.. y. Find out the size of the technical support staff and the hours of availability. Ultimately, you’ll need to make a judgment call, if you have an emergency, will your ISP be able to offer a helping hand? You need to know if technical support is provided as part of normal service or if it’s provided on a paid basis only. Most often there’s a sliding scale of basic technical support.
Here are a few more items to ponder when making your ISP selection: a What is covered by the ISP’s technical support? a What isn’t covered by the ISP’s technical support? a Does technical support stop on the ISP’s end of the communications link or on your network’s communications device? Does it cover your clients? Geographic Location Because you’ll be using the link between you and your ISP a great deal, it is unwise to select an ISP located a great distance from your network. Connecting to an ISP in a different area code, city, or state will cost more in line charges. Most likely, you’ll not be using a telephone line dial-up connection; however, other dedicated digital subscriber lines also have distance costs. If you have a choice, closer is always better. Internet Information Services Usually, having a connection to the Internet through an ISP enables you to access every information service type available anywhere in the world.
However, some ISPs have taken the liberty of restricting or blocking some of these services for various reasons-illegal activity, too much bandwidth waste, not enough storage capacity, or nonprofessional content. Often, the restrictions imposed by an ISP will correspond to your organization’s desired access limitations, but you should inquire about them all the same. Communication Unlike most vendors from whom you purchase a product or service, you’ll develop a close relationship with your ISP. This is mainly because, from your perspective, it is the one link in the configuration of Internet communication that can bring everything to a halt when it fails. Look into the ability to contact the ISP by phone, email, and the Web. If you fail to get a human on the phone or don’t get a response to your email within 24 hours, you should look elsewhere for Internet service. An ISP that communicates with its customers is one that values customer satisfaction.
Remote Connectivity If members of your organization travel frequently, you may want to inquire about out-of-town access methods. Some ISPs have contracts with other ISPs across the country to provide their users with consistent access while on the road. If you plan to implement virtual private network (VPN) services, discuss your technologies with the ISP to guarantee that its routers, gateways, and servers can handle the load and will allow the specialized connections to take place. Downtime Even the largest ISPs have one problem in common with small local ISPs, humans run the computers and problems do occur. No service is 100 percent guaranteed.
What is important is how an ISP deals with system failures and downtime. Ask the ISP about downtime history and the efforts that were made to restore service. Plus, ask if refunds or discounts are available for serious lapses in connection time. Business Background Never hook up your organization’s network to an ISP that is less than two or three years old. Success comes with maturity, and experience has no substitute when dealing with the Internet. Plus, the longer an ISP has been in business, the more information you can find about it.
Inquire with the Better Business Bureau, request customer references, ask to speak with customers who stopped working with the ISP, and look for any business report or study about the ISP. Ask to see a business plan, financial statement, and any documents about the goals or future of the business. Compatibility Even the best ISPs will be worthless to you if their hardware and software are incompatible with yours. Generally, because the communication link will be a TCP/IP connection, there’s very little chance that a communication problem will exist. But if your ISP uses only Unix systems and you use Windows NT, it may not be able to offer you much in the way of useful technical support if something on your end goes awry. One way to improve the compatibility of your ISP is to use the same type of communication device on your end of the link as it uses.
Whenever possible and practical, duplicate the computer setups and networking hardware employed by the ISP-any equipment you have in common with the ISP is another area where you can leverage its expertise. ISP Peak Time ISPs have hundreds or even thousands of customers. You need to know when the ISP experiences its highest level of network traffic. This will be a combination of the Internet’s peak times and the use patterns of the ISP’s customers. There’s little you can do to completely avoid peak time, but you can use this information to schedule your automated services and caching systems. Most ISPs maintain bandwidth and throughput statistics for its own use. It shouldn’t be any great effort to obtain this information. Bandwidth Options Your network needs will grow, and it will eventually require larger connection pipelines to your ISP. Make sure your ISP already has available the next level of bandwidth you’ll eventually need.
In addition, make sure the ISP has an ongoing plan for expansion to add new levels of service as they become available at a reasonable cost. Don’t get stuck with an ISP that can only offer you modem and ISDN access if you anticipate the need for a T1 or Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM). Fine Print Always get everything regarding your account with the ISP in writing, signed by you and the ISP. This is the only way to get what you ask (and pay) for. If it’s not in writing when you sign the contract and hand over the first payment, you have no basis to demand it. Special services, unique configurations, technical support depth, and any added services must be spelled out.
Every time either you or the ISP needs to alter or change the inventory of services, this document needs to be re-created or at least properly amended. Choosing The Right Internet Connection For Your Network A pipeline is a slang term referring to the communications link between your network and your ISP, which is appropriate because the ability for a connection to support significant amounts of data is dependent upon the size of the link. Choosing the most appropriate link for your network can be a bit of a guessing contest. Until you actually get everything deployed, you won’t know for sure exactly how much traffic will move over the link and how popular Internet access will be. Although the caching services of Proxy Server 2.0 can limit the amount of traffic sent over your Internet connection, bandwidth calculations should be made for a worst-case scenario. The following formula can give you an indication of the bandwidth you will need: Number of users X bandwidth per user X 1.4 = pipeline size The number of users in this equation should be the actual user count of individuals who will be given access to resources over the Internet.
The bandwidth required, per user, equals how much data, per second, is minimally required for each user based on the information services (email, FTP, and so on) used on the network. If users only have email, a bandwidth of .75Kbps per user is sufficient. However, if FTP, Web, or streaming multimedia is retrieved from the Internet, 7.5Kbps per user is required-effectively, 10 times the requirement for email-only connections. Multiply the resulting number by 1.4 adds in 40 percent for growth. By using this formula, a 700Kbps link would be sufficient for a network with 100 Internet users, needing 5Kbps each.
This equates to five or six ISDN connections or a fractional T1. Remember that this is a worst-case calculation. It may be that this is too much bandwidth for such a small network because Proxy Server will be used and rarely will all 100 users be accessing Internet resources simultaneously. Discuss your needs and plans with the ISP before making a decision to deploy less than what this formula recommends. When it comes to networking, especially when connecting to the Internet, you can never have too much bandwidth. No matter what size pipeline you install, your Internet use will grow to consume every last bit of available bandwidth.
Look ahead, take precautions, discuss options in-depth with your ISP, but don’t spend more than you can afford. Most ISPs will offer several options in communication link sizes and cost. Here is a list of some of the more common options: a POTS (plain old telephone service) An analog communications link with a maximum bandwidth of 56Kbps. a ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) A digital communications link with a maximum bandwidth of 128Kbps per dual-channel line. a 56Kbps leased line A digital communications link with a bandwidth of 56Kbps.
a T1 and fractional T1 A digital communications link with a bandwidth of 1.544Mbps for a full T1. This link is also available in 56 or 256Kbps fractional T1 chunks. a Others Several other digital communication link technologies may be available in your area with a wide variety of bandwidths. These include cable modems, ATM, Frame Relay, Switched Multimegabit Data Service (SMDS), Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), and Synchronous Optical Network (SONET). Most of these options are available in either dedicated or nondedicated form. Dedicated service means you’re assigned exclusive access to a specific communications port, which guarantees your connection, but at a price.
Nondedicated service means you must compete with other users to gain access to a pool of communications ports. Nondedicated service does not guarantee access at any time and, therefore, is much less expensive. We recommend dedicated service for a business network connection. Nondedicated service can impose complications on a network and, therefore, should only be considered if dedicated service is cost prohibitive. Choosing the Right Hardware For Your Proxy Server When selecting hardware for your proxy server, the amount of data to be transferred must be taken into account. The physical size and the number of computers on your network are related, but are ancillary considerations. You should also take note that no two networks are the same.
They vary in an infinite number of possibilities. Consequently, our recommendations and the recommendations of Microsoft may not be the absolute best fit for your specific situation. Take the time to examine every aspect of your network before accepting the recommendations of experts who have no direct experience with your system. With that in mind, we’ll still review some common or basic configurations for networks of various workloads (which, coincidentally, corresponds to geographic size and number of computers). In all of the following computer configurations, it is assumed you are using a dedicated Windows NT Server, NT-compatible components, and that NT Server is already installed. Low-Volume Network A low-volume network is typically a network in a SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) environment with 10 or fewer computers.
Low-volume networks can obtain adequate Internet access using a single proxy server connected to a single ISDN line. Microsoft recommends that the computer hosting Proxy Server meet the following minimum requirements: a Intel Pentium 133 or faster a 2GB of storage space for caching a 32MB of RAM, or more Moderate-Volume Network A moderate-volume network is typically a network in a mid-size company with under 1,000 computers. Moderate volume networks can obtain adequate Internet access using two or more proxy servers arranged in an array or chain connected to multiple ISDN lines or a fractional T1. Microsoft recommends that the computer hosting Proxy Server meet the following minimum requirements: a Intel Pentium 166 or faster a 2 to 4GB of storage space for caching a 64MB of RAM, or more High-Volume A high-volume network is typically a network in an enterprise corporation with thousands of computers. High volume networks can obtain adequate Internet access using multiple proxy servers in a combined array and chain combination connected to a T1 line or greater.
Microsoft recommends that the computer hosting Proxy Server meet the following minimum requirements: a Intel Pentium 200, Pentium Pro 166 or faster a 8 to 16GB of storage space for caching a 128 to 256MB of RAM, or more.