Friday, April 25, 2008

Startup businesses: What broadband solution do you need for your company?

Startup businesses:

What broadband solution do you need for your company?

When your company is on the rise, and you’re thinking of getting Internet Business DSL? Cable? T1? How does one decide? I know some of you out there haven’t gotten around to subscribing an Internet service, yet. It’s a business move, and you want to make the best choice. What you decide on you will be stuck with, and in a contract for a very long time.

The market place is as diverse as the kinds of Internet service options available. I have had previous articles to help you decide on whether or not to upgrade your T1, and how to choose the service right for you. I will briefly explain which Internet connection would be best suited for your company, big or small.

For companies, such as gas stations and service stations, that need broadband to upload processing orders and credit card purchases, SDSL or ADSL with a static IP would be sufficient. DSL is fast enough to process the information in a timely manner, but won’t break the bank for station owners, and can be deployed across hundreds of locations and use MPLS or VPN as well to communicate with headquarters. Restaurants, cafes, and bars all need to handle the same types of purchase processing would also benefit from a connection of at least cable or ADSL, but I’d recommend SDSL. So think about it, whether you own and operate a mom and pop shop or a franchise chain, if you have to handle things like credit card processing, you’d need something ranging between cable and SDSL is optimal.

Well, the debate between cable and DSL transcends the business world. Regular home users have debated the question. One instance where you’d opt for cable would be for a business that needs fast uploads to send mail with attachments. An example of a company that would need cable is a real estate company. The reason is because cable can upload faster than DSL in many cases. If you are security conscious, DSL is a better alternative if the speed is acceptable because it is a private connection to the Internet whereas Cable is on a big LAN therefore far less secure and your computer systems are more easily able to be hacked.

Now for heavy duty Internet needs, T1 will have to be considered. Stock trading firms, medical offices, banks, and other such companies that need to send large files quickly and reliably need T1 or greater as a necessity. Medical offices, for example, need T1 for sending important medical data, like MRIs and records. Bonded T1 is even better if files are huge. Media companies, like recording studios or video production companies, need a minimum of SDSL or T1, but T3 is best because they have to send terabytes worth of files. Cable and ADSL are extremely advised against as they cannot provide the considerable upload speeds needed for a professional media company. That includes Business Cable as well, which costs the same as SDSL but is far inferior.
Also keep in mind that T1 and T3 have nifty features like VoIP and multiple phone lines to support medium-sized to large-sized offices. If Metro Ethernet exists in your area or you are in a "Lit Building" (a building that already has fiber preinstalled from a ISP or phone company), you may be able to get Ethernet service from some carriers, which has speeds up to 100 megabits, and can be relatively far cheaper than a T1 and faster to install, so you should check for the availability of Metro Ethernet if you require massive bandwidth for your organization. Every product has their bells and whistles, but first think about what your basic needs are and go from there.

Finding the best price for a T1 line

Finding the best price for a T1 line – Best Bang for Your Buck

What to look for and know how to look for it

Decisions… Decisions…

There are so many different Internet Service Providers out there that can provide a T1 service to you. Where do you even begin to choose?


First thing to look for is who is close to you. The loop price varies due to distance to nearest point of presence (POP).

A business T1 circuit is repeater driven (repeaters reestablishing the digital signal every several thousand feet), it is available pretty much anywhere we want. Reestablishing a signal is duplicating the original signal perfectly at lightning quick speeds, so the quality of the signal is not hurt by the distance. Each time the signal is reestablished, there is a cost. There is also a cost for the facilities used when carrying the signal from the pop. Because of this, distance between the POP and the number of times that the signal has to be reestablished can affect pricing. This is why running a T1 line to a customer in a remote area will cost that customer a lot more than someone in a big city with a built-in infrastructure.


Second of all, decide on how you want your service to be measured. A T1 is consists of a local loop connecting your location with the Tier 1 carrier’s backbone. The use of this network requires a port charge. A port charge is a charge for the connection to and use of the physical network port, burstable to the full capacity of the network. Typical port charges will range between $550/month to $1000/month. After taking distance and the number of loops into account, your bill can be lower or higher depending on how you want your T1 services billed.

1. Metered rates depend on how much usage you may incur on your T1 line. If you need the dependability and performance of a T1 line, but don’t think you’ll be using the bandwidth heavily, then this may be the route for you. Metered means your usage is monitored and you are responsible for any overages. There is a base monthly fee, plus a per MB charge for any data transfer beyond that base amount. Similar to the way cell phone minutes work. Metered pricing is usually the best choice for users that require speed, but light usage. Even so, metered rates are seldom used because of the better options of burstable and flat rates. Many times, flat rates are actually cheaper than this option.

2. Burstable rates, also called “burstable billing”, allows you to select more channels than you actually pay for. This rate allows you to “burst” up to the speed of a full T1 when in use, but keeps your bandwidth at a, otherwise, lower speed. This works by supplying a burstable T1 line. You only pay for 256kbps, but you’re allowed to “burst” at full T1 speeds periodically. At the end of each month, the billing company will drop the highest 5% bandwidth used and charge you for the rest. A burstable rate is offered on any connection over 128kpbs, and is very cost effective giving while providing you with a full T1.

3. Flat rates are pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a fixed charge regardless of use up to the maximum capacity. The most common in broadband access to the Internet in the USA and most other countries.


The type of equipment used can increase your Internet bill. Equipment from companies like Cisco and Netopia can give you a variety of service options at extra costs. Many times such equipment will be provided by the Local ISP and it should fit your requirements. Extra features like VPN, firewalls, Frame Relay, VoIP, ATM, etc. may require a lot of hardware. Determine if you need all of those options. You can always add on services later down the line when you need them, but it may take time to install. Needless to say, all these extras will go towards your bill, especially if you rent out certain things, like the router. Pricing and options on equipment will usually be provided when you request quotes.

VOIP on Cell Phones

VOIP on Cell Phones

Great, the information superhighway has people talking on cell phones now.

A quickly developing technology in the telecom world today is VoIP over cell phones. The days where you had to shell out a large sum of money to make a long-distance call, or international long distance call are over. VoIP helps you save almost 40% of your calling costs. VoIP phones (a.k.a. Internet phone service) require the Internet to function. Your voice which is the analog signal format is sent via Internet after it is converted into small digital packets. These digital packets are then reconverted into analog signal format before they reach the final destination. Companies like Skype Technologies, a unit of eBay, are leading the way for this new technology. Skype’s mobile VoIP application already runs on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile software. Iskoot is also working with Skype to allow users to make or receive Internet calls on their mobile phones. Many instant messenger services also have built-in VoIP service. AIM, by AOL, has a VoIP service offered at $14.95/month for unlimited calls. Windows Live Messenger offers their VoIP service in cooperation with Verizon.

Avi Shechter and his team recently launched Fring, a peer-to-peer VoIP service that carries calls over cell-phone networks; not unlike the way PC-based Internet telephony services transport conversations over Wi-Fi or fixed-line broadband connections. It allows you to fill your contact list with other Fring users, or friends on other services, such as Skype. You can download the 200K-byte application to your handset for free. Fring is trying to widen the choice of handset compatibility by enabling the application to run on other operating systems as well, including Microsoft’s Windows Mobile. The problem with Fring, though, is that you may incur “roaming charges” when you make cross network calls, i.e. Fring to Skype users.

As of right now, there are two types of long-distance phone service available: paid service and free Internet phone service. There are a number of VoIP service providers offering Internet phone service free of charge. You can easily search for a provider giving free phone service and then download the dialer from their website. Dial the number with the proper country or area code, and voila! You’re connected like on a regular phone.

VoIP telephone service on cell phones is offered with VoIP built in, or usable through the use of installed applications. Many VoIP services are offered over Java-enabled mobile phones. You just need to install the company’s mobile VoIP application on a phone with Java features and you’re done. VoIP providers like Mino and Skype are leading the way in VoIP technology, which is widely popular in Europe.

There is a program called VoipBuster that is “free”. You just have to register an account, set up your phone’s Internet access point, and enjoy free VoIP phone calls on your cell phone. Charges will vary depending on your data plan, but if you’ve got Wi-Fi set up at home and/or work, then you’ll enjoy free VoIP phone calls. VoipBuster also allows you to make some free calls to landlines and cells, but I really don’t know the specifics as to how long you can talk, or how many of these calls you can make. The rates are supposedly low if you decide to go with the paid service to call these lines.Other VoIP providers offer services for a monthly price, and with per call charges. The problem with monthly fees is that consumers are already paying a monthly fee for a cell phone service. Consumers would have to be asked to pay another monthly charge, plus per-minute fees on top of the one they are already paying for using the same cell phone. One thing to keep in mind is that companies, like T-Mobile International AG & Co. KG, have banned the use of VoIP over its networks. Other operators may also introduce measures to block access to virtual mobile VOIP service providers, like Fring, that use their mobile data networks without commercial agreements. To offset any lost voice revenue from the switch to IP, such operators could charge a specific VOIP subscription fee, or offer a more expensive data package service fee for using VOIP or even bundle additional services for a higher fee. Telephone operators have invested far too much money in licenses, equipment and customer acquisition to not put up a fight. Like fixed-line telephone providers that first fought, and then adopted VOIP services, mobile operators must now deal with a technology that could radically change their business models. For obvious reasons, mobile phone companies are going to want to protect their huge telephone service revenues against new providers of VoIP-over-mobile services. VoIP services can cost as low as US$0.02/ minute for international calls compared to the $1/minute traditional mobile providers charge. It’s no surprise standard mobile companies are worried. I’ve always stated that VoIP is going to be one of the biggest developments in telecommunications. It’s here to stay.

We’ll have to wait and see how the drama plays out between the VoIP companies and mobile telephone service providers.To read up more about VoIP, please read my three part blog:

VoIP Telephony [ Part 1 Part 2 Part3 ]

Team Fortress 2 General things to know if you want to host your own server, and a quick review!

Team Fortress 2

General things to know if you want to host your own Team Fortress 2 TF2 server, and a quick review!

(I’m going to take a break from the usual Telecom/T1articles and throw in one for fun. If you don’t play video games, or you’re not interested in this article, don’t read this article and simply enjoy my past articles.)

After nearly ten years after it was first announced, and many failed designs, the Valve Corporation has finally released Team Fortress 2. I’ve been playing it since the first week of Beta and I have to say, the game is more fun than words can explain. For those of you who don’t know, Team Fortress 2 is a multiplayer team-based FPS (First Person Shooter). The original Team Fortress was a free mod created with the Quake game engine. Team Fortress 2, or TF2 as the Internet crowd fondly calls it, was also originally supposed to be free until the Valve Corporation came in to employ the development team behind the game. A simple port of the original Quake Team Fortress game was released under the name Team Fortress Classic (TFC), to buy time as the sequel was being developed.As this happened, an entirely new game called Team Fortress 2 was being developed with features that sounded a lot like what would appear in the Electronic Arts’ “Battlefield” franchise (Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 2, etc). All news on the game abruptly ended and news about the game and its release came and went several times. During a July 2006 Electronic Arts conference, Valve announced that Team Fortress 2 would be released with Half-Life 2: Episode Two. The beta version of the game was available in the Orange Box pre-sale package September 17, 2007 on Steam, followed by the official release of Orange Box on October 10, 2007.


Since this game is designed for 24 players in a server (some servers may set their max at 32 players), you’re going to need a decent system and broadband provider to play efficiently. For those of you who want to run a server, you’re going to need to look into the various companies that offer servers to host your personal or clan server.The most important thing for a server is its ping and stability.

When players search for a game, they want to find the server with the best latency. Once they decide which server to join, they’ll play and will stay if the server runs the game without any chocks, lag or lockups. If it’s a personal server and you’re hosting the game on an Ethernet connection, like say, out of a PC Gaming place or for a LAN party, it would be recommended to at least have Cable or DSL. With that being said, you shouldn’t expect to be able to host more than one server, and it may lag for anyone connecting out of the actual LAN.

The best bet for you if you wanted a consistent, dedicated server is to rent out server with 100 ticks, and a solid T1 line. If you want better than a T1 line, you should go for a 100 Meg fast Ethernet line at a collocation data center. Ask the host provider if their T1 lines or Ethernet lines are oversubscribed. An oversubscribed line can lead to lag and other problems that will make your server less desirable to other players. Find out the subscription ratio. 2:1 ratio or less is best. The prices may range between $50 to $100 dollars depending on what hosting company you decide to go with. Remember to compare different plans and the different features each company offers. Some may offer multiple servers in their price, whereas some may only provide one. Plus, see if you can get an SLA to guarantee quality of service. You don’t want to sign a contract and not have any protection against a shady hosting company. You’re paying for a dedicated service and your game should have continuous streaming.

You should also think about whether or not you want people on the other side of the country connecting to your server. Many servers ping over 100 or more to players in Los Angeles if the host is in New York. The ping may range between 300-700 if someone in Los Angeles was to connect to a server in London, or vice versa. I remember the days when I used dial-up to play video games, and 150 ping was pretty good, but anything over 100 will get complaints from gamers nowadays. A good hosting provider will have low ping guarantees for roundtrip packet times across the country which should be detailed in their SLA agreement. The lower ms the better. Networks with good peering should be highly considered. Good peering arrangements on the ISP’s network will guarantee good playability for everyone regardless of where they are located and what network they are on. I’ve even seem some servers ask for donations to keep it up and running. That may be an option for you if your server is highly popular. Assuming some of the visitors of your server actually donate, you can save some cash.


The designers of the game seem to have everything perfectly balanced. Spawn camping, a problem with many FPS games, is difficult to accomplish for long. Team classes also have counter-classes (i.e. Pyro counter spy, but spy counters engineers, etc) so that no one class is the dominating class. In fact, this is a game where even if you’re not being Rambo by single-handedly taking out the opposing team, you can still feel like you’re contributing big; either by healing as a medic, providing defense with sentry guns as an engineer, or scouting as a spy from behind the enemy. Valve really emphasized the “team” in Team Fortress. Personally, I think this game is off the hook. One problem with the game is its little number of maps, but Valve assures us that they are working on new maps. The cartoony style that resembles that of Disney/Pixar’s “The Incredibles” really gives a fun atmosphere when you play. I can go on and on about this game that was 9 years in the making.Will this beat Counter-Strike (another game that was originally a free mod that Valve bought rights to) in popularity? I don’t know, Counter-Strike was ridiculously popular, and still has a huge fan base. I think Team Fortress will hold its own, though. After being one of the most highly anticipated games for 9 years and still not disappoint, Valve has another winner in its hands.

If you play, you can visit my clan’s ([Comrade]) server New York server hosted by

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS:Minimum: 1.7 GHz Processor, 512MB RAM, DirectX® 8 level Graphics Card, Windows® Vista/XP/2000, Mouse, Keyboard, Internet ConnectionRecommended: Pentium 4 processor (3.0GHz, or better), 1GB RAM, DirectX® 9 level Graphics Card, Windows® Vista/XP/2000, Mouse, Keyboard, Internet Connection