infoTECH Feature

July 20, 2020

Understanding Your Internet Connection Options

By Special Guest
Amanda Regnerus, EVP of Product and Services, US Signal

The information technology industry is currently ripe with buzzwords and trends like artificial intelligence, edge computing, the Internet of Things and distributed cloud systems. While these technologies are world renowned, many IT professionals’ day-to-day needs have to do with something more simple: the internet. When discussing the internet, there are a variety of interconnection strategies for professionals to choose from. 

Why Internet Interconnections Matter
As of April 2020, an estimated 4.57 billion people were active internet users. Many of them are business users that rely on the internet for powering websites, business communications, supply chain management, business research, and more. How fast data moves across the internet has a significant impact on their operations.

Transit speed is dictated by the interconnections between providers on the internet, with IP peering and IP transit as the two primary means. Dedicated Internet Access (DIA), which is a private connection between a business and the web, is also an option.

What is IP Peering?
IP peering is a mutual exchange of data between two internet service providers (ISPs). The amount of data exchanged is typically close to equal. The ISPs don’t charge each other under an agreement known as settlement-free because both benefit under the arrangement.

Peering parties only exchange data that travels the paths of their networks and their downstream customers. Neither has visibility into the other’s upstream routes over the peering connection. Two networks directly connect and exchange traffic, which allows for the most optimal and efficient path.

There are two types of peering: private (direct) or public.

Private Peering
Private peering is an agreement between two or more networks to accept each other’s packets and forward them. The interchange is made at a common, private facility rather than at a public exchange point. Private peering interconnections make up most of the traffic on the internet, especially between the large networks.

Among the advantages of private peering are that it’s easy to monitor, and it’s more reliable and secure. It’s a good option for sending large volumes of traffic to a specific network, as it frees up capacity on public peering links for other traffic/peers.

One of the major disadvantages is that it takes time to set up new peering connections. However, the setup is extremely beneficial when a large quantity of data needs to be exchanged.

Public Peering
Public peering is used by large and small networks to aggregate groups of peers on an efficient, cost-effective service. Networks can connect using a single physical port or use multiple ports together to create a large single virtual port. Once connected to a public peering exchange, networks can set up or remove interconnections to other networks without physically re-provisioning any circuits.

Among the benefits of public peering is that it keeps the traffic local in an internet exchange point (IXP), which serves as an on-ramp to the Internet and a location for carriers to exchange traffic. This provides a more direct route between network operators. Data travels less dis­tance, resulting in lower latency and less interruptions or content delays.

What is IP Transit?
With IP transit, one ISP pays another for the right to transit its upstream network and connect to other networks. The IP transit provider decides how traffic connects to the available routes across the Internet, including those of their downstream partners, other peers, and upstream providers.

Many of these network connections are indirect since most providers don’t have a global network footprint. As a result, the traffic travels through one or more third-party networks on the way to its final destination.

IP transit is easy to implement. Users pay for the service, and the ISP takes care of the provider’s traffic requirements. It also comes with guaranteed service level agreements (SLAs). If the ISP fails to deliver within the agreed-upon parameters, the customer has recourse.

Compared to a standard business internet connection that’s dependent on routers with limited speed, an IP transit connection is faster. IP transit, delivered by an ISP with a strong peering network, eliminates extra hops in contrast with IP packets transiting through additional Tier 1 and Tier 2 networks.

What is Dedicated Internet Access (DIA)
Because DIA is a private connection between a business and the internet, there’s no competition with other subscribers for bandwidth. It’s often described as an internet express lane with a particular company’s data the only traffic on the road. Upload speeds are as fast as download speeds. Even during peak times, data travels at a consistent speed.

Another benefit of DIA is security. Because a business doesn’t have to share an internet connection, it has less risk from other networks. This allows for allocating resources toward other cybersecurity needs.

Choosing Your Options 
Security, cost and speed are important considerations when it comes to choosing a type of internet access. Ultimately, the best internet access type is one that best meets your organization’s needs. What are your priorities? Is latency an issue? Could your organization benefit from multiple types of access? Are you connecting to the cloud? 

Before selecting an option, determine your organization’s goals and requirements. There is no need to go at this alone. Many IT service providers can help to assess your connectivity needs and the available options that best meet them.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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