by December 4, 2001 0 comments



Bandwidth is not required only for downloading. Web development and graphics design involve uploading also. Connectivity options like DSL might give great download bandwidth, but offer much lesser upload speeds. So, you not only have to decide how much bandwidth but also the direction you need. What options do organizations have for accessing the Internet?



On demand or always on?

On demand–connecting to the Internet only when you need to–is typically used by smaller organizations. The options here are dial-up and ISDN.

Dial-up For 1 to 15 users

This means dialing into an ISP using a modem and getting access to the Internet. You can assign a single machine with a modem to connect to the ISP and other machines on the network can access the Net through it using any freely available software proxy (AnalogX, Winproxy), provided they are connected to each other through a LAN. For organizations with up to 5 users, dial-up is probably the most cost effective way, particularly if all you want to do is send and receive mail. Slightly bigger organizations with around 15 people, can also use this by providing multiple dial-up access points. Instead of one system dialing to the ISP you can have two or three PCs dial to the Net, and then assign different group of computers to each dialing PC. A better option is to use a hardware Internet gateway, which can manage up to three modems, with each modem dialing into the ISP separately.

Dial-up is more or less universally available, but if you include telephone costs, it is expensive than cable. Also this type of access is pretty unreliable with frequent disconnects and slow speed being a common
complaints.

Dial-up, cable, and most DSL offer low upload speeds. So even if you are a small organization, but if your work involves heavy uploads, consider ISDN or leased line.

ISDN For up to 60 users

ISDN (Integrated Service Digital Network) is similar to the dial-up access method except that it can provide better connectivity and bandwidth. You require a Terminal Adapter and an ISDN router to connect your network to the ISDN line. A single ISDN channel will give you 64 Kbps (Rs 18,000 for 1000 hrs of Net access), while two will give an effective bandwidth of 128 Kbps. However, ISDN is not available at all telephone exchanges in the country. And some provide only single channel access. You can use your ISDN line for both Internet access and as a normal telephone. Overall, ISDN is reliable and a fast Internet access method and can handle around 30 users per channel.

Always-on Connects

Always connected (24 hours a day) is common in bigger organizations, and the options range from leased lines, DSL, cable to satellite
connections.

Leased lines For medium to large enterprises

Leased lines, also known as dedicated lines, provide an organization with a dedicated connection to the Internet. The connection is always open, which means that you don’t need to dial-in every time you need to access the Internet. Leased lines are comparatively expensive, what with the cost of actually laying down the leased circuits to your premises, the registration fee to the ISP, the installation fees and then the regular annual tariff. The plus point, however, is that they are very reliable and unless the lines are physically damaged, there is usually no danger to connectivity. Leased lines can also be used to build your own network across your branches. There are many different speeds available to suit every type of organization, starting from 2.4 Kbps to 155 Mbps and more. A 2.4 Kbps connect costs around Rs 70,000 a year, a 2 Mbps connect will cost Rs 21.3 lakh a year and 155 Mbps is available for Rs 1338 lakh a year. This price does not include the registration or installation fees.

Cable and DSL For small to medium organizations

Cable and DSL are the other two options for a dedicated connection to the Internet. Cable is not really a corporate solution, but if you are in a home office situation, then it can be an inexpensive alternative. The advantage of cable connection is that it can utilize the existing cable network (the network used by your cable operator to give you TV channels) to give you Internet access, too. Cable, however, gives you an asymmetric connection to the Net, which means the download bandwidth is more than the upload bandwidth. This is okay for organizations, which need to download more, but not for those that use the Internet for things like uploading Web pages or video conferencing. Another concern for cable connects is security, mainly because many people in the neighborhood share the same cable media. This makes it a little easier for a potential hacker to spy or hack into your systems. Also because users share the same cable you could experience slow connects when lots of people are using the Net.

Pricing here again depends on the speed of the connect you go in for. For example Mantra Online offers a 64 Kbps connection for Rs 1,100 per month. Other expenses here include the cost of a cable modem, which is approximately Rs 10-15,000.

Similarly, DSL can give you broadband Internet access. For DSL to be most effective you need to be within a given range from a DSL service provider. The service provider has a DSLAM (Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer)–a termination point for all the subscribers in a particular area. If you don’t fall within a given range from that DSLAM, then DSL can’t be an option. DSL is available is many flavors, like Cable, DSL also provides greater download bandwidth than upload. The price varies depending on the type of connection you choose and the speed. A 64 Kbps connection for a month will cost you around Rs 995. This does not include the registration fees of around Rs 30,000, or a DSL modem. Also for this amount you get only a fixed amount of data transfer, after which you will be charged extra. A 512 Kbps connection with unlimited traffic has a price tag of around Rs 40,000 per month, plus the registration fees. For more information go to
www.ddsl.com.

Overall a more reliable connectivity option than cable, but needs comparatively more money to set up and you’ll also have to be located near a DSL service provider.

Still more options

Data transfer is the issue

The amount of bandwidth you need is not determined by the number of employees you have, but by the amount of data you need transferred. So, you may be a five man organization, but may need to transfer huge files (laid out pages, video files). Also, options like cable and DSL offer more bandwidth downstream. So, if you want to send out large amount of data, these may not be the options for you

VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) is another high-speed Internet-access option mainly for large enterprises, which might have multiple offices across the country. This type of setup has three components to it, A Main Earth Station, the satellite itself and a number of VSAT stations. Of these three, you have to install the VSAT station, which is a dish antenna (like the ones you see on your cable operator’s roof), at your premises. You will also need to install a system that provides some kind of an interface between the users on your LAN and the dish
antenna.

By installing additional VSAT stations in your remote offices you can create a WAN, provided all your offices are using the same service provider. Also because VSAT is not limited by cables, you can be located anywhere as long as you have an unobstructed view of the satellite. Distance here also does not make a difference to the speed of access. The downside, however, is that this type of access method is very expensive, and you will probably be charged at a per MB rate.

Security and usage

Any amount of planning and preparation that you put in to selecting your Internet-access option, can go for a complete toss if you don’t complement it with some kind of Internet usage policy. Usage policy is basically deciding what your Internet connect will and will not be used for. Some of the major bandwidth hogs are chat sites, MP3 downloads, audio/video streaming, free e-mail sites and inappropriate downloads. These things, apart from wasting your precious bandwidth, damage employee productivity, too. The simplest way to stop this is to block them at your Internet gateway itself. You can install a proxy server, which will allow you to not only monitor bandwidth usage by individual users, but also to easily block the things (like, websites, specific file type downloads, streaming) you want.

Another major concern for organizations is security, which stems from the fact that most organizations are always connected to the Net and are assigned fixed IP addresses from their service providers. Once your IP is known, a potential hacker has ample time to find and exploit vulnerabilities in your network. To counter this, it is essential that you have a strong firewall in place which will allow only the things you want, to enter and leave your network.

Sachin Makhija

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