Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Advantages of Business Ethernet

Business Internet Service

It almost goes without saying that businesses today, small and large, need to have a reliable and rock-solid Internet connection to enable them to do business. Choosing the wrong business Internet service provider will do your business more harm than good, and can cost you customers that you can never get back. Even a small business today cannnot afford to try to make DSL or cable suffice; while the price may be attractive, the service from DSL or cable is more often than not exactly what you pay for -- cheap, and is that the message that you want to get across to your customers? Your customers are going to think that if you cheap-out on your business Internet service, it only stands to reason that you will also cheap-out on the quality of the products and services that you are offering. You need to understand that with DSL and cable, the only way they can achieve the price points they quote is because those circuits are designed to be over-subscribed to the hilt, and if your DSL or cable is not over-subscribed today, you can bet that your provider is trying to over-subscribe it, because they offer NO guarantees for DSL or cable servivce. A smaller business can usually get by with the reliability offered by T1 or bonded T1, but if Ethernet services are offered in your area, it is definitely something that you should look at closely and consider, as it can be an extremely cost effective solution.

Keep in mind that the Ethernet services being offered here are Carrier Ethernet offerings. The term "ethernet" is tossed around by DSL and cable providers but that is not true Ethernet. The services offered here are Carrier Ethernet offerings, meaning that the service is a dedicated service offered by the actual carrier, not a shared service being resold on someone else's network.

Business Ethernet and Ethernet Bandwidth

Many people get very confused when looking at their possible options for Ethernet bandwidth for their business. One of the unfortunate aspects is that the term Ethernet has been thrown around way too much, even by the residential DSL and cable providers, and when talking about these various types of Ethernet services, residential has no place there. The Ethernet that MAY be able to be provided by a residential ISP might be labeled Ethernet, but rest assured it is the same "best efforts" and non-dedicated service that you get with DSL or cable, and that has no real place in the real business world of bandwidth.

When it comes time to choose and make the tough choices for your business, there will undoubtedly be lots of different options available. This is especially true when talking about telecommunications, where the market is full of things that look good on the surface. You could go with T1, Ethernet, DSL, cable, or something else. With all of these things staring your business in the face, you have to consider the costs and the weigh the benefits of each choice. This choice is one that shouldn't really be a contest, though. Business Ethernet offers many advantages over the other choices out on the market.

The various flavors of Ethernet that may be available to your company or business are not all that different, and in fact, may have little to no difference. If what you need is less than about 100 MB of bandwidth, it is also called Fast Ethernet. If it is more than about 100 MB of bandwidth, it may be called GB Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet. If you are in a large metro city and it is available to your location, it may be called Metro Ethernet or Metro-E or MetroE. But regardless of what it is called, at the end of the day you are getting a dedicated circuit with dedicated bandwidth, 24x7x365.25 with guaranteed uptime. There is not a residential DSL or cable ISP on the planet that can make the same statements about their offering. Sure, the price looks good but as a business, you need to take the time to "look under the hood".

There are quite a few reasons why Business Ethernet is the best choice for business telecommunications. First and foremost, it comes down to speed and reliability. These are the two things that you need to be looking for when you make this choice. When you are running a network, communicating with your customers via email, allowing your customers to download literature and specs from your server, and having a responsive and attractive online presence, you need for it to provide the type of speed and power that your customers and employees expect demand. The speed of your system will dictate how much work gets done and it will set the tone for your business. If you have anything less than the best, your business as a whole will suffer. Running a high speed network with Ethernet makes sure that you are putting your best foot forward. Remember, in the eyes of your customer, you only have one chance to make a first impression, so make sure it is a good one in the highly competitive marketplace.

Fast Ethernet

The biggest reason why Business Ethernet is better than DSL and cable is because of the reliability factor. With DSL and cable, you have no uptime guarantee and no bandwidth availability guarantee, because you are sharing DSL and cable with 50-100 other businesses and residences. Yes this is also true with “business class” DSL or cable service. But Ethernet comes with an uptime guarantee and bandwidth availability guarantee and is faster than the same speeds advertised on DSL or cable. When running a tethered system of this nature, you don't have to worry about many of the common disconnect problems that go along with running a cable or DSL system. Simply put, this Ethernet is more efficient when it comes to being online and providing a business with the power that it needs. It stands out in this way above the other options.

Some people might make compelling arguments that bonded T1 is a better choice for business telecommunications than Ethernet. When dealing with the same amount of bandwidth, you are almost certainly going to get more bang for your buck by going with Fast Ethernet, if it is available in your location. It is a much more cost effective way to power your business's most important functions, and that is important for business owners who are looking to control the bottom line. Simply put, you won't be paying as much and you will be getting the same amount of capability and bandwidth when you go with Ethernet, with the added benefit of the inherent advantages and written guarantees that DSL and cable cannot provide.

GB Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet

As stated earlier, if the amount of bandwidth you are looking at for your business is greater than about 100 MB, it is probably called GB Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet. That is because Fast Ethernet has limitations on the technology used to deliver it to you, and GB Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet will almost certainly require fiber, whereas many flavors of Fast Ethernet can be run on copper and still maintain the carrier's SLA (Service Level Agreement). GB Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet can go as high as 10 GB of bandwidth. Yes, that is GB, not MB, which very much gets into what is sometimes known as a carrier grade bandwidth connection.

Metro Ethernet or Metro-E

In larger cities and metropolitan areas, the Ethernet available there might be called Metro Ethernet or Metro-E for short. This is really no different from Fast Ethernet or even Gigabit Ethernet except that it is somewhat readily available in large metro cities because the infrastructure from various carriers is already in place due to the demand for this type of reliable connection.

Yes there are several names for Ethernet bandwidth and Ethernet connectivity for businesses and they can all be termed Business Ethernet. But you need to make sure of what you are getting to ensure it really is a dedicated circuit with the same speed up and down. If it has a much slower speed up than down, chances are excellent that you are not getting real Business Ethernet.

Depending on your location, Metro Ethernet Service may or may not be currently available in your location, as this is typically only available in major metro areas. But then again, metro ethernet service is expanding all the time, so a metro ethernet service may be available soon or in the very near future. The beauty of it is that with all the top carriers we represent, you can easily get Metro Ethernet Pricing here and be assured that coupled with our Low Price Guarantee, it is the best pricing you can get from those carriers, even if you go to the carriers directly.

Ethernet Over Copper

There is yet another type of Ethernet that is available in many areas, usually more metropolitan areas, and that is Ethernet Over Copper. Even though the Ethernet types described above may use either copper or fiber, this type of Ethernet connectivity is definitely on copper. This is also sometimes referred to as EFM or Ethernet First Mile.

However, there are some limitations with Ethernet Over Copper. One limitation is that this ype of Ethernet circuit is usually limited to 10 MB of bandwidth, sometimes 15 MB, and in very rare circumstances (only one city in the continental US that I am aware of), 20 MB of bandwidth. If you need more bandwidth than that, you will need to be looking at one of the Ethernet types listed above or look at a fractional or full DS3 circuit.

The real beauty of Ethernet Over Copper is that when it is available, it is usually a much more attractive and cost effective solution than getting the equivalent bandwidth via bonded T1 circuits. Although fiber is being deployed in various parts of the country, starting with the major metro areas, fiber is still a very long way from becoming the norm in most areas of the country. Ethernet Over Copper allows multiple pairs to be used to cost effectively deliver Ethernet services to businesses who require this level of bandwidth but don't necessarily have the budget for equivalent bonded T1 circuits. It is expensive to create fiber runs that criss-cross a metropolitan city to make a fiber option available to almost everyone, so until that day comes, Ethernet Over Copper is a very cost effective solution where it is available.

Typically it comes with the same SLA (Service Level Agreement) from the carrier as a traditional T1 or bonded T1. Note that this SLA is significantly different from DSL, cable, or FIOS where you do not have an SLA, nor does DSL, cable or FIOS offer any kind of performance guarantee. If your business depends on having that bandwidth available 24x7, then you definitely want to consider T1, bonded T1, Ethernet, or Ethernet Over Copper solutions where you do have such a guarantee.

Additionally, Ethernet Over Copper can be installed usually in 40-50 days, which is roughly almost half the time required to provision the Ethernet circuits discussed earlier.

MPLS Ethernet

Are you familiar with Ethernet MPLS or MPLS in general? If so, you know that MPLS offers a significantly more cost effective solution for connecting multiple sites than a spider-webbed point-to-point network. The advantages are abundantly clear -- with a point-to-point network, unless you spider-web it so that all nodes can communicate with all other nodes (which is prohibitively expensive), if a link goes down between nodes, then a number of nodes are cut off from your private network until that connection is restored. But with MPLS and the private cloud and intelligent routing it provides, one node being down only affects that particular node, not the other nodes on your private network.

Another advantage of MPLS is that each node can be sized with the appropriate amount of bandwidth. For example, in a point-to-point configuration, if you have a PTP connection between "A" and "B", you must have the same bandwidth at both "A" and "B". But with MPLS you can have an MPLS T1 at node "A", a 50 MB Ethernet MPLS at node "B", a Bonded T1 MPLS at node "C", etc, and it will all work together very nicely.

Like a T1 line or bonded T1 line, you can also have Ethernet MPLS circuits which is generally a much more cost effective option for the same levels of bandwidth on your MPLS network.

Some companies elect to use an enhanced port to allow Internet access and MPLS access on the same circuit. While being a technical reality, the jury is still out on whether or not this makes logical sense from a security standpoint, since without proper safeguards and a secure firewall, having Internet access available on the same circuit that your private MPLS network is operating can represent a security risk, despite the financial advantage of this type of setup.

One thing in particular to note is that MPLS is a methodology, and it is NOT a standard. What this means to you is that every carrier implements MPLS differently, and you need to use the SAME carrier at all of your MPLS nodes. While it is theoretically possible to mix and match carriers on your MPLS network, the time, effort, and "technical jury-rigging" is frequently not worth the effort compared to using the same carrier at all of your MPLS nodes.

Written by: Jon Arnold

For help determining the right ethernet based solution for your business .... simply take advantage of the free assistance available here: Business Ethernet

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