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THE STRAIGHT TALKING ALTERNATIVE

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Is NBN’s fibre to the node really more popular than fibre to the premises?

The rollout, adoption, and even use of NBN services is a contentious issue amongst many across Australia, and a topic that keeps making its way into headlines, with the latest claims; NBN “fibre to the node is more popular than fibre to the premises.”

This claim, made by Gizmodo Australia, is on the back of an in depth analysis conducted by ITNews, details of which are available here. This report gives an interesting insight into the deployment and adoption of NBN services in different regions, and the activation rates in each.

But does this actually mean fibre to the node (FttN) is more popular than fibre to the premises (FttP)? On face value this could be the takeaway, however the claim does not take into account important factors such as the availability of providers supplying services, the adoption life cycle inherent with any new product, and consumer choice.

While the number of suppliers ready and able to deliver NBN services in the first round of NBN regions, with FttP, weren’t nearly as comprehensive as what there is today, this lack of accessibility isn’t the only important factor to consider when looking at this data. As with all products, a natural adoption life cycle will take place, with Innovators and Early Adopters making a small, but meaningful portion of the market; it’s these ‘guinea pigs’ that give the majority of consumers the confidence in the new product to adopt it themselves, or learn from someone else’s mistakes.

Another consideration is that measuring popularity is a factor of choice, which isn’t something that consumers have here; the options are to adopt whichever form of NBN is available in the area, or switch to or maintain existing connectivity not impacted by the decommissioning of PSTN phone lines.

While the final take-away from the analysis is up to interpretation, one good thing is clear; we’ve finally moved away from measuring “premises passed” to actual adoption rates – not only a step in the right direction towards accountability, but giving the public access to real and meaningful statistics about our nation’s ongoing NBN saga.

To see if NBN is appropriate for your business, or if you will be impacted by the decommissioning of PSTN lines, contact an Over the Wire representative or call us on 1300 689 689 today.

Media enquiries: Chris Jacko

Don't Get Caught Out By Your SLA's

Service Level Agreements

One of the most important components to consider in a business grade telecommunications service is the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that accompany the terms and conditions of the contract. However, it is also one of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of a service, and as such it can lead to a great deal of unexpected and unnecessary problems. Here’s why:

"A Service Level Agreement is not a guarantee that your infrastructure will remain active for the specified uptime. Rather it is the minimum period of outage after which the business will receive a financial rebate, where this has been stated in the contract."

For instance, a 99.95% uptime SLA (which is typical for the majority of business grade Ethernet services) has a maximum target downtime of 21 minutes and 55 seconds per month. Many IT Managers make the costly mistake of thinking this means that the service is guaranteed to be active for the remaining time period. It isn’t. The SLA simply means that come 21 minutes and 56 seconds, the customer will be able to claim some remuneration for any additional downtime experienced.

Why are the SLA’s not guarantees?

Using the example of a 99.95% SLA, 21 minutes and 55 seconds is more than enough time for a provider to fix the majority of network faults. However, infrastructure faults, which often rely on third parties to be resolved, can take much longer. For instance fibre cuts, ULL faults, and NTU failures are normally beyond the scope of the service providers control and as such require third party technicians to be physically present at the point of failure to be resolved. Depending on the fault, the remoteness of the area, number of services affected and the availability of qualified technicians, infrastructure failures may take several days to resolve.

Why does this matter if the provider has to compensate me?

Whilst an SLA may provide remuneration in the event of a service outage, the rate of remuneration is determined by the provider and is not linked to the actual loss incurred by the business. This means that the risk of a failure still needs to be weighed against the potential costs of one occurring. If the impact on the business is deemed to be unacceptably high it is strongly recommended that organisations consider utilising a redundancy package to mitigate the risk of an outage occurring.

What redundancy options are available?

Typical considerations for redundancy should include the following; however, it is recommend that all organisations consider backup links on a per-site basis so that the appropriate technology can be balanced against the cost.

  • Due to their low cost and geographic availability, ADSL links are often recommended for the majority of sites.
  • However if the site is in a remote location or there is a high risk of a large scale problem (e.g. flooding, bush fires, etc.), 3G and 4G backup links can be used. 3/4G is also recommended as a method of providing redundancy against terrestrial problems. For instance if a fibre cable, or other form of cable infrastructure is cut, it is likely that an ADSL connection will be affected as well, making 3/4G the most viable alternative. Microwave transmission can also be used to the same effect, however it comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. You can read more about the differences in connectivity options in this article on connectivity.
  • The deployment of a second router to provide additional device redundancy can protect against hardware failure and get you back to work almost instantly.
  • Due to a slow reduction in costs, protected fibre (fibre that takes diverse routes to the exchange) is becoming increasingly common as a backup option. Protected fibre comes with the advantage of being able to offer the same speed as the primary connectivity option.

Considerations should also be made as to whether there is a requirement for automatic or manual failover, as each of these options has the potential to affect the speed at which your service can be restored.

The next time your organisation is considering setting up a link to a new office, or upgrading an existing network, make sure you keep in mind that an SLA is not a silver bullet, and that the risk of an outage needs to be balanced against the potential costs of one occurring. 

A Very Brief Introduction to Connectivity

The Australian and New Zealand telecommunications landscapes can be both confusing and expensive places to navigate and most providers don't make it any easier, as they either do not provide explanations or obfuscate their responses. The infographic below takes a quick look at some of the pro's and con's of readily available connectivity options for businesses.

Tail Technologies Infographic - ADSL, SHDSL, EoC (Ethernet over Copper), EFM (Ethernet in the First Mile), Ethernet over Fibre, 3G, 4G, Microwave.

Telecommunications Embargo Period

The end of another year is nearly upon us, so those wishing to connect new telecommunications services will need to ensure that they plan around the embargo period. The hard embargo period will begin from Monday 16th December, and will run until Monday 13th January. During this time new network service installations are not performed by most carriers, so if you are looking to get network connections setup prior to this period make sure you contact your Account Manager as soon as possible.

Support for all services will be maintained throughout this period, and provision of new services such as Voice, Colocation, and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) will remain unaffected.

Data Networks Case Study

Metro Express uses Over the Wire for Data NetworksThousands of businesses across the Asia Pacific region rely on Metro Express for their logistical operations. In 2011, the company’s Rocklea based head office was flooded, causing major disruptions to their Australian network.

Upgrades to their IT infrastructure by Over the Wire have ensured that they remained operational during a similar crisis in 2013.

“In 2011, I would say that we were completely unprepared” commented Metro Express’ Group IT Manager Richard Wainstein.  “Servers went under water and backups weren’t working properly; offices were unable to share data, and we were forced to operate off mobile phones for the duration of the flood. Our servers were located in our office, running through a single exchange server, so when Rocklea went offline, the rest of the country followed suit.”

Over the Wire began collaborating with Metro Express on a solution in late 2011, to ensure that this problem wouldn’t occur again.

It was recommended that Metro Express colocate their critical infrastructure in Over the Wire’s Spring Hill data centre where the risk of downtime was minimal. In addition they were advised to reconfigure their Wide Area Network (WAN). “The WAN reconfiguration was critical to the process as it needed to be used as the backbone of Metro Express' infrastructure” said Over the Wire Account Manager, Chris Jacko. "This way, in the event of a failure at one office the others could continue working unaffected on their colocated infrastructure.”

Metro Express also opted to take up IP Voice services and a Hosted PBX from Over the Wire to save on their call costs. An added advantage of this was that it enabled Metro Express to redirect where inbound calls were being answered - phone numbers were no longer tied to specific sites, which enabled business to carry on as usual during the crisis.

“We began by migrating our server infrastructure to the data center.  To make sure we didn’t disrupt our offices in Australia and Singapore, we had to schedule the cutovers for after 8pm. Over the Wire supplied us with an after-hours tech and kept rack space on reserve so the job was done in a short space of time” Wainstein recalled. “Once we realised just how well it worked we began upgrading and now we have all of our infrastructure in the DC”.

“We’ve been collaborating with Over the Wire closely throughout the migration process and we have been very impressed with the expertise of their staff. They’re not just advising us from a technical standpoint, but from a security point of view, from a point of view that considered the long term welfare of Metro Express.”

When it was announced in early 2013 that Rocklea was looking at a flood of a similar magnitude to that of 2011 Metro Express was prepared. “We evacuated our office and operated out of several remote locations via VPNs. But because all of our servers were located safely in the data centre, Over the Wire was able to connect our IP phones directly to SIP trunks, have our calls rerouted to our new locations, and we were able to continue working with virtually no disruption.”

“We put a plan together in the space of two days and on the first business day back we were operational. Over the Wire technicians were there to help us set up when we needed them and the quality of service we received was sensitive to the fact that we were in a difficult situation. There was no discussion about the scope of what was and wasn’t covered, the issues just got resolved.”

This meant that employees could access all their systems and emails as per normal. The only change for Metro Express was that the Brisbane office was in a different location. “Because of the speed of Over the Wire’s links we were able to avoid disruptions to our customers by sharing the load amongst our other offices”. Wainstein recounted. Data traffic to other sites was controlled by Quality of Service (QoS) on the links.

By continuing operations Metro Express was able to keep cash flow moving, pay their employees, and avoid disruptions to their customers. “The two days operating remotely paid its dividends” Wainstein stated. “It was a huge change from last time. There was virtually no downtime in terms of working hours to the business. We did have an issue when we started in our remote site – this was at six or seven in the morning – we called Over the Wire and spoke to someone who was alert, ready to help, and able to help. Within five minutes flat they had solved the problem.”

Metro Express Transport Group is a privately owned company with over 20 years of experience in the transport sector. With operations spanning Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore Metro Express is able to deliver internationally, and by incorporating a wide range of technologies, give their customers the ability to monitor the status of their deliveries in real time with an online Proof of Delivery reporting system.

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