The Internet used to be a distinct experience. Youd 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.
Theres 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. Its 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.
Its 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. Thats 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 its always on. Unlike with a modem, you dont 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 isnt available everywhere. For a reliable connection, an end user must reside no further than about three miles from the local telephone companys central office. The first task when considering a DSL purchase is to find out if its 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.
Business in the 21st century is moving at an incredible pace, and that speed is increasing. Businesses, however, can only operate as fast as the technology they employ.
For small- and mid-sized businesses, finding technology that fits their business strategy can be difficult. In the telecom marketplace, words like digital and analog, and acronyms like DSL, T-1 and ISDN sometimes make a simple search for new technology solutions sound like walking down a circus midway.
Business decision-makers must sort through all the information, find out which technologies best fit their business needs and make decisions that will enable their companies to thrive. Voice-over-DSL (VoDSL) is one such technology.
VoDSL is an innovative way to use a DSL line. It takes a normal DSL line and splits it into separate voice and data channels. Utilizing VoDSL, businesses can access up to 24 voice lines with value-added services including high-speed Internet access -- giving them enhanced services at a cost savings.
Because small businesses tend to be a more cost-conscious customer group, many are ideal candidates for VoDSL, which bundles local, long distance and data services across a single access line and saves money. In fact, International Data Corporation (IDC), a research analyst group, has observed a trend among small businesses noting growth in integrated voice and data.
Although it is a DSL service and requires the same prequalification as regular DSL services, VoDSL should not be confused with the voice capabilities of other DSL services. VoDSL packetizes the voice and data, and sends both over a single DSL line.
As an integrated solution for small- to mid-size businesses, VoDSL allows customers to operate voice and data over a single line. Since packet-based VoDSL voice lines only require bandwidth when a call is active, data services are enabled when calls are not active. In other words, when the customer picks up a telephone handset to make a call, the DSL data traffic is throttled back to provide the bandwidth required for the voice conversation.
Because of this dynamic bandwidth, VoDSL is an attractive and less expensive alternative to traditional phone lines.
Voice-over-DSL works by using an integrated access device at the end-user location. Using a symmetrical DSL (SDSL), voice and data lines are connected, through this device, to the telephone company's central office. The end-user location must be within a certain distance from the central office. This prequalification ensures both the quality and speed of the voice and data traffic over VoDSL.
The VoDSL device packetizes all of a user's traffic and prioritizes the voice and data packets, giving priority to voice transmissions. Symmetrical DSL (SDSL) differs from other types of DSL because the outgoing and incoming data travel at the same speed. VoDSL should not be confused with the voice capability of ADSL, which enables a single voice signal to run along a copper line using a splitter.
In addition to the cost savings, VoDSL has several other benefits, including:
Fast Web access -- Enables employees to have direct Internet access without dial-up and empowers your business with high-speed capabilities like videoconferencing.
Excellent voice services -- Provides the same quality of service as traditional business lines with additional features not found on traditional lines.
Cost savings -- Small businesses now have access to extensive high-speed Internet capabilities without outrageous expenses.
As you search for providers, make sure to ask questions and weigh all options before making a purchase. Some things to ask your service provider about before you buy:
Service guarantees -- Ask what kind of service guarantees you will receive and compare them with other providers.
Equipment monitoring and management -- The provider should have systems in place to monitor your equipment. With 24/7 monitoring by trained professionals, you can count on a maximization of performance and a minimization of downtime.
Network security protection -- Your provider should maintain a secure connection between your on-site equipment and the provider's network to prevent information from falling into hostile hands.
Matthew Wajda is director of sales, commercial, for the state of Ohio at ICG Communications.
Is VoDSL right for you?
Some issues to consider when determining whether VoDSL can help your business:
- Is your business a moderate-to-heavy user of toll calling?
- Does it have between four and 24 phone lines?
- Have you considered purchasing some form of Internet connectivity? (i.e., dial-up, ISDN, T1 or DSL)
- Is your business interested in maintaining enhanced calling features, such as call waiting, call forwarding, speed dialing, caller ID or three-way calling?
If you answer yes to all of these questions, you should explore VoDSL as an option for your business.