Cost Effective WAN Bandwidth
Unclogging Your WAN May Cost
Less Than You Think.
By: John Shepler
The WAN or Wide Area Network is likely
the bottleneck in your computer networking architecture and getting
higher utilization by the day. Seemingly, the only answer is
to spend a lot more money each month to increase capacity. But
before you just call up your vendor and tell them to double or
triple the bandwidth, let's take a look at what's going on and
if there are more reasonable ways to get the results you want.
Most enterprises are on top of their local
area networks or LANs. With 100 Mbps, 1,000 Mbps and 10 Gbps
switches in the network closets and Fast and Gigabit Ethernet
network cards built into just about every PC and peripheral,
LAN bandwidth is relatively easy to come by. No so once the network
leaves your premises. That's where you turn your traffic over
to a telecom provider for transmission within your metro area
or cross-country. That's also where the cost per Mbps of traffic
has traditionally been the highest. In most cases, the cost of
replicating your LAN bandwidth through the WAN is prohibitive.
It's also been unnecessary. Internal traffic levels have been
much higher than traffic with the outside world. But this is
Why the Increase in WAN Utilization?
WAN traffic levels are on the increase for a lot of reasons.
The most basic is an increase in business, especially online
business. As more and more customers shop via company websites
and place their orders online Internet traffic goes up. Online
B2B transactions are also on the rise. Not so long ago, most
business was conducted via telephone, FAX, and mailed documents.
The speed of commerce is now driving companies to Extranets with
their suppliers and larger customers. Smaller customers who used
to phone-in orders or call for customer service are getting more
inclined to manage their accounts online.
A trend toward data center consolidation
is exacerbating this situation. As more and more servers and
their respective services are brought in-house you need to provide
all that Internet bandwidth that was once provided by the hosting
company. Other Internet traffic is generated from branch offices
and remote workers using the company VPN while they work at home.
A survey published by Blue Coat Systems identified such factors
as daily backups between data centers, Internet traffic growing
as a percentage of corporate WAN traffic, and increasing use
of SSL as a standard protocol for secure Web transactions as
driving the need for increased WAN bandwidth.
Approaches to Increasing Available WAN
Blue Coat supplies WAN optimization appliances that increase
the efficiency of WAN bandwidth. Other companies such as Expand
Networks, Juniper Networks, Cisco Systems, and Riverbed offer
competing hardware solutions.
Another approach is to simply increase
your WAN bandwidth to accommodate the increased traffic. But
isn't that the most expensive solution? Not necessarily. While
WAN optimization hardware can improve the utilization of the
lines you have now, a competitive WAN carrier can reduce the
cost of your present bandwidth and the bandwidth that you really
need. This is possible due to a few factors you may not be aware
First of all, the cost of nearly all WAN
bandwidth from T1 dedicated Internet, point to point private
lines, ISDN PRI for PBX phone systems, and DS3 to OCx for high
capacity networking have all come down in price the last few
years. If you have been locked into a long term contract or have
been automatically renewing without running competitive price
checks, you may be paying far more than the current market price
for comparable services.
The number of competitive bandwidth vendors
has increased dramatically. A online search tool called GeoQuote introduced
within the last four years makes it easy to "play the field"
to find the best bandwidth prices available for your particular
locations. Compared to calling around or interviewing vendors
to ferret out the best deals, this approach is both fast and
New bandwidth products have also been introduced
in the last few years that may be more appropriate to your needs.
MPLS networks can be good replacements for Frame Relay networks
in connecting multiple remote sites. Carrier Ethernet solutions
offer a more technically efficient way to transfer data from
one corporate LAN to another. Internet-based secure VPN connections
may work as well as dedicated private lines but at a much lower
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