TIME TO READ: 9 MINUTES
You might imagine the process for installing a new office's Internet connection goes like this:
You call up an ISP like AT&T or Comcast. "We'd like to 'turn up' bandwidth for a new office location." The ISP says, "Sure! No problem. Give us a couple days."
A few days later, the ISP's representative comes to the new location. They install some hardware, plug some cables in, and it's all done! The new office is online.
We asked Robert Douglas, who's done hundreds of turn-ups in his career, how often this happens. He said, "Never."
Robert knows everything that can go wrong when adding Internet connections, so he always plans for every contingency. So should you.
In this two-part WOOF!, we'll go through the reality of ordering Internet connections for new offices. What's involved, the issues that can come up, and our best advice for achieving a reliable, strong Internet connection.
We'll cover a lot of terms in this article. These definitions will help you follow along.
- BANDWIDTH: A connection's maximum capacity for data transfer. Expressed in megabits.
- TURN-UP: Activating a new Internet connection at a new location, and verifying (on the ISP's side) that the connection works.
- CIRCUIT: Another term for a high-bandwidth Internet connection.
- BUILDOUT: The process of connecting the new Internet connection to the office's network. Involves cabling, installing firewalls/routers/switches, and testing.
- ISP: Internet Service Provider (such as AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, Spectrum, etc.)
- HOT CUT: Unlike a Greenfield turn-up where there are no constraints from prior work, Hot Cut is a method of implementing a new circuit from an existing ISP in order to keep the existing assigned IP range.
- FIBER: Internet access through a fiber optic cable. Much higher bandwidth potential than cable.
- BUSINESS CABLE: Internet access through a cable line. Greater bandwidth potential & stronger infrastructure than home Internet.
Now, let's go back to the order process. Why are the steps listed above unrealistic? Two reasons: misconceptions proliferate about ordering bandwidth, and the likelihood of issues in the installation process.
4 Myths about Ordering Bandwidth
Chances are you've heard one of these myths. They come largely from ISP sales departments, wanting the whole process to appear painless & quick.
#1 – "Bandwidth is readily accessible." While you can get a cable connection within a few days, activating a fiber connection takes time . . . figure an average of 60 days minimum (from contract signing).
Why not use cable then? Upload speeds. Cable lines tend to have much slower upload speeds than download speeds. For example, 500-megabit down with 20-megabit up. You notice the difference when you use Voice over IP or conduct online meetings. One conference call can cause five other people's phone calls to drop!
#2 – "You can save money by getting the minimum bandwidth necessary." With the wide adoption of cloud services, bandwidth needs continue to grow. It's tempting to save money on a new connection, but it will hurt you in 2 ways. One, every user in the new office will have slow Internet & cloud access. Two, this makes any future Internet upgrades more expensive.
We advise a 50-megabit minimum bandwidth order. The good news—fiber prices continue to drop. At time of writing, 50-megabit lines cost about $600/month. By contrast, a 10-megabit line runs $400-500/month, making a 50-megabit the better buy.
Rule of Thumb: When you're using 30% of your current bandwidth, start considering a bigger circuit. Goes for existing offices as well as new ones.
#3 – "Turn-ups are seamless—you won’t experience any downtime." You're establishing a new Internet connection during business hours, and trying to plug it into your existing IT. Expect at least some downtime!
#4 – "We can wait to sign the contract." Just because you have a contract, doesn’t mean you’re in your ISP’s queue to get your bandwidth. You’re not. Don’t wait! You can sign a contract, and still cancel it up until you start using the new connection. Your new contract only becomes billable when the circuit goes live.
You’re smart and you started the process early, you took your IT consultant’s advice on how much bandwidth to order, you managed your team’s expectations on downtime, and signed the ISP’s contract immediately upon receipt. You’ve eliminated a lot of problems . . . but things can still go wrong!
The Issues with Circuit Orders
Issues plague almost every circuit order. These six are the most common we encounter.
- Connection Setup Problems. The ISP’s engineer goes to the wrong office address, the circuit has the wrong bandwidth cap, etc.
- Lack of ISP Availability. Say you use Comcast fiber at your main office, and you want to open a branch office one town over. Comcast may not offer fiber in that town yet, but AT&T does.
Standardizing on one ISP is preferable, but not necessary. Beware of "local loop" charges when an ISP has to use another ISP’s fiber. This greatly increases cost—so much so that sometimes it's just not worth it. By standardizing on one ISP you also get lower latency on network traffic between your sites.
- Connection Not Ready. Plan for 70 days from contract signing – 60 days for circuit setup, and 10 days lead time after you're notified that it's ready for scheduling test and turn-up.
- Turn-Up Scheduling. ISPs are extremely busy, just like you. Sometimes it's a challenge to get on their calendar at a time that works for both parties. If you need to cancel an appointment, you may have to wait another 2-4 for the next one. That can cause a major issue for your network buildout and your move date.
- Hot Cut Failures. When you do a "Hot Cut" turn-up, you have one advantage and one risk.
If you don't allocate time to correct Hot Cut issues, you could face a major delay in bringing the additional bandwidth online. Troubleshooting a configuration problem can take anywhere from hours to days.
- THE ADVANTAGE: Doing a Hot Cut preserves all your DNS configurations – websites, mail servers, CRM, etc.—and saves a big chunk of configuration time.
- THE RISK: Hot Cuts have unpredictable results. We've only seen one instance where a Hot Cut worked perfectly the first time.
Awareness of Turn-Up Issues Means You Can Plan for Them
Now you have a better idea of what can go wrong when ordering Internet connections. In Part 2 of our next issue, we'll share how to make it go right.
We'll give you some recommendations for bandwidth planning, discuss how IT consultants can help smooth out the process, and lay out the most efficient way to order bandwidth for new offices.
Planning an office move in the near future? Avoid any issues with turn-up—email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!