When the power went out in our office building, the Fluid team was still able to keep on helping customers. Here’s how the cloud saved the day.
So what is it and why is it important? It is extremely important because it dictates how your service is delivered. By now, you probably have heard someone say you can get “x meg down” and “y meg up” with your service.
When the speed of download is different than the speed of upload, the service is asynchronous, or different between download and upload. In asynchronous service the download speeds are higher than the upload speeds because a majority of Internet users spend more time downloading. But that doesn’t mean it will be best for your business.
Synchronous Internet service is when the download speeds are equal to the upload speeds. So if you have “10 meg service,” you are receiving 10 meg for both upload and download.
This is important because many Internet providers will accentuate their download speeds and downplay the upload speeds when selling their service. The truth is that businesses today will need higher upload speeds when using all their cloud services. Having the same speeds up and down can make or break the usefulness of the service.
Taking one of our clients as an example, they were sold “high-speed Internet” from a cable provider, which has speeds of “75 meg”. The reality is they have 75 meg download and 5 meg upload. That is a big difference! The small 5 meg upload speed is not enough to meet their business needs.
Bandwidth or Bust!
Let’s go back in time for a moment. It’s 1993 and Sleepless in Seattle just hit the big screen. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have an ongoing email dialog on-screen with the familiar sounds of the dial-up modem connecting, static, then the mechanical voice of their computers saying, “You’ve got mail.”
It wasn’t long ago when connecting to the internet was a “process” – and it was slow. Like watching the BB coming out of a Daisy Rough Rider BB gun.
Today, of course, Internet speeds are so fast that things are almost instantaneous. Like trying to watch a bullet out of a high-powered rifle.
Almost anyone reading this will immediately understand how nice, convenient and important good internet service is. Anyone with “just one bar” knows how painful even simple tasks can be. No matter what you call it – Internet, bandwidth, connectivity, broadband, bars, or for the more techie, fiber, being lit, or synchronous – connectivity to the Internet is the drug everyone has to have.
Twenty years ago any connection to the Internet was coveted. Often used sporadically as-needed, connections to the Internet were based on copper lines and dial-up. Doing actual work on the internet was a planned event; users would adapt their processes to the capabilities of their connection quality – speed and reliability.
But Internet users today expect excellent connection quality and they scream when there is the slightest glitch. The scene has completely flipped. Now users have processes which they expect Internet speeds and quality to keep up with.
Think about that for a minute (because most of us don’t). Where once we were more than willing to adjust our work schedule and tasks around our given Internet connectivity, we now expect it to work around us.
Today we have become dependent on our internet connectivity at work, on the road, at home – everywhere, all the time. It is one of the single most important systems in any business. Yet it is amazing to me that Internet connectivity receives so little attention – until it becomes a problem. We all just expect it to work and be enough.
What’s your need for speed?
Being in the cloud business and providing IT support to small and medium businesses for over 12 years, we have seen almost everything. One constant we run into with each client, whether a start-up or a well-established business, is the ongoing need for better bandwidth.
This need for better bandwidth is becoming more and more relevant because of the major shift away from owning systems and toward using specific software solutions hosted in the cloud.
You may be asking, “We have always needed bandwidth, so what’s different today?” True, companies have always wanted good bandwidth, but today it is absolutely mission critical to have it. Better bandwidth is climbing up the priority list at a rapid pace, yet this change in priority is often something that sneaks up on companies without them even knowing it happened.
The reason for bandwidth sneaking up the priority list is the slow migration to cloud services.
Most companies moving to cloud solutions over the past 4-5 years have done so one application at a time rather than all at once.
Here is a typical example.
Company ABC has used ACT! software for years for their contact and customer relationship management, but they decide to switch to the web-based Salesforce cloud solution. Company ABC makes the change and everyone is still productive. Then a year later they decide to move their project management solution from in-house to cloud-based and a year after that, their file sharing from in-house to the cloud. Three years later the company has a majority, not minority, of their software solutions in the cloud, putting Internet connectivity square at the top of the priority list.
To complicate the matter, the corporate office is fine because it has great bandwidth, but the remote offices are screaming because they still have DSL service – which used to be enough, but is now way too slow to use their cloud-based tools.
The cat is out of the bag for Company ABC. All the new cloud-based solutions have been purchased and implemented, and there’s no turning back. They scream at every telecom provider around to get better bandwidth, only to find DSL is the only reasonable option at those locations.
If only Company ABC had known this beforehand. They would have done things differently.
Planning beforehand is the one thing you can do to ensure you always have the appropriate Internet service to meet your business needs.
When we work with our clients to move them into the cloud, the first step is always to help them confirm the bandwidth requirements for each location and assist them in wading through the dozens of options to find the right solution.
Bandwidth and Your Real Estate Decisions
We ask our clients to ideally provide us 3-5 addresses of the locations they are contemplating before they sign the new lease so we can confirm the Internet service options at each location. That’s right, Internet service is now a fundamental consideration when choosing an office location (when, of course, you have the luxury of options). If there are three locations and one has high-speed fiber and the other two have old, slow copper, what would you prefer? The high-speed fiber, of course.
When we don’t have the luxury of selecting the location, as we often don’t, we will work with all the telecom carriers to discover all the service options at each address. With this information we can often find the right solution for the job. However, as anyone who has worked with telecom providers will know, nothing is “quick and easy” when it comes to getting Internet service. Most providers will tell you service will not start until at least 45 days from the date you sign the agreement – and this can often balloon to 120 days or more. So, once again, planning is everything.
Here at Fluid, we will build those long lead times into the overall project plans with our clients so when we migrate them to the cloud there is a better chance for a seamless transition. We don’t want our clients paying for 2-3 months of a cloud service without the ability to fully use it.
How to Plan for Your Bandwidth Needs
So what’s the real takeaway from all this?
- Bandwidth is king! The bandwidth you have you will use. And you will likely use more not less. Just think about all those smartphones and tablets everyone brings into the office expecting to connect!
- Plan, plan, plan! A plan, by definition, is proactively detailing what you want to do.
- Include all of your locations in your planning. Often the home office is the loudest and thus gets all the attention, but branch and remote offices will scream the loudest if you haven’t taken care of them.
- Do your research. There are many telecom providers each with many solutions, don’t look at just one option.
- Get help. Telecom providers love to speak techie instead of English. Get your IT provider to help you do all the analysis and comparisons, and help with decision making.
- Address IT! When it comes to internet service the ONLY thing that matters is your address. Telecom companies don’t care how nice and shiny your office is.
- Negotiate. Telecom providers are all fighting for your business, never take the first price or offer.
- Read the fine print. Often Internet is sold using the “best case scenario” for speeds, and often this is not reality.
Believe it or not, my team and I have a lot more to say about this topic. For the next post, what would you like to learn more about? What questions do you have for us about Internet connectivity? Share in the comments below, or reply to us on Twitter at @fluiditservices.
Slow Internet? Let’s Walk Through It
One of the most common (and frantic!) calls we get at the Fluid IT Services Help Desk support line is when a customer’s Internet connection has slowed down.
We know how frustrating that can be, of course. Technology is light-years away from dial-up modems, now – we expect our Internet connection to be fast enough to keep up with business in this always-on market. When your Internet is slow, you simply can’t get things done. We completely understand.
But there are so many reasons why an Internet connection can slow down. And as frustrating as it is, we do have to ask you a lot of questions when you call in. These questions help us gauge the situation and make more effective recommendations to fix it.
Here are some of the typical questions we ask, and why we ask them.
When did this occur?
This gives us a timeframe to consider. Sometimes high Internet traffic volume or even a cable company’s broken line can be a culprit.
What program, if applicable, is this slowness occurring in?
If it’s only happening in one program, this helps us eliminate an overall Internet issue and narrow down on the issue with that particular program.
What internet browser are you using? Do you have any add-ons that could be slowing your performance?
Internet browser companies are often more interested in adding functionality (and keeping your attention) than improving your Internet speed. Sadly, sometimes their updates and add-ons can slow you way down.
How old is your computer?
Like a car, a computer wears out over time and your ride gets…well…bumpier.
When is the last time you restarted?
Don’t strangle us for asking this one. You would be amazed if we told you how many people call us without rebooting their computers first. When you’re in a panic trying to get a project done, sometimes simple steps like this one are easy to forget.
Is it only that website? Can you test with http://msn.com or http://microsoft.com? (These are two high-profile pages with multiple points of data.)
Again, don’t strangle us for asking this one. It’s common for sites to slow down during high-volume traffic periods – and yes, sometimes more than one site can slow down at the same time. We’ll have you check a handful just in case.
When is the last time you scanned for malicious files? Or did a full antivirus scan of your entire hard drive?
We hope this isn’t the problem, because viruses and malware can do a lot of damage. Check out our post on 5 Simple Yet Powerful Ways to Protect Your Data for more information on how to prevent these attacks.
Last time you installed Windows updates?
Windows usually prompts you when there are updates – but sometimes those prompts fail. It’s a good idea to check for updates when you are having any kind of computer issue.
How many processes/services are running at startup? How many are you currently running?
Running too many processes or services can slow your system down right off the bat.
How much hard drive space do you have left? How much RAM is in use?
Oddly enough, when your hard drive space runs low, your computer’s speed slows down. Even if you have a little bit of space left on that hard drive, clearing out some unneeded files and emptying your recycle bin can help immensely.
We hope this gives you some insight as to why we ask the questions we do when someone calls us with an issue like a slow Internet connection. We’re a small business, just like you, and we know how frustrating this problem can be. We welcome you to call us at 866-542-3077 – we would love to help you with any of your computer issues.