[This is part 3 of a 10 part series titled: "So You're An IT Noob"]
You’ve got your website. You’ve equipped your staff with computers. For the sake of argument, let’s say you’ve acquired a small space to rent for the staff to meet rather than working in Joe’s home and eating all his food or driving the management crazy at Starbucks by squatting in their facility for 9 hours while consuming one cup of coffee the entire time.
Your staff will need internet access. Thankfully there are so many options now outside of dial-up (Any of you old enough to remember being so excited about dropping $200 for that 56K modem?) that you can get your team off and running pretty quickly.
So what options will work best for you?
Let’s look at some of them:
It stands for Digital Subscriber Line. Your local telephone company will be the one to handle the installation. DSL usually comes with different levels of access for speed. It used to be that a telephone line was required in order to have it installed. Since you’re in your own facility, it might be a good idea to have a separate phone line, but in many areas now, you can get what is known as “naked” DSL which allows the access to be installed without the necessity of a telephone line, but it’s not very common.
Advantages: Inexpensive, fast, easy to get installed.
Disadvantages: Need to have a phone line installed in most cases, slow upload speeds
Your local cable company will do these installs for you. Like with DSL, cable companies are not thrilled about installing internet access only. However, most don’t require you have a television package and most cable companies have business plans. You can also opt to purchase your own cable modem as it may save you money over time.
Advantages: Inexpensive, fast, easy to get installed
Disadvantages: You’re ‘sharing’ bandwidth with the people around you. I see a drop in speed at my house every day between 3:00pm and 6:00pm. Why? Because that is when kids get home from school and jump on their computers and gaming consoles. One of the biggest gripes I have seen about cable companies is the lack of quality customer service.
This is still a relatively new access option that is rolling out. Verizon service is called FIOS and AT&T has their U-Verse service. Rather than being run over existing phone or cable lines, this utilizes fiber-optic cable.
Advantages: Blazing fast speeds. Verizon FIOS has a plan where you can get 150mbps down.
Disadvantages: Pricier than cable and DSL. Still not available in all areas. At the mercy of who your local telephone company is. If you have AT&T, you cannot get FIOS which offers faster speeds than U-Verse.
T1 (or DS1) lines are usually reserved for businesses that need a broadband connection that is theirs to use exclusively. You can get more details here as to the inner workings. Speeds are 1.5mbps per circuit. While it doesn’t sound as fast as cable or DSL, the difference is, the connection is all yours and you have the same speeds both up and down. In addition, it can work for organizations with a lot of people because it can also be used for voice connections. Rather than having to pay for invididual phone lines, the T1 can be looped from the local telephone company. Additional circuits can be installed to bump speeds if necessary (3mbps, 4.5mbps, etc).
Advantages: Dedicated connection, ability to grow with the organization, and can bundle telephony services with it. Less chance of outages as well.
Disadvantages: Expensive both in starting up and in monthly fees.
There are other options as well such as ethernet over copper, T3 connections and more, but those are built for larger organizations and are more expensive than the T1 option.
But wait! Somebody may ask, “We don’t have any facilities at all. We meet at a place that doesn’t have available wi-fi. What about us?”
That’s where mobile broadband comes into play. There are several ways this can be done:
- Use your existing smartphone to get hot spot access. With 3G and 4G becoming more prevalent, people are turning to their phones as means of getting online. iPhones and Android devices can used at mobile “hotspots” utilizing the built in feature of the phone itself to provide wifi access for your computer. Prices and conditions vary, so you’ll have to check with your provider to see exactly how it works.
- Most companies now have USB wi-fi devices that provide hi speed connections. These devices run in the neighborhood of $50 a month, but you usually have to agree to use that thing for two years just as you would a phone.
Advantages: Connect virtual anywhere. Want to meet at the park? No problem.
Disadvantages: These devices are at the mercy of your location. Low signal = slower speeds.
Next up: Getting your computers networked.