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SD-WAN Is Providing the Connection Necessary for Cloud Migration

SD-WANWide area network (WAN) has been a beneficial tool, but as cloud technology becomes more prevalent, companies need more flexibility and better performance. A software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) provides the fast connection speed and management visibility that enterprises want.

Why You Need More Than WAN

There are several factors influencing the interest in SD-WAN versus the continued use of WAN. Enterprises need more flexibility as they expand cloud resources, driven by a customer-focused view of business goals. The best and most user-friendly customer interfaces are through apps that run in the cloud, so in order to remain competitive, companies are implementing cloud software.

Another factor contributing to demand for SD-WAN is the increased need for bandwidth. Employees are dependent on mobile access to networks. In some cases, workers carry a company device plus a personal one, so from the time they enter the building, businesses are often supporting more bandwidth than initially planned for.

How SD-WAN Answers Your Network Concerns

Software-defined networking (SDN) increases the agility of your overall network system by decoupling the control plane (the control and decision-making surrounding your traffic) from the underlying traffic forwarding, also known as the data plane. SD-WAN applies the principles of SDN to WAN in order to connect medium and large corporations’ branch offices to data centers, headquarters, and to the private and public cloud where software applications are housed.

SD-WAN is gaining serious momentum with enterprises. The ability to have a new branch up and running quickly as companies expand, the increased need for mobile technology, and the migration to the cloud are all making SD-WAN an increasingly appropriate means to gain better agility and flexibility.

IT professionals are frustrated with WAN’s inability to handle cloud-era technology with the speed and performance necessary to support cloud applications. SD-WAN accesses multiple types of connections between locations, data centers, and cloud sources to allow for greater speed, increased productivity, and better management of bandwidth requirements.

One consideration that makes SD-WAN an attractive alternative to growing enterprises is that it doesn’t require a complete overhaul of the network, nor does it demand a major investment in hardware. Instead, SD-WAN can be implemented gradually, utilizing the existing WAN configuration as you transition to an SD-WAN structure.

As more services transition to the cloud, it’s important to have the network you need for optimal performance, speed, and infrastructure management. You also need a partner you can trust. Call us today at T2 to find out which types of solutions are the best fit for your company’s current and future requirements.

The Importance of Wireless WAN Connections for Businesses

shutterstock_328634297Wireless internet connectivity continues to be an important asset for businesses, including wide-area network (WAN) connections. According to Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), 96% of distributed companies rely on wireless for WAN connections in certain remote locations.

Even if businesses aren’t necessarily using wireless for all of their remote sites, it still stands that companies depend on this technology for parts of their operations. The continuously developing wireless technology in today’s IT industry keeps it relevant, with public Wi-Fi and LTE/4G among the most commonly used wireless technologies available for a variety of applications.
Benefits of Using Wireless Technology for Enterprises

WAN has used wireless technology for a long time, but in the past it served mostly as backup connections — which is how many businesses are still using it today. In the event of an outage that occurs in their normal wired WAN link, companies can use wireless 3G or 4G radio instead, helping avoid downtime.
Which Industries Use Wireless Technology the Most?

Some of the industries that rely on wireless technology for WAN connections include banking, insurance, and manufacturing. According to the same EMA study, banking and insurance enterprises use 3G and satellite connections more than others. A 3G connection would make sense in these environments because of the low cost for connecting many single-transaction devices at one time, such as ATMs.

At the same time, manufacturers experiencing dramatic growth may need to connect with an increasing number of remote sites in a timely fashion, and 4G/LTE connections offer an effective temporary connection until they can install wired WAN connections.
Increased Security with Wireless

Wireless technology isn’t only crucial for temporary connectivity. EMA also found that many companies turn to wireless for improved security, better performance, and expanded bandwidth. Only 18% of businesses used it simply because of a lack of a wired connection.

LTE/4G also allows for better security, with top-level encryption over multiple layers of security, making it an ideal form of wireless to install around the world.

EMA predicts that wireless technology will only continue to grow in popularity, and businesses will be able to see the benefits when turning to this technology to support a WAN connection.

Are Wi-Fi Speeds at Their Peak?

shutterstock_328634297Since its inception, Wi-Fi has become an integral part of daily life. If people experience issues when trying to establish a connection, many immediately place the blame on Wi-Fi — but the fact is that this technology is quickly becoming more capable than older connection methods.

While many may be impressed by the speed of today’s Wi-Fi, it is still called into question whether Wi-Fi speeds are truly reaching their full potential. There are several factors that affect Wi-Fi speeds.
Failure to Reach Theoretical ThroughputSince the introduction of Wi-Fi to the public along with the IEEE’s 802.11 standards, maximum data rates for this service have surpassed traditional home internet connections. According to Akamai’s State of the Internet report, in 2016 the average connection has reached 15.3mbps — which is still nowhere near the theoretical max.

This isn’t a new realization, however. Hardware almost never approaches theoretical maximum throughput because of several factors, including interference, multiple clients, and many other factors that affect the data transfer rate. Speed is also largely different in Wi-Fi connections compared to traditional wired connections.

Unlike wired connections, wireless connection speeds don’t just involve the rate of data transfer between handsets and access points. In addition to this rate, Wi-Fi speeds account for availability and duty cycles. Higher data rates result in frequencies that aren’t as heavily used while allowing more devices to connect. On the other hand, faster rates also compound the problem of density.
Solving the Problem of DensityAccording to York College IT director Joel Coehoorn, there are three main issues that render those theoretical maximums unachievable:

  • Maximum speeds pertain to products with unrealistic configurations that no user would actually set.
  • Many people don’t understand that access points must be able to support users operating at the lowest data rate on the network.
  • The more people using the connection, the more that bandwidth has to divide among them, lowering each individual’s speed with every added user.

These limitations make it difficult for wireless connections to meet the maximums, even if the technology is significantly better than other, older types of connections.
Technology Continues to EvolveWireless internet connectivity has made plenty of progress over the years, despite a few setbacks. Clients might see higher theoretical maximums (such as with Wave 2 standards that can achieve a throughput of up to 3.47Gbps), but this only means that the connection on the user end will be faster than what it used to be.

The Best Ways to Keep Track of Broadband Usage

shutterstock_328634297Regardless of whether or not a broadband user has to worry about a data cap, bandwidth management is crucial for smooth operations. Broadband clients should make sure that they don’t run into problems by overusing bandwidth, which is often caused when too many devices run on a single network at a time.

If all devices on a network run simultaneously, some of the problems users might experience include poor-quality Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls and laggy video streaming, among other network issues. These problems are potentially exacerbated if businesses go over their data cap, resulting in more expenses and throttling of a connection.

Here are some of the ways that broadband clients can make sure they stay within their allotted bandwidth and get the most from their ISP’s services.

Check the Broadband Internet Connection Speed

The speed of an Internet connection has the biggest effect on streaming, particularly through services such as Amazon Video, Spotify, and Netflix. One way to make sure the speed is what it should be is to use a third-party website such as Speedtest.net, which can accurately measure Internet connection speeds. The best way to get an accurate reading is to use a device connected through cable modems or DSL instead of the router, leaving all other devices disconnected.

One thing to keep in mind is that speeds can change depending on the time of day. It’s also a good idea to test different devices on a connection to determine any variations on devices that might be experiencing performance issues.

Determine How Much Bandwidth Is Needed

The bandwidth an ISP provides in a plan is distributed among all devices used on a single network. This isn’t always easy to monitor because of the various demands of each device, some of which are more vulnerable to lag than others, including media streaming devices and VoIP phones.

The approximate ideal speed for general usage devices is 2.0Mbps, while video streaming and VoIP devices will benefit more from speeds of 5.0Mbps or higher. Depending on the number and types of devices used, clients should calculate the appropriate required bandwidth needed to run all of their devices with equal efficiency.

Monitor Usage to Find Any Bandwidth Issues

Broadband clients that experience any broadband performance issues or have reached a data cap can track all devices to determine which ones are using up the most bandwidth. There are many programs to help monitor bandwidth that are free to use on nearly any device connected to the Internet.

Distribute Bandwidth via the Router’s QoS

If a broadband client has a router with a quality of service (QoS) feature, it may be disabled without anyone realizing it. QoS is an effective way for routers to distribute bandwidth among all of the devices on a network to help make sure each performs well without using too much bandwidth. Clients can log in to their routers and determine if QoS features are enabled, and tweak their settings for maximum efficiency.

Increase Speeds Through Individual Devices

Another way to increase speeds and get the most out of available bandwidth is to connect devices to routers using an ethernet cable when possible. The reason for this is that if a device is connected to the router, it can help more evenly distribute bandwidth to other devices, requiring less time.

By taking these steps, broadband clients can get what they’re paying for with minimal frustration due to lag and other performance issues.

Why Ethernet Is the Best Choice for Business

For businesses that are considering a network upgrade, the implementation of a new network, or the addition of brand new functionality to an existing system, Ethernet is becoming the de facto standard. Ethernet comes in three main varieties: Standard, Fast, and Gigabit. Standard will provide up to 10 megabits per second (Mbps), Fast runs at up to 100 Mbps, and Gigabit can push up to 1,000 Mbps. With software tweaks and hardware settings, it is possible to provide almost any speed between 10 and 1000 Mbps.

There are numerous advantages to utilizing Ethernet for a corporate network, including ease of implementation, scalability, and flexibility. It also allows for the implementation of a host of useful features like virtual private networks (VPNs), Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), both audio and video teleconferencing, and shared whiteboards.

Easy to Implement

The corporate network is the foundation on which all other services are built, and Ethernet provides the strongest foundation for the greatest variety of services. An Ethernet local area network (LAN) connects seamlessly to the wide area network (WAN), making it much easier for IT to extend functionality to the local level.

Scalable

In addition to the enormous bandwidth range it makes available, Ethernet allows for easy incremental bandwidth scaling. A company isn’t limited to the 10, 100, and 1,000 Mbps solutions mentioned above. Increases or decreases in bandwidth are possible in increments of 100 Mbps or even 10 Mbps.

Bandwidth Independent

Ethernet is bandwidth independent. Increasing or decreasing the size of the data pipe doesn’t generally affect the hardware used at all; the same wires and switches can be used for almost any speed of network.

Ethernet is, justifiably, the standard for business networks. Its ubiquity is the direct result of its ease of implementation, scalability, and flexibility, in addition to the laundry list of valuable functionality it enables. That’s not to say, however, that all implementations are the same. Different business situations require different combinations of hardware, software, and bandwidth, and determining what combination of those elements is right for a particular business can be challenging.

For more specific information on the options that are best for your business,contact us today.

How to Solve Some Common Problems with VoIP

In the past, the ability of a small to medium sized business (SMB) to expand into international markets was impeded by the exorbitant costs of international telephony. But with the roll out of general purpose data networks and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony, a significant barrier to entry was removed from the international marketplace. VoIP telephony is the process of routing calls over the Internet instead of traditional phone lines. Its advantages are so compelling that even larger businesses that can afford to use traditional tech for international calls are switching to VoIP systems.

Indispensable though it may be, it’s important to realize that VoIP isn’t a perfect technology. There are some common issues that can interfere with a business’s ability to communicate. Here are three of the more frequent issues that can occur, and some simple ways to deal with them.

Unable to Connect

The ability to connect depends on the reliability of the VoIP service provider. Many of the better providers offer a 99.99% uptime guarantee, which is made possible by building in redundancy in call routing and robust failover provisioning.

For businesses already experiencing call connection issues, contacting the service provider immediately may resolve the issues. If problems persist, it may be necessary to switch providers.

For companies still looking for a service provider, it is important to ask about service level agreements and to investigate what sorts of backup provisioning are in place.

Poor Call Quality

Sometimes calls connect without any issues but with sub-standard audio quality. Even in cases where communication is still possible, low call quality can negatively affect a company’s image with clients and customers.

In most cases of consistently low call quality, the cause is insufficient bandwidth. Each concurrent call generally needs around 100kbps of bandwidth. That doesn’t sound like much, but can quickly add up as business expands. Thanks to the wealth of options available today, provisioning enough bandwidth and adding more as necessary is a relatively straightforward process.

Dropped Calls

VoIP can suffer from dropped calls more frequently than the older public switched telephone network (PTSN), but it is usually a simple fix.

Dropped calls are typically caused by excessive packet loss, and packet loss is usually caused by an overloaded network. Adding more bandwidth can often resolve these issues. Before paying more for additional bandwidth, though, it may be worth looking at the network’s quality of service (QoS) settings. QoS settings tell the network what types of data and which packets have priority. By simply setting VoIP data as a high-priority data stream, dropped call issues can often be resolved without paying an additional cent.

VoIP has made progress toward leveling the international playing field for SMBs. It is by no means perfect, but a bit of planning and preparation can help ensure that this tremendously useful technology lives up to its full potential.

SIP Trunking Is an Asset with the Right Provider

SIP TrunkingSession Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking replaces ordinary phone lines by using Voice over IP (VoIP) to connect to the Internet, allowing phone systems to run on Internet connections to increase efficiency and reduce costs. SIP trunking can support several signals at a time and allow for multiple simultaneous users. This service can greatly benefit enterprises if implemented properly.

Why SIP Trunking Is Helpful

SIP trunking can be used as a single solution for multiple tasks, including:

  • making local, regional, or international inbound and outbound calls;
  • providing sufficient bandwidth for emergency calls and overall Internet connections; and
  • supporting texting and email services.

The key to successful implementation of SIP trunking is the quality of the service provider. Bad providers can cause businesses to spend more for lower quality services. There are several specific issues to be aware of when choosing a provider.

Prioritization of Data and Voice Traffic

In order for SIP trunking to work effectively, each aspect needs to be organized according to a business’s priorities. For instance, if a company relies on SIP trunking for calls, then voice traffic should be the main priority instead of data. Inadequate prioritization may cause some inconveniences.

If a business has extremely limited bandwidth, voice traffic should be the main purpose for SIP. However, if there is plenty of bandwidth available, data should take top priority. Typically, both voice traffic and data are used equally when there is enough bandwidth to accommodate both.

Backup Plans

Companies may be able to rely on SIP trunking for business communications most of the time, but there’s always the potential for service interruption. If businesses want to avoid disrupted communications and subsequent downtime, multiple backup plans should be implemented. Backup plans usually involve Internet backup, second-line sources for certain types of equipment, and backup trunking providers. Solid backup plans are crucial to maintain business continuity in the event of a disaster.

Plans for Call Admission Controls

When conducting normal business communications, companies need to ensure that they still have enough bandwidth to make emergency calls when needed. This is where call admission control comes in, which is responsible for calculating how many calls a business can make while allowing for emergency calls. It requires the knowledge and experience that only a SIP trunking provider can offer. A good provider allows for enough bandwidth in the event of emergency calls.

Choosing the right provider can help companies avoid potential issues and enjoy all of the benefits that SIP trunking is intended to provide.

How to Improve Cloud Network Performance

shutterstock_234708769Many companies tend to focus too exclusively on constructing their cloud platform, to the point where other crucial aspects of IT go overlooked. One of these important elements includes network management, making sure that performance is optimal.

Maintaining the Network

When companies are too concerned about cloud services, they might lose control over the network, resulting in poorer performance. With cloud technology, the network relies on smooth operation to handle the increased traffic that employees access over the cloud. Essentially, the network and the cloud merge together.

In order to prevent network crashes or generally poor performance, companies’ IT departments need to take steps to improve the network’s efficiency and work within budget constraints. Smaller businesses that are continually expanding will particularly want to avoid going over budget, as they will often require additional physical office space and network capacity to handle the addition of new employees. Even larger businesses will still search for ways to avoid spending more than they need to on their network, but optimizing network performance is required for cloud services to run smoothly.

There are several ways keep your network performing the way it should.

Managing Traffic with WAN

WAN optimization involves several aspects that companies should pay attention to in order to make WAN more efficient and more capable of handling heavy traffic. Some of the processes that WAN optimization involves include:

  • De-duplication, a process that helps remove backup-related traffic by backing up files only once, and gradually sending pieces of those files over a period of time as opposed to all at once.
  • Compression, which reduces the sizes of files by using algorithms to remove unneeded parts of files, subsequently helping further reduce network traffic.
  • Caching, which takes unsaved images and other items that Internet browsers request, and sends them to a remote locations. A local device then caches the item, and the device can then save it locally in order to avoid taking up bandwidth space.

In order to further manage traffic using WAN, companies should perform tasks such as traffic monitoring and traffic shaping to properly control network traffic and further maximize WAN efficiency. With a well-managed WAN connection, your network should benefit from more bandwidth as well as controlled traffic.

Using Broadband Bonding to Improve Efficiency

Broadband connections can provide plenty of bandwidth for larger businesses while remaining relatively inexpensive. Unfortunately, broadband connections aren’t often that reliable or expansive, rendering them somewhat ineffective in networks. As a result, they aren’t typically very scalable and are prone to faults. This is a problem that companies can avoid by taking advantage of broadband bonding, which entails combining several different connections into a unified one. Broadband bonding will help ensure that each of your connections works as a single cohesive network.

Companies need to consider that as the cloud becomes increasingly popular and more advanced, both the network and the cloud are gradually combining together. As businesses come to rely even more on quality network connectivity, they will want to find ways to handle traffic and keep the network efficient at all times. Once companies have solid control over their networks, they will be able to use the cloud without running into issues that are likely to become a thing of the past.

SMBs Benefit from Lightning-Fast Fiber-Optic Internet

Fiber opticsFor years, many big businesses have benefited from having the fastest Internet service at their disposal. Today, given the availability and spread of fiber-optic service, now even SMBs can benefit from speeds as high as 1 gigabit per second.

Most recently, some of the biggest names in the Internet service provider world have rolled out lightning-fast fiber-optic Internet service throughout several cities and regions. While this is great for ordinary consumers, it’s even better for SMBs.

Why Fiber-Optic Beats Out Cable

One of the biggest and most important advantages to fiber-optic Internet service is its speed. Whereas a typical cable Internet connection offers up to 150 Mbps for uploads and up to 20 Mbps for downloads, a fiber-optic connection offers speeds of 1 Gbps. When it comes to Internet speeds, cable Internet is a high-performance supercar; fiber-optic is a top fuel dragster.

It all comes down to one simple fact: fiber-optic connections are a big deal–much more so than a typical cable connection. It’s like pipes: today’s new fiber-optic lines are the big, brand-new pipes that let lots of liquids flow through unimpeded–as opposed to the narrow and winding pipes of yesteryear.

What It Means for Small Businesses

It’s not just movies and games that are getting bigger in size. Many of the digital items that small businesses rely on are also growing. Spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and graphics are just a few of the daily business items that involve lots of data. Simply, they need big pipes. Video-conferencing tools also require plenty of bandwidth, making fiber-optic lines necessary so that excellent video quality is maintained.

Fiber-optic connections are also becoming essential for cloud computing, which many SMBs employ. With a fast fiber-optic connection, businesses are able to access large amounts of their cloud-stored data and use a wide range of cloud apps at remarkable speeds.

In the end, the move towards fiber-optic connections means increased productivity for employees and an increased bottom line for many SMBs. More likely will adopt fiber-optic connections in the coming months, especially as cloud applications grow in popularity and daily business functions require more bandwidth.