When deciding what technology to adopt for your computer network every business must understand the basics of that thought process. The truth is there’s benefits and drawbacks to each option. Choosing the right one can be complicated. So you’ll need to consider several factors before making a final decision.
You first need to thoroughly evaluate your current network. Uncovering and resolving any bottlenecks that might exist internally is crucial before spending potentially thousands of dollars on a new technology solution. You should start by creating some data models and using a network analyzer to get a handle on your network utilization. It’s a good idea to use a network modeling application to provide a more complete model of your network. This approach will provide you a more accurate assessment of your network performance and where there may be issues needing attention, if any.
Next, you need to identify your bandwidth requirements. The application(s) employed on your network currently, and planned for the future, is the most important measure when it comes to determining bandwidth. Let me repeat that…. it is crucial to consider both current AND future network applications. For example, if e-mail is the only application, an ISDN line should satisfy your bandwidth needs. Depending on the number of users you could probably get away with a simple T1 line or maybe a fractional T1 too. However, if there is a need to pump voice, data and video through the network, with guaranteed delivery, DS3 bandwidth or SONET (e.g. OC3 Bandwidth) is the best solution. Where available, Business Ethernet would be a viable option for this case also. If you are just looking to speed up access to the Internet, consider leased lines sized to the number of users and your projected saturation points.
The decision for bandwidth requirements also depends on the network topology and the number of sites that must be interconnected. For instance, if your WAN (Wide Area Network) topology is designed to connect multiple locations, consider MPLS. MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) allows you to connect multiple sites quickly and efficiently. However, for a point-to-point connection leased lines might be the best solution. Keep in mind that T-1 pricing (as well as DS3) is based on distance. The longer the distance between the two sites, the higher the cost. The lesson learned here is to be sure to evaluate all of your options before investing in leased lines.
Also, it is important to define a realistic timetable for deployment. Do you need more bandwidth today, or can you wait for future technologies to emerge? Does a phased install make sense with fractional or burstable solutions implemented for an initial backbone…. with expansion later? These are some of the options to consider to ensure you have what you need… when you need it.
Finally, consider the cost. Getting access to ATM (e.g. DS3) or SONET (e.g. OC-3) networks can be expensive, and the equipment can be even more costly. Solutions such as T-1 and DS-3 can carry large upfront installation and equipment costs, along with high monthly costs. Note that I said can. Costs today are coming down across the board….. so depending on location and provider, you could find a great deal with free equipment and lower than usual circuit pricing. Keep in mind also that Business Ethernet is less costly than an equivalent DS3 and certainly less pricey than an OC-3. As long as the area of the intended install location is already lit with fiber.
Overall, you currently have a variety of technologies available to you offering a plethora of choices in wide-area connectivity. As the future unfolds you should expect to see a further increase in both availability and variety of technologies as even more advancements occur…. and price points adjust accordingly. If you follow the guidelines above when making your network decision, it’s likely that your company should see more bandwidth for fewer bucks. For help navigating the process and ensuring that you get exactly what you need at the most cost effective price…. I suggest using the free assistance available through Network Solutions.