In our last blog, we talked about internet speed tests, and the many factors that can influence them. One of those factors which we did not discuss is called a “content delivery network.”
A Content Delivery Network, or CDN, is a term for a particular way of distributing internet content. Traditionally, when you browse to a website from your computer, the information is pulled from the website, carried over the internet, sent through an unknown amount of Internet Exchange Points to your local network, and then translated by your browsing software.
In a CDN, content providers (e.g. Netflix) place servers with the most accessed content in strategically placed locations at the very edge of where the Internet meets your local network (often in the central office of your ISP).
The benefit of a CDN structure for the end user is that the information is able to be delivered much more quickly and efficiently. The closer to the edge the content resides, the less devices it has to pass through, and the less likely it is to encounter some form of resistance or traffic.
Internet traffic is very similar to actual traffic in that the amount of it that is sustainable is dependent on how wide the road is and how many other people are traveling on it at the same time. If a typical internet connection is like driving a car down the information superhighway, a CDN is more like flying to an airport close to your destination, and then renting a car to drive the last 20 miles.
The benefit of a CDN structure for the ISP includes increased reliability, reduced costs, and improved security. Most ISPs purchase bandwidth from one of the Tier 1 internet providers, so by decreasing their need to download information from the internet-at-large, they can reduce costs.
CDN servers, by storing the content users are accessing most often in a local server, is one of the easiest ways to decrease that need. They also make it possible to download content even when that content provider’s website might be down. Finally, since less information is being transmitted from the Internet, there is less of a security risk since all routing is done locally.
CDN servers are usually obtained by the ISP directly from the content provider. This business arrangement can take many forms. Typically, the server is provided at no cost, as the content provider wants the end user to have the best experience with their content possible. However, the FCC’s removal of net neutrality rules in 2017 opened the doors to the possibility of ISPs favoring some traffic over others, which could take the form of “pay to play” CDN situations. More on that in a future blog on the topic of net neutrality.
Despite its somewhat whimsical name, the Internet of Things (often abbreviated IoT) is a complex topic of global significance. Its impact will be felt not only economically, in the form of new products and services, but socially, as the new generation of Internet-connected devices changes the way we live.
So what is the Internet of Things? It’s the generally agreed-upon term for devices that connect to the Internet in one way or another, usually for a limited purpose. For example, one of the most common IoT devices is a “smart thermostat.” A smart thermostat is one that you can control remotely, via an app on your phone for example, so that you can monitor and alter your home’s temperature from afar (in the context of internet devices, “smart” is just another way of saying “connected to the internet”). “Smart home” hub devices like Alexa are also becoming increasingly popular.
Believe it or not, research firm Gartner estimates that around 8.4 billion(!) such “smart” devices were in use in 2017 (this includes smart TVs), up 31% from 2016, and that this number will reach approximately 20.4 billion by 2020. With this kind of incredible growth, it’s no surprise that the Internet of Things is a topic of great interest to the business sector.
Healthcare, agriculture, and manufacturing are 3 of the fields expected to benefit most from the potential of IoT, but security and energy companies are also expected to invest heavily in IoT infrastructures, as remote-access cameras and the aforementioned smart thermostats become more widely available. Cities and municipalities, too, will benefit from the power of the IoT to seamlessly integrate data to facilitate management of traffic flow, environmental issues, and safety concerns.
There are a variety of factors, a “perfect storm” if you will, which has allowed for this proliferation of Internet-connected “Things.” Widespread availability of wireless networks, cheaper processors, and the arrival of IPv6, which dramatically increased the number of IP numbers available for use, were all essential prerequisites for the opportunities for simple household items to be connected to the world at large via the Internet.
The world, too, has become more connected. In 1995, less than 1% of the world’s population had internet access. As of January 2018, that number was 55% and growing. Bandwidth, too, is ever increasing, with some forward-thinking internet service providers already offering 1 Gbps download speeds as a standard internet service. So as the ability of “Things” to be connected to the internet has increased, so too has the ability of people to be connected to those Things from the other side.
One of the foremost concerns with all of this convenient internet access is security. Bringing the internet closer to the world also brings it closer to malevolent forces who would use it for their own benefit. One can easily imagine a hacker gaining access to a device remotely and using it to cause harm (for example, turning off industrial-scale smart refrigerators or other electronic devices), to say nothing of self-replicating viruses that could spread from one device to another. Privacy, too, is wrapped up in the IoT, as cameras, remote monitoring, and smart homes become more and more prevalent. Despite these challenges, the predicted success of the future IoT economy is easy to envision.
With once fantastical-sounding inventions like driverless cars on the foreseeable horizon, the potential applications of the Internet of Things are virtually limitless. Past technological developments have led us to a present time where smart homes are becoming a reality. With smart cities expected to appear by 2025, can a fully connected planet be far behind?
Has this ever happened to you? You’re talking about the internet with your techy friends and you realize: a) “I don’t know what tiered ISPs are,” and b) “I don’t really know how the internet is structured.” Well, it isn’t just “a series of tubes” as one politician put it. No, a hierarchy of infrastructure exists, which many different commercial, community-owned, non-profit, and privately-owned organizations control.
Think of the vast, interconnected highway system that connects cities large and small across the United States. That complexity is similar to the information highway that makes up the backbone of the internet, except that instead of the government owning all of it, many entities are left to sort out all of the rules. They’re called internet service providers.
This type of multi-faceted system means negotiation is key. So, let’s go over how these ISPs decide to organize themselves.
Each tier corresponds to the level of IP Network Access.
Not sure what that means? Well, an ISP simply provides access for using the internet. Most ISPs own part of the physical network – think fiber, cables lines, etc. – while some do not. And those that do can leverage the size of their network to strike up deals with other ISPs. There are various arrangements for exchanging user traffic, but the three most critical categories are known as transit, peer, and customer.
Any ISP may have a number of these types of arrangements at a given point. These relationships decide which tier they are categorized under.
Tier-1 carriers are the movers and shakers of the industry.
Carriers with Tier-1 networks can reach every other network on the internet via settlement-free peering. Basically, they own enough of the physical network lines to carry most traffic themselves, and negotiate with other Tier-1 networks to get free access to their networks, and vice versa.
You may wonder why they don’t charge each other money, as in a transit relationship. Well, the actual transit cost incurred by a particular provider is often roughly equal to that of another provider, and as a result, exchanging financial information is redundant. Some ISPs have a network peering policy that list other desired qualifications, e.g. similar geographic reach, or monetary stability.
Some world-renowned Tier-1 carriers include:
Tier-2 carriers peer with other networks, but also purchase IP transit for full access to the internet.
Carriers with Tier-2 networks are the most common internet service providers. They peer with other comparably-sized Tier-2 networks, but they’re obligated to purchase access to larger Tier-1 networks.
Just because an ISP is Tier-2 doesn’t mean that their internet service is less effective. In fact, most Tier-1 networks prefer to deal with larger clients, leaving Tier-2 networks to focus on regional consumer and commercial internet access. CTS Telecom is a Tier-2 internet provider offering reliable internet access across Southwest Michigan. You can bet we stack up to the competition.
Popular Tier-2 Carriers include:
Tier-3 carriers strictly purchase IP transit.
When you hear people talk about net neutrality, this is why. Tier-3 carriers are usually last mile providers, meaning they connect consumers to the internet without a network of their own, servicing only the connection leading into your home or office. Content providers have little control over this part. As such, tier 3 ISP networks can be artificial congested, poorly maintained, or throttled.
To Find the Perfect Internet Solution for Your Business, Contact CTS Telecom Today.
Curious about what Tier-2 Internet Service Provider can do for you? Schedule a free demonstration courtesy of CTS Telecom. We have an array of business internet services for all applications and budgets. And if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution, we offer colocation, voice, internet, IT services, and data transport. We invite you to discover how CTS Telecom can take care of your business’s needs. To get started, contact us today.
You’ve probably heard of fiber-optic internet, and how it’s the next step in the internet revolution. After all, the people buzzing about fiber internet run the gamut from corporate CEOs to video game addicts. And that wide spread of appeal is certainly justified. Gigabit speeds, miles-long cables, laser lights – what’s not to love?
But if you’re one of the 25% of Americans with access to a fiber-optic network, questions about how all this stuff works may be sprouting up in your mind. Let’s get down to the details of how fiber-optic cable works, and how it can benefit you and your business.
Understanding the old infrastructure is the key to grasping the importance of fiber.
Old-fashioned internet, such as DSL, works by using preexisting copper wires, which were laid about a hundred years ago, as analog lines. Essentially, these wires take electrical signals and transmit them over a certain distance, until they must be reiterated again; the process repeats until the data reaches its destination.
Most of this data is sent via a rudimentary binary – an electrical signal goes on, and that means one, while a signal turning off means zero. This series of ones and zeros gets translated by your computer, and presto, you’re on the internet. Now, the problem with copper wires is that the digital binary can only be sent one electrical signal at a time, and that limits the amount of information that can be transmitted over a period of time.
And that’s why bandwidth for DSL internet never really exceeds 100 Mbps (megabits per second). Using a coaxial cable or a telephone line also means your connection is susceptible to electrical or radio interference. Signal strength diminishes during periods of high electromagnetic interference, which means more unexpected slowdowns and occasional outages.
So, how does fiber fix this problem?
Imagine all those on and off signals that go through copper wire. They’re all limited to a single pathway and restricted by the speed of electrical conductivity.
Now, envision hundreds of those pathways wrapped around each other, each the thickness of a human hair. Together, they form a cable the same thickness as that copper wire. Then, instead of being transmitted at the speed of electricity which is 99% slower than the speed of light, they travel only 31% slower than the speed of light. Picture, moreover, that those signals are generated by a laser that can turn on and off several billion times per second.
This is possible because of what scientists call total internal reflection. Basically, each fiber strand is crafted out of a glass so pure, that even if it were several miles thick, you wouldn’t be able tell you were looking through it. The strand is then covered with a reflective optical material called the cladding. The mirrored coating reflects light at a shallow angle, allowing it to travel through the fiber optic cables over long distances without escaping.
A few other advantages to fiber:
Is fiber internet a good fit for me?
If your business or organization requires a large number of employees to access the internet simultaneously, there’s no comparison – fiber is the way to go. Many fiber optic cables contain dark fiber, which are strands of fiber that are unused for the time being. This ensures that bandwidth will be scalable in the future, in order to accommodate for ongoing technological advancement and growing companies.
To Find the Perfect Internet Solution for Your Business, Contact CTS Telecom Today.
Curious about what fiber-optic internet access can do for you? Contact CTS Telecom. We have an array of business internet services for all applications and budgets. And if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution, we offer colocation, voice, internet, cloud services, and data transport. We invite you to discover how CTS Telecom can take care of your business’s needs. To get started, contact us today.