Boost your bandwidth and keep the customer satisfied

The snappiest e-business site is no good unless it has the network bandwidth to deliver it to customers

The snappiest e-business site is no good unless it has the network bandwidth to deliver it to customers

The wants and needs of human beings always expand to fit available means. When the Government built more lanes on the M25, people simply drove more cars to fill them.

Network bandwidth has the same problem. Bandwidth is the "size" of the connection that you use to push data from one point to another, and is generally measured in megabits per second (Mbps). It is a vital part of any electronic commerce solution, because customersaccessingyour e-business site will be looking for a fast, responsive service. You can only provide this if you can push enough data down the line to many customers at once.

There are three elements of bandwidth to consider. The first is the bandwidth between your Internet service provider (ISP) and the Internet exchange, (in England, this is the London INternet eXchange, or LINX). Go with a larger ISP that has a direct connection, rather than a small player that rents bandwidth from another ISP.

The second and third elements of bandwidth are closely related. They concern the bandwidth between your e-business server and the ISP itself, along with the bandwidth between your e-business server and any legacy line-of-business applications it has to hook into.

Established enterprises will have existing back-end IT systems handling elements such as order processing and stock control, and the e-business infrastructure will be an add-on to that. Bandwidth will be needed to send data between these two components. E-business start-ups, by contrast will have the opportunity to integrate back-end applications with e-business systems running on the same machine.

Connecting your e-business server to an ISP is very easy if you co-locate your e-business server at its site. If you do this, you will be likely to use the same types of bandwidth connection that you use to connect multiple servers together, or to hook your servers to your storage infrastructure. If you want to host your e-business server farm at your own location for ease of management and updates, things get a little more complicated. The long external connection turns it from a local area network (Lan) into a wide area network (Wan), and the bandwidth for Wans is traditionally lower.

Traditional options for your Wan include ISDN and Frame Relay. ATM has appeared as a very high-speed service in the past four years and now newer technologies are emerging in the form of DSL and cable modems.

The problem with most early forms of DSL is that they are based on the ADSL standard, and therefore geared primarily towards consumers. Although ADSL allows a lot of data to be received by an ADSL user, (generally around 2Mbps), it doesn't allow very much data to be sent.

As an e-business provider, you need to send out much more data than you receive, making current forms of DSL unsuitable as the means of communication between an e-business site and its ISP.

The important thing when considering bandwidth is to make sure that it is expandable. It is unlikely that you'll need a huge ATM connection between your site and your ISP, unless you intend to be the next Amazon straight away. Nevertheless, a link with room for growth - and ideally the ability to aggregate more than one link together in the future - should stop your customers from feeling the squeeze.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is the capacity of the connection by which data travels from one point to another. It is generally measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Different networking technologies offer different bandwidths. Your choice will depend on the location of your e-business server and internet service provider, budget and the size of bandwidth you need.

Wide Area Network technologies

When your e-business server is located separately from your ISP

ATM up to 155Mbps
ISDN 128 Kbps using two channels
Frame relay 2Mbps
ADSL Theoretically, up to 6Mbps of data can be sent down the downlink and 640Kbit/sec on the uplink (in practice, this is restricted to roughly 2Mbps)

Local Area Network Technologies

When your e-business server is co-located with your ISP

Ethernet 10, 100 or 1,000 Mbps
Fibrechannel Roughly 1,000Mbps, scalable to 4,000Mbps
ATM 155Mbps

Tips and Tricks

  • Buy bandwidth that will let you grow

  • Locate your e-business server with your ISP

  • Make your bandwidth resilient, so that if one link fails the other still works

  • Use an ISP with a direct link to the Internet backbone

    Terms

    ADSL: asymmetric digital subscriber line

    ATM: asynchronous transfer mode

    DSL: digital subscriber line

    ISDN: integrated services digital network

This was last published in April 2000

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