Promise of the Internet

The Internet used to be a distinct experience. You’d dial out to it, surf for a while, then log out. But for more and more people — especially business users — the Internet is becoming an always-on presence.

People are beginning to hop onto the Net the way they hop on the phone.

This always-on presence is a sign that the Internet is starting to deliver on its three big promises: usefulness, speed and applications.

There’s no question the Net has proven itself useful. Most people in businesses large and small are using or have used the Internet to perform some type of business-related task.

According to NielsonNetRatings’ latest statistics, 32.7 million U.S. adults use the Internet at work. The average business user spends twice as long logged on to the Net as a home user. More surfing time than any of us would care to admit is devoted to entertainment, but the numbers and practical experience leave little question that the Internet has become a useful business tool.

What about the promise of speed? The more speed or bandwidth available to user, the richer, more useful and more productive the experience.

Understanding this, telecommunications companies are working on ways to deliver faster, more reliable connections. There are a host of high-speed and often high-cost connection options available for businesses.

One that has won a lot of attention is DSL (Digital Subscriber Line.) DSL is an economical way for telecom companies to deliver high-speed data connections over existing copper phone wires. It’s a boon for business and home users.

The acceptance of DSL and other high-speed connection products is evidence that people are hungry for connection speed. The Internet experience is so much cooler over a high-speed connection than over a normal dial-up modem connection.

It’s also more useful for business owners. But the future of the Internet is really about its third promise: applications. Sun Microsystems has a tagline that describes this future perfectly: “The Network is the Computer.”

Sooner rather than later, businesses and private users will be looking to the Net to supply the applications they once expected to be handled by their desktop computer. The Internet, rather than your hard drive, will deliver functions such as accounting, database or even word processing programs.

Imagine never having to load software onto your computer or fool with updates. Imagine the processing horsepower you can tap into from far away. And imagine paying only for what you use.

The business implications are enormous. Investments in information technology and support will become far more economical and leverageable. That’s a bright future for anyone who feels that technology has become more of a burden than a benefit for their company.

Undoubtedly, the Internet has become an indispensable force in our lives, especially our business lives, and it will become more so. The pieces are converging. DSL and other broadband connections are on the cusp of widespread acceptance. Soon, applications delivered via the Internet will be too. Over the next several months, more companies, including Microsoft, will announce how they will be delivering their applications over the Internet.

As these forces converge, expect the Internet to become a force every bit as powerful as the desktop computer.

Matthew Wajda is director of sales for the state of Ohio at ICG Communications.

What to consider before you buy DSL

DSL is a means telecom companies use to provide high speed Internet access over traditional copper wiring. DSL has a high performance to value ratio and it’s always on. Unlike with a modem, you don’t need to dial in to the Internet, making it an economical choice for small business and home users.

What should you know before buying DSL?

Availability. DSL isn’t available everywhere. For a reliable connection, an end user must reside no further than about three miles from the local telephone company’s central office. The first task when considering a DSL purchase is to find out if it’s available at your address.

Flavor. DSL comes in several different flavors, including ADSL and SDSL. The major difference between flavors is in uploading and downloading speeds. ADSL (Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line) will typically have a higher download speed than upload speed. Synchronous Digital Subscriber Lines have the same up- and downloading speeds. This becomes important if you expect to move a lot of data, such as graphics, multimedia or database files.

Speed. DSL is priced by speed. More speed translates into more money. Typical speeds include 256 KBPS, 512 KBPS and beyond 700 KBPS. Depending on the connection you purchase, you can expect a minimum of five to 10 times the performance of a typical dial-up connection.

Equipment. DSL demands extra hardware, including a device called a router (which replaces the modem) or a bridge. The DSL provider should be able to supply both.