How fast would you like to browse the Internet?
If you haven’t heard, a new world of Internet speed is fast approaching. For years, Internet providers have steadily installed Fiber Internet cables throughout the country. This type of Internet connection promises around 1Gbps. By comparison, many average connections are around 1/5 that speed.
How does Fiber Internet impact business?Large companies pay big dollars to have a fiber network installed around their offices. Other companies, like us, are lucky to be in a location where fiber has already been installed in the surrounding area. As Alexia Chianis of Business Bee puts it, “Unlike cable, which uses your business’ existing cable line, fiber-optic Internet requires that a fiber optic cable be run to your business.” That means businesses pay to have the cable installed, and that cost increases the farther you are from existing cable lines.
Our Journey to Faster Business Internet Speeds.
Our team asks a lot from our Internet connection - between large downloads, large uploads, and a nearly constant need to be online. Within the last couple years, Fiber Internet was installed for other businesses on our street. Since it wasn’t cost-prohibitive for us to extend the cable reach, we took the plunge. Our team got excited thinking of the possibilities, but we ran into a bottleneck on our path. Although we found a solution, the process could have gone smoother if we had taken time in advance to plan things out. Since we value learning from our experiences, we thought that we’d share our lesson with you.
When considering a move to faster Internet – be it Fiber or any other type – you should visualize your systems. If you have a network diagram, take a look at that. Identify the technology on your path to the Internet.
Standard Network Diagram Template from LucidChart.
Let’s say you’re downloading something from the Internet. The Internet source sends the data through security protections, onto your device, where it is stored at least temporarily. The file will only move as quickly as your slowest device. For example, if you have the best Internet but a 10-year-old computer, you can only work as quickly as that old computer because it was built to handle a certain amount of information at a certain speed.
It’s a delicate ecosystem of bandwidth and speed; both contribute to “faster Internet”. Think about a hose in your yard. You can turn up the pressure to shoot water from a hose faster, but at some point, you will reach a limit. The width of the hose only allows so much water at once. The same with speed and bandwidth.
The devices on your path to the Internet each handle a certain speed and bandwidth. Each device has the potential to become a bottleneck in your process. Review each of the following carefully.
1. Edge Router / Firewalls
This was our bottleneck at Springthrough. Our hardware for routing and firewall protection was not designed for to handle high speeds. It is actually a common issue with “Unified Threat Management” devices, which do more than the basic routing and firewall. They include features like Antivirus, Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), and Web Filtering that can lower the amount of data able to pass through your device. We had to purchase a new device to allow the faster Internet speeds we wanted.
2. Transport and Distribution Devices
- Switches: Every device in a network needs to be connected at some point. Switches have ports where data streams through, but some ports can only handle very small amounts of information - as low as 100Mbs.
- VoIP Phones: Many organizations embraced VoIP phones as they can offer the same reliability of traditional phone lines at a lower cost. But again, many systems use a built-in port to transfer data, which may limit the data transfer to 100Mbs.
- Wi-Fi: The latest standards for WiFi uses 3 data streams to reach the maximum capacity of 1 Gb. The problem is that most wireless devices can only handle 1 data stream (so it can really only accept around 350Mb of data). Also, faster wireless relies on a certain frequency to send information. It’s like a radio network with channels. The frequency of new devices has a smaller radius where it can broadcast, so you need to be closer to the transmitter than the older forms of WiFi.
3. End-client Devices
Here I’m talking about your computers, mobile devices, etc. Again, older devices were not built to handle a lot of data at quick speeds. If you’re downloading, the information needs to be stored somewhere, so you will only be able download as much (and as fast) as your computer can handle.
4. The rest of the world.
You have to recognize that while you may resolve all your own bottlenecks, other sources might operate at lower speeds. Think about that when you create data/files to share, and when looking at other people’s data.
As time goes on, we may see changes in this landscape and your options. The faster (1Gb) Internet connections are definitely becoming more common. Like satellite back in the day. At first, it was exclusive because you need physical equipment. But as it gained popularity, the cost and difficulty went down. Today, we are in that expansion phase of Fiber Internet.
If you’re considering a move right now, be sure to take the time to consider your network. It may be worth the investment to update one of the bottlenecks. Since our bottleneck was the Edge Router/Firewall, we simply had to purchase a new device to allow better Internet use.
You may need someone to help you understand your network. We work with many clients on that initial stage to understand their current technology environment. Through a process of Technology Blueprinting, we see what systems they have in place, and we discuss their technology goals for the future. In the end, it just may lead us to resolutions like faster business Internet speeds.