Watch your (broadband) back

Broadband is the coming thing - the supply of bandwidth will never be sufficient to fill the bottomless pit that is demand.

Broadband is the coming thing - the supply of bandwidth will never be sufficient to fill the bottomless pit that is demand.

But a recent survey from US market research group Cahners predicted that the pace of US broadband growth would slow by 2005. According to analyst Daryl Schoolar, "There will still be just as many households without Internet access as those using cable modems or DSL."

"But broadband will be a major step in enabling knowledge workers to work as and where they please," says Microsoft director of people, profit & loyalty Stephen Harvey.

"In some ways this will fuel the mobility of workers. They will start to choose who they work for, as physical location will become less of an issue," he said.

But how should you prepare for it? There are so many options and it is rather like selecting a new car or stereo - you know that however much time you spend researching and whatever you buy, someone is bound to bring out a better model the week after you buy.

Basically, there are two broadband systems. The first is ISDN, which BT has spent the past decade throwing money at, and is still selling.

Then there is ADSL and all the other SDL's. "ADSL", says Ovum networking analyst Ian Stevenson, "is not necessarily the best solution in that there will be other, better, SDL's in the future, plus there's the possibility of broadband wireless." When might this be likely to happen? "It is a lot of pies in a lot of sky. At the moment BT's having trouble getting the infrastructure in place to roll out ADSL properly."

Why would anyone buy ISDN when ADSL is faster and cheaper? "There are", says BT spokesman David Orr, "circumstances where it might be advantageous to use ISDN"; although, as he does not have the figures in front of him, he is unable to exemplify this. Rule one is to be wary of ISDN.

Orr confirms that there will be other SDL technologies in the future but is cagey about when this might happen. Months or years? "Definitely years".So ADSL is generally acknowledged to be fast, can be relatively cheap and seems to be the best solution.

James Foulkes is managing director at Kingpin Communication, which has recently installed ADSL. His advice is, "If you go through BT you will find their service is not great at the best of times," and dealing with call centres is "frustrating".

"Going through a third party, be prepared for the ADSL service regularly to stop working, sometimes for a day, sometimes over a week, and have a back-up option for Web connection.

"Make sure you check your third party contract. Most of the contracts I've seen stipulate that you have to pay, even if the service isn't working due to the supplier or carrier's service failing.

"Make sure you have a decent firewall in place so hackers can't use your domain for spamming, and make sure you have a strong relationship with the third party supplier."

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