As far as internet connections go, bigger is better, right?
October 16, 2013 8:07 AM   Subscribe

I am looking at changing our company's asymmetrical Internet connection (Uverse) to a dedicated fiber 20x20 connection. Will this be enough? more details inside

I manage our company's network, which consists of 5 buildings connected by single-mode fiber with at most, 150 people "on" the Internet at any one time - certainly never more than this and most likely closer to 50 -100 at at any given time. Also, on our connection is an email server for about 300 accounts. As an average in the daytime, probably 150-200 connections at a time (mostly IMAP or Airsync). 1/2 of those will be local connections, not coming across the Internet.

Our Uverse connection is a 24/3 "Turbo". We typically get 14-18 down and 2-2.5 up. I've never seen it faster than 18 down or 2.5 up.

(Previously we had a dedicated T-1 which was rock solid but outgrew that as the number of people on our network grew.)

I've been solicited by a reseller through ACC for a 10x10 or 20x20 dedicated connection from AT&T now which is roughly 4-6 times the cost of what we pay now.

My question is, knowing that it is a symmetrical, dedicated connection - will our users notice the difference? I would think email users on the outside would notice a big difference, but inside users not so much?

I know about tools like iperf but not sure how to use them in the context of a question like this.
posted by dukes909 to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
What are your typical data uses? Email is easy, unless you deal with a lot of attachments. Even then, most email clients will hide the process of sending an email, so unless the upload takes more than a few minutes, the users won't notice a bit of delay for sending an email with a large attachment. Does your company deal with uploading data to other sites or systems? Or is it more of data retrieval/browsing?
posted by filthy light thief at 8:17 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Typically you want symmetrical data if you're doing CAD file uploads or heavy file transfer. Otherwise, you normally don't really need it.

Are you experiencing issues with your current connnection? Have you explored Metro-Ethernet with your local AT&T rep? That might be a place to start.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, especially if it's 4 to 6 times more expensive than what you have now.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:31 AM on October 16, 2013

Response by poster: Typical use in house is data retrieval/browsing.

We do CAD file uploads but not on a routine basis. I don't think this is an issue really.

The most common complaints I receive is that Skype falls apart during conference-call meetings or video (training, legitimate ones usually) watching is slow.
posted by dukes909 at 8:41 AM on October 16, 2013

I could be wrong, but neither issue you identified would benefit from increased upspeeds. With that, I imagine you can get a cheaper deal elsewhere for increased downspeeds, with a minimally improved upspeed. If possible, see if you could try a service for a month (or at least a week) before signing a year+ long contract. That way, folks could use the service as they normally would and see if it's an improvement. As you identified with your current service provider, the marketed speeds are not matched by actual data transfer speeds.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:52 AM on October 16, 2013

Typically to do traditional video conferencing, you'd use compressed and bonded channels for 356kb, and it was a-aight. You'd get some tiling, but it was what was used in business. It wasn't scalable, so for each person viewing you'd need 356kb.

Are you uploading streamed video through a service provider for training, or are you hosting it in-house? As for Skype, it might be a bandwidth problem.

Call U-Verse and see if you can goose up your upload speeds. That might help.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:34 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

The only potential issue here is your upload speed. For normal web browsing, you're not generally going to have an issue with these speeds.

Having 100 external IMAP connections is definitely an issue. How often do these connections sync? Do you set the sync time? If they're syncing constantly, that can definitely eat up all your bandwidth.

Are those 100 external users also connecting to other internal resources (VPN, HTTP, FTP, file shares, Intranet, etc.)?

If you're not segmenting (or QOSing or whatever) your Skype bandwidth, you should be. Here's a table on how much bandwidth it needs. That will protect your Skype video conferences from degradation.

You can run into upload bandwidth issues in any of the following instances:
* You have multiple external people connected via VPN (or to any internal resources) at the same time.
* You're using your Internet connection to link sites.
* You have a lot of external e-mail users (internal employees outside the office) connected at the same time, which you do.
* You're running servers on your external connection.
* You're connecting to an HD Skype stream or multiple different, simultaneous Skype video conferences.
* You're regularly transferring files via FTP, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.

The first step here is really to identify how much upload bandwidth you're using over time, and what that traffic is. This doesn't have to be extraordinarily sophisticated. Just a measurement of traffic on a typical weekday, preferably (but not necessarily) broken down by protocol. Your external router may produce some of this information. Sometimes your Internet provider can measure this for you. Call and ask.

If you're not familiar, it might be best to contact a local IT consulting firm. They should be able to do this for you in a half day or so. That's a small price to pay when you're thinking about quadrupling your Internet bandwidth.

My guess is that your 100 external mail users are using a lot of the bandwidth to connect to the mail server.

Do the measurements first, but consider that it may actually be less costly to go to an external webmail solution for your users than to pay for a faster Internet connection.
posted by cnc at 10:02 AM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @cnc: No, the external users do not access anything else like via VPN etc.

I do not set the IMAP sync time - I'm not even aware that it can be changed?

We run an ASA 5510 - can I collect the relevant stats on it without taxing it terribly?
posted by dukes909 at 11:02 AM on October 16, 2013

The biggest benefit to a dedicated service is QoS and VLAN tagging on your WAN link, nice if you are growing out multiple offices on a private MPLS cloud and want local internet gateways off the same ethernet handoff.

In your case I don't think you need it.

You might want to look at using QoS on your LAN first and seeing if that helps with the Skype conference calls. You might be starving out your switching uplinks on your LAN.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:33 PM on October 16, 2013

@dukes909 - Sorry, I'm not a Cisco guy, so I can't answer the question about the device.

Your IMAP settings are determined by features your server supports and settings on your clients. However, don't get too far into the weeds on that. Again, I'd look at what was filling the pipe and go from there.

IT consulting shops will come in, talk to you and give you a quote on work for free.
posted by cnc at 1:03 PM on October 23, 2013

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