Cutting data transmission times by more than 90 percent would put a smile on the face of just about any CFO, but in companies that rely on information exchange, such advances are almost required to remain competitive.
Software developer TrueFit, based in Cranberry Township, is able to move information about 14 times faster than it once could, thanks to an emerging technology, according to Dan Norman, the companys networking manager.
Moving data in the information age is as important as moving freight was in the industrial and post-industrial ages. Just as the capability to move large quantities of goods gives a competitive edge in the distribution of commodities, speed in transmitting information is a premium for businesses highly reliant on receiving and sending it.
But technology often comes at a high cost, at least during its early stages. T1 connections are good for big data handling needs, but are expensive, usually requiring special hardware and cabling. Many growing companies, while needing access to state-of-the-art technology, have limited capital to avail themselves of the latest advancements.
When it comes to data handling applications for growing businesses, the answer might be a digital subscriber line, or DSL, a technology that pushes data over copper telephone lines. Instead of a dial-up modem or a dedicated lease line, you use your existing telephone line to connect to the Internet or other networks. DSL provides a dedicated line to a central office point of presence where the actual connection to the Internet occurs.
Unlike ISDN connections, the link to the Internet is always open, so there are virtually no busy signals or dial-up problems.
DSL allows for the rapid transmission of data, as well as simultaneous transmissions. DSL technology essentially uses space on telephone lines that is unused by voice transmissions. Brian MacDonald, senior systems engineer for Nauticom, a major provider of DSL connections, likens the telephone line to a five-lane highway where one lane is used for voice transmissions. The other four lanes are available to carry data at frequencies other than those required for voice transmissions.
That means you could maintain an Internet connection while carrying telephone transmissions over the same line. Nauticom is offering DSL to its subscribers in the North Hills and in Bell Atlantic territories where DSL is available.
TrueFit needed to transmit large, dense data files between its offices and its customers. Taking long periods of time to transfer files usually meant unproductive stretches, so anything that could cut slack periods would mean a potential increase in output.
Thats why the company jumped at the chance to employ DSL technology. For TrueFit, it means software developers dont have to wait for long stretches while files are uploaded to customers or downloaded to their computer terminals. And in the software business, as in any other, time is money.
The DSL line is just a dream, says Michaelangelo Celli, chief operating officer and marketing director of Allegheny Digital, a software company that develops solutions for e-commerce applications. Allegheny Digital operates in the downtown Pittsburgh-based Information Technology Center, a building wired by Nauticom and designed to allow tenants the option of using DSL connections for their voice and data lines.
Celli does a lot of research on the Internet, so the DSL connections capability to carry voice and data over the same lines is an advantage. He doesnt have to wait for a dial-up connection, and downloading and uploading data are faster than with an ISDN connection.
Jack Muhlenkamp, a technology industry analyst for the Muhlenkamp Co., chose a DSL connection at his company and at home primarily because of its speed. Field sales representatives need access to information from the companys database for their clients in real time, so DSL, because of its data handling capabilities and cost, was a natural way to go, he says.
Speed is an advantage, but for businesses that want to enjoy faster transmission at modest costs, DSL can be a cost-effective alternative to much more expensive T1 lines.
DSL is about half as fast as a T1 connection but much faster than an ISDN dial-up link. Costs for a DSL connection, at $49 a month plus $100 for a modem, are about twice that of an ISDN line. Speed and access, Nauticom maintains, are far superior, however.
Mac Purvis Jr., vice president of Purvis Bros. Inc., a petroleum distributor located in Mars, calls DSL the poor mans T1. Purvis says DSL offers the right combination of speed and price for us to put it in. Purvis Bros. uses the Internet for routine functions, such as internal and external e-mail, tracking UPS deliveries and locating ZIP codes.
For many companies, the capability to move workers out of the conventional work setting is a plus. Employers can conserve valuable office space while accommodating employees who need flexible work schedules. The DSL connection offers the capability for Purvis Bros. employees to work from home, and Purvis says hes having a DSL connection installed at his home so he can work off-site. The connection allows remote location users to work on databases, something he couldnt do without the DSL link.
Purvis says technologies such as DSL are starting to bring the costs down to where it can be offered to a much bigger network of businesses. Businesses are going to have more reasons to connect to the Internet as time goes on.
And, it appears, more reasons to connect using DSL.
For more information on DSL availability for your business, call Nauticom at (724)449-4600.
Ray Marano (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor of SBN Pittsburgh.