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Options for Business Broadband Internet Access

October 19th, 2010

broadband-internet-connections.jpgWith the bleeps and static of dial-up modems behind us, today’s businesses are in a constant race to maximize the efficiency of their Internet connections. The Web has a lot to offer, but its doors will not open up unless you have some idea of what you’re looking for. How fast should a business’s Internet connection be? What choices do businesses face in regard to their type of Internet access? This article seeks to introduce you to the basic terms associated with choosing broadband Internet for business needs.

Whether you’re talking to an Internet service provider (ISP) or browsing for products yourself, the primary factor in any discussion of Internet access should be downloads and uploads. For a domestic user and many small businesses, downloads represent the greatest use of bandwidth — uploading one little URL is usually enough to request a storm of images and videos. When businesses appear on the Internet, upload speeds skyrocket, particularly if they are using ECMs.
Enterprise content management (ECM) is a major factor in choosing the best broadband Internet for business needs. This term describes a robust, business-oriented database. Like a multidimensional jigsaw puzzle, it contains vast matrices of data, from phone numbers to scanned copies of letters to video presentations to secret caches of mp3s. For larger companies, ECMs can produce staggering levels of Web traffic, as thousands of workers interact with clients and each other in a frenzied digital dance.

Before you begin looking for your business’s Internet solution, spend a minute to jot down the types of data which your business exchanges. Do you exchange pictures as quick attachments in emails, or do you stockpile large archives of scanned documents? Does your business host information for its employees on a mainframe? Or might you just be dealing in text, which even in vast quantities is still dwarfed by a single high-quality video? It is also important to know which direction your information moves in, as upload/download speeds are a major factor in choosing broadband.

Armed with this information, it’s time to consider your options. Many consumers falsely assume that “DSL” is a singular term, when in actuality DSL, or digital subscriber lines, are divided into several subcategories, particularly ADSL and SDSL. Beyond this are T3s and fiber-optic lines — the expensive hardware used by the largest companies.

Assymetrical DSL or ADSL is the standard for small businesses and home users (we’ll be getting to symmetrical DSL in a moment). Most ISPs do not even offer other types to home users, as ADSL favors efficient downloads at the expense of upload. A typical ADSL connection downloads eight times faster than it uploads, quickly enough that video can be streamed in high quality but that uploads such as video conferencing may come across as choppy and uneven. Large quantities of data uploads (such as those from a sizeable ECM) can choke an Internet connection, fighting over bandwidth while files are downloaded at speeds that can seem surprising compared to the sluggishness of the rest of the system.

Symmetrical DSL or SDSL is the alternative. As you’ve probably guessed, SDSL’s upload/download speeds are symmetrical — that is, exactly the same. More expensive by far and unsuited to home use, SDSL allows media-heavy businesses to exchange digital information at reliable speeds. For most businesses of 10-20 employees, SDSL provides the utility necessary to keep the system running smoothly. ISPs do not even offer SDSL to home users, as its rapid upload speeds rarely approach their full potential.

Some businesses choose far more expensive T1s and T3s based not on their bandwidth needs, but because of the services they provide. Leasing a T1 often includes robust insurance that the system will never see a large stretch of downtime, with many providers offering “nine nines uptime”; that is, a 99.9 repeating percentage of available use. They also offer additional security, so that sensitive personal information like social security numbers and bank information can be kept inviolate. Fortunately for moderately-sized businesses, such service level agreements, or SLAs, can be purchased on less robust lines, and doing so is far cheaper than leasing an unnecessary T1 line.

With a firm idea of your business’s needs, you can approach your providers with confidence and professionalism. Your task will go more quickly as well, because your provider will not have to walk you through the basic terms of broadband Internet access as it relates to business.

This article was supplied by “Blizz” from Constant Content.

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