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Shopping for an Ethernet Service Provider? Here are Four Things to Consider.

April 29, 2015

By linking key locations via Ethernet, businesses can avoid the bottlenecks and security breaches that plague the public Internet. Traffic that otherwise might have taken a convoluted route, via a patchwork of networks, can now flow more efficiently to its destination over a dedicated low-latency connection.

By linking key locations via Ethernet, businesses can avoid the bottlenecks and security breaches that plague the public Internet. Traffic that otherwise might have taken a convoluted route, via a patchwork of networks, can now flow more efficiently to its destination over a dedicated low-latency connection. Over the Internet, your mission-critical traffic has to queue up behind all other data from all other users. With a private Ethernet line, contention is reduced because your packets travel securely over a well-maintained private path, managed and monitored by a single provider. And with the Class of Service (CoS) capability inherent in Ethernet, different traffic types on the same circuit can be identified and prioritized so the data packets that should get preference do get preference. That’s an experience that the Internet, or older technologies like T1, can never deliver because to both of them all data packets look the same.

But realizing the full potential of Ethernet means taking one extra step: partnering with the right provider. With a single vendor managing the crucial connections to your office, cloud providers, and backup facilities, you’ll want to be sure that it has the depth of experience, and resources, to deliver on the Ethernet promise.

How do you choose the right provider? The following tips can help:

  • Look at the provider’s track record and footprint. You’ll want a provider that has made a name for itself delivering top-tier Ethernet service. Asking a few simple questions can help you hone in on these vendors. Who are its customers? How broad is its geographic reach? How extensive is its Ethernet infrastructure? Then check which service providers, if any, are connected to your building. If a provider needs to bring fiber into your building, you’ll want one with lots of experience doing that, which translates into speed and cost-effectiveness. A provider who can span wide distances via Ethernet—and has successfully served a long list of customers—is a much better choice than an unproven upstart, or one with a limited operating area. Look beyond the brand, too. If a company views Ethernet as simply a “sideline” and not a core part of its business, it doesn’t matter how well known its name may be.
  • Ask about the technologies and tools the provider uses to manage the network. The best providers are obsessive about network management, continually monitoring latency, or the time it takes packets to travel between two points. Carriers will tell you what their latency measurements are, but make sure you know what’s being measured so you can compare two competitors’ measurements. For example, one competitor might only measure latency as an average across its entire core network, but not measure that last leg all the way to your building—the leg that probably matters most to you. Also ask about their proactive monitoring, or how they detect and correct potential problems before they turn into trouble. Carriers that spot problems before their customers notice them should move to the top of the list. Pay particular attention to providers that offer Carrier Ethernet, and even better Carrier Ethernet 2.0 (as defined by the international Metro Ethernet Forum). It leverages advanced monitoring and management features to boost network reliability and performance, and ensures that service-level guarantees are met.
  • Look for flexible, scalable solutions. You don’t want to be locked into a service that won’t easily support your company’s growth, or can’t quickly scale up and down with seasonal spikes in business. Flexibility is key.
  • Demand 24/7 support and full-featured reporting tools. Your Ethernet provider should not only know how to care for its network, but also its customers. That means you should be able to reach a support professional whenever trouble – or simply a question – arises. It also means being able to access intuitive, informative reporting tools.

No matter what provider you choose, the relationship should be a partnership: open, transparent, collaborative – and mutually beneficial.

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