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Cable Broadband As Business Internet Backup
How low cost high bandwidth business cable broadband can be an effective T1 or DS3 backup.

By: John Shepler

Larger businesses have shunned what they consider to be “consumer” grade broadband services out of concern about availability and performance issues. While it is smart to deploy your mission critical business processes over dedicated circuits with service level agreements, you may be missing out on a very cost effective solution to backup your telecom services and improve access speed for Internet usage.

The Rise of Cable Broadband
Cable broadband has experienced a rapid deployment and continued technical development largely due to its popularity as a consumer Internet service. Other options, such as satellite, wireless, dial-up, and fiber optic are either bandwidth limited, costly to install or often unavailable. DSL is a worthy competitor, but sometimes not located nearby.

Cable Moves Past DSL
What DSL and Cable have in common is that they give you a lot of bandwidth for a small price by telecom service standards. The 75 ohm coaxial cable has far more high end capacity than the unshielded twisted pair copper telephone wires used for DSL. Both offer great deals for 10 or 20 Mbps, but Cable is pulling away with DOCSIS 3.0 modems providing 50 or 100 Mbps now and capable of even higher speeds.

Low Cost but Variable Bandwidth
Today’s reality is that you can get 100 Mbps Cable broadband for about the same money as 1.5 Mbps T1 line service or 3.0 Mbps Ethernet over Copper. If you suspect there’s a catch, you’re right. The low price of Cable services are a result of sharing the network and the bandwidth with a large number of other users, mostly consumers. That advertised 50 or 100 Mbps goes up and down all day, depending on what your fellow users on the Cable aredoing. If they are all casually browsing the Web, you likely have more speed at your disposal than you know what to do with. But when they start downloading movies and large software packages, there’s not so much excess bandwidth left to divvy up.

Compared To Dedicated BW
You don’t see these performance variations with dedicated line services. The term “dedicated” means you get exclusive use of all the bandwidth that line can carry. It’s less speed, but it doesn’t vary. When you aren’t running the line to capacity, the excess goes unused.

Service Level Agreements
The other difference between Cable broadband and Ethernet or T-Carrier services is the service level agreement, also known as an SLA. These documents spell out commitments by the service providers in regard to service availability, performance characteristics such as latency and jitter, and remedies in case something goes wrong. If the line goes down, it is rare for it not to be repaired in a matter of hours.

Best Effort Services
Cable and DSL are considered “best effort” information services, which is another way of saying there are no guarantees or even promises. Even so, these providers have gotten pretty sophisticated as network operators and make every effort to keep their systems up and running.

Why Cable Makes Good Backup
The reality is that Cable broadband services can be great in the role of broadband backup. Consider that adding a second T1 line will cost you just as much and may not provide much additional reliability. T1 lines all come in through the same wire bundle and probably go to the same telephone company central office. Yes, if one pair breaks or is cut, you have the other line. But if someone with a backhoe chops through the entire bundle, both T1 lines go out. Cable has no relationship to either telephone wiring or the telephone company offices. True, there’s the possibility that some truck could run into the one pole that carries both the telephone and cable wires and knock out both. But for most of the run, your T1 line and your cable line go their separate ways.

Variable Bandwidth, But Lots of It
The other thing to consider is that Cable’s high bandwidth may more than offset the variations you experience. You might not begetting 100 Mbps every minute, but you’ll likely not be dipping below 15 Mbps and even that’s 10x the speed of your T1 line. Users browsing the Web, sending email or download PDF files may be unaware of line variations. Data backups to hosted storage services will also benefit more from the higher average line speed than be affected by bandwidth variations, although upload speeds are significantly lower than download speeds on these asymmetrical services.

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