Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  23 Mar 2010

INFOTECH: Internet Connectivity Has Come a Long Way


Recent Gauteng Business News

The Internet has become firmly entrenched in the everyday lives of many people across the globe, and individuals have begun to take this connectivity for granted. But the fact is that only a decade ago the landscape was very different: connectivity has evolved radically over the last 10 years or so.

Dial-up is now seen as an old-fashioned technology and is fast becoming obsolete due to the high cost of connectivity and its slow connection speed.

With maximum speeds of 56kbps and only capable of enabling a single connection at any one time, this option is no longer widely used. Added to this is the fact that dial-up ties up telephone lines, making it inconvenient and restrictive. It also necessitates stop and start connections, which in today's modern business world where a large proportion of communication takes place online or via email, is simply no longer feasible.

ISDN technology, which allows data and voice to be used on existing telephone lines, thus began to replace dial-up. However, ISDN connections still need to be monitored, making the technology administratively intensive and unsuitable for a world where "always on" connections are the order of the day. While ISDN lines still have applications in the PBX space due to the high quality of voice transmissions, they have been overshadowed by broadband and ADSL connection that allow faster connection speeds and easier administration.

ADSL technology has now become the irrefutable connectivity option for consumers and businesses alike, offering speeds of up to 4096kbps and always-on connections that allow users to be constantly connected to email and the Internet, paying for the usage rather than the connection time. ADSL provides the most stable internet quality and is the best solution for location bound connection.

Although cost has in the past been a major inhibitor with the adoption of this technology, especially in the Home and SME markets that are traditionally very price sensitive, with the landing of the SEACOM cable last year, prices have come down and are set to be further reduced in future. Added to this is the concomitant evolution of modem technology that has embraced convergence, making high-speed always-on connectivity a far more viable option for smaller businesses.

Convergence has become the name of the game in the IT sphere, and connectivity is no different. This is especially useful for smaller businesses that do not have their own IT departments and are looking for integration from a support and cost perspective.

In the past, the modem was simply a device used to connect a PC to an analogue telephone network, to convert digital signals to analogue (known as modulator/demodulator, which is where the name modem comes from) and vice versa. Today, modems have evolved into integrated routers with multiple capabilities, including Wi-Fi, routing, VPN (Virtual Private Network), firewalls, and so on.

This allows for connections to the ISP, enables various Ethernet devices to connect to the router and share Internet connectivity conveniently, as well as routing of traffic based on specific requirements. Previously, firewalls existed on PCs. Now, with the ability to place this at the WAN interface level, the entire network can be protected at once. And modern routers are beginning to incorporate even more features such as fail-over 3G connectivity, providing an even more attractive option for the SME and SoHo markets.

For the smaller business that often does not have its own IT department, converged router functionality provides a host of benefits, such as the ability to expand from the modem or router outwards. Users can add switches to quickly and easily connect more people, adding wireless access for added convenience, and Voice over IP for cost saving on telephone calls. Software functionality can also be added to connect multiple branches securely using the same modem box, and for the sharing of documents and so on via servers.

This ease of support and installation within one multi-functional device is particularly useful for smaller organisations.

Looking ahead, the Internet landscape is set to see an increased emergence of WiMAX technology, which offers speeds of up 10Mbps and a host of other capabilities, from connecting Wi-Fi hotspots to the Internet to providing a wireless alternative to ADSL and cable connections for data and telecommunications. WiMAX will offer both fixed and portable Internet connectivity at unprecedented speeds, and is arguably the way Internet connectivity is heading into the future.

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