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Getting Internet Access

Getting Internet Access
Technology with Integrity

By Tim Torian, Torian Group, Inc.

 

Internet access is an essential part of doing business these days. It is difficult to operate without email and access to the web. I often get questions about how to get access to the internet from businesses that are starting up or just recognizing that they can’t do business without it. 

There are several steps to establishing an internet presence. This can be a little confusing if you are new to the internet.  First, you need to have a way to communicate from your computer to the rest of the world – to “get on” the internet. Second, you can purchase services on the internet, which include access to an email server so you can send and receive email, and web hosting – a place to put the computer files that make up your web site so others can see it.  In addition, you can purchase a domain name. A domain name gives you a unique identity on the internet, making it easier for other interested people to find your web site and email address. 

If you live within range of the phone company central office, you can get DSL internet service. This service uses an existing phone line, and sends a high frequency signal over the line which is used to transmit data.  You are provided with a DSL modem, which connects to the phone line on one side, and your computer on the other side, via an Ethernet cable. If you purchase the service from SBC, (or Verizon in Exeter) you will need to have a phone line with local service provided by them. If you have phone service which is using SBC lines but is being resold by another vendor (Such as AT&T ) you will not be able to order DSL service from SBC on that line. The phone line must be with the company providing the DSL service.  The DSL signal gets weaker the further down the wire it travels. This puts a limit on the length of the wire used to get the signal from the central phone office to you. It can travel about a mile. The speed of your internet connection drops as the line gets longer. The main office in Visalia is near Court street on Acequia. SBC has been installing DSL “repeaters” in various locations around town as well, allowing access to more areas.  To order DSL service from SBC, call 1-877-722-3755, or go to http://www02.sbc.com/DSL and enter your phone number. Various companies sell DSL service. They do this by putting their own equipment in to phone company office, and using the existing phone lines. This works similar to alternative local and long distance phone companies. They offer packaged services, or better service, or better pricing. To find out more about companies in this area, go to http://www.thedslpros.com/links.htm. Arrival is a strong competitor in our area. (www.arrival.com)  It generally takes two weeks or more to get service set up, so plan ahead.  Check back on your order, as they often get delayed or confused.

DSL service types include ADSL and SDSL, each offered at various speeds. ADSL stands for Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line, SDSL is Synchronous. With Asynchronous, the speed you can retrieve data from the internet is higher than the speed that you can send. This is done to match typical use for web browsing, where you request a web page (small amount of information sent), and get back the data to display the page on your computer (large amount of data received). SDSL is the same speed in both directions, and uses a slightly different technology which can reach a greater distance. SDSL is typically aimed at businesses which have their own servers.

The other choice you make when ordering service is the type of IP address you will have. The IP address is the unique number that is assigned to each device on the internet to allow them to connect. It is similar to a phone number – there is only one for each place you can call/connect to. Dynamic IP addressing gives you a temporary address for the duration of your connection. This works well if you only need to connect out to the internet, and don’t have a need for others to connect to your computer from the internet. The alternative, usually more expensive, is to purchase service with one or more static IP addresses, which are permanently (while you pay your bill) assigned to your connection. Changing a static IP address can disrupt your business, so be sure your internet provider will assure you that it will not change, and check to be sure that they are financially stable. Having your ISP go out of business can be a nightmare.

Pricing on DSL service starts at $19.95. Typical cost for a business connection with one to six static IP addresses is about $70 / Month.

For more information on dsl:
http://www.vicomsoft.com/knowledge/reference/xdsl1.html

http://www.everythingdsl.com/

Comcast offers Cable internet access in the Visalia area. Cable internet is provided over the same coaxial cable used for cable TV, by adding the internet signal over the same wire.

They have 2 products aimed at businesses: Both offer a single dynamic IP address. The lower speed (512k Up / 5MB down) is about $95/Month, and  “Enhanced” is 768K up  / 6MB down.  The speeds are “up to” the rated speed, not a guaranteed minimum. Cable technology shares the bandwidth with everyone on the same cable segment, and can be significantly slower during certain parts of the day. Because you are on the same network with everyone on your cable segment, is is especially important to have a firewall in place. We have had some clients who call up and get cable service with no problem, and others who are told it is not available in their area. For more information go to http://work.comcast.net/smallbusiness.asp  or call 800-316-1619.

If you are not in range of either DSL or Cable, your next best option is Wireless internet service. There are 3 main providers in our area: west coast wireless (now clear sky communications), wirelesstcp, and Olson computer services.  Wireless service involves putting an antenna on your building pointing to a wireless access point (another antenna) owned by the wireless service provider. Availability depends on having a line of sight placement for the antenna, that is within range. The signal can travel several miles.  Wireless connections are subject to variations in speed depending on the weather, and the number of other people on the same wireless access point.  Cost for wireless service is typically about $100 / Month, and goes up for higher speeds. Wireless also supports dynamic or Static IP addresses.

For more information on local wireless services:
www.westcoastwireless.com

www.wirelesstcp.net

www.oacys.com
 

If you cannot get any of these, you can get an ISDN or T1 line put in to your business. These options are relatively expensive, and require special care when ordering, as there are many options available.  These are physical phone lines run from the Phone company to your business, with “digital” services over the line. They require a ISDN or Frame Relay router at your end, which then provides an Ethernet connection to your computer or network.  These are more often used to connect one business to another branch, but can be set up strictly for internet access.

The last resort, for those that are out of range of other services is satellite service. The home version of this service uses a satellite signal to send and receive the internet data.  Satellite connections do not work for interactive internet connections such as gaming or remote office (VPN) connections. The signal goes to a satellite in outer space, and then back to earth, which takes a long time in internet speeds – up to 1/10 of a second. This delay causes havoc with internet services which rely on a lot of interactive data going back and forth. DirectWay is the most popular service. It can be combined with a DirecTV install. For more information go to www.direcway.com. Starband is an add on to Dish Network installs. www.starband.com   For more details on the limitations of Satellite connections: http://www.skycasters.com/SkySecure-whitepaper.html

And, there is always dial up. This is too slow to be of practical use for most businesses, but may be all you have to work with. If you use it primarily for browsing, you can make it appear to work faster with “acceleration” software, which tries to predict what data you will need and download it in advance when possible. Remember that when you are on the internet on a modem, you are subject to all the same security risks that broadband users have – be sure you have some kind of personal firewall in place.


Tim Torian has taught computer networking at the College of Sequoias and Cal Poly Extension. He has a BS in Computer Science, and has been consulting on computer networks for the past 18 Years. His industry certifications include: Cisco CCNA and CCNI, Microsoft MCSE, and Novell CNE.  He is president of Torian Group, Inc. which provides a full range of Technology Consulting services to local business, including computer services, networking, and custom software development. They can be reached at (559) 733-1940 or on the web at http://www.toriangroup.com

     
 

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