As Google Fiber continues with its construction of a fiber network and expands its business internet service to additional cities across the country, businesses of all sizes are preparing to reap the benefits of superfast internet speeds and expanded capacity. Normally, these superfast speeds will approach 1000mb/s. Traditional bandwidth providers are responding to Google Fiber with speed expansion and lower prices of their own. Competition in this area is benefitting businesses and they need to be ready to take advantage of it.
Gigabit internet capacity will allow businesses to do business differently, especially those who have been stuck with lower speed internet service due to availability or affordability. Obviously, sipVine and other Hosted VoIP providers would suggest that it is a great time to join the movement to VoIP services. But, there are many other applications that can come into play for organizations, such as cloud storage and backups, cloud applications, and other remote hosting opportunities. Many such applications will save businesses money, remove disaster risk, and open the door for outsourcing of other activities.
First, we need to clear up some misconceptions associated with moving to gigabit internet speeds. Many businesses are of the belief that moving to internet speeds close to a gigabit/second will make their internet utilization operate at lightning speed. Unless the internal network infrastructure is addressed, this is simply not the case. Moreover, even with infrastructure upgrades, downloading files and streams will only move as fast as the responding web server will allow. A better way of looking at your superfast internet connection would be that it allows your organization to have more capacity to access applications, download information, and perform other internet activities across all workstations at the same time without concerns over saturating the internet circuit and creating slowdowns.
Thus, there are several areas of consideration for network infrastructure improvements to prepare your organization to take advantage of superfast internet speeds.
- Router Upgrades - most routers deployed by small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) simply do not have the horsepower to handle gigabit throughput. Even with the internet upgrade, your router will throttle back the throughput to its capabilities. For example, most firewalls over two years old will only allow you to access 1/10th of your gigabit internet connection.
- Network Switches - typical network switches deployed by SMBs have 100mb/s ports. This essentially means that each individual connecting locally to the network will be limited to the 100mb/s speeds over the local area network and out over the internet. Again, even with this limitation, every user can be accessing or utilizing the internet at high speeds simultaneously. If you would like to remove this internal restriction, upgrading your network switch to one with gigabit ports would do the trick.
- VoIP Phone Ports - for businesses who have already moved to a VoIP phone service and share an Ethernet connection for their phone and computer will potentially need to upgrade their VoIP Phone. Most VoIP phones with dual Ethernet ports have a 100mb/s port for a pass through to their computer. This will place the same limitation as a 100mb/s switch, even if your router and network switch have been upgraded to gigabit speeds. Most VoIP phone manufacturers have models with gigabit ports and your Hosted VoIP provider can work with you to upgrade your phones to those models. Consideration can be made to which employees would actually require such throughput to limit your re-investment. If you haven't gone with a Hosted VoIP provider yet, make sure you receive proposals with gigabit VoIP phone options.
- Computers - the last point of throughput restriction is in your computer. Like the phones and network switches, computers have Ethernet ports that will need to be evaluated for their capacity. Newer computers should have an Ethernet port that is capable of gigabit speeds. If your computer is old enough to where it has a 100mb/s Ethernet card, you could go through the steps of replacing the card and drivers. However, it will likely also have a slower processer and hard drive, so it may be a prudent time to replace the computer so you can fully take advantage of the speeds of your upgraded network.
Realizing that many SMBs do not have on site IT resources to help prepare your organization for this conversion, it will be advisable to work with consultants who can effectively guide you through this infrastructure upgrade. In the cities where Google Fiber is present, there are IT and VoIP providers, such as sipVine, who have been certified as Google Fiber Tech Partners. These companies can assist you in this decision making, and many have applications as well that will allow you to fully take advantage of your superfast internet speeds!
About the author: Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments.