Since the Internet’s inception, growth and development in the telecom industry, bolstered by technological advancement has made connections faster, more stable, and less cumbersome. Connectivity speeds have steadily grown over the past two decades, with massive leaps of advancement due to increasing adoption of high-speed fiber connectivity.
Yet with all the high-bandwidth connections and state-of-the-art networking technologies, practically everyone has dealt with painfully slow Internet at one time or another. We’ve all suffered as a vital web resource crawls down the page, an application falls to a stand-still, or a video buffers endlessly. When your business suffers from frequent network interruptions, low or inconsistent bandwidth, or even complete outages, it can cost you thousands of dollars in lost productivity, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Secure, high-speed Internet connectivity is essential to the functioning of most businesses, and while there may be many causes of connectivity issues, your problems may be caused by the practice of network oversubscription. In this blog, we detail some networking pitfalls you may be facing and explain how 100 Mbps from one ISP may be very different from 100 Mbps from another provider.
The Cost of Unreliable Internet
Everyone knows network interruptions are detrimental and outages can be devastating, but few perceive the true impact of slow, unreliable connectivity on day-to-day productivity. Consider, if you spend just 5 hours a day using the Internet with 5 percent of that time lost dealing with your slow connectivity then you will lose a total of 15 minutes. Over a year that adds up to 60 hours of lost productivity per employee.
Internet connectivity issues can also be frustrating for employees and have a severe impact on morale. This can be far costlier than one might imagine, with Gallup estimating that the US loses $450-550 billion in lost productivity each year from the effects of disengaged employees alone.
At face value, any business, regardless of size, industry, or location would find these conditions intolerable. Yet, more and more companies are unknowingly subjecting themselves to these problems when selecting an Internet Service Provider.
The Internet was designed to be interconnected, so when there is a single point of failure in a system it is usually in the “last mile” — the final stretch between the carrier’s network and the end user. But, there are certainly points of congestion within networks, and that causes delays. Atlantic Metro, in addition to its hundreds of peering agreements, also maintains partnerships with multiple Tier One providers. This allows us even more flexibility in routing packets around potential problems while focusing on high performance in the meantime.
So if one carrier has an outage in Washington D.C., it’s not that they’re non-functional (they are rerouting traffic too) but the remaining parts of the network get overloaded. To avoid all that, typically within seconds of a problem being identified, our traffic gets routed around the problem via other connectivity points on our nationwide backbone or through another, and the user never even notices a blip. The diversity of our partnerships means that a myriad of routes are automatically devised and executed so that packets reach their destination as quickly as possible.
For the purpose of business continuity and resilience against possible disasters, redundancy is essential. However, in many cases, a company with two circuits with two separate providers may go down because of a fiber cut in the street. How is this possible?
Often times, without any knowledge, the two different carriers will share a conduit as it leaves the building. True diversity is one of the benefits of working with a carrier agnostic Network Service Provider like Atlantic Metro. We can guarantee that both your circuits are diverse because we have detailed knowledge of all the carrier routes and will work to establish diverse entryways to provide a robust solution.
While many carriers offer dedicated circuits to their customers, many do not dedicate the required bandwidth on their own network backbone. They will intentionally sell more bandwidth than their backbone can support on the assumption that only some of their customers will actually use their full bandwidth at any given time. This practice is known as oversubscription, and it is used to cut costs while sacrificing performance.
Oversubscription leads to less reliable connectivity with spontaneous periods of reduced network speed and higher likelihood for outages. This is caused by increased congestion on the carrier’s backbone during high-activity times. Much like traffic on a highway, fiber optic cables have a fixed capacity and attempting to transmit more data than the medium can maintain leads to significantly slower speeds for everyone. Even while traffic between your office and the backbone matches your carrier’s promised speed, everything beyond that is a gamble.
To avoid the drawbacks of an oversubscribed network, you should choose an Internet Service Provider whose network is truly dedicated, like Atlantic Metro.
While you undoubtedly want a network connectivity provider with experience, the downside to an older provider may be that they still have parts of their infrastructure left over from before networking became standardized. Legacy networks often have proprietary standards, meaning that making the various parts talk to each other can be troublesome. Look for a provider that advertises their lack of legacy technologies. Atlantic Metro, for instance, was one of the earliest to adopt an all-Ethernet network.
All networks are not created equal. Just as some people have a loose circle of acquaintances and colleagues, while others have a robust personal network of contacts, you will get much more out of a partnership with a connectivity provider if they are strategic and proactive about their network.
It’s important not to look at simple metrics like bandwidth and assume that that tells you all you need to know to rank the network connectivity providers you are researching. In fact, the more “one size fits all” their approach, the more cautious you should be. We find that clients see the most gains when we custom-build their networks to their requirements.
If you’d like to explore your own network connectivity options with us, please call or email firstname.lastname@example.org.