your time, effort, cost, and frustration in finding the right MPLS solution for your network application(s) ..... I recommend using the no cost assistance available to you here:

MPLS Network Solution

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Monday, April 27, 2009

WiFi Monitoring Tools For Free

Wireless networking from a laptop or other device has become an expected capability of more than just technogeeks in today's world. For business travelers, college students, and many mobile small businesses it's become something of a neccessity.

But how do you find the nearest "connection spot" when you're out and about? Even more .... how do determine what you need to know so to ensure you'll get a quality connection?

To help those in need (or just curious) here's a few free tools available to the public that should satisfy even the most discriminating Techie ......

* Xirrus WiFi Inspector / WiFi Monitor

The Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector is a powerful tool for managing and troubleshooting the Wi-Fi on a Windows XP or Vista laptop. Built in tests enable you to characterize the integrity and performance of your Wi-Fi connection.

Applications include:

- Searching for Wi-Fi networks
- Managing and troubleshooting Wi-Fi connections
- Verifying Wi-Fi coverage
- Locating Wi-Fi devices
- Detecting rogue APs

The Xirrus Wi-Fi Monitor allows you to monitor your Wi-Fi environment and connection in real time from your desktop in an easy-to-use mini-application. Nine different color skins allow you customize the Wi-Fi Monitor to your desktop.

Applications include:

- Searching for Wi-Fi networks
- Verifying Wi-Fi coverage
- Displaying laptop Wi-Fi settings
- Detecting rogue APs
- Education on Wi-Fi

* Metageek InSSIDer

inSSIDer is an award-winning free Wi-Fi network scanner for Windows Vista and Windows XP. Because NetStumbler doesn't work well with Vista and 64-bit XP, they built an open-source Wi-Fi network scanner designed for the current generation of Windows operating systems.

Applications include:

- Inspect your WLAN and surrounding networks to troubleshoot competing access points.
- Use Windows Vista and Windows XP 64-bit.
- Uses the Native Wi-Fi API.
- Track the strength of received signal in dBm over time.
- Filter access points in an easy to use format.
- Highlight access points for areas with high Wi-Fi concentration.
- Group by Mac Adress, SSID, Channel, RSSI, and time "last seen."

There are of course more free WiFi tools out there .... you're welcome to Google for them. But the above are two of the most popular and useful you'll find anywhere.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Monitored Home Security System .... Who Should You Choose?

No matter how you look at it we just aren't as safe today .... especially at home .... as our parents generation was. For example my community has suffered an uptick in home break-in's over the last few months. No real reason ... it's just happening. We aren't exactly a high risk crime area either ... so it's a bit puzzling.

With all of that going on I decided to see what I could dig up and recommend to the Broadband Nation for a monitored home security system ... techie based of course. There's plenty out there with video surveillance software and other neat gadgetry ... but I wanted to find something that was as simple as possible, cost effective, and had great support backing it up.

So .......

Why Choose ADT for Your Home Security System Monitoring?

First ... the system itself is free. All of it. All you pay for is the service itself. That's a huge savings over most of the other security providers available to you.

Here's some more reasons I feel that ADT is your best choice if your looking for a home security system .........

* 131 Years of Experience - ADT Security Services is the largest single provider of electronic security services to more than six million commercial, government and residential customers throughout North America, and has been helping to protect homes for the past 131 years.

* 24-Hour Monitoring - ADT maintains a full network of interconnected customer monitoring centers throughout the country, to help protect your home and family. ADT can notify both you and the police department, so that your home can be protected whether you're there or not.

* Ease of Use - Wireless keychain remote access enables you to arm/disarm your ADT monitored home security system from anywhere in the home.

* Multi-layer Protection - ADT provides 24-hour alarm monitoring for burglary, as well as the option to monitor your home for fire/smoke, carbon monoxide, and other home emergencies.

* Lower Your Insurance Cost - ADT may save you up to 20% on your homeowner's insurance.

For more information go to: Home Security

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Facts About MPLS Networks (Multi-Protocol Label Switching)

Multi-Protocol label switching is basically just a different way of routing data packets. It is unique from standard routing in that it will allow a diverse list of connectivity means using various protocols, and its basic nature is that it is a mesh network, but not a broadcast domain, which means that it provides "any-to-any" connectivity.

The technology that creates an MPLS network is very similar from one provider to the next. The most extensive network worldwide is owned by AT&T. Verizon has some advantages over AT&T in Europe, but does not have quite the network in China or India as an example. Level 3 and Qwest are good providers, but have more limitations internationally, and do not offer quite the customer contact availability in all areas. Level 3 in particular tends to lean more towards wholesale - meaning they are more of a "carriers - carrier."

There are differences based on two broad areas- how the network is constructed (architecture) and the level of service after implementation (aside from cost.)

Carriers (providers) can provision links in a given network as if it were a "star" configuration with the links being tied back to a single core network or the location linkage may connect to a redundant and diverse "cloud" core. This suggests that the network backbone will be designed to route around troubled points and in a manner of speaking it will "self-heal".

Some carriers have only a limited amount of linkage between some areas of the provision map and others which might allow a single point of failure in the network (or a host location on the network) - Or would require significant construction costs to overcome. The most flexible architecture must also allow for scalability so that a company can link sites using everything from a broadband connection to an Optical carrier ring to connect to the MPLS platform.

Customer value regarding the level of redundancy or diversity required in the architecture of the network: Some providers have the CER (Customer edge router) connect to a primary and a secondary PER (provider edge router) and the network core has multiple and redundant core routers.

The ability to provision network links "wherever you are", local, statewide, national or internationally, must be considered. Some carriers have fewer or greater capabilities in this area - and in light of this - cost to provide the services may vary widely from a few hundred dollars for a link between local network hosts and many thousands of dollars for an international connection in a remote location. Management of the network should be considered in the architecture of the network - some providers will provide the netwok links, but not the routing equipment (CPE) and do not offer much assistance in the implementation of the CPE or ongoing management. Other companies will provide an end-to-end experience which allows the users to focus on core business instead of running a network. Preferences also come into play for this issue; however, if the provider is offering to provision equipment, manage it, update it, service it, replace it (if needed) and so on - this is often preferable to owning it yourself. It also puts the responsibility of making it all work on the back of a single party in order to reduce "finger-pointing" if there is a trouble issue. No customer really likes the idea of being stuck between two vendors or between a provider and their own IT department while waiting for a down network link to be fixed.

Which brings me to the service aspect. Service Level Agreements or SLA's are important to making sure that you achieve the service quality you expect from your provider. If the CPE is included as a part of the overall agreement, it should be included in an appropriate SLA provision. The main issue is uptime - if the network is down, it is costing you money. The provider must have a record of their performance with the network overall that they can share with you and perhaps an on-line "dashboard" that you can observe their performance at will. The SLA should have "teeth" as leverage on the provider, so that they experience some economic pain if they fail to provide the service they are promising. Providers may tend to say they have the "strongest SLA in the industry", but careful comparison is worthwhile to insure that customer needs are being protected. Some SLA's may vary based on whether it is domestic or international service.

The most important point in all of this is to fully understand the needs of the customer. You could have an impecable service experience with the "County Farmers telephone company" if their service provisioning, expertise and SLA's meet your needs. But .... if you focus on getting what you need first, price second, you will likely have a good experience.

If you would like free help in finding the right MPLS solution for your network application(s) you can get that here:

MPLS Network Solution

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Monday, April 20, 2009

How To Find Metro Ethernet ... And Other Tips

Metro Ethernet can be a high quality, reliable, and cost effective solution to interconnect sites most anywhere in the world ..... IF a network is available. Therein lies the limitation. Metro ethernet isn't available everywhere. So there's your 1st question that needs answered (see the end of this article for a tip about a little known "metro ethernet look-up tool").

If metro ethernet is not available .... you may consider use of DS3 bandwidth or OC3 bandwidth for your network backbone.

Other subjects you need to consider next ... are just as important for endpoint successful operation of your network and applications. After you find that metro ethernet is available of course.

For example, you do need to ensure the service level agreement and underlying technology is appropriate - some suppliers provide Ethernet over a single fibre pair, which if cut could take many hours to fix.

If Diverse Ethernet is too expensive, you can back it up with xDSL, giving slightly lower throughput if the main link fails, but increases availability significantly. However, I always recommend back-up be done over T1 or DS3 bandwidth circuits. Better to pay a bit more than xDSL and have piece of mind (an "up" network).

Also with Ethernet you should review what topology and "layer" you are operating on. Layer 2 Ethernet offers higher security for organizations which have to be paranoid, whilst a hybrid offers the most cost effective yet highly secure network.

Local access via Layer 2 Ethernet provides good security. For example your VPN traffic and Internet traffic can be kept separate on different VLANs or even separate Ethernet ports for enhanced security.

Meshed MPLS VPN provides the site to site connectivity, with QoS to ensure key applications get all the capacity they require. However, it is also possible to interconnect the sites using Layer 2 Ethernet, either by VLANs or Ethernet VPN.

For help in finding the right metro ethernet solution for your applications ... including availability in your area and taking all your business requirements into consideration .... use this free online tool:

Metro Ethernet Look-Up

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Is Co-location Right For You?

If you are outgrowing the services provided by your current web host, co-location may be a viable solution for you. Co-location differs from leasing a dedicated web server in that you actually provide the hardware to the hosting company. You basically "rent" space in their Network Operations Center (NOC) where you receive the bandwidth and facilities to get your web server up and running.

The big advantage of co-location is that you can use your own machine. This allows for greater flexibility in terms of administration and implementation of services, especially when dealing with your own clients and customers. This is also beneficial if you have an existing machine that will suit your web server needs but lack the appropriate facilities to get that machine online. Co-locating your server with a hosting company is usually cheaper than leasing a dedicated server directly from the company bercause you are providing the hardware rather than leasing a machine.

Typically your machine will be housed in a Network Operations Center (NOC). This gives you many benefits that would not be otherwise available. These include an environmentally controlled and secure facility, uninterruptible power supplies, 24x7 monitoring and the availability of bandwidth to meet your web hosting needs.

One of the biggest drawbacks to co-locating your web server is that hardware tends to become obsolete very quickly. Unless you have an existing machine that will serve your needs, purchasing a new machine specifically for use as a web server may not be cost effective. For instance, a new server that costs $3000 today may loose a tremendous amount of value in an little as 6 months due to the rapid technology improvements. Another drawback to co-location is that you must purchase the server initially rather than having the ability to spread the cost over a period of time.

Co-location advantages include......

- Greater flexibility
- Ability to use existing hardware
- More control over web server administration
- Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

Co-location disadvantages include.....

- Initial cost up front
- Hardware may become outdated quickly
- Web Server Administration is your responsibility

When considering co-location, it is important to determine your specific needs and compare the cost associated with co-location and other types of web hosting solutions. When evaluating a company, be sure to ask plenty of questions and ask for references.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Difference Between Co-Location And Dedicated Hosting

If you have outgrown your current virtual Web hosting account and you want greater control over your Web site, you may want to consider co-located or dedicated server services. Both provide greater control and flexability but there are differences as well.

The primary difference between co-located or dedicated server services is that with co-location, you provide the hardware and the Web Host provides the facility, bandwidth, etc. With a dedicated server you lease or rent the hardware that is owned by the Web Host.

If you have an existing machine that will serve the needs of your Web site, then it may be most cost effective. The cost invloved are usually $100-$500 per month, depending on the facility and bandwidth used. Leasing a dedicated server is usually more expensive than co-location but you receive the full package including hardware, software, bandwith, etc. Leasing also allows you to easily upgrade as your Web server needs change. Costs vary widely but usually start at around $200 per month and can easily reach into thousands of dollars per month.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Does The Current Economic Concerns Affect Your Decisions For Upgrades, Expansions, Or New Installs Of Voice/Data Networks?

Common sense would assume that current economic challenges will have an impact on the decision process businesses go through for upgrades, expansions, or new installation of voice/data networks (e.g. MPLS, PT-PT T1, DS3 bandwidth, OCx circuit, metro-ethernet).

Given obvious financial impact/cost concerns (e.g. ROI) .... how have you adjusted your process for arriving at an approved network solution (LAN or WAN)? If you haven't made any adjustment or accomodtion for economic concerns ... why?

Are you sacrifing quality, reliability, etc. for cost?

Is SLA and QoS still important?

Do you gamble on cheaper local providers or still prefer strong high quality/reliability Tier 1/2 sources?

I'm seeing a couple of very interesting effects with regards to these questions.

Example .... for every corporate organization that is putting a current project on hold, there are at least two others that are urgently reviewing their spending and kicking off projects to reduce cost. In some cases they're even expanding their networks to accomodate current and/or projected growth. So the economy isn't affecting them as negatively as might be expected (or experienced by others). Also, there are still many companies that want the quality SLA and QOS, but just do not want to pay the premium charged by "the usual suspects".

In the current climate increasing CAPEX or OPEX will be very difficult to justify unless of course there is an increase in revenue associated with the product or service.

With respect to expanding some network elements many are implementing low-cost solutions which are either cannibilization of spares .... or fundamental rethinks on some self imposed constraints such as quality & reliability. Infrastructure sharing suddenly becomes viable, and other companies have been very interested. This is something some are very keen to promote & have gained alot of value from.

Some are looking seriously in to the challenges of rolling out additional voice coverage but using low cost solutions which they would not previously have considered due to quality issues. Because the difference in cost is so significant, some providers need to seriously look at revising their self imposed KPI's to provide acceptible levels of services to their end customers .... and ensure that the bottom line is happy.

SLA's & QoS are STILL very key. QoS is inherent to the SLA's. Also, fundamentally speaking, in a down economy when investing in new bandwidth could be an issue, it's QoS which ensures the guaranteed delivery of mission critical applications. No reliable network and services can survive without QoS, more so in a constricted budget.

Certain sectors and industries have flatlined their budget, however that being said .... Data connectivity, Managed MPLS services, etc. are on contract and those contracts do expire. A competitive quote/proposal will either prompt a change or roll-over an existing scenario.

SLA's and QoS take on even more importantance and influence. Don't sell and close deals by price .... but rather quality of service, product and reliability and of course people are buying you.. Stick to cost effective and risk-free solutions that offer a realistic ROI .... and truly migrate a client/prospect to a technology they need, not one they want or can't afford.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

What Is The Best Connection Configuration (Bandwidth Solution) For A New Voice/Data Network?

This is by no means meant to be an all inclusive answer .... but will at least point you in the right direction for the best bandwidth solution for your network.

If you are in a local metro area where providers can service your building with ethernet service to all your offices .... that may be cheaper than getting a TDM circuit such as DS3 Bandwidth. If they cannot serve all your locations with "on-net" ethernet service .... then perhaps you can look for a DS-3 burstable or tiered pricing plan to save costs and only pay for the bandwidth you will be using on average.

Also look into using MPLS VPN service instead of a dedicated point to point. It is typically a more cost effective solution to establish IP connectivity between "x" number of offices.

Be sure to consider your applications in the decision too ... not just number of users or locations to cover.

For example, say you have large 3D modeling files. If the data transmission is TCP based, then I also suggest to look into some WAN acceleration appliances such as Riverbed, Cisco WAAS, or Juniper WX to take advantage of the pipe (bandwidth) size you have. This will also cache commonly transmitted bits to save bandwidth costs .... and utilize your WAN circuits efficiently ..... while improving end-user application performance over the WAN since those appliances simulate LAN performance with the built-in algorithms.

Network latency over microwave isn't all that great if you are over 8+ miles. I do NOT recommend it. Though it provides the necessary bandwidth most of the time... it just isn't as fast as fiber or electrical signals. But that is probably a better backup/redundancy solution than DSL since it provides more bandwidth. If the WAN acceleration appliances are in there .... and you were to failover to Microwave .... it will at least try to compensate for the excess latency to that. The end-user performance wouldn't be horrible, perhaps just acceptable instead of optimal. End users are spoiled after using WAN acceleration!

If you would like some help navigating through all the decision you need to make .... you can get assistance to find the best solution fit for your specific situaution here: Bandwidth Solution

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

What's The Difference Between European And American Cell Phone Systems??

For example, mobile and fixed phones in the US are basically the same: same area code, same cost if you call mobile or landline, and there is unlimited local phone plans. Cell phone plans charge you minutes whether the call is outgoing or incoming. For Europe, with France as an example, cell phones start with a 06 prefix wherever you are in France. The cost to call cell phones is much more expensive, and cell phone plans charge you minutes only for outgoing calls.

To really simplify an answer .... it's not a technical problem. Networks are built in the US almost exactly the same way they are built in Europe. Mobiles use a different frequency in Europe 900/1800 Mhz, while it's 850/1900 Mhz in US.

The big difference is in rate tariffs. Europe uses a calling party pays system which makes the cost of using a mobile device to receive calls near zero cost. While in the US the predominant plan is Mobile Party Pays.

Many European calls are made based on a metered plan, while US calls tend to be unlimited for land-lines, or with very low long distance rates.

So it's "business decision" factors not "technical infrastructure design" factors driving the differences people see.

If you're in the US and are looking for the most cost effective cell phone for your specific needs .... use the "Best Rate Calculator" tool here: Cheap Cell Phone

There's also a service listed at the website above which gives you a SIM card you can use globally to cut your costs while traveling on business or for pleasure. It's called OneSim.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Is VoIP Phone Service A Better Value Than Traditional Phone Service?

I think the value in VoIP is relative only to a business's needs. VoIP is a great value for scenarios that involve mulitple sites, employees working from home and a traveling workforce. Typically the small to medium business with one location and none of the above set of circumstances is still better served by TDM due to it's stability, clarity and reliability.

The original question is actually a loaded one (on purpose to "test" your awareness).

The fact is that VoIP comes in many flavors and in many types of architectures. I would advise that when you say "VoIP service" you need to be specific.

First off I agree that whenever a customer can utilize VoIP service to better consolidate their network and reduce total telecom spending .... it is a good idea.

I also agree that the term VoIP is becoming very standardized and is not a bleeding edge concept anymore.

However lets talk about why people still use TDM (POTS - Plain Old telephone System, or "landlines").

First off, you need to understand the limitations of most VoIP offerings. If you handle VoIP through any old IP gateway then there is no QOS (Quality of Service) for the IP call. This is what many hosted PBX providers give their customers and quite frankly the quality is crappy. Sure it works sometimes but not all the time.

Also access becomes a big issue. A small company might not be able to justify the cost of a full T1 for access (which is dedicated) .... and might opt for a cable modem, dsl, or other shared Internet service. Although VoIP can work in these situations ..... again there is no QOS and you run the risk of the problems you might encounter with shared services.

SO for these customers TDM services still make lots of sense (i.e. pots lines, maybe PRIs for call centers that do not have as much need for data).

There ya go ... a little more information to help make an educated decision.

If you'd like help to do a cost analysis .... comparing providers available in your specific area .... use the "Best Rate Calculator" tools here: Compare Phone Costs

This works for both residential and business applications .... and there's a tool for both VoIP and for land lines (POTS).

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Great Deals On Pre-Paid Cellular Phone Service

Pre-paid cell phone service is very popular these days. It's also very economical. If you're smart (and you're timing is good) .... you can save even more with special deals when you can catch them.

To help you with that ..... here's a link to a site with a list of pre-paid cellular phone providers. All of whom have special deals going on that you REALLY need to check out.

Pre-Paid Cell Phone Deals

For example:

* T-Mobile To Go - With T-Mobile To Go you get the wireless service exactly how you want it -- the coolest handsets and the newest ways to communicate.

* GO from AT&T - Prepay when ever you want with easy refill. Free delivery for all orders with an individual new line of service!

* OneSim - OneSIMcard, prepaid international card allows you to take your GSM mobile phone overseas, without incurring high roaming charges!

* Tel3 Mobile - Tel3 Mobile offers a great combination of low international rates with premium call quality and free software - a unique "SmartPlug" software gives you direct dialing option, and the convenience of using your address book. No need to remember any phone number or account number anymore. Enjoy tremendous savings up to 80% on your international long distance calls immediately.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

WiFi For A Hotel .... What To Think About

First, the hotel's WiFi strategy needs to be finalized, and following this you would know where the service needs to be available, if it will be free, if it will be solely used for guest browsing, or if it will also facilitate value added services to the hotel itself .... such as wireless point-of-sale, wireless security, wireless signage, wireless VoIP on the compound, etc. There are a plethora of resources online that you can check for the technicalities of some of these types of equipment - this is not a challenge.

After this, everything begins with an on-site survey to determine the layout of the hotel, and placement of the access points. This should include RF mapping for larger properties (or any property for that matter, since it removes alot of the guesswork).

Bearing in mind you're working with a budget, you need to let that budget dictate the type of equipment you're going to use. From Access points & routers, to POE switches, packet shaping & filtering, to billing & authentication platforms. Or whether you're going to do it all with a cheap and simple Dlink setup, complete with login ticket printers. There are a multitude of different architectures for these networks.

You will also need to agree upon work schedules with the Hotel Management, because they may not want technicians and engineers visible throughout the compound while guests are enjoying their stay there. This can lengthen or shorten the duration of the project (depending on what Hotel Management decides) and can have direct effects on project cost. All of which needs to be presented to Hotel management in different scenarios.

One of the make-or-break details that often get overlooked is the available bandwidth being piped into the hotel to feed this Wireless network, and depending on the size of the hotel, it needs to be considerable. I'd suggest a minimum of DS3 bandwidth, but recommend Ethernet or fiber if you can get it (much cheaper).

Once you've done a simple traffic analysis to quantify bandwidth requirements, based on information from the hotel such as average room occupancy percentages throughout the year, you can determine what is required. Once you can get this required bandwidth from a service provider, you're golden. Whether or not the budget allows, you should always push the Hotel to choose a corporate data package with an service level agreement (SLA) attached to it, so as to guarantee uptime for the guests. This is critical if the hotel has a high percentage of business travellers.

For assistance in finding just the right bandwidth solution ... at best price .... I recommend using the free services at Bandwidth Solution .

Once the physical aspects of the network is in place and everything has been neatly tucked away, you need to develop a nice walled garden for the hotel - although this is something the larger hotels normally do, for branding and marketing purposes. However, this is an additional step that needs to be done, whether or not it is your responsibility. This can facilitate something as simple as the logon splash screen, or it can offer more interactivity based on the tech savviness of the hotel.

Finally, this can be as simple or as complex as the hotel and their budget requires, but even in the most complex scenario it really is quite simple and is one of the easier wireless implementations to deploy.

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