All About Ethernet:
How, why and when businesses use it.

In the beginning: The shared home network

Many American businesses take root at the kitchen table or in the garage. They put up a website, maybe add a phone line. They might also invest in a new laptop or tablet, an all-in-one printer and a new smart phone.

When you’re CEO of a home-based business, your network probably consists of a cable, DSL or wireless/Wi-Fi connection to the internet, a shared-internet account for your web hosting, and a router from a big box store. You probably piggy-back off of your home network your family uses for streaming TV, gaming and home security. This budget-friendly architecture could serve you well until you land your fourth, fifth or fifteenth account.

Moving up and out:
The copper, cable or Wi-Fi connection

By this time, you’re adding staff. A few of your colleagues work remotely and travel to see clients or pursue new-business opportunities. You could be opening branches in different markets.

Also by this time, you’ve learned that your free or low-cost apps for bookkeeping, file sharing, messaging and video conferencing aren’t cutting it anymore. The broadband and shared IP that worked fine when it was just you in your garage has become painfully insufficient. As you grew, you and your clients experienced more frequent network issues, always at the worst possible times.

You—like Amazon, Apple, Google, HP and many more—may have launched from a garage. You had a single copper-based link to the internet but you’ve now outgrown it. Like those industry behemoths, you faced a networking fork in the road, one that perplexes many a leader of a business in growth mode. When you’re not as big as Mattel or Harley Davidson—both born of garage-based entrepreneurism--but no longer a mom-and-pop shop, how do you transform your network to support advanced business operations and communications?

What is Ethernet?

Ethernet is a protocol, or technology, used for connecting computers in a LAN, or local area network. A technology in wide use since the 1990s, Ethernet is widely installed, serving as a standard for data formatting and transmission.

Ethernet, a packet-based technology (versus one, like TDM, that operates in time slots and circuit switching), is how countless people and businesses connect to the internet, a global packet-switching network. In buildings across the planet, companies and individuals connect to the internet via Ethernet technology and cables.

Tech you can grow with: Ethernet is a connectivity high-achiever

When evaluating options for networking and internet connectivity, smart choices can be complicated by the many varying pros and cons of different media and technologies. For example, DSL (digital subscriber line), which is a fixed-wireline type of broadband, is widely available, as is Wi-Fi. Both are usually quick and easy to activate. Monthly recurring costs (MRC) also tend to be lower than for, say, fiber-optic connections. DSL is usually more reliable than Wi-Fi, but both have low reliability compared to cable and fiber. Businesses with a single small location and a small staff of office-based workers may be fine with DSL or Wi-Fi when their online activity is limited mostly to email.

More businesses today are increasingly large consumers of data, and their bandwidth needs are beyond what DSL and Wi-Fi can deliver affordably to power daily operations. Growing businesses in sectors that include real estate, healthcare and entertainment, as well as professional services such as government affairs, communications and PR, law and HR, need major bandwidth for their heavy cloud-computing requirements. Highly mobile and collaborative teams depend on advanced applications for CRM, ERP, VOIP and more that are best delivered by cable or fiber-optic networks. A common technology for cable transmission is TDM (time division multiplexing) often with a PBX box. With fiber, Ethernet is the standard.

For businesses that are on the move, the connectivity choice will often come down to TDM with cable—also referred to as T1 service--or Ethernet over fiber—also known as metro or carrier Ethernet. Where fiber is available, Ethernet excels on a number of fronts. Two key points are worth considering.

1. More speed and bandwidth.
Ethernet far exceeds what TDM can deliver. With Ethernet’s high capacity over fiber, bandwidths of 10 Gbps are available on a single line. To reach these levels with TDM, additional circuits must be purchased at prices that become very steep very quickly.

2. Design that enables secure and scalable business communications.
Ethernet is easily configured to accommodate class of service (CoS) for separating sensitive and bandwidth-heavy apps from, for example, email, social media and web surfing. A circuit-switched technology, TDM is out of sync, literally, with the packet-switched technologies that dominate cloud computing.

Tech you can adopt: Moving from legacy networks to Ethernet

For those still relying on TDM, the pressure is building to update and upgrade. Fewer carriers now support the legacy technology and equipment, and advanced cloud-based services are beyond TDM’s reach. The good news is that migrating to Ethernet needn’t be complicated or costly. The move can be particularly painless for businesses with only a few sites.

Ethernet equipment is widely available and prices are coming down. Ethernet switches, routers, cables and other gear is largely off-the-shelf and less likely to require a full retrofit down the line. The technology enables “plug-and-play” provisioning and scaling. TDM typically involves hardware reconfigurations. Moreover, Ethernet can act as a second network, allowing a TDM, DSL or other system to serve as a backup. Or vice versa. For a phased approach to Ethernet adoption, it’s a simple matter to connect Ethernet for one purpose or device while using another technology, such as Wi-Fi or TDM, for others.

Top service providers have numerous options for transitioning to Ethernet. Verizon, for example, offers Switched E-LAN which is protocol transparent for any-to-any connectivity. Dedicated and switched services also are available across Verizon’s Ethernet portfolio.

What's in it for you?

Extending your ability to grow, and compete with advanced cloud-computing services, is simplified when Ethernet is your go-to technology. Performance on nearly every front—from reliability, speed, scalability and flexibility—is Ethernet’s top credential. Simply put, it’s the technology of the future. For many growing businesses, it’s easily acquired today.

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