Increasing Internet Bandwidth by Bonding Inexpensive Coax Cable and DSL

Your multi location business could benefit by bonding individual wide area network circuits together in three ways:

  • It can increase bandwidth and speed throughout your MPLS WAN.
  • It can minimize the impact of an outage that one of your providers might occasionally suffer.
  • If bonding is done correctly, it can save you money.

My favorite solution provider that aggregates and integrates all carriers to allow entities with multiple locations with a nationwide network solutions is Bandwave Systems.  This is an (unpaid) overview on the process and how you can achieve some of the benefits they provide.

What is Circuit Bonding?

MPLS WAN Circuit ConceptBonding uses an appliance that lets you combine the individual throughput capacity of several circuits into a single circuit. For instance, you might have a DSL connection running 3 Mbps up and 1 Mbps down that you want to connect with a wireless connection running at 3 up and 1 down. The resulting bonding would give you a pipe that’s capable of 6 Mbps for uploads and 2 Mbps for downloads. If you’re using VoIP or passing rich media between office locations, bonding can offer you the throughput you need at modest cost.

Click here to see a glossary of terms.

With the much higher speed rating of coax and fiber, you can also see how bonding can give you tremendous flexibility in building the throughput you need for different kinds of traffic that each needs its own specific quality of service handling.

Bandwave Systems

First, Bandwave is an aggregator that works with all the national (and many regional) companies that provide cable, fiber, DSL and wireless. Bandwave handles multi-provider wide area networks for businesses like yours and offers a single point of contact for technical support, network management, invoicing and billing, and related services. Bandwave also provides the “last mile” connectivity you might need when you open a new location.

Because the company works with so many carriers, they’re familiar with the geographic footprint of each, as well as the rates each carrier charges. They’re in an ideal position to help you get the greatest bandwidth at the lowest price.

Further, they can help you increase the resilience of your WAN by recommending which circuits to bond from different vendors so you achieve carrier redundancy. For example, if you bond, say, a cable circuit from AT&T with a 4G LTE circuit from Verizon, you’ll survive an outage from either of them. That’s a far different approach than days gone by when a carrier bonded two T1 lines together, and then charged you twice as much. This major carrier alternative takes a carrier-agnostic approach.

Finally, I’ve found that Bandwave always puts their client in the driver’s seat. Sitting down for a technical consultation, you explain what you need to accomplish. Bandwave experts look at many options, then give you at least one solution, and oftentimes many possible approaches to solving the problem.

How Many Hops is Too Many Hops? Is Latency Hurting Your Business?

Let’s face it, we’re in the age of now.  Who doesn’t find it annoying when network latency forces you to wait while streaming video is buffering, degrades important VOIP calls or slows load time for critical applications?

As businesses are only as agile as the applications that support them, it’s critical to address the underlying causes for any latency issues you might be experiencing.Network Latency Is Less Ideal

The principal cause of latency lies in the route used to forward data from point to point. Routers are the devices that manage the path between any source-destination pair of addresses. They determine, usually, the shortest path between two points.

I’d like to share a few thoughts on how data moves across the internet to get from point A to B. Then we can talk about what is meant by “too many hops.”

Routers used by large enterprises, VoIP providers, most ISPs and other organizations that connect to two or more ISPs use Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) to route traffic through the Internet. = Whereas Interior Gateway Protocol (IGP) manages the low level details of Internet routing with methods like Open Shortest Path First (OSPF), the Border Gateway Protocol attempts to find the shortest path between two points using Autonomous System Numbers (ASNs).

ASNs are issued through the American Registry for Internet Numbers, commonly known as ARIN. (In Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East, an organization in Amsterdam known as RIPE handles Internet number assignment).

ARIN explains ASNs as follows: “An Autonomous System is a connected group of IP networks that adhere to a single unique routing policy that differs from the routing policies of your network’s border peers. An ASN is a globally unique number used to identify an Autonomous System. An ASN enables an autonomous system to exchange exterior routing information with neighboring autonomous systems.”

Once an organization is given an ASN, the BGP router accesses a list of Internet routes from its BGP router neighbors to find a path that minimizes the number of autonomous systems involved in forwarding data. That is, the router consults “nearby” routers to choose the shortest path.

Now that we’ve delved into those details, let’s take a look at a simple way to determine if your data is taking “too many hops.” The simplest test is the Windows program TRACERT, which you can launch using the CMD.exe command prompt. (Use TRACEROUTE for Linux or Apple computers). The program will show you the name or IP address of every router along the path that forwards your data toward its final destination, along with the time taken for each hop.

 

Depending on the ISP you use, data moving from you to its destination may have to make 10, 15, 20 or more hops across multiple ASNs. (There are about 20,000 ASNs in use worldwide today). To avoid the latency that’s bound to develop, it’s desirable to minimize the number of ASN’s on the route. One company, NTT Communications, solves the latency problem by using only one ASN (#2914) to span the entire globe.

With exchange points around the world, your data gets to any access point on NTT’s Tier 1 network in fewer than five hops. That means your data travels smoothly around the world and back with fewer delays. For VoIP service where latency can’t be tolerated, NTT Communications is our choice of ISP partners.

Additional Resources:

Networking 101: Understanding BGP Routing

Overview of Autonomous System (AS) Numbers

Using Coax Cable Aggregation to Backup or Augment Your MPLS WAN

The major cable companies like AT&T, Brighthouse, Comcast, Charter, Time Warner and others offer business owners wide area networking to connect multiple office locations. When only data passes between those locations, their cable architecture can usually meet your needs in terms of reliability and throughput.

The problem is, when you add voice or video to the mix, cable falls short because you can’t manage the QoS of a cable network.Overcoming QOS Problems With MPLS WAN

Jitter and latency can turn a routine phone call into a garble. Fortunately, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) offers a solution that paves a direct path through the cloud and manages QoS so your calls and rich media go through as expected. But MPLS is only part of the solution for most multi-location businesses.

Here’s why.

Running your voice, video and data over multiple cable WAN‘s that are each managed by a different cable company becomes a logistics nightmare. Your office in San Jose may run on a WAN from cable company “A” while your Atlanta office runs on company “B”, while the New York headquarters uses yet another company. Most IT departments don’t want to have to deal with a plethora of cable companies. It begs for inefficiencies.

For example, each of those providers requires a separate contract. Each one bills you separately. Each has it’s own support team and 800-number. Whether you need to augment your corporate network or backup your corporate data there’s no need to struggle with that kind of arrangement. Aggregating multiple services under a single company makes sense.

Coax cable aggregation simplifies everything by putting one company in charge of your entire WAN no matter which company manages any given geographic area. I’ve long been a proponent (unpaid) of Bandwave Systems as an aggregator because they make things easy and handle all those details for you.

Bandwave gives you a single point of contact, continuous monitoring and management of your WAN’s. They can even provide that “last mile” connectivity you’ll need when you open a new office. And they do more than cable: 4G wireless, DSL and T1 can all be rolled into your infrastructure. Bandwave is up and running in 180 countries and ready to handle the international segments of your corporate network as well.

If you’re considering this kind of solution to the “too many carriers” problem, feel free to reach out and I’ll try to get you pointed in the right direction.

Product Review: Low Cost VoIP Phones for Remote Call Center Employees

The number of employees working from home continues to rise as the world becomes more and more interconnected.  Businesses are having a hard time ignoring the obvious cost savings and people working in call centers are among those who can enjoy some real benefit by transitioning from an office environment to their home. They no longer have to commute. They spend fewer dollars on gas and auto maintenance. They’ve got more free time after work. Most of all, people who work remotely tend to enjoy their work more than those corralled in an office.Scaling Call Center With Low Cost VOIP Solution

For instance, it can reduce office lease expense over the long term, and other expenses (utilities, office supplies, etc.) associated with people working from the office. It can let a company attract the talent it needs from any geographic location. It can increase productivity, save money and help retain that great talent.

But the question of how to connect those remote workers with day-to-day business needs some serious thought. If you’re using VoIP to connect with customers and employees, you’re already ahead of the curve. But how much do you need to spend to outfit your remote workers with a connection to your VoIP system?

Let’s take a look at two popular phones that work well on VoIP, but without the high cost of phones like the Cisco IP Phone that sets you back more than $1600 per employee.

Grandstream GXP2130 Enterprise IP Telephone

Grandstream GXP2130

If your remote workers need more than a single line, this desktop phone from Grandstream handles up to three lines. It can conference call with up to four parties and has a color LCD display and speakerphone. Its dual gigabit network ports, integrated Power over Ethernet (PoE) and nearly automatic provisioning make it a strong choice where multiple lines are needed. Grandstream has published a YouTube video here that discusses the GXP2130 and its sister products in the GXP lineup. A variety of headsets are available as accessories. Another plus is that this phone normally retails under $100.

Plantronics CT14

Plantronics CT14

The CT14 is a single-line cordless phone using DECT6.0 that lets your employee stand up and move around, up to 300 feet away from the base unit. The headset is comfortable: It can be worn over the ear or over the head. The dial pad gives the user volume control, a mute button and access to voicemail with one touch. The unit clips onto a belt or clothing, includes a dial pad and can be linked to an iOS or Android device.

The company claims the unit delivers up to 10 hours talk time, while the headset uses a noise canceling mic. The street price for this phone is under $100 and gives your team everything they need to manage calls.

Why Not Use a Soft Phone?

A soft phone is a piece of software that runs on a PC or IOS device. They tend to be much harder to use than a real phone. Here is a YouTube review  of one particular soft phone I’ve chosen at random that will give you a sense of why I say they tend to be less user friendly than a physical phone, especially in a high volume situation like a call center.

Learn More

Click here to learn about the options for low cost, cloud based phone solutions for small offices.  Also, we’ve worked with numerous VoIP phones and I’m glad to share my thoughts and recommendations, so feel free to reach out.

How To Fix Problems With Your 411 Directory Listings

Even in today’s digitally dominated environment, a consistently large segment of the population continues to use directory assistance as an alternative to local search. In the US alone, 411 is used six billion times per year, providing the telecom industry with $8 billion per year in high profit revenue.

Woman Using Directory Assistance411 providers get paid based on the number of calls they take and not the helpfulness or accuracy of the service they provide. As a result, if your business phone number isn’t in your phone company’s database when a prospect or client calls, there is little chance that they will receive much help from the operator.

That is why it’s critical that you confirm your listing in every city where you do business and with each phone company you use. Being properly listed has a huge impact on your bottom line.

Who’s Maintains Your 411 Listing?

The phone company who provides dial tone to your business and bills you each month automatically lists your company in their 411 directory. Unfortunately, there is no single, “master’ database containing all 411 information. Each carrier maintains their own data. In fact, there are thousands of 411 directory providers.

  • Some are the major land line carriers like Verizon and AT&T
  • Others may be cell phone companies or VoIP providers
  • Yet others are independent firms with no carrier affiliation, but are in the business of providing directory information. 800-FREE411 (800-373-3411) is one such independent service

Except for the independent firms, each of them serve their own customers. If you were to call “411” in search of a business that is not a customer of your phone company, it’s possible they won’t have the listing you want.

There’s another issue to consider, as well. If your phone company is a CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier) that works with one of the telecom giants, the CLEC is responsible for getting you listed in the major carrier’s 411 directory. As you can imagine, technical failures do happen in scenarios like this, resulting in your number failing to list in the main directory.  If you suspect this is the case with your business, the best place to start is your CLEC’s customer service.

What About Toll Free 411 Listings?

If your primary number is a vanity number or toll free, a “Responsible Organization” (known in the industry as a Resporg) works through an FCC-authorized organization (SMS800.com) to assign toll free numbers to a business. You’ll want to contact the Resporg that provided your toll free number to verify or update your toll free directory listing.

If you’re not aware who your Resporg is, visit 800ForAll.com and enter your toll free number into the free “Who Owns This Number?” query on their home page. It will tell you the name and phone of your Resporg.

What If You Use VoIP?

Interconnected Through Local VOIP NumbersYour VoIP provider manages your 411 listing. When you confirm your listing with the VoIP company, you might want to ask about remote phone numbers. Many VoIP providers can set up local business phone number, say in Dallas, that rings at your office in Atlanta, Chicago or wherever you may be headquartered. Such numbers can also be set up in cities where you have major accounts, or where you are running a sales campaign—giving callers the convenience of dialing a local number. This can usually be done with no monthly fees, which is in contrast to the “remote call forwarding” and “foreign listings” the traditional telecom companies want you to pay for each month.

Call Yourself and Make Sure Your Listings Are Correct

You’ll be able to keep your businesses 411 directory listings up to date and accurate by first asking yourself:

  • What cities are my customers calling from?
  • What are the different names my customers would use when trying to find my business?
  • Would my customers want to be provided with a local or toll free number for my business when calling 411?

Once you’ve determined these things, start calling 411 from the cities and regions your customers are located in and see if you’re listed correctly.  Keep a spreadsheet of the information you’ve collected and correct the erroneous listings by doing the following:

  • Manually working directly with the company that bills you each month and provides phone service to your business
  • Manually engaging the large phone companies like AT&T, Verizon and the other old “Ma Bell” companies in the regions you operate in

Next Steps

As there were a trillion local web searches last year (as opposed to 6 billion 411 calls), it’s critical that you make sure your business phone number is being presented correctly on the different online directories that influence local SEO.  For more information on how to make sure your information is showing up correctly on Google, click here.